United routinely lies to its passengers about "weather-related delays". This is simply because under the airline's Contract of Carriage United is not responsible for your lodging and meals when the reason for the cancellation is beyond the airline's control. This informative article from Yahoo Travel explains the games that airlines play with such weather-related excuses to avoid their liability for flight cancellations.
Untied.com offers the following advice to passengers who believe they are being lied to by United:
- document everything: if you hear United personnel blaming the weather or admitting that the true reason for the flight delay or cancellation is other than the weather, record it or take detailed notes of what you were told, by whom, where, and when
- check United's
flight status page for information about other flights into and out of whatever airport United claims to be suffering "weather problems" (United only lets you go back one day, but you can search further on other databases such as FlightAware.
- another potentially useful source of evidence are the FAA ATCSCC advisories (if you can manage to understand them!)
- once you have your documentation, bring a small claims action against United -- writing to United's so-called "Customer Care" people will typically just get you the run-around
Here's an example from the web archives:
After United flight 4116 from Cincinnati to Denver was cancelled on Monday, January 6, the United gate staff denied affected travelers hotel and transportation compensation, claiming the flight was delayed due to weather. It was a transparent excuse. A member of the gate staff had already made an announcement saying that the flight would fly empty because no flight attendants could be found for the leg to Cincinnati. On January 7, a member of the gate staff for the flight to Houston said that the flight to Denver was in fact canceled because of crew-related reasons and that compensation may be provided.
In that case--and according to United's own stated policies--United should compensate its travelers for lodging and transportation expenses caused by United's failure to operate its flights as scheduled. In fact, United didn't even respond to a request for compensation after 19 days.
I sent the request 19 days ago for compensation for the transportation and lodging expenses their cancelation and delay caused me to incur and no response what so ever.
Lies? This follows the fact that their employees gave false information at the gate, saying that the flight was canceled due to weather, only for one of their own employees to state that the flight had been canceled due to crew-related reasons the next day.
After more back-and-forth, on February 7, 2014, United issued a travel certificate in the amount requested.