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.
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.”
(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,