Reader Question: United Airlines Business Class To Economy SFO-SIN Downgrade Compensation ?


A LoyaltyLobby reader sent us an email regarding involuntary downgrade on a rather long United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Singapore.

United Airlines

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Here’s the email from the reader:

Me and two others were downgraded from Polaris to coach by United. UA flight 1. San Francisco to Singapore. A 16 hour flight.

The crew air circulation was not working so they downgraded 3 of us.

I said I did not want the downgrade and the $1000 they were offering. They told me if I did not take it I would have to go to another flight the next day. I asked why me and they said my fare a second cheapest.

Felt like I was blackmailed into to taking the downgrade. No negations just take it or take another flight the next day.

Do I have any rights that go beyond what they told me?

Reader has 1K status with United but seems that even that won’t help when it comes to involuntary downgrades. It is unclear if this was fully paid business fare or if the reader had used an instrument to upgrade. Even if he had upgraded the flight, you have to remember that United requires member to buy higher fare class to use them.

Unfortunately, there isn’t strong consumer protection in the United States. DOT has requirements in place for airline that deals with involuntary denied boardings (IDB) and what the minimum compensation is. This, however, doesn’t apply for cabin downgrades.

The compensation minimum per United’s internal guidelines should be $1,500 in electronic travel certificate. If reader paid for the business class, the airline should refund the fare difference too. Upgrade instrument should be returned.

Reader can always file a consumer complaint with DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection unit (can do it here).


United Airlines just recently came dead last on the J.D. Power 2018 North America Airline Satisfaction Study (read more here) and cases like the above is one of the reasons for this. If you need to downgrade someone or three in this case, why don’t offer adequate compensation?

Offering $1,000 travel credit from business class to United economy (pure torture) downgrade on a 16 hour flight for a 1K member is just ridiculous.

I hope that the reader is able to reach more amicable compensation with United.