Many airlines have generous rebooking policies for people who purchased tickets to Israel before 10/7.
- American has allowed rebookings on El Al.
- Delta has allowed free date changes for flights booked through next September.
United originally allowed rebooking to Amman, Athens, or Dubai. Commercial flights between Amman and Tel Aviv have been suspended since 10/6, so that was never a practical connecting option. However, the Athens and Dubai options offered passengers the ability to book separate travel from those cities to Israel. Some passengers have even been able to get United to rebook them onto El Al.
However, while other airlines have extended their waiver, United has failed to extend their waiver beyond 11/30. I reached out to United multiple times over recent weeks, but the airline had no comment on a waiver, merely reiterating, “Our flights to TLV remain suspended until conditions allow them to resume.”
But while United was unwilling to make a public comment on a waiver extension, DDF member Solma sent me the following internal email that United sent to their reservation agents:
The memo states that United will be extending its Israel flight suspension, which is no surprise. But surprisingly, they will no longer accommodate changes to nearby airports like Athens and Dubai. United says that’s due to most stranded passengers being accommodated. However, because so few seats are available to fly from the US to Israel these days, customers who purchased travel long ago from December 1st and onward are getting the short end of the stick.
Granted, United’s seasonal service to Athens is ending next week, but I can’t understand why United won’t allow reroutings to other European cities, such as Amsterdam, London, Milan, Paris, or Rome, that have nonstop flights to Israel available for purchase.
Instead, United is only allowing rebookings to Amman, which has no flights to Israel currently, or a refund, only after United cancels its flights.
With United canceling many flights close-in to the flight departure date, it creates additional uncertainty for passengers who need to travel to or from Israel. Passengers assume United will cancel, but don’t want to book travel on another airline as United won’t offer a refund until they actually cancel the flight. United gets an interest-free loan on a flight it will likely cancel, but by the time United canceled the latest round of flights from Newark to Tel Aviv, prices to book alternate travel on El Al skyrocketed. United’s refusal to book alternate European travel just adds salt to those passenger’s wounds.
I think that these changes taken as a whole represent an unfair and deceptive practice.
During the pandemic, United tried claiming that flights weren’t canceled if they could find you an alternate flight within 25 hours and that passengers would have to wait a year for a refund.
The DOT announced in April 2020 that airlines had to provide timely refunds for US flights that they cancelled. The DOT announced again in May that fines would be coming for airlines that failed to come into compliance with timely refunds. The DOT highlighted United’s new policy as being deceptive and unfair.
That forced United to resume its pre-pandemic refund policy for canceled and changed flights.
If you find yourself in a situation where United didn’t cancel your flight until it became cost-prohibitive to book an alternate option, and they refuse to offer alternate flight options, I’d recommend filing a DOT informal or formal complaint against the airline. The DOT is slammed with informal complaints these days, so you might need to file a formal one to get a response.
A friend of mine who planned to make a Bar Mitzvah in Israel in 2 weeks from now was waiting for an extension of the waiver. Instead, he’s now facing expensive last-minute rebooking options and says that United supervisors have been extremely rude and abrupt in refusing to do anything to help him get to Israel.
You can message United to let them know your thoughts on this change and like and Retweet this post:
Hey @united, Why are you discontinuing your travel waiver for flights to #Israel when other airlines continue to accommodate their passengers with extended waivers?
What happened to #GoodLeadsTheWay? pic.twitter.com/zmSJsRiHtG
— DansDeals (@DansDeals) November 21, 2023
Have you been able to get any changes done by United since this new no-favors, no-waivers policy went into effect?