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How To Cancel United Award Ticket For Free

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Some airlines require costly fees to change or modify an award ticket. Airline frequent flyer elite members know this but are mostly exempt from the fees or know ways around the fees. In this post, I’ll share an experience with how I was able to cancel an award ticket with United Airlines for free and re-deposit the miles back into my account.

United doesn’t give the Non Premier members many options to cancel awards without penalty. Normally United’s fee schedule requires $150 USD per-person on the itinerary to cancel and re-deposit the miles into a members account. This can get expensive if you have 3 family members traveling on the same itinerary. The two ways around this fee that I see are to (1) wait for a schedule change or (2) modify the award ticket departure date/time/connections when the ticket is greater than 21 days out and wait for a schedule change, then cancel the ticket for free.

United Change Fee Schedule

In my example, my booked itinerary had a schedule change and I was able to cancel for free.

Steps To Cancel United Award Ticket

1. Identify Schedule Change

Monitor your reservation for a schedule change. The reservation should state the following if a schedule change has occurred:

“There has been a schedule change to your reservation. Please see the change in red in Flight Details”

United Schedule Change

In my example, the flight changed by about 15 minutes. This obviously wouldn’t work for my schedule, so I moved to the next step.

2. Call United To Cancel Award

Once you see that your award reservation has a schedule change give United a call and see what they can do for your schedule change. In my example, my flight had changed by about 15 minutes. I simply called and let United know that the new flight times would not work for me and I’d like to cancel my award. It only took about 2 minutes and the agent had the cancellation processed. She informed me the miles would take a few weeks to be deposited back to my account.

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Bottom Line

Some airlines require Non-Elite members to incur costly change fees to modify or cancel award tickets. One exception is that American Airlines allows members to modify award flight timing, like how I changed an American Airlines award ticket timing earlier this year. If your airline does require a change fee and you wish to cancel your ticket, pay attention to whether or not there was a schedule change. Because if there was, you just might be able to cancel your ticket at no cost.

What other ways have you found to cancel an award ticket for free?

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About the Author

About the author: The Weekly Flyer is writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way. Feel free to reach me at theweeklyflyer@gmail.com

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • clayd333 March 12, 2013, 8:42 am

    I booked an economy saver award to Istanbul and business class return. I am thinking about changing the outbound flight to business class as well. It looks like there is availability on the flights. Is there an easy way to do this without messing up my return itinerary and costing a bunch of money?

  • Ozaer N. March 12, 2013, 8:57 am

    excellent post! I totally forgot about that option from United. I once had a schedule change and got an email from them indicating that there was one…and if I wanted to accept the changes or not.

  • The Weekly Flyer March 12, 2013, 9:12 am

    Hi Clayd333 – In my next post, I’ll share how easy it is to modify a United award ticket for free. This is a great way to improve routing, carrier, connections, even seat selection or tee up an award for free cancellation.

    Hi Ozaer N. – Thanks, glad you liked it.

  • Lawrence March 12, 2013, 12:33 pm

    My inlaws were on their cruise in the Far East and United changed their return flight. I was thinking about canceling the return and getting the points back and booking them on Cathay from HKG-ORD-BWI. United said that because they had already started the ticket, they would not get any points back. Oh well, they were stuck on the updated itinerary.

  • Gypsy August 19, 2013, 2:48 pm

    Just called to cancel and get a refund, but they told me it has to be a change that is greater than 2 hours to qualify for a refund (unless we want to pay a $75 fee per person). :-( We still have time, so I’m hoping there are more changes and that they are greater than 2 hours difference.

    Just thought others might want to know that they do have restrictions if the time changes, even if you have a good excuse for why you can’t work with the new schedule change. :-(

  • hayim philippart September 18, 2013, 7:32 pm

    may I cancel and receive some points back as I want to cancel the return portion of fltua201, manila to honlulu via guam on flight ua 200
    united confirmation number is ***** (edited out)

  • c January 20, 2014, 5:03 pm

    this was very helpful! thank you! worked for me too!

  • Caspar May 13, 2014, 12:27 am

    Hi, very useful trick.
    I was wondering if there is a similar trick for cancelling (or changing) a non-refundable business class ticket. I got one for June, but I won’t be able to travel.
    I am Gold status at United, and don’t mind using the flight another time, just not as booked.
    I was already thinking of incurring the change fee, but not setting the ‘new date’ yet.

    any tips?

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