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Refund from UA. Obligation or goodwill

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So what are the refund rules? We booked a R/T from ORD to FCO last month on the UA website. I should say first that from FCO we went to MAD for three days. Then our return from MAD was cancelled due to Sandy. It was to connect thru the east coast. UA rebooked us but for 5 days later which was impossible for us. So was trying to contact UA. No response to emails, endless wait times on the phone and I was blocked for trying to change our tickets on their website so we had no choice but to rebook on our own which cost about $2300.00 on LH. That's a different matter and I have a travel ins. claim for that.

However UA refunded the entire amt. of the ticket. We got all of the original price back which initially was supposed to be about half. We are pleased but also curious as to why. Were they obliged to do this for air fare refund rules or what this a generous gesture perhaps based on the extraordinary weather circumstances?

Any ideas?

Thanks! Larry