Feb122008

Nickel and Dimed by United Airlines

What a racket the airlines operate! The airline ticketing process is an opaque world when all we desire as consumers is transparency. Give us a rational pricing structure and a system of fairness in consumer rights.

Yesterday, I made a purchase on United.com for two tickets San Jose, California-Denver, Colorado at the price of $236.99 each, in “L” booking class. Today, I look and the exact same economy class flights are $183.00 per roundtrip ticket, also in “L” booking class. This is a no frills ticket, but I’d like some money back. Please.

For Denver, airfare this low is an incredible bargain during the President’s week holiday. In years past these tickets were typically in the $400 range. The irony in present times is the high fuel prices we see impacting our car driving cost is not apparent in the pricing structure of airfares. The low airfares to Denver gets me back to wondering about the impact the economy is having on vacation travelers. February is usually the ski holidays in the Rockies when Denver ticket prices peak.

The point of this discussion is that United has a policy of allowing cancellations of nonrefundable tickets purchased online for 24 hours. I was 2 hours too late today, and at 26 hours after pressing the purchase button on United.com, yesterday’s ticket can not be canceled or changed without a $100 fee per ticket. So now, I have to settle for two credit vouchers for $53.99 each to be used on future United flight reservations. I would certainly prefer to just have the money back in my checking account.

I am not saying it could not have been worse. I made a Northwest purchase in summer 2005 and within minutes of making the online purchase realized I could have booked a better itinerary. I called NWA immediately and was told that I could cancel the ticket for a $200 fee and rebook the itinerary I wanted.

My past experience with the United vouchers is one of being nickel and dimed. There will likely be an airport customer service charge of $10 or $15 to actually use the credit vouchers when I ticket reservations.

And I bet you thought this post was going to discuss the $25 bag surcharge issue! You can read about the bag surcharges for travelers without elite status here –

http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,52481,00.html

On a positive note – Hyatt Summerfield Suites at $62/night on weekends in Denver is a loyalty dream night. The upscale Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency downtown Denver are only $125.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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