Remember the United "flat-tire rule"
Photo by Emiel Molenaar on Unsplash

Last week, I shared a clever way to find cheap flights that I’d never posted before. Today, I thought I’d share another trick I’ve never shared, this time for use when you’ve missed a connecting flight with United that’s on a different booking. It’s known as the “flat-tire rule.”

In a January roundup, The Travel Insider wrote up the “flat-tire rule” and a time when it helped out a traveler named Jerry. Basically, Jerry had to make a connection in Houston. For reasons unimportant here, his first flight was with Emirates and his second flight (the connection) was with United. The bookings were separate, meaning that if the Emirates flight arrived late, Jerry would be responsible for rebooking his United flight. Neither Emirates nor United would have to help him. And of course, that’s what happened. So he went to a United desk (in a lounge) for help. From The Travel Insider:

“After explaining politely the quandary he was in, he threw himself on the agent’s mercies. The agent nodded and said ‘Yes, it sounds like you’d come under our “flat-tire” rule,’ and then proceeded to rebook Jerry and the three people traveling with him onto the later flight, all without any charge or change fee.

“Remember the phrase ‘flat-tire rule.’ It isn’t really a rule at all, rather it is a guideline. When a passenger misses a flight due to an unforeseen fault outside of their control, airlines in general (and clearly United in particular) may agree to waive their usual fees and refusals to assist, and show a brief flash of helpful humanity.”

Pretty interesting, eh? Just keep in mind that not all agents are the same. I find that the ones stationed in the lounges have a lot more pull, so if you don’t have the status/credit card/ticket to get into a lounge, it could be worth becoming a member or buying a day pass to gain lounge entry. In any case, as The Travel Insider says, you shouldn’t “act as though this is a right you are entitled to. But if you find yourself with a problem that also is truly not your fault, when you politely and apologetically do as Jerry did and throw yourself on the airline’s mercy, if the agent helping you looks unconvinced, you could mention that a friend of yours had a similar problem and the agent helping him had referred to a ‘flat-tire waiver’ (sounds better than ‘rule’) and wonder if you could ask for consideration be given for the same assistance in your case, too.”

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1 Comment On "Remember the United "Flat-Tire Rule" if You Miss a Connection on a Different Booking"
  1. TDHill|

    I love this approach! “You could mention that a friend of yours had a similar problem and the agent helping him had referred to a ‘flat-tire waiver’ (sounds better than ‘rule’) and wonder if you could ask for consideration be given for the same assistance in your case, too.” Great tip!

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