February 23, 2024

Passengers check in for a United Airlines flight at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, on December 13, 2022.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

united airlines It said on Thursday it would start sending travel-disrupted meal and hotel coupons to passengers’ mobile phones, hoping to avoid customer service bottlenecks at airports and long waits at call centers.

This means that instead of queuing at a customer service desk or calling customer service, affected travelers can get their vouchers directly on their smartphones through the airline’s app or website. United said the updates will make it easier for travelers to rebook, track bags and retrieve coupons.

“You’re already stressed out,” Linda Jojo, United’s chief customer officer, said in an interview. “We don’t want you waiting in line.”

Jojo said the airline offers food vouchers for airline-caused flight disruptions of at least three hours, such as maintenance or technical issues, and hotel vouchers when travelers are forced to stay overnight due to airline-caused delays or cancellations. Weather disturbances don’t fit those definitions, she said.

Jojo acknowledged that some travelers may not be comfortable with or have access to smartphone technology and airline apps.

“The more we can help people who are tech-savvy, the more we can spend our time helping people who aren’t tech-savvy,” she said.

Customer compensation and benefits during flight disruptions have recently drawn the attention of the Biden administration.The U.S. Transportation Department said last month it would seek new rules requiring airlines to compensate passengers Delays and Cancellations.

Between April 1 and June 19 last year, about 2% of flights were canceled and nearly 22% were delayed, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. Delay rates were similar for the same period this year, but only about 1% of flights were cancelled.