United paid me $400 to stay in London

Circumstances were favorable to give up my United Airlines LHR-LAX seat to Los Angeles yesterday when an oversold flight created havoc at the gate. A line of family passengers were trying to get seats together on the aircraft and others were simply trying to get a flight to the USA. There was a call for volunteers to fly a different flight. My luck was to have no major commitments, extra clothes packed in my carry-on backpack and favorable weather conditions to make a day walking around London a pleasurable experience. Last time I did an overnight in London, I walked for hours in the pouring rain on a day last September when it rained about 5cm/2in in London and the streets flooded.

What I did not know was the compensation would be so low at $400 for my seat. I commented to the agent that I used to get $600 for giving up my United seats 15 years ago. He stated those days of $600 to $1,000 vouchers are gone. Anyway, $400 for another ticket to Europe is a good rebate on my current $575 Stavanger, Norway SVG – San Francisco SFO round trip ticket with a July departure. That was quite a deal and it took me months to find (booked in April, before all the insane fare drops to Europe of the past two months).

Those people working the desks at United Airlines Additional Services Terminal 2 are hopefully paid well for all the passenger aggravation they are subjected to from angry flyers and want-to-be flyers. In the time I stood in line waiting for my Radisson Blu Edwardian London Heathrow voucher, LHR Hoppa airport shuttle bus vouchers and a rebooked flight directly from LHR to San Francisco, I heard a guy going on about how Expedia ruined his trip by not notifying him the UA flight was canceled. A good agent response was he should sign up for United alerts and he would have been notified by United Airlines of the cancellation, even with his Expedia.com booking. Then there was the couple where the woman was having a fit about having spent three hours on the phone to get an Economy Plus seat and a flight change had her back in regular economy.

And the security lines at LHR can fund the poor of Europe and Africa in toiletries with nearly every passenger having to discard large liquids and gels in their carry-on bags. I recall last year when I was flying Air France LHR-CDG when a woman had to toss probably a $1,000 or more in cosmetics when her entire carry-on bag was loaded with toiletries and make-up.

London on a 22 hour transit stop

One of the features I often point out with airfare deals is the opportunity to get an overnight for free in some international city. KLM will drop you in Amsterdam, Air France in Paris, SAS in Copenhagen, Aer Lingus in Dublin, Iberia in Madrid and so on.

I am catching my flight to SFO in one hour, so not enough time to write up my London photo adventure today. What I decided on the fly was to spend 9 hours from the time I left LHR to London city center and walk around the city to show many of the sights one can see in an afternoon/evening in London. I covered many miles and my legs are so sore that I look forward to chilling on a plane for 10 hours today.

Buckingham Palace
What a trip! An unplanned day in London. Buckingham Palace July 26, 2016 3:00 pm.

In summary, I went to the London Heathrow Underground and purchased an Oyster Card with 15 GBP credit for 20 GBP (Oyster Card is reduced fare debit card and costs 5 GBP). By 2:30pm I was in central London at Green Park tube station, went shopping at Sainsbury for lunch and beer, and ate lunch in Green Park surrounded by hundreds of other locals and tourists lounging in the park.

After filling my stomach, I walked to Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, Downing Street, Horse Guards, Trafalgar Square, quickly walked through the National Gallery, Leicester Square, watched street performers and saw plenty of West End theaters, Carnaby Street shopping, Regent Street shopping, Oxford Street Shopping, a walk through the Middle Eastern streets and residences of May Fair, into Hyde Park for another beer and lunch leftovers dinner, a walk to the Princess Diana Memorial, then over to Knightsbridge for Harvey Nichols and Harrods before taking the Piccadilly Line at Knightsbridge Station back to Heathrow.

I did not actually shop anywhere except Sainsbury’s for food and beer. The people watching was amazing. London is probably the most cosmopolitan city in the world in summer with people in every kind of dress speaking every kind of language.

I’ll write up a walking tour photo essay of London this week.


Crowds watching the changing of the horse guards. London is a vibrant tourist destination in summer. The main problem though are the crowds make it difficult to get a view of many of the sights. Come in winter and you can be up front watching many of these same spectacles without nearly the effort it takes in summer.

My entire stay in London cost about 32 GBP or around $40 USD and I have a $400 USD United voucher in my pocket.

That is a great end to my July 2016 European Vacation. I will be back again in six weeks.

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.

More articles by Ric Garrido »



  1. I got $1000 for giving up an economy seat EWR-PVG last year during Chinese New Year. Sounds like a load of crap from the LHR UA agent.

  2. It is an auction and United probably start at $400 on such a long route. We were flying LGA-FLL (two hours domestic) over 4th of July weekend. Delta was oversold by 6. The auction was at $600 when we got to the gate and it ended up at $1300 before they had enough volunteers. The next available seat were the next morning. We didn’t take the bait.

  3. That agent fed you a line. Those days are not over. Last month I got a $600 voucher for giving up my seat on an MSP-ORD flight. I had to spend the night (free hotel room) but was out of there first thing in the morning. I got $500 in January for a similar situation SFO-DEN. Last week I was offered $400 to volunteer and they would have put me on a direct flight with Delta that would have gotten me to my destination for free! I think $200 is the standard, but lately I’ve only seem $400 at the minimum. I suppose it depends on how packed the flight is.

  4. I read a blog article just last week about getting bumped on a plane while in the EU. I remember someone made a comment stating how flights originating from the EU has rules for compensation due to getting bumped, arriving more than 3 hours late, etc. For some reason, 600 euros comes to mind. I think a search for “Air Passenger Rights EU” could reveal some information.

  5. Last week we got 600 Euros per person for getting bumped off a LuFthansa FRA – ORD flight. The 6 hr delay was worth it.

  6. @dxd, if you fly a european airline, the compensation is set in stone, and quite generous, as you discovered. Rick did not have this luck.

    @Rick, did they give you food money too?

    In general, I think you did a fantastic job of making the most of the situation. I agree that London is great for people watching too: mostly Russians, Americans, and Arabs but the occasional Anglo Englishman too. 🙂

    What did you think of Carnaby street? I remember it from 30 years ago as a Punk clothing area. When I last year, it looked like any other suburban shopping area.

    In fact, my general thought about London is how sanitized and corporate it has become. You can hardly find a pub that is independently owned. So many chain restaurants and cookie-cutter shops. Sad, IMHO.

  7. Wait…you are not mentioning the wife. Did you part paths after Krakow, or was that another trip altogether?

  8. OMG – you sure covered a lot of ground!! I’ve done that much, but over a couple of days.
    Sounds like you made the most of the day and glad your weather was conducive, and it was a great ending to your trip.

    Been to London 5 times – 3 of those for a week each time in late November – total about 23 days. Basically never had any rain while in London aside from a couple of short showers (usually we were in a museum and saw a few puddles when we came out.) Very lucky, I suppose.

  9. @bluecat – I was given 20 GBP for dinner at the Radisson Blu and ordered 17 GBP chicken dish at bar. Best value of three restaurants at hotel was Indian food, but I arrived to hotel at 11pm as that restaurant was closing.

    Breakfast voucher was 15 GBP and buffet was 17.50 GBP. I wrote this post in the Plaza Premium Lounge at LHR Terminal 2 and I thought their breakfast buffet was actually better than Radisson, although Radisson did have the option for made to order omelets.

    I left Kelley in Copenhagen. Kelley is more into convenience than budget. Whereas I would have walked the 15 minutes to the hotel rolling my luggage and we did in Copenhagen, she took taxis for transportation convenience once I left her on her own in Copenhagen. Kelley flew on an AAdvantage Business Class award one way Copenhagen to Monterey.

    I flew from Copenhagen to Stavanger, Norway on a $92 Norwegian Airlines one-way flight the day before and we were both supposed to arrive back in California around the same time. I had to drive our car back from SFO and I got home 20 hours later than planned.

    I booked a United ticket from Stavanger, Norway to San Francisco for $562 round trip with a return to Norway in September. I have hotel reservations for Switzerland in September, but after this trip and loving the prices of Poland, I am tired of expensive places like Stockholm and Stavanger and I will be looking to change my travel itinerary in September to Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic since my return flight in Sep back to SFO is out of Salzburg, Austria.

    All-in $654 for my two tickets CPH-SVG-SFO-SVG and I got $400 rebate from UA and a day hanging out in London. I will be back in Europe in six weeks for a solo trip.

    London looks much cleaner than in 1989 when there were hundreds, maybe even thousands of people sleeping in nearly every doorway around the same places I have only seen a few dozen sleeping outside on my recent trips.

  10. Turned out I was the only person who gave up their seat and I guess they only needed one seat, so probably why there was minimum compensation.

    There was no inconvenience to me to stay overnight in London with a nonstop flight to SFO rather than flying via LAX, so I am quite happy with the way things turned out.

    The vibrant tourism activity of London was exhilarating after the lack of people or anything happening in Stavanger, Norway the night before. After having visited several cities in Norway and Sweden besides Oslo and Stockholm, I am of the opinion that Norway and Sweden are fine vacation destinations for outdoors travel and scenic beauty, but the cities are kind of boring for a tourist, except I love Bergen, Norway best for tourism activity and outdoor activity all around the city.

    I mentioned Krakow was in my Top 5 cities to visit. London and Amsterdam are also on that list. Copenhagen makes it for summer travel. Don’t know if I would enjoy the place as much in colder weather. I love all the street life there in summer. Prague is another city I adore.

  11. You definitely could have gotten more compensation.

    Do you have a newer iPhone with Apple Pay? Don’t need an Oyster card.

Comments are closed.