With a new update to its app, United Airlines is going further than most other U.S. airlines when it comes to covering travelers' costs when flight disruptions occur.
According to a Thursday news release from the airline, the United app will now alert travelers when their flights are delayed or canceled and show them options for re-booking their flight. The app will also give travelers the option to track their checked bags and connect them with a United customer service agent virtually.
But the most interesting and helpful new feature for travelers affected by delays or cancellations is the immediate dispersal and display of meal and hotel vouchers right there in the app.
According to United, if travelers are eligible for hotel, rideshare, or meal vouchers due to delays or cancellations, they'll see those vouchers right there in the app.
The “delays and cancellations” tab will house all of this information, including whether you're eligible for a hotel or meal voucher as you can see at the bottom of the screen in the photo above.
We believe this is the first time a major U.S. airline has proactively offered these vouchers or been so transparent about what they owe travelers during disruptions. On most airlines, when disruptions occur, getting meal and hotel vouchers like this can be a pain. Phone calls with customer service or speaking directly with an agent at the airport is often the only way to secure your compensation in these scenarios.
2022 was a banner year in the worst way for travel delays and disruptions in the U.S., putting into sharp focus the difference between the airlines that help travelers and those that don't. The federal government even put together a dashboard to show travelers what airlines will and won't do for them if and when disruptions occur.
Being shown what you're getting from the airline right in the app is a huge boon for travelers. At a time when every airline is under pressure from the Biden administration to compensate travelers, hopefully, this sets a new standard in the industry for other airlines to follow.
Travelers who purchased travel insurance (or booked with a good travel credit card with built-in coverage) may still be better off handling hotels and meals themselves and seeking reimbursement later – United will likely offer limited vouchers or put customers up in a lackluster hotel. But for the rest of us, this could solve a major pain point.
If you're flying United, you won't be immune to disruptions – though the airline has been touting its stellar on-time performance recently. But at least you'll have your vouchers handy and ready to use if it happens.
United's newest app update is giving travelers a lot more information about their flight delays and cancellations, including displaying the hotel and meal vouchers you are owed right in the app.
The move is a positive step towards more transparency for what travelers are owed for flight disruptions, and hopefully, we'll see other airlines following suit.