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.”
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What is an airline credit really worth?

Yu Lan/Shutterstock
Yu Lan/Shutterstock
It happened to Louise Andrew twice last month. She made reservations on the United Airlines Web site, tried to cancel them within 24 hours for a full refund, and was told that the airline would be happy to issue a ticket credit instead.

“Both times, I was initially told that my purchase value would be applied to a future ticket,” says Andrew, an attorney from Redmond, Wash.

That didn’t make sense to her. United promises a no-questions-asked refund on most tickets as long as the request is made within a day of the reservation. And since 2011, the Department of Transportation has required airline reservations to be cancellable without penalty for at least 24 hours after the booking is made, unless the ticket is purchased one week or less before a flight’s departure date.
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That’s not the ticket credit you promised me

Mtkang/Shutterstock
Mtkang/Shutterstock
After a canceled flight, a merged airline and crossed wires with Expedia, Anoop Ramaswamy is the proud owner of a worthless airline ticket. Now what?

Question: I booked a roundtrip ticket from Buffalo, NY, to Chennai, India, on Continental Airlines, just before it merged with United Airlines. I used Expedia to make the reservation. I completed the one-way trip but due to a family medical issue, I had to cancel the return. I called Expedia and requested a cancellation.

Expedia issued a cancellation, saying it would be in the form of an airline credit that would last a year. I called Expedia a few months later to use my voucher, but was told they couldn’t book the flight because of the merger with United. They asked me to call United directly.

I called United and they informed me that fare rule mentions that I can only book the same return flight and nothing else.
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How much does my airline owe me for a broken seat?

lufthansaElite-level frequent travelers who whine if their lie-flat business seat doesn’t recline all the way are regularly and shamelessly mocked on this site.

I typically have little sympathy for entitled crybabies who can’t lean all the way back, while the folks in economy class are wedged into their seats and can barely move. It’s particularly irritating when it turns out these platinum-plated complainers either didn’t pay for the ticket themselves, footing the bill with their employer’s money, or got to it by unethically “hacking” the system.

So when Andrew Buffen came to me with a problem with reclining seats on a Lufthansa codeshare flight from Chicago to Frankfurt, I almost reflexively sent it to the “case dismissed” file.
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“I feel like Starbucks is stealing money from me”

Katecorn/Shutterstock
Katecorn/Shutterstock
Question: I need your help with a problem I’m having with Starbucks. Over the years, I have regularly purchased Starbucks gift cards on eBay at a discount and simply transferred the balance to my loyalty card registered to my Starbucks account.

I recently discovered a website called Raise.com that was selling Starbucks gift cards at a 20 percent discount, so I purchased about $1,600 worth of cards from the company. I thought these could not only be used by my family and me, but would be great gifts for coworkers.

Realizing that I bought these from a third party, I tried to protected myself by transferring the balances to cards registered to my Starbucks account.
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No name change on a dead passenger’s ticket?

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Question: Last year my husband canceled a flight on United Airlines and received a ticket credit. A few months later, he was killed in a hit and run accident.

I have had a difficult time even focusing on things. I sent United an email a few weeks after his death, but months before his ticket credit was to have expired. I received a standard automated response that they would get back to me within 10 days on my refund request.
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Is this enough compensation? “Very disappointed” by Southwest – so they sent me a voucher

I‘ve already written about Southwest’s new restrictions on credits. Well, passengers haven’t exactly warmed to them and other policy changes.

Nicole Watson say she’s “very disappointed” by the new rules.

“I have a few credits on Southwest and was hoping to let a family member use them in order to make it to my wedding,” she says. “I went to book the flight, only to realize Southwest changed their policy without any notification — even to their Rapid Rewards members.”
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Ridiculous or not? Oops, I forgot to check my credit card statement

It happens all the time.

I get a plea for help from someone like Eugene Teow, who appeared to have been scammed on a recent trip to Australia. In his case, it looked as if Hertz had indiscriminately sucked $3,857 from his bank account for damaging a rental car — money to which it wasn’t entitled.

But then, when I ask the company about the overcharge, it turns out that the only problem was that the customer had failed to check his credit card statement. Because if he hadn’t, he’d know the money — or at least most of it — had been returned.

Reviewing your credit card statement is the first step anyone must take when they’re looking for a refund. Because some of the time, they’ll find the money has been quietly put back into their account without notification.
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Can this trip be saved? I paid for the ticket — where’s my credit?

One of the things travelers love about an airline like Southwest is that it goes against the grain. When other airlines charge baggage fees, it doesn’t. When they impose change fees, it doesn’t. When they have assigned seats, Southwest refuses.

So passengers can be forgiven for getting a little upset when Southwest starts acting like … well, other airlines.
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