United to notify flyers about full flights after social media backlash

FILE PHOTO: A United Airlines flight from Newark to San Francisco is crowded with passengers in this picture obtained from social media May 9, 2020. Ethan Weiss/via REUTERS

(Reuters) - United Airlines Holdings Inc UAL.O said on Monday that starting next week it will notify passengers ahead of time if their flight is expected to be "closer to full capacity," allowing them to re-book on a different flight or receive a travel credit.

The new policy -- which will last through June 30 and will also be applied at the gate if more than 70% of passengers have checked in -- follows a photograph of what appeared to be a packed United flight on Saturday on social media.

United said 85% of its flights are less than half full, but given a drastically reduced flying schedule in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, “there are a small number of flights where our customers are finding planes fuller than they expect.”

Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Sandra Maler