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My United flight to Europe originally scheduled for tomorrow 3/14 has been cancelled. I got an email from United asking me to choose from various alternative flight options, however the "list of options" they gave is currently empty (it is a link, so could potentially have other options later).

There is a current "travel advisory" on their website for 3/14 and 3/15, saying change fees are waved (because of the impending snow storm). However, when I go to change my flight (through the usual "change flight" option on their website, as opposed to the "rebooking link" they sent me via email) there is a fare difference / fee associated with the change, about $2000. Upon closer inspection, the travel advisory states that there is no charge for changing to another United flight to the same destination, but United doesn't fly to my destination (I don't think) except through Star Alliance partners.

I am planning to call them to see what my options are, and I'm hoping they will give me some reasonable ones. What are they required to offer me in terms of alternative flight arrangements? There are plenty of star alliance partner flights available the next day 3/15, however United seems to be doing its best to get me to pay for these, rather than rebook me on them for free. Within what time frame are they required to rebook me? Are they allowed to make wait until there is available seat on a United flight (which might not be for another few days) when there are plenty of star alliance partner flights they could put me on?

  • Did you book your entire flight through with United? Meaning, the entire transaction was through United.com? – Michael Mar 13 '17 at 21:29
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    Pick up the phone and call. The automated system is having problems, likely due to the non-UA flight. Call and the agents will sort you out. – Doc Mar 13 '17 at 21:49
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    Yes, all booked through United. The first flight is operated by United by the second is not. – John Pardon Mar 13 '17 at 21:53
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    Weather is considered an act beyond their control so they have lots of leeway in what they offer. And sadly the expense caused to you by the weather is primarily yours. In your scenario, while they maybe waiving change fees they might still charge you fare difference if your fare bucket has no available seats. – user13044 Mar 13 '17 at 22:07
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The answer to the main question is NO. But...

The problem you having is that the regular web booking engine is not 'aware' of the storm so it's just pricing out a regular change.

One strategy that might work is choosing the alternate flight you want and putting it on hold if that available, then get on the phone and wait to talk to an Agent.

It shouldn't matter that the destination is not served by United on their own metal, they will rebook you on any Star itinerary that is available, especially Lufthansa or Air Canada as they have a TA Joint Venture.

If you have the ability to get to alternate airports, let the Agent know.

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    This is a monster storm; there aren't going to be any alternate airports with departures within hundreds of miles. Regardless, calling in is the right thing to do. – Michael Hampton Mar 13 '17 at 21:50
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    @MichaelHampton Hmm...actually, OP doesn't say where his origin. If it's not in the Northeast, he's got a lot more options. – Johns-305 Mar 13 '17 at 21:53
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    If he wasn't in the Northeast he wouldn't need to reference the current travel advisory on united.com which is all about the snowstorm in the Northeast... – Michael Hampton Mar 13 '17 at 21:54
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    @MichaelHampton He can be connecting at IAD, EWR, etc. – Johns-305 Mar 13 '17 at 21:54
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    @MichaelHampton Yes, but if he's originating in, say, St. Louis, a lot or alternate connections are still available. – Johns-305 Mar 13 '17 at 21:58
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I ended up calling United, and they were happy to put me on a Lufthansa flight the next day, free of charge.

Thanks to everyone for the answers/comments.

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    Was speaking to a travel agent when I first read this question. He said that were you to have booked a change on any partner airline on United.com and then called in, you would have been reimbursed. – Mennyg Mar 15 '17 at 14:10

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