I encountered something new that irritates me with the new United Airlines yesterday. It might be common to former Continental fliers (I’m assuming it was their policy), but it’s new to me and I figured it might be fair warning to anyone expecting the process to work the same as it did on the old United.
I’m referring to using a previously cancelled non-refundable ticket for a new reservation. Pre-merger, United would take the value of your original ticket, deduct the $150 change fee and apply the balance to a new reservation. The change fee, then, was effectively “old money” already spent.
I have a cancelled ticket nearing its expiration that I needed to use, so I made a reservation yesterday using it and encountered the “new” policy. Now, United will actually charge you the $150 change fee up-front if your new ticket is of lower value than the original ticket and issue a travel certificate for any excess. Here’s my example:
At the old United, I would have $167.40 of value from my original ticket to apply to a new reservation ($317.40 – $150.00 change fee = $167.40). My new reservation costs $227.60, so I was expecting to apply the $167.40 and simply owe the difference of $60.20. Nope.
I had to spend “new money” for the $150 change fee and United now subsequently issues a travel certificate for any remaining value from the original ticket. It’s just annoying for me having been used to the previous method and the current method gives the airline an additional opportunity for further “breakage.” Meaning… United gets to keep the value of unused funds if a customer doesn’t use them before they expire.
I now have to keep track and be sure to use the new certificate before it expires, or United collects its value. At the old United, my transaction using this old ticket would have been totally complete, having paid the $60.20 and been done with it.
There’s no doubt I’ll use the certificate, but for the average traveler this is a lot to keep track of. And yes, had I bought a ticket with a value greater than that of my previous ticket plus the change fee, the issue would be moot. But I had to use this aging ticket or suffer the breakage (and I wasn’t going to let that happen).
This might not be new to many of you, but it was my first post-merger experience with it and I hate it.