Using a Previously Cancelled Ticket for a New Reservation at the New United

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:

a close-up of a ticketAt 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.


  1. At Alaska Airline does this as well! It’s a total pain in the butt, however, think about it this way, if they charge you $150 upfront and then you NEVER use your voucher, the airline just double dipped making even MORE money! Bad for us, good for them!

  2. I encountered this last week. Was even told that when I use the leftover credit I’d have to pay the 150 again, but don’t know if that wad just my clueless travel arranger making things up.

  3. How long do you have to use the leftover credit?

    Does it expire soon (when the original ticket did) or does it have like a year on it ?

    Also how is it issued ? is it like an online code or is something mailed to you ?

    • @jason: Airline tickets are valid for 12 months from the date of ISSUE. The certificate I received for this example is likewise valid for one year from the date of issue (so one year from this past Thursday). And yes, they emailed a certificate code and pin.

  4. I had the same annoying experience yesterday. Split my new ticket into two one-ways to immediately used my 80-buck credit.

    This game just isn’t as fun as it used to be. 😉

  5. In the second last paragraph, don’t you mean that if your new ticket was at least equal in price to the old ticket, then the issue was be moot? (not new ticket >= old ticket + change fee)

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