No “low” fare guarantee at United Airlines – plus, they’re rude!

Shutterstock
By | July 21st, 2014

Sometimes, you can eyeball a case and know almost immediately: This guy doesn’t have a snowball’s chance.

But then you read to the end and you think: then again, maybe he does.

Xavier Nolasco’s experience with trying to persuade United Airlines to honor its fine-print-laden low-fare guarantee is one of them.

The guarantee, as you probably already know, looks too good to be true:

When it comes to finding the lowest United fare online, we guarantee you will find it on united.com.

In fact, if you find a fare for the same flight, itinerary and cabin at a price that is lower than the fare offered on united.com by $10 or more, we’ll make up the difference and give you a $100 USD Electronic Travel Certificate.

And not only will you find the lowest fare at united.com, but you’ll never pay a service fee for booking online.

And you know what they say? If it looks too good to be true …

No one knows that better than Nolasco. He’d booked two tickets to Hawaii for $730 each, cashing in 52,000 reward points on his Chase Sapphire Rewards card and a total of $821 cash. A few days later, the tickets could be purchased for a total of $608.

He called Chase, which told him to contact United. But when he contacted United, it told him to get in touch with Chase.

“I’m getting the runaround,” he says.

No doubt.


Here’s the thing. He probably doesn’t have a case. Check out the details of United’s offer. Look at the last line: “This offer does not apply to airfares on another website that have been reduced as a result of promotional discounts, such as dollars off coupons, loyalty program discounts or fly ‘free’ offers.”

Related story:   The $7.8 billion question

(Thanks for putting “free” in quotes, guys.)

Our editors got into quite a debate over this story after I wrote it. The loyalty program experts who vet my posts say that United’s interpretation (and mine) is wrong, and that he deserves to have the guarantee honored.

So here’s where I think Nolasco might have a case. When he tried to get this resolved, he should have been told politely, but firmly, that the rules are clearly spelled out.

Instead, when he called, the conversation quickly devolved into an argument, he says.

“When I tried to offer them a code as further proof that this was a valid offer, she hung up on me,” he says. “At this point, after several frustrating attempts, I believe more compensation should be included on top of the credit.”

Well, maybe not. But still.

Nolasco appealed to a supervisor, hoping for a better resolution. But his written request was met with yet another form denial:

I have reviewed your request and reservation. I understand you feel this
is unfair that you are not able to take advantage of the lower fare.

However, this is the terms and conditions of the low fare guarantee. I ask you please review this information which is available for our customers online, www.united.com,
https://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/products/travelproducts/Pages/Lowfareguarantee.aspx



  • Richard

    I am confused. Did the OP. buy the ticket from united.com or from Chase? If he bought it from Chase, why should UA honor their offer?

  • backprop

    Sorry. Nobody gets hung up on by a major company unless they instigated it. I don’t care how bad their policies are, how much of a pain it is to get a refund, how many hoops you have to jump through, or anything. You do NOT get hung up on unless you are verbally abusive.

    He must have been a real treasure on the phone with United. And since half his case to you relied on the emotional angle of getting his feewings hurt (which of course requires extra compensation), this one should have seen the trash can immediately.

  • Just for the record, I didn’t get involved in this one. It resolved itself before I could even ask my readers for any input.

  • TonyA_says

    Nothing wrong with fare guarantees. It’s the pushy people who write you that’s wrong, in my opinion.

  • FQTVLR

    I am confused Chris. I do not have a Chase card so I have not booked through them. But a business colleague has one and says that she has to book through Chase’s travel service and not directly with the airline she wants to travel on. If the LW did this then his booking appears to be excluded from the low fare guarantee which specifies bookings must be made at United’s website. I know you were not involved with the resolution, but do you know how he made the booking-at UA’s site or with Chase’s travel service? Inquiring minds….

  • John Baker

    The low fare guarantee is for fares purchased on UA.com using cash/credit.

    My understanding of the story is that he purchased a ticket from chase using a combination of points and credit.

    I’m not sure how the the guarantee applies at all… If he’d bought his tickets directly from UA using a credit card (no points), I agree that it should apply but that isn’t the case here.

  • Rebecca

    I was a supervisor and trainer in a call center and I can tell you they do. One of the big metrics is “handle time,” or how long you are on each call. We had a pretty significant amount of employees hang up when calls got long or just to shorten their times.
    Generally speaking, I agree. You have to be pretty abusive to get hung up on. Most reps will warn you at least 3 times to stop yelling, cussing, etc before they will hang up.

  • Babby

    How did you end up a moderator?

  • MarkKelling

    He has no claim. UA was being nice for whatever reason by providing him the travel certificate.

    Why? Read this from the UA web site:

    • If you find a published retail price online, for the same United flight, itinerary and cabin, that is lower than the fare purchased on the same day of your original United purchase by $10 or more, call your local United Customer Contact Center office and a representative will connect you with one of our specialists to file your claim. (Emphasis added)

    His own admission is that the fare was on a different day when the policy clearly states it must be on the same day. If his claim is valid, then I am owed several thousand dollars from UA for all the flights I booked and then the price went down a day week or month later. Airfares change, sometimes dramatically, and you have to be happy that you feel you received a good price when you booked.

  • MarkKelling

    He used a combination of credit card points and dollars. This means he booked through the Chase travel service. (Not to be confused with UA miles and dollars which you can do directly on the UA web site.)

  • Alan Gore

    I have never taken advantage of a price match offer in any line of business. There are just too many restrictions and exceptions, so I don’t bother. And if I did my research carefully enough before hitting the Buy button, there’s no need to wheedle for a price match.

    There’s another consumer problem today, and it’s very local: why has this site suddenly become unreadable on iOS devices? For about the last week, just going into the first page gets me yanked automatically into the App Store to download some game. Attempting to click on any article causes the same thing to happen, every few seconds. Each time, I have to back out of the App Store and go back into the browser. I’ve never seen advertising so intrusive.

  • Freehiker

    I normally don’t, but I did recently and actually it was extremely easy.

    I booked a room at the JW Mariott Ihilani Ko Olina in Hawaii for $429 per night. I found it later the same day for $339 per night through Expedia. I submitted a price-match claim through Mariott’s website and not only did they price match, they took an additional 25% off each night, so I’m down to $254 per night now.

    No argument, no fuss. One simple form and it was handled within 24 hours. For a few bucks I wouldn’t bother, but that’s a significant savings, especially for a 7 night stay.

  • Fred Rupert

    United breaks guitars

  • Joe_D_Messina

    3 times? Very generous. Last customer service group I worked with gave one warning and that was it. You’re not going to resolve anything with people who are belligerent.

  • FQTVLR

    That is what I thought. But I could not understand why the LW thought he was entitled to the guarantee and why some people who vet the loyalty program postings think he met the qualifications as well. Just left me very confused on a Monday morning.

  • emanon256

    When I supervised a center, one warning was our policy as well. If they cursed or made threats, they got one warning. If they repeated it my staff had full authority to end the call. They very rarely ended the calls, they still often tried to work with abusive callers despite having full support that they didn’t have to. I agree with @backprop:disqus, it’s hard to get hung up on without being pretty abusive. I am shocked that someoen would hang up to improve metricks, if one of my people did that, they woudl get get one and only one warning. Although I rated my employees based on how they helped people, not their call times.

  • TonyA_says

    Why, is there anything wrong to having an independent mind?

  • emanon256

    I don’t get why so many people buy something and then keep checking the price after the fact. If it was good enough then, just be happy and move on. I agree with you, it’s clear that it’s on the same day, I believe in the fine print it also says the same fare class, at least it used to.

    Pre-merger it didn’t have to be the same day, but did have to be the same fare class. Also, there was no fee. I once booked a JFK-SFO for $450 and a few weeks later my wife wanted to go with me on the same flight, so I booked hers and it was $350, I figured they opeend up a lower fare, but it was in fact the same fare class. I called United, they looked up my itinerary, then they looked at the current fare sale, and they issued me a voucher for $200 ($100 difference plus $100 extra) no questions asked. I miss the old United.

  • emanon256

    The OP lost me at this: “At this point, after several frustrating attempts, I believe more compensation should be included on top of the credit.

    Although, he actually lost me when he used points to purchase through a CC agency, found a lower price several days later despite the guarantee stating it must be the same day and can’t be through an agency promotion, then complained up a storm and got himself hung up on. If he was accidentally disconnected I understand, but he had to be pretty rude to get someone to hang up on him.

    I think this was a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. I want free stuff, perhaps I should just complain loudly until I get it. It seemed to work for the OP.

  • TonyA_says

    Worse than a lousy hacker.

  • TonyA_says

    You wonder why we have idiots everywhere. You don’t have to go too far for the answer.
    As I read this article, I got to a section that had this ad:

    Free Coupons
    United Airlines Coupons and Deals from ShopAtHome dotcom!

    Like an idiot, I followed the links but could not find any United Airline coupons.

    There’s something really wrong when a consumer travel site is displaying travel ads with bogus promises.

    And we want United to honor a price guarantee for a ticket not bought at their site? Damn.

  • TonyA_says

    It gets worse, I refreshed the page and a scammer is selling me FRONTER Airlines. Have Nigerians scam artists penetrated Elliott’s site. They cannot even spell the airline name correctly.

  • emanon256

    Any time an ad promises something for free, or at a discount, someone will bite.

    I’ve told my family time and time again to just go to the airline sites, and to look at multiple sights, I even offer to help. No one listens. After they had trouble with cheap-o-air last year and I told them not to use it, they just used CheapAir and paid $120 more per person for tickets on F9 and when you book directly with F9 they waive some of the fees. Then after I send an itinerary with direct flights on UA to a relative, she went ahead and spent $300 extra to book non-direct flights on WN because they “Only use SouthWest because its always the cheapest and bags fly free”. So she spent $300 extra for an indirect flight with free bags? I just don’t get why people do this?

  • emanon256

    Fronter is a close relative of Untied and US Airlines.

  • TonyA_says

    Wow Trifecta this morning. Refresh and another scam comes up.

  • TonyA_says

    Because they fall for glitzy ads and catchy names. They want to believe. Hey man, you cannot be a prophet in your own town.
    So sad when you do all the hard work and research and people close to you just pooh-pooh it.

  • Buckettripper

    Not only are the rules too confusing, but the mangled syntax of the letters sent to ‘explain’ add confusion, not clarity.

  • backprop

    I volunteered. Why?

  • Extramail

    The letter from United reads as the bogus emails from Nigerian princes chock full of grammatical errors. Starts off with, “I believe their . . .”. Wrong use of their/there. “What I will do for your is issue . . .” Really? No wonder their contracts are full of loopholes!

  • Extramail

    Couldn’t agree more. Once I make a purchase, I don’t want to know what you paid for the same purchase. I don’t want the lingering effects of being disappointed in my purchase.

  • Ian Parrish

    I really can’t understand what the debate is here. As others have pointed out, his fare was not eligible at all for the low-fare guarantee.
    A) It was bough through some combination of miles and points through Chase.
    B) He used a comparison fare from several days later.
    Both of these conditions disqualify the guarantee and that’s not just fine print.

    From reading his e-mail, the OP isn’t very good at expressing himself, which I’m sure led to a lot of confusion. I think it’s quite nice of United to give him something in this case. Let’s not cast any aspersions on them for going above and beyond.

  • bodega3

    Welcome to the world of selling travel!

  • bodega3

    This all sounds bogus to me. UA is very clear in their rules and the wording of the letter is less than professional. How much was the actual total ticket cost? Miles plus cash means the cost of the ticket was more than $730, right?

  • MarkKelling

    On the Chase card program, they convert the points (not miles since these are unrelated to flights, just how much you spend on this particular card) into dollars and apply that dollar amount toward the purchase of the tickets. So, yes, the tickets cost $730 each no mater what was used by the purchaser to equal those dollars..

  • ORguest

    There’s a point for Marriott in the “customer friendly” column. I love a business that actively finds ways to please customers. Have a wonderful trip!

  • bodega3

    As I read the letter, the OP paid $1140.50 per ticket initially, combining the value of the points and the add collect in cash. With a split payment, that means the travel desk for the company handling these tickets, did an inhouse charge, not the airline. So now the OP, after ticketing, finds he could buy the ticket for $608 total cost? So the value of the points dropped, but he still had the same add collect in cash? Yet, UA found that he deserved the compensation? Bogus!

  • DesignIt

    Don’t go on Chris’s site on Monday mornings until you’ve consumed at LEAST TWO cups of coffee or the caffeine equivalent of your beverage of choice.

  • DesignIt

    Regarding being taken to the App Store, I think it’s a general issue. It’s been happening to me while in various other apps. At first I thought I was accidentally hitting the ad banner at the bottom.

  • gpx21dlr

    You just “slapped me on the head!” I did just what you said AFTER returning from a great enjoyable vacation. It is stupid, I now know. To quote you, “just be happy and move on.”

  • gpx21dlr

    I remember a company, Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays, offering air&5-day hotel to Hawaii for $398. That was in the Jurassic era though.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    @Christopher Elliott: You wrote last week about entitled attitudes. Yet 2 articles after that one, you feature individuals who feel they should be compensated for their “time and frustration” or “after several frustrating attempts” should receive “more compensation”.

    I place those sorts of demands squarely in the “entitled” category. So I have to ask, is this a trend or an anomaly? Are people that write in to you less patient, more demanding, more self-centered in general than they used to be?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Sometimes, no amount of caffeine helps. :-)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Same thing when I use my Android phone’s browser to visit this site.

  • emanon256

    I think he is a troll, you can click his link to see his comments on other sites.

  • emanon256

    That has been happening to me too on many different news sites.

    Edit: the randomly going to the app store.

  • I’ve been seeing more and more of this lately. My son refers to these as “infinite bananas” cases, named after a cruise passenger who complained because there weren’t enough fresh bananas on his cruise, and demanded to be compensated.

  • TonyA_says

    Same with Samsung Galaxy Tablets using stock browser.
    They are showing virus scanner alerts, Asian Girls ads, etc.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    The astronomer son? Smart kid!

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Maybe he, too, wants to be a moderator.

  • flutiefan

    i did a couple of those!

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Yep, got the “you have 4 viruses!” alert one, too. I don’t get the Asian girls, though.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Completely off-topic: cool screen name. Hope you can cross off everything on your list!

  • Mark Carrara

    I do not have a chase card, but with our Wells Fargo and Capital One cards you can buy a ticket from the airline web site and then submit the purchase for a refund using points. For example my wife is flying this Friday the ticket cost about $380, which we charged on the Wells Fargo Card. She then called Wells Fargo and took the 28,000 points we had and they applied $280 to the ticket cost. So we did buy the ticket from the airline(in this case it was Southwest) at the same time we did use CC points.

  • Mark Carrara

    We booked our flight to Honolulu about 6 months ago. Every month I would go to the site and see if the flight was any less. Why not try to save money? (It never was any less)

  • emanon256

    If the airline still refunds the difference than go for it.

  • emanon256

    It’s based on your browsing history ;)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Wait a minute – are you saying that I browse for viruses?

    ;-)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    The lousy hackers don’t write in to @Christopher Elliott.

  • MarkKelling

    I agree that the compensation is bogus.

    The wording is confusing on the details about cost.

    The value of the points did not drop. This card uses a fixed scale of
    40000 points = $500 value when points are applied to airfare purchase resulting in $0.0125 per point of cash value. Doing the math: 52000 points = $650.00 and adding the $821 cash to the point value gives $1471 total cash equivalent cost for the two tickets. Dividing by 2 results in $735.50 per ticket. This is slightly over the stated $730 per ticket. So there was a charge of $5.50 per ticket by the travel agency or did the OP round off?

  • MarkKelling

    Maybe you have been going places where you can catch viruses? ;-)

  • MarkKelling

    The airline only refunds the differences on fully refundable tickets. So if you bought anything less, sure you can change it but you lose the money and have to pay the change fee on top of it.

  • MarkKelling

    I miss the old Continental. They did nice things like that too – in the previous century. ;-)

  • emanon256

    Actually I was making fun of Tony :) But he searches for a lot of Asian flights, and the advertisers just make the assumption, at least that is what I assume. I think everyone gets the virus warnings, and sadly my Grandmother and Mother have both fallen victim for those ones.

  • emanon256

    Pre Jeffy I assume? I blame him for the fall of United.

  • TonyA_says

    I learned from Raven about taking CIPRO :-)

  • TonyA_says

    It’s some Asian Dating site. Wonder what I did to deserve the honor?

  • trskms

    Actually, I’ve been hung up on, and I will swear on a stack of Bibles, and in any other way that you require, that I absolutely was NOT verbally abusive. This was with a different company (Equifax). The woman supervisor was rude, unyielding, and simply didn’t like that I was even questioning her.

    Of course, I can’t produce the conversation. However, I could (in real life) bring forward witnesses to verify my standard phone behavior in a business conversation. While I dislike getting on the phone for business, I’m actually rather gifted in this particular area, and speak very well on the phone.

    So, while I can’t speak for the rest of the OP’s issues, I can state clearly that just because he was hung up on does not mean that he was in any way verbally abusive.

  • emanon256

    They probably target all men who have flown to anywhere in Asia.

  • emanon256

    So the OP actually paid the same amount begin with?

  • MarkKelling

    Jeffy killed both airlines. UA just hasn’t stopped twitching yet. ;-)

    Once Gordon left CO, everything started going down.

  • MarkKelling

    That’s a different scenario. I like that better because there is no confusion over who paid what where. You paid the airline the full price of the tickets directly to them. Your credit card gave you a credit on your statement. Perfectly clear.

  • bodega3

    PHH use to have amazing contracts with ATA and UA for air that you couldn’t get with the airlines. TO’s to Hawaii use to get low wholesale air with most domestic carriers but in the past few years those low airfares are almost nonexistent. They have contracted air, but it is higher than the lowest sale fare, so they have been given the shaft by the carriers.

  • TonyA_says

    Wow amazing computation. How many cups of coffee did you drink this morning? Somehow this kind of computation should really accompany the article. Otherwise it is so difficult to understand the apples vs oranges comparisons.

  • TonyA_says

    Astronomers make really good hackers.
    I know a guy who watches for asteroids all night.
    While he is running the programs that look at the data from the telescopes, he hacks trips.
    Apparently he writes and run programs that look at the sky and see how objects move. It might be less boring than figuring out how to lower your airfare.

  • TonyA_says

    He used the “eraser”.
    The airline charged his credit card first.
    Then he exchanged the points he had on that credit card company for current charges on the card. So he erased debt (charges) with points.

  • MarkKelling

    And I did it all in my head! But I think my brain needs a rest now.

    Way too much coffee and I haven’t slept in 2 days (issues at work which require me to be there just to stare at the others trying to fix the problems).

  • AH

    chris, before i read the other comments, i want to complain about your “subscribe” pop-up! i have poor vision and have to use a screen resolution of 800×600 – which means that i can not access the “x” to close the popup! please, please change that thing to a “fit screen” width instead of a fixed width. it’s very annoying to have to temporarily change my screen resolution JUST to close that popup!

  • I’ve always said my readers are smarter than I am. I rest my case.

  • AH

    i got a hung up on by verizon, simply by trying to explain that my ex-husband (who had originally set up the account) no longer lived here and couldn’t be reached to call them back. i didn’t cuss or swear at all, i just tried to explain, and the woman just said, “HE has to call us… click”

  • VoR61

    The popup should go away when your browser is configured to accept
    cookies from elliott DOT org (requires a browser restart AFTER you have closed the popup once).

  • Michael__K

    Perhaps the OP wasn’t referring to the low fare guarantee that Chris linked to, but rather this internal (apparently unadvertised) United policy to re-ticket and apply the difference in fare to a travel credit within 30 days for a $50 service fee:

    http://www.directly.Com/p/united-airlines-i-just-bought-plane-tickets-two-weeks-ago-and-now-the-fares-have-dropped-significantly-15362

    Based on the last email from United, that seems to be the confusion…

    I believe their (sic) is some confusion over the lower fare and fare downgrade. Fare downgrade is the difference refunded in travel certificate for future use minus the $50 service fee. This also has to be completed within the 30 day period.

  • Michael__K

    Based on the last email from United, it appears the OP was not referring to the “Low Fare Guarantee” but rather to an internal United policy which is not widely advertised:

    We do have a internal policy regardless of the Tariff rules, that we would only charge service fee of $50 USD, and any remainder would be issued in form of ETC Electronic Travel Credit…. within the 30 day window

    https://www.directly.Com/p/united-airlines-i-just-bought-plane-tickets-two-weeks-ago-and-now-the-fares-have-dropped-significantly-15362

  • Rebecca

    We fired those that hung up to improve metrics. There wasn’t a warning. If it happens once or twice, you could have easily pressed the wrong button. When it happens five times a day, thats manipulating the system. Bonuses were partially based on handle time. And when it’s a mistake (I did it a couple times myself), you call back and apologize. After all, you’re looking at the phone number.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I generally ignore fare guarantees, as you usually have to go thru so much time and aggravation, and very rarely get anything. I mean, would an airline make such a guarantee if they thought for one minute it would cost them money?

    If I think the price of the ticket is good, I book, if not, I pass. And no carrot on a stick is going to make me any more likely to click the buy button. Having said that, once I do buy the ticket, I never look back. I don’t really want to know what the guy across the isle paid, because that’s a sure way to get your trip off to a sour start.

    The only exception to this rule is Southwest, where I know my ticket is worth full value if I find a cheaper price and decide to book that ticket instead.

  • Marcin Jeske

    Why bother trying to explain… assuming you have all the details of the account… you should be able to do whatever needs done.

    Not sure what changes you wanted to make, but perhaps doing it through one of their automated systems would be better (phone or web), or failing that, by mail, where you do not feel like you need to explain why there is a man’s name on the account.

    First thing I would do is change the name on the account… you should be able to do that by web or by mail.

  • Marcin Jeske

    Non-travel, but Amazon used to have a very easy and logical price-matching policy (though I can’t remember if it was just against themselves or any retail store).

    The idea was, that if you saw a lower price in the next 30 days after purchase, sent them a link to the item, they would refund the difference once. With the way online prices would seesaw, it gave you some confidence that you wouldn’t kick yourself for missing out on a better deal.

    I think it made sense from Amazon’s perspective… since customers would be less likely to hesitate in making a purchase. I made a claim on the policy a few times, until they officially dumped it.

    Now, I just keep items hanging around in my shopping cart until: the prices fall so low I doubt they will go lower, I really need the item and haven’t already bought it elsewhere, or I forget about it and let it drift away.

    From Amazon’s perspective, the previous policy was probably better for revenue, at least from me.

  • Marcin Jeske

    Perhaps they were planning on bringing a *lot* of baggage… start with six suitcases to cover the overpayment, then a few more suitcases to compensate for the indirect flight… maybe the transfer airport has really good sushi or something.

    (not for sushi, but I have sometimes deliberately booked indirect flights with long layovers so that I could visit a new city for a few hours, and sometimes even just the airport if it is a really cool airport, like Amsterdam)

    So, if they are coming to visit you, just make sure to clear out some closet space for their 12 checked bags and a couple carry-ons, and remember that they’ve already had sushi, so no need for dinner, though food-poisoning is always possible.

  • Marcin Jeske

    I have yelled at family for using cheapoair… really, there is a point where the brand a company chooses should tell you everything you need to know… no offense to Budget, which at least has a slightly positive connotation, but “cheap” in a company name screams issues.

  • Marcin Jeske

    Not disputing that customers can have varying levels of entitlement and pushiness, and squeaky wheels should not be rewarded more just for squeaking…. but…

    There are two ways to reason about “compensation”:

    1 – the purpose is to make whole customers who have received less value than promised in the transaction by fault of the company… in this case, the customer feels he was promised a form of price protection, and has had to expend time and energy (which hopefully no one values at zero) to get that honored. *If* he was correct about the policy, then reasonable efforts to get ti honored should not be at his expense.

    2 – punish the company for bad behavior, and encourage good behavior … again, not sure if the actual policy was applicable or not, but the two email responses were anything but clear on the reasons for denial, and if there was indeed an unwarranted hangup, that is not behavior that should be encouraged.

    Jumping back to the price matching policy, I realize that United and all the other airlines are doing this to drive business to their online portals and cut out all the middlemen (OTAs and realTAs alike)… but clearly they are selling the same underlying product (United’s). Barring some promotional offers…. the prices on united.com and other websites are going to move up and down in lockstep… because they are based on the same fares that United has loaded into the GDS.

    If United sells you a $700 dollar ticket via any channel, and then offers the same ticket for $600, United gets the majority of the “extra income” from your decision not to wait. Is it “fair” that only customers with the foresight and flexibility to book on united.com get the guarantee?

  • emanon256

    HAHA I am cracking up!!

  • MarkKelling

    Not smarter, just maybe talented in different ways.

    I work with numbers every day. You work with consumers. I don’t have the smarts to deal with what you do. ;-)

  • MarkKelling

    I have flown UA for many years and never knew this was part of their rules. I agree that this is probably what UA did to allow the fare change to be given back. Key factor here is the quote you cite is from a year ago. Not sure if the $50 fee is still in effect. Their current change fee is around $200.

    Here is the info from the current UA booking rules that are part of every ticket. Note final line.

    TAG7 – BOOKING CODE CHANGE PERMITTED –
    WHOLLY UNUSED TICKET

    WHEN A FARE IS INTRODUCED INTO THE
    MARKET // TICKETED FARE IS REDUCED //
    OR BOOKING CODE BECOMES AVAILABLE //
    REPRICE USING –CURRENT FARES–
    ONLY BOOKING CODE CHANGES PERMITTED.

    PROVIDED ALL THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS AND
    FARE RULES ARE MET.
    1. NO CHANGE TO FARE BREAK POINTS
    2. CHANGE IS BEFORE ORIGINAL SCHEDULED FLIGHT
    3. SAME TRAVEL DATES / FLIGHTS
    4. UA FARES ARE USED
    5. VALIDATE ADVANCE RESERVATIONS REQUIREMENTS
    6. ADVANCE RESERVATION IS MEASURED FROM REISSUE
    DATE TO DEPARTURE OF PRICING UNIT

    WHEN CHANGE RESULTS IN FARE DIFFERENCE –
    FOLLOW THE 2 STEP PROCESS

    UA WILL RETURN RESIDUAL VALUE / IF ANY / VIA
    VOUCHER
    AGENCY WILL RETURN RESIDUAL VALUE / IF ANY / VIA
    MCO / EMD

    RESIDUAL VALUE MAY NOT BE USED TOWARD CHANGE FEE

    COLLECT FARE DIFFERENCE IF APPLICABLE
    CHARGE FULL CHANGE FEE

  • bodega3

    Yes, it is considered a reissue and the current change fee is charged. We do not reissue via the GDS. We will have the carrier do it at their fee, plus ours. Too darn much paperwork!

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    low fare guarantees are only for morons, who believe this tripe. Anyone could sell cheaper than United (no one can stop someone from selling at a loss)

  • bodega3

    That is most TA’s belief. I have acquired clients do to cheapoair’s mishandling of bookings. But you get what you should expect from any company with cheap in its name.

  • bodega3

    I doubt any agency would, especially if they don’t get paid by the carrier to sell their product. Not to mention it is not worth the hassle if something happens down the line.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    you missed the point. United can’t control what their own fares are sold for. In Australia, that would be illegal (& probably in the US as well)

  • bodega3

    I don’t understand this
    :I believe their (sic) is some confusion over the lower fare and fare downgrade. Fare downgrade is the difference refunded in travel certificate for future use minus the $50 service fee. This also has to be completed within the 30 day period.
    What has to be completed within the 30 day period? A reissue has to be done either the same day or the next, depending on who is handling it. I question the validity of this so called letter.

  • bodega3

    You miss the point, that if an agency isn’t getting paid to sell UA, why would they sell for less? There are many travel companies that do not allow selling their product for less than they sell them. Now it is common for consolidators to do this regarding air, but they are given permission to do so by the carrier.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    ok here we go again.
    Plenty of things are sold below cost. Eg. If a company wants to keep some business, it occasionally might offer things at a loss, when some other competitor stupidly sells things below cost to try & grab market share.
    There have been cases where one airline buys another airlines cheap seats & then gives them away.
    Some airlines when they have a sale, literally have 2 only seats per flight maximum at that fare, so not hard to corner the market.

  • bodega3

    Give me an example of one carrier ‘buying’ another carrier’s low fare seats and selling them?
    In the USA, carriers must have one seat available at the sale fare on every flight the fare is applicable for. However, I know that doesn’t happen, especially over heavy travel periods, like Thanksgiving and Xmas. I also know that low fares can also be in a market, but the carrier never allows that class of service to open up for sale. Very common over springbreak with one US carrier.

    In travel, a lot is regulated and controlled. I know of agencies selling illegally reduced packages but not air. Air would be stupid to sell below cost if there is no compensation by the carrier to the agency. Too many things can go wrong.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    what do you mean, illegally reduced packages ?

  • bodega3

    Many vendors are not allowing discounts below what they can sell their own products. If an agency does it, they will lose their contract to sell.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    that’s one hell of a restriction of trade.
    If a vendor trys that in Australia, they will end up in court.
    A few vendors have tried by backdoor means (eg. supplying very slow or very poor service to discounters) & have been caught out & lost in court.

    What funny(dodgy more like it) laws you have in USA.

  • bodega3

    Travel is different than other types of travel. We don’t own what we sell, therefore, we have to follow the vendors rules. But even in other areas, like apparel, stores selling brand names have restrictions. Levi’s won’t let a store sell their products for less than their contracted pricing without permission. A couple of years back, Levi’s too their apparel away from a store…actually went in and removed the items off the store tables, when a store was selling them for less than allowed by Levi.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    wow that’s very anti consumer.
    How can Levi’s “steal” good they don’t own ?

  • bodega3

    It is part of the contract a merchant signs to sell a product. They may not ‘own’ the jeans like other merchandise they sell. Very common with brand names. It might be due to commissionable sales, but I really don’t know. Makeup counters at department stores are never part of a coupon sale, same with cologne/perfume as those are commissionable products.

  • Michael__K

    Essentially the same tariff rules are cited on the page I linked.

    Note, this is: “a internal policy regardless of the Tariff rules… within the 30 day window.”

    If the policy is no longer in effect, I would expect the last email to state so. When a carrier grants an exception, they typically make it clear not to expect it the next time.

    The rep who sent the email does make it clear that they made two exceptions: they didn’t go through Customer Refunds Services and they didn’t assess the $50 service fee. The implication is that the policy itself is still in effect (through Customer Refunds Services for an ETC for a $50 service fee within 30 days).

  • bodega3

    There should be a change fee and the $50 service fee is their ticketing fee at $25 per person. Also, what is this 30 day window? When a fare drops and the class of service is available, you have to reissue within the ticketing time period of the fare. Waiving this ticketing time to 30 days makes no sense. This letter has to be bogus.

  • Annie M

    What am I missing? The rules clearly state the tickets must be purchased through United.com. Did this guy purchased through United or through his credit card company? If his c.c. company, why was he entitled to the refund?

    From the website:
    Here’s how this offer works:

    • Purchase your ticket at united.com (with a qualifying billing address).
    • If you find a published retail price online, for the same United flight, itinerary and cabin, that is lower than the fare purchased on the same day of your original United purchase by $10 or more, call your local United Customer Contact Center office and a representative will connect you with one of our specialists to file your claim.
    • We’ll refund the difference and give you a $100 USD Electronic Travel Certificate toward a future United flight if we can verify the lower online fare.

  • Travelnut

    I think there’s a continuum between infinite bananas and having spent many, many hours trying to resolve issues with a company that continually gives you the runaround. I’ve been there, and yes, I’ll admit it. I asked for additional compensation for what they put me through. I didn’t get it. But I don’t feel guilty at all for telling them they owed it to me. And only once have I ever asked for that. I think the “entitlement” is when someone uses this tactic habitually whenever something doesn’t go their way.

  • Poley King

    In the Marriott example. The rate qualified which does not compare to this situation where it doesn’t.

  • Michael__K

    The posts from United’s own facebook account have to be bogus too?

    https://www.facebook.Com/United/posts/618137098223836

  • AH

    my browser does allow cookies from this site, but i clear my temps and cookies on a regular basis, as i have an older computer and not doing slows things. it’s not the popup itself that i mind as much as the fact that it’s coded in such a way that it’s impossible to close with my screen resolution. (before the site redesign, i could easily click the x to close it, now i can’t. it’s a coding problem. i’ve done some website coding myself, so i can recognize it when it happens.)

  • VoR61

    Understood. FYI, I have used CCleaner for over a decade and it does a great job of cleanup while allowing you to exclude certain cookies (and other items) from the cleanup. I use it in my backup program.

  • brianguy

    “When I tried to offer them a code as further proof that this was a valid offer, she hung up on me,” he says. “At this point, after several frustrating attempts, I believe more compensation should be included on top of the credit.”

    what credit? there was no aforementioned offer of a credit in the article. now I’m *really* confused as to the details of his conversation with them. but shouldn’t be…

  • brianguy

    I agree. they plainly state it has to be the same day, on United.com. pretty strict, but at least it’s spelled out. read again people: they WANT you to buy it from United.com. if you choose to use CC points, then you are not buying from United.com and take the risk that the price could go down! in which case, Chase should have their own price guarantee in place, or you should be complaining (or refusing to use their point system) until they do. them’s the breaks, and that’s the chance you take when not paying for the entire fare with money.

    in a somewhat roundabout way, yes…their tagline is 100% correct, you DO get the lowest fare when going to United.com! and this case only proves that tagline to be true, because of the guarantee only applying to United.com. again, I’m sure many other websites have their own price guarantees applying to said flights.. in fact I’m sure of it, because I’ve seen some of them. it’s all in the details of how they’ve negotiated selling tickets on United flights.

    the clincher always for me comes with that ‘same day’ spiel, which makes no sense to me. So if I buy at 10:45 pm my time and then the price goes down 90 minutes later, I’m SOL of a price adjustment? ain’t no way they should be able to get out of that one. but that’s my only real gripe.

  • brianguy

    anyone could, but United knows they in all likelihood won’t – at least, not within the same calendar day. not sure if you’re arguing my same point or not, since you said the whole idea of the low fare guarantee is moronic and only for people gullible enough to believe it, implying you know that nobody would sell for less than United.com.

  • brianguy

    because United and said travel site would have to have an agreement in place for that website to sell United tickets online and they can easily put in the contract you can’t sell below the published fares without prior permission from United. why does that seem illegal? it’s not price fixing if they agree to it. travel agencies who book in person or over the phone via the United TA booking system aren’t subject to the same restriction.

    example, Southwest won’t allow their airfares to be sold on any other travel site. it’s not unlike cable networks negotiating with the cable and satellite providers to carry their channel. it’s all lawyers talking to other lawyers and deciding what they will or won’t allow.

  • brianguy

    yes, and sold anywhere else is grey market. this isn’t exactly new news… it’s like buying a camera with the same model number and specs but not stamped “US” on it, in the U.S. the only difference is the price and lack of a valid manufacturer warranty.

  • bodega3

    WN sells via the GDS, so they do sell elsewhere just not online. We are restricted on our booking systems and by phone if we give our identifying number.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    yep it’s price fixing. totally illegal in Australia, (if caught).
    Many companies try this sort of stuff, but won’t put it in writing, it’s just implied, which means harder to prove in court.
    Thought you had better consumer protection in USA ? (must be all those dodgy lawyers you have)

  • TMMao

    Recently used my Citicard points + Chase UAL credit card through Citicard’s travel service to book a United flight for two of us. UAL had the same itinerary for about $18 less but this was the only way to use the points. All went well except that on the return flight, the agent wanted to charge for our checked bags, even though the ticket was paid using the UAL Explorer Card that includes first checked bag for free. After a bit of polite back & forth, the supervisor waived the bag fees, calling it a glitch in their system because the fare was not entirely paid by c/card. The other oddity was that our return itinerary was split and my spouse was assigned a new record locator, so our reserved seat assignments were also gone. Fortunately, the supervisor found two seats together in Economy Plus at no extra charge.

  • bodega3

    How do you know you get the lowest fare on UA’s website? They aren’t regulated and they don’t have to give you all the flight options.

  • Mel65

    You have something far more valuable: the patience, willingness and generosity of spirit to WANT to help people. I mostly want to smack them.

  • Marcin Jeske

    On the other hand, we had Amazon, which sold eBooks at a loss to try to dominate the market. A bunch of publishers got together with Apple to create a new model of selling eBooks where they would have greater control of the retail price…

    … the federal government charged them with collusion…

    fast-forward a few years and the publishers have settled and paid large fines, and Apple lost in court.

    Generally, there is something suspect about a company selling goods below cost, unless it is for narrow promotional reasons. I am sure Australia has rules against dumping. Generally, the point is to knock out a competitor(s) who doesn’t have as much money in reserve. Under US anti-trust law, that is considered more dangerous than a manufacturer exerting control over the prices of it’s products.

    For instance, Apple enforces minimum prices for its products, leading to Apple products rarely being discounted, but often coming bundled with extra stuff like accessories and gift cards.

    Airlines giving away tickets on rival airlines sound kinda fun… what kind of message does that send? It would be harder to do in the States where buying a ticket without naming the passenger is difficult.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    lots of dumping across international borders.
    Look at agricultural sector. Lots of incredibly inefficient European & to lesser extend U.S. farmers paid to dump products in foreign countries, where sold at much less than cost or locally produced goods.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    who said buying tickets without a name ?
    They simply make them up.
    Obama
    Osama
    Smith
    Jones
    etc.

  • Marcin Jeske

    Ummm…. yeah, but what happens when Susie Jones gets to the airport and her ticket says Obama Osama? I don’t know about Quantas, but US airlines will not go along with such a name change… they levy heavy fees for many even minor name corrections, precisely to eliminate any secondary market.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    they’re not “buying” them for someone to use, they are “buying” them to kill off opposition price reduction sale.
    If only a small number of seats easy to do. Lots of dirty tricks like this go on all the time.
    Sometimes they just book them, hold them a few days & then cancel them, often by which time sale is over, or people have stopped looking.
    BTW most airlines now allow name changes for a fee, which varies wildly.
    We couldn’t use an international ticket to LAX from Australia, which was 100% non-refundable inc taxes, worth over AUD$2k (USD$1880) & for AUD$100 changed name & dates at same time & gave it to a relation to use. We could have also sold it to anyone, but that was too hard.

  • Marcin Jeske

    Oh, I misunderstood… you originally said they were buying them to give them away… I assumed to actual people that wanted to fly.

    If they are buying cheap tickets and letting them go unused… or better yet, buying and then canceling (although, with sale fares, they are usually non-refundable)… then those are some pretty stupid companies… they are giving their competitors money and leaving them with seats they can potentially sell later at a higher price.

    If the targeted airlines yield management systems are up to snuff, they will overbook and have standby passengers ready. They sell the seats twice, get to up-sell customers looking for the sale… and are completely innocent of any manipulation.

    Again, airlines in Australia may be different, but for at least the last decade, US airlines have been much more strict. According to an Elliott article a few years back “the industry standard is that minor slips such as typographical errors can be corrected, while major alterations require either a change fee or a new ticket.” Most carriers in the US state that tickets are non-transferable… allowing name changes for a fee when someone’s legal name changes, or the person booking made a mistake on the legal name.

    The exceptions are Southwest and such where their unique change rules allow a ticket to be cancelled and reissued for free.

    Changing dates is of course a completely different issue, airlines will gladly charge some fees for that… but either that ticket you changed was on a nice airline, was more than a decade ago… or because of a shared last name the airline assumed you were just correcting a name, not changing the passenger. But I am glad it worked out for you.

    I do wish we could go back to the days where a ticket was a bearer document, where you could hand it over to anyone you wanted, no questions asked. (But then, that would probably complicate a lot of the sophisticated pricing airlines use now.)

  • Annie M

    You may not get the absolute lowest price if you book elsewhere but you get no low price guarantee.