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What are airline ticket credits really worth?

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Bethany Tully might have been forgiven for her confusion. After canceling an upcoming flight from San Francisco to Boston under unhappy circumstances, she discovered that her ticket credit on United Airlines was worth about half what she expected — an increasingly common complaint among air travelers.

Earlier this year, Tully, a chef based in San Francisco, had booked three tickets on Hotwire.com to visit a close friend. “Tragedy struck just before the trip,” she says. “He committed suicide.”

A Hotwire representative assured the grief-stricken customer that she didn’t need to worry. “I was told that I could cancel the tickets and Hotwire would issue a full credit to be used within 12 months,” says Tully. “But I have tried numerous times to use the credits — one being for his funeral service — with no luck.”

Tully found herself in a common situation, at least among infrequent air travelers. Ticket refund rules can be complicated and confusing. Mostly, though, passengers want to know what they can do to avoid a situation like Tully’s: stuck with a ticket credit that’s worth far less than they expected.

The preferred solution, as far as United is concerned, would be for a customer like Tully to purchase a fully refundable ticket. A nonrefundable round-trip flight booked seven days in advance on United cost $467. But a fully refundable ticket would have set her back $1,961, or a little more than four times as much as the restricted fare, which isn’t unusual. That makes buying a more flexible ticket an option for only the most affluent air travelers.

United allows passengers to use part of their ticket credit for a future flight, minus a $200 change fee and any fare differential. So how about a refund on compassionate grounds?

“Nonrefundable tickets are nonrefundable,” says United spokesman Charles Hobart.

Another way to protect your ticket purchase is with travel insurance. The typical policy, referred to as a “named peril” policy, covers a variety of events, including a cancellation, delay, emergency medical transportation, loss of baggage and identity theft. But only a few policies cover suicide, according to Linda Kundell, a spokeswoman for the US Travel Insurance Association, a trade group for travel insurance companies. Also, those policies may cover only a non-traveling family member who takes his own life, not a friend.

“It’s important to read the policy carefully,” Kundell warns.

Yet another insurance option is a so-called “cancel for any reason” policy, which can cost 10 percent or more of your trip’s prepaid, nonrefundable cost, or about twice the cost of a named-peril policy. But that refunds only somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of the cost of your trip.

Tully could also have taken her business elsewhere initially, to an airline with a less restrictive refund policy. Southwest Airlines, for example, offered a one-stop from San Francisco to Boston for $377. Had Tully canceled her flight, she could have received a full credit and avoided paying any change fees. JetBlue, which offers direct flights from San Francisco to Boston, had a nonrefundable fare of $472 and a change fee of $150. Tully says that she checked Southwest and JetBlue before she settled on United but that tickets were unavailable for her desired travel dates.

What makes a traveler choose United over Southwest or JetBlue? United maintains a dominant 46 percent market share in San Francisco, which means that passengers like Tully often have only one real option when they want to fly somewhere. They’re probably members of United’s frequent-flier program, MileagePlus, and willing to pay more for their flights in exchange for a promise — not always kept — of a “free” ticket to Hawaii or Europe. In other words, their forced loyalty to one airline is prodding them to choose a more expensive and more restrictive ticket.

One of Tully’s last options was to appeal to United, hoping that it would waive some of its refund rules or issue a refund, since she no longer had a reason to fly to Boston. She says that she phoned the airline repeatedly but that it never responded to her requests. United has a mixed record on waiving its fees, and its current policy is unclear.

Last year, when I visited the airline’s corporate headquarters, United’s executives told me that agents had some flexibility in applying the rules. But when I followed up to see whether that policy remained in effect, an airline representative declined to answer my question, saying that a passenger like Tully was welcome to call the airline directly if she had questions about its rules.

Tully turned to Hotwire, the online travel agency that had sold her the ticket. In a series of phone calls, she learned that far from having “nothing” to worry about, her ticket credit came with all kinds of unexpected restrictions, including being non-transferable and not usable for discounted fares. Paradoxically, Tully would have to spend another $600 to take advantage of her credit.

“It was nonsense,” she says. What’s more, United and Hotwire started pointing fingers at each other when she questioned the rules. “United says it’s Hotwire’s policy, and Hotwire says it’s United’s policy,” she adds.

I contacted Hotwire to get its side of the story. The company agreed to review Tully’s booking and its call records. Garrett Whittemore, a Hotwire representative, says that although the company is simply a booking agent, it holds itself to a “higher standard” when dealing with customers.

“Our reps did share the correct information throughout the calls, but we did not go above and beyond to walk Bethany through all the contingencies that she might experience as a result of her desire to cancel, in reference to potential change fees specifically,” he says. “She will be receiving a full refund from Hotwire because we feel like we missed an opportunity to educate her on exactly how airline cancellation policies work.”

When airline change policies are so complicated and counterintuitive that customers need to be “educated” about them, there’s something wrong with the airline industry.

Are ticket credits as valuable as airlines claim they are?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Cybrsk8r

    The most troubling part of this story is this: “her ticket credit came with all kinds of unexpected restrictions, including being non-transferable and not usable for discounted fares.”

    So she gets a $467 credit. $200 of that is eaten up by the change fee. So now she’s down to $267. To use that $267, she has to buy a non-discounted fare. Since the difference between the discounted and non-discounted fare is 99.9% certain to be more than her ticket credit, it sounds like United and/or Hotwire is trying to make certain that ticket credits are worthless.

    And I’m not surprised that she couldn’t find seats on Southwest or Jet Blue. Who, in their right mind, would choose United, if they had a choice, so I bet SW amd JB flights sell out first.

  • Alan Gore

    The best option for this passenger at the outset would have been Southwest. The round trip would have cost a little more, and with one stop, but the lack of change fees is what makes all the difference in a case like this. Small wonder that WN sells out first!

  • CubsFan007

    Something similar happened to me on American. I canceled weeks in advance. Months later when I went to use my $275 credit to buy a $312 ticket, I was told about the $200 change fee, so I had a $75 credit. Now, when this happens, I no longer cancel, I just checkin for the flight and no-show so they cant resell at least the outbound. Now, its a true penalty all around.

  • Justin

    Story Interpreted in 3 Bullets Points.
    1) Nonrefundable is quite clear. Sorry about the friend, but airline’s repressive terms are spelled out.

    2) United and Hotwire passing the buck is unprofessional. Using opaque booking sites is hardly beneficial to the customer, and booking direct with the airline is recommended. Chris saved the day, but you got LUCKY with hotwire.

    3) Life happens. Travel insurance doesn’t always work, but it gives you an avenue of recourse. Here, you relied on the generosity of Hotwire / United and Chris. He’s not always successful, but again you lucked out.

    – Summary. Until passengers demand regulation forbidding exorbitant change fees, costs, luggage costs, and no-show double dipping, the problem only gets worse by the day.

  • rwm

    I’m surprised that the ticket credit she received could only be used on a discounted fare. I was able to use a ticket credit with UA on a new discounted fare. The net cost of the new trip was $0.

  • BillCCC

    My Yes vote will be extremely unpopular but the airline ticket credits are as valuable as the airline claims they are, just not as valuable was a traveler would like. As Chris pointed out in the column the passenger had many options to either avoid or lessen the impact of this tragedy on the travel plans.

    BTW there is no ‘forced loyalty’.

  • Thomas Ralph

    You don’t know how lucky you all are in the US. Here in Europe, ticket credits don’t exist as a concept. Some tickets allow you to change at a penalty but you must identify your new journey there and then and pay the difference. Many others don’t allow any changes at all. None of this leaving the money hanging in the air for up to a year.

  • Justin

    The difference in the U.S. and Europe being the price of tickets. You can pick up a flight on Ryanair for quite cheap. You aren’t spending 300-500 dollars to go from London to Rome .
    Most fares are under 100E within Europe.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Would you pay $200 in cash for a $200 airline voucher, knowing that it came with restrictions such as one year expiration date? I submit that you would not, or at least should not. Perhaps you might pay $125. In that case, the value is my hypothetical $125.

    I agree about the forced loyalty. I fly out of SFO and I haven’t been on a United flight since 2001, even though I’ve flown extensive around the US.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    And if you can’t/won’t use Ryanair or one of the other superdiscounters?

  • Steven Scholnick

    Both Hotwire and United should have been more professional and not bounced her back and forth.

    Hotwire (and all other OTAs) do not see Southwest tickets. You have to go to southwest.com. So Southwest might not have been sold out.

  • Justin

    Yes. Plenty to choose from Carver. Vueling from Rome to Paris was 120 dollars one way. Matter of whether you want budget, flexibility, or stuck on a time schedule.

    Europe has a lot of carriers. Just book a little in advance and you’re fine.

  • UAPhil

    Actually, United’s current “change fee” policy is even stricter than discussed below. Suppose you cancel a $400 ticket, and want to use the credit to purchase a new $250 ticket. You must pay the $200 change fee with “new money” (e.g. additional real cash), then you can use the $400 ticket credit towards future travel (in this example, $250 of the credit would pay for the new ticket; the remaining $150 would be given back to you in the form of an electronic certificate (ECT) which could be used toward a second new ticket). (There is a small “silver lining” – ECT’s can be used to purchase travel for anyone, not just the original traveler.)

  • Justin

    I’m confused.

    According to your example, a $400 dollar ticket becomes $550 when the change fee of $150 is added. You can’t subtract from the ticket value and must use “New Cash”. I.E. an additional $150.

    Are you saying the $150 change fee is converted into an ECT to be used on another ticket? I thought you lose the change fee as a cost of modifying the travel?

  • $16635417

    Was this booked on Hotwire’s opaque side?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Thanks for the clarification. Good to know.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Alas, another “confused” consumer that doesn’t grasp the meaning of non-refundable, non-changeable AND books through a discount OTA. Every time you book a ticket, before you chose which class to fly in, think about the awful possibility that you won’t be able to use the ticket. Set that up against the total cost, figure out what you’re willing to lose. Because you WILL lose if you don’t fly on your ticket. I think I flew about 20 years before I ever had to cancel/change a trip and it was a nasty learning process, you never think it will happen to you. Buy the insurance which seems to be a reasonable price on UA, but be prepared to lose your money. Yes, there is something wrong with the airline industry but they make the rules, your job is to understand them.

  • Bill___A

    I regard the ticket credits as having no value. Whether to buy a ticket for $467 which is non-refundable vs. a refundable one for more than $1000 is a no brainer. You’re paying about $1000 for “insurance” on $467. Better to “self insure”. Sorry for her loss. That’s very unfortunate. But I don’t see it as United’s “loss” too.

  • Bill___A

    I just wouldn’t buy one.

  • bodega3

    When nonrefundable fares came to be, you could not use unused fare for the change fee. These were two separate monetary transactions. Then the carriers allowed residual to be used for the change fee. Now they are back to the way it was set up in the beginning. Yes, it is difficult to keep up, but THAT is why you need to read the rules of the fare of you ticket. I know nothing of how Hotwire works, but if they don’t feel they fully explained how an unused ticket works, then they stepped up…probably didn’t want bad publicity since there are now too many online booking engines and word is out that some are possibility going to fold.

  • bodega3

    Southwest would be my last choice on a trip across the US and not one I would recommend to clients. Especially during winter. Nonstop is the most preferred and from SFO UA has several flights a day to BOS.

  • bodega3

    So you think you are punishing the carrier? You just are giving them a reason pass this on to others in higher fares. You aren’t doing anyone a favor, as these rules/policies get put into place due to inconsiderate past passengers.

  • bodega3

    No sure how Hotwire was passing the buck. As a ticketing agent, I can’t do what I want or would like to do for a client as I am bound by the rules of the fare. I explain the rules and include them on the itinerary/invoice that we print for them when issuing the ticket. Hotwire just didn’t want negative publicity. I have heard some online companies are hurting and will be closing up in the near future.

  • bodega3

    Yes, I question this, too. A nonrefundable ticket can often be used to buy a refundable ticket, but the nonrefundable fare used, remains nonrefundable should the second ticket not get used.

  • bodega3

    I haven’t issued an MCO for residual in years. Most carriers do not allow that anymore. So if you have a ticket with a base fare of $400 and you find a new fare for $350, you pay the additional change fee and forfeit the $50. If you have an unused ticket with a base fare value of $400 and you want to get a new ticket valued with a base fare of $500, you pay the change fee plus pay what is called an add collect of $100. Taxes, fees, surcharges are not part of this and you get a refund on those and pay the current ones on the new tickets. Trust me, it is a major PITA!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I probably wouldn’t unless it was at a good discount. If I were likely to be able to use it, I would probably pay $50-75 for a $200 voucher, $100 if I were going to be able to use it relatively soon. So, I figure airline funny money is probably “worth” half the face value.

    I’m comparing it with the food stamp sales, back when people got physical coupons. The resale value was roughly $0.50 on the dollar in an arms length transaction.

  • Timothy Woody

    It should be noted that there are good alternatives to flying from SFO – Oakland and San Jose, or if you’re willing to drive a bit , Sacramento. As for airlines, I always try to fly Southwest. I have had to cancel a few times on Southwest and there has always been a full cost of the ticket credit available to me to use within one year. I haven’t flown United in ages.

  • So AbFab

    I just changed the return date on an international ticket on UA with a $594.- penalty and fare-adjustment fee – and all this after 4+ hrs on the phone with their Philippines call-center … AUCH !!!
    Charged: $300 for the change penalty and $294.- for the add collect.

  • bodega3

    Our UA agency desk is back in the US….thankgoodness! I was pulling my hair out dealing with overseas offices. You have my sympathies!

  • Miami510

    Look, the relationship between travelers and the carriers is not a level playing field… or to use another metaphor, it’s not fair playing with them because they have all the marbles. This is an industry that in many respects is high regulated; of all the economic activities in the country, there are only a handful who have an agency dedicated to flying; the Federal Aviation Agency.

    What was intended to be an agency to look after the public’s interest has (as in other cases) been politicized to where it is an industry protection agency which looks after the interests of the carrier. Were anyone, through their Congressional
    representatives, to propose measures of fairness in contracts between the
    public and the carriers, industry lobbyists would immediately squelch such
    proposals. Why? I recommend a recent book called “Extortion,” by Peter Schweizer.

    In this book you will realize the root cause of many of the things that seem unfair in our society is campaign financing. Until this is changed, we will have to rely
    of Christopher Elliott to plead our cause. In reality, it’s not industry who has all the marbles, it’s Congress.

  • Alan Gore

    So if airlines don’t want people to make douchey moves like this, incentivize people to better behavior. Declaring war on the passengers only invites them to find ways of striking back.

  • BillCCC

    The question wasn’t about what I thought the ticket credit was worth.

  • Cybrsk8r

    No, you read it wrong.

    “her ticket credit came with all kinds of unexpected restrictions, including being non-transferable and not usable for discounted fares”

    Having said that, as much as I hate United, I don’t think they restrict what type of fare you can apply a credit towards, so maybe this little gotcha came from Hotwire.

  • davidglass

    And if this situation were to happen to one of your clients, they would find themselves in the exact same boat due to your allegiance to United.

  • rwm

    Sorry, I typed it wrong. I meant to say that I was surprised that the credit could NOT be used on a discounted fare. My last statement stands. I have used ticket credits on United towards any type of fare.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Sound like this is the airline’s way of trying to make it LOOK like the change fee isn’t eating up your ticket credit, even though in reality it still is.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Seems to me that it does.

    The question has two possible answers

    a) Yes: As or more valuable
    b) No : Less valuable

    Either way, to answer the question is to loosely assign the ticket credit to one of the value ranges.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I doubt if Bodega has an allegiance to United. We fight like cats and dogs sometimes, but she knows her stuff. Her point about a nonstop across the US, especially during winter makes good sense.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    This doesn’t hurt United, it only hurts passengers. If you didn’t check in the seat would still be held for you until its released by the gate agent. All it does is screws standby passengers, hoping to get on that flight.

  • BMG4ME

    My main issue with vouchers is the fact that they expire.

  • MarkKelling

    Since this ticket was purchased through Hotwire, I would guess it is their restrictions that win out and they do not necessarily match those of UA tickets purchased directly from UA.

  • MarkKelling

    Where does membership in any frequent flyer program come into play in this situation?

    Was throwing in the comments about how frequent flyer program memberships force travelers to do stupid things just a convenient opportunity to tilt, once again, at that windmill? Most tickets bought from companies like Hotwire don’t even count toward frequent flyer status so why would anyone who is a member working on getting status or collecting miles buy from them? And there are plenty of options for getting somewhere from SFO on multiple airlines, so no one is “forced” to fly UA. UA probably has better options on flights to more destinations than other airlines serving SFO (nonstop, maybe lower prices, and more frequent departures) depending on what fits your needs.

    The OP sounds like someone who doesn’t travel much, went on the internet and found what looked like a good deal, and purchased the tickets without being aware of the conditions on those tickets. Luckily Hotwire decided to be generous in this case.

  • MarkKelling

    I agree on flying longer distances on WN. The way they structure their connections, and every long distance flight on WN includes at least one stop, you need to be an Olympic sprinter to get from one gate to the next.

    From SFO to BOS, your options all include at least one stop. And those stops are DEN or MDW (and sometimes MCI) which can be difficult in the winter.

  • rwm

    Makes sense. A good reason not to use Hotwire.

  • bodega3

    I am afraid you don’t have an understanding of how we work. There is zero allegiance to any vendor. It is what is best for each passengers situation. Nonstop is highly recommended whenever possible. I read a posting on FB about a trip someone made this summer when temps in PHX reached well over 100. They were stuck on the tarmac for a long time and she was traveling alone with her two children both under 3 years of age. Her destination could have been reached by a nonstop flight, but her father wanted to save money, so bought her a ticket on WN. It was a day of hell that wasn’t worth the savings.

  • bodega3

    Their connections in PHX or ABQ can be an issue in summer, as well.

  • bodega3

    If you purchase a ticket from Hotwire, you can call the carrier to use that unused fare. If it is a published fare, Hotwire should be following the rules of the fare and the only thing they could add is a fee, which can’t be added to a published fare and is charged separately.

  • bodega3

    The change fee is separate from the unused fare with most carriers and their nonrefundable fares.

  • bodega3

    Believe me, I don’t defend the carriers, but I get why they have made these rules. Courtesy goes both ways.

  • bodega3

    Thanks Carver!

  • jpp42

    This kind of move also shows why online check-in is pretty negative for the standby system. If check-in were only allowed at the kiosks at the airport, at least it would serve as a guarantee that the passenger arrived at the airport. And it would reduce all those annoying, “Passenger J Smith, your flight is boarded and ready to depart…” announcements.

  • FQTVLR

    I agree. I have never met an airline that restricted ticket credits to non-discounted tickets. Sounds like Hotwire to me and not UA—and I avoid UA at all costs. But this does not sound like a UA rule.

  • Raven_Altosk

    1. I thought we were done with “tickets are magically non-refundable when I have a good reason” cases!??!

    2. Not sure how loyalty programs fit in here. She could’ve flown WN, but the “Wanna Get Away” aka cheap tix were probably sold out and she didn’t want to shell out the cash.

    3. At which point do airlines have to put their foot down on cases like this? I mean, this guy wasn’t a close blood relative, but a friend.

  • Raven_Altosk

    That law will never pass. Too many politicians are sleeping with the airlines….

  • JenniferFinger

    What bothers me is that the rep felt that she needed to be “educated” about the credit. Ah, that sounds kind of Orwell to me. I don’t want to buy products or services that I need to be “educated” about. It’s condescending from where I sit, and I should already be “educated” about them as of the time I choose to buy them-not when a customer service rep thinks I need it because they turn down me down when I try to use it and it isn’t usable.

  • Justin

    What’s the point of using Hotwire if there isn’t an added layer of consumer protection? Hotwire admitted to dropping the ball (probably due to PR). None the less, I find these ticketing websites a bad deal. Op lucked out, but better to book direct. One less party to fight if problems occur.

  • Justin

    Too True. Consumer + Protections aren’t synonymous, because Politicians cater to the deepest pocket. Generally, it’s industry over consumer, seeing most are in bed together.

  • Lindabator

    I don’t get the part that she couldn’t use the credits on a discounted fare – unless this is a Hotwire thing – usually, airline tickets are applied to another ticket of equal or greater value, minus the change fee, and of course, in the same name as the traveller. Perhaps Hotwire has special bulk fares this would not apply toward?

  • Lindabator

    And another travel agent, this would be my option as well. Its not a matter of allegiance, but of how things are handled during a time of bad weather.

  • Lindabator

    Actually, passengers complain against regulations as it may mean they actually have to pay a fair price for that ticket – can’t have big regulations and cheapie fares that don’t even cover the cost of the fuel. And that’s been the problem all along.

  • Lindabator

    that’s how I read it – and you are right, the airline would not be making that restriction.

  • Lindabator

    But not with their opaque fares – these can be bulk rates – and may have higher restrictions. Too many problems, and still don;t know why folks use them!

  • Lindabator

    But you are talking about something no one does – no one BUYS credits. You BUY a NONRFEFUNDABLE ticket – if you change, there is a $200.00 fee to do so, within one year. That at least gives you a year to apply that ticket to a new one. In the 80s, there were some fares which were instant purchase, nonrefundable and nonchangeable – in other words, fly or go home. And I don’t think anyone now would like to give them a reason to go back to those nightmares!

  • Lindabator

    NO – You had a $400 ticket, you now have a $250 ticket. You get the $150 over on a credit, but they do NOT apply the overage to the exchange – so you are paying the $200 exchange fee at the time you book.

  • Lindabator

    True – but UA is allowing the residual now – even bigger PITA!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You’re welcome :-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m not sure how that has anything to do with the valuation of airline credits. It’s an analogy to show that they are worth less than the face value as they come with restrictions.

    Incidentally, people do buy credits. Airlines have programs such as AAirpass, in which you prepay flight in order to get a better deal or have consistently in airfate budget. AA used to sell 25K miles of travel (unrelated to frequent flier miles) for $10,000. In lieu of worrying about fare fluctuations, particularly for last minute travel, they deducted the number of miles from your 25,0000.

    It can be a great program for those with mostly last minute travel. I was considering purchasing it, but after running the numbers it wasn’t a good deal for me since I usually have of plenty of heads up before I have to fly.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    And if I can’t book in advance and must carry luggage?

  • Justin

    How is the program remotely beneficial to customers?

    Say I go from here to X Europe. Distance 6000 miles roundtrip. A ticket might cost between 1200-1500 dollars last minute. 4-5 trips at 1500 dollars is only 6000 to 7500 dollars. I’m being generous on amounts.

    Playing the numbers doesn’t ever work here. I’d assume first class isn’t the same mileage count. If so, there’s where you might come out ahead.

  • bodega3

    Yes, bulk fares are handled differently, but even with those, there are rules that have to be followed. Bulk fares can have ticketing fees included that the passenger wouldn’t know about as it is in the linear that can be overridden and will not print out on the ticket or the invoice. The important point is, that the rules of the fare have to be followed regardless of published, contracted or bulk.

  • bodega3

    They go back and forth, back and forth. So annoying!
    I am guessing your down vote on this is due to the person on understanding how much time and paperwork is involved in al this. That is what is the PITA, not assisting the client.

  • bodega3

    Many are told the rules, but don’t pay attention. in my decades of selling travel, my assessment is that nobody cares until something happens to them and then the rules become important to them. If all goes right, all the pages of rules or listening to an agent explain things if ignored. Which is why we print it all out on the invoice and keep those invoices for many years….just in case!

  • Michael__K

    No sure how Hotwire was passing the buck.

    United and Hotwire started pointing fingers at each other when she questioned the rules. “United says it’s Hotwire’s policy, and Hotwire says it’s United’s policy,”

    I am bound by the rules of the fare

    What fare does United or Hotwire sell that can be cancelled and exchanged with a change fee but is “not usable for discounted fares?”

  • bodega3

    Your question is a good one and one I can’t answer. If it is a published fare, it certainly can be reused. If it is a contracted or bulk fare, it may not be. But if Hotwire is saying it is UA’s rules, then they being too vague, as to the type of fare it actually is.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Seats are fully refundable, changeable, etc. and no change fee

    The absolute cheapest flight leaving SFO to London tomorrow on American is 3000. And that’s for the crappy times. If you weren’t planning on waking up at the crack of dawn (its a business trip), it’s closer to 4K, 4 of those comes to 16k.

    The point of this program is that you have certainty in your business travel. If you need to be at so and so place, you don’t need to be concerned that everyone else is there and the fares have skyrocketed. As long as there is a coach seat for sale, its yours.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Yea, but my point is, whether the $200 is “new” money or value lopped off your ticket credit, it’s still coming from you.

  • davidglass

    Moral of the story: ticket credits are worth something on SWA and JBLU, whereas on Untied, they are not.

  • bodega3

    I think it is all relative to what is important to you. If you are one to make lots of changes, then fly a carrier that makes these easier for you. But if you decide to fly a carrier with change fees that are part of their nonrefundable fares, then know you costs BEFORE buying and accept them, or don’t buy the ticket.

  • davidglass

    The point of the story was that the customer’s trip cancellation was caused as a result of the death of a friend. They obviously did not intend to make changes, yet wound up with worthless credit on United.

    As to your “stuck in PHX due to the heat example”…its not hard to connect on SWA where the weather is good. ie. via PHX in the winter and via DEN/MDW/STL in the summer

  • Justin

    Wonderful in isolated instances, atrocious for the other 99%. Short of corporate accounts and the oddball businessman, few people wake up deciding to travel overseas on a whim. Even in a generous scenario where X event requires one or two yearly trips, the pendulum is lopsided.

    P.S. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, next day Christmas, and soon New Years. So the Holiday Season skews prices.

    However, I picked December 24th – Jan 2nd. Price: $1,600 Dollars from Ohio to Heathrow in coach =) on U.S. Airways.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That fare comparison isn’t valid. According to the website, that fare is nonrefundable. Plus, now the fare is $2,061. The AAirpass protects against such fluctuations. The appropriate fare is comparison is $3400 from US Air as the AAirpass is fully refundable, which is a value when that important meeting gets moved up a day.

    You are correct that few can take advantage of the AAirpass. That’s neither here nor there – not germane to the discussion.

  • bodega3

    To her destination, which was SLC, nonstop was the most sensible choice, especially since she was traveling alone with two children under 3.
    The credit wasn’t worthless, but it did have a cost to reuse. These are things you need to think about BEFORE buying a ticket and what we walk through with clients all the time.

  • Justin

    Still 1,600 locally. You can buy two tickets for the price of the one. Unlikely, seeing you pay a 200 dollar change fee + difference. Still come out less than $3400 dollars!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Someone is paying that $3400, for whatever reasons work for them. That’s the person who uses the Airpass.

  • Justin

    True. The program works for some people. Im guessing 99.9% corporate travelers.

  • JenniferFinger

    Well, any “education” needs to take place at the time of purchase…not later in the process when they’re turning the customer down. I still find that condescending and not good customer service.

  • bodega3

    Most people have it available, they just don’t pay attention. I base this on 30 years in sales. Selective memory is also a great way to see if you can get the rules changed for you, too. I have seen that game played many times.

  • JenniferFinger

    Sorry, bodega3, but I don’t agree with you. You want to “educate” customers, then do it before they buy, not after.

  • davidglass

    In a series of phone calls, she learned that far from having “nothing” to worry about, her ticket credit came with all kinds of unexpected restrictions, including being non-transferable and not usable for discounted fares. Paradoxically, Tully would have to spend another $600 to take advantage of her credit.

    These restrictions are extremely restrictive. Bad PR for United.

  • bodega3

    There is more to this story about the restrictions. This isn’t bad PR for United IMHO. Rules are rules, but when you book through an OTA, knowing the type of fare you are purchasing is of utmost importance. Hotwire is the one who should be getting the bad PR!

  • bodega3

    Yes, everyone wants it all. But if you have low fares, you have to have restrictions or we will all be paying more for our tickets, like we did decades before. That $200 fare from SFO to NYC isn’t going to pay for the cost of operating that flight!

  • bodega3

    My guess is most don’t pay attention to the ‘education’ provided until they need something and then they don’t know what the rules are. Too many times on this forum, readers have stated that they don’t pay attention to the rules, hit the ‘I read the terms and condtions’ button, when they really never did read anything. We ALWAY put the rules on our client’s itinerary/invoice, but I can’t tell you how many times we have reprinted it and sent it off again before they depart because they misplaced it. People just don’t pay attention until they get into a bind.

  • JenniferFinger

    Regardless of when they pay attention, the time to “educate” is before they make the purchase. If you try to do that afterward, it isn’t going to work.