United changes “refare” policy

In the past United has allowed customers to “refare,” meaning one could make a booking and get a voucher for the difference if the fare ever dropped. I think it was a great program, both for the airline and the customer. The customer wasn’t worried about booking early, and at the same time United only gave a voucher good for future travel, which costs them very little.

On Friday afternoon United snuck in a $150 “administrative fee” for refaring tickets purchased on or after March 20.

First of all, this sucks. In the past I’ve benefited from refares, although no more than $80 at once. Second of all, it ticks me off that they call this an “administrative fee.” United, are you telling us it costs you $150 to do this, and you were absorbing the cost all along? Of course not!

At the end of the day sites like Yapta, that send you email alerts when the fare drops, killed this. Originally refaring was a matter of looking on United’s website, and not automated.

Oh well…. 🙁

Comments

  1. I like Yapta, but now I see their site is based on a mere policy that is controlled at the whim of a large company like United. Oops! The price drop refund was a cool sidenote that not many people knew about, now it’s gone.

    Bummer.

  2. This is truly a disappointing direction for United (and I’m a 1K/Million Mile Flyer).

    I have counseled people to go ahead and book when the fare looks reasonable, then use Yapta to protect against fare drops.

    Assuming this “feature” is not matched by the other airlines, it would look like the ability to re-fare will be a competitive disadvantage for United to those who are in the know, which I suspect are also elite level flyers. And I will need to change my recommendation to exclude United if you want to book now and feel safe. Now I can only recommend booking at fares that farecast indicates are stable or likely to rise.

    Please keep us updated what happens with this policy.

  3. @Gregg.

    Actually I believe United is the last major to implement this policy. The others have had it for a while

  4. Alaska still allows free re-fares (though I don’t know of any other airline that allows this now that United is changing its policy)

  5. @Lucky — actually, while I have only refared twice, I got a credit back to my credit card instead of a voucher. And a voucher, while forcing you to buy from United, does cost them future revenue, so I’d disagree with the notion that it costs them very little. If they give me a voucher for $100, it will cost them exactly $100 in future revenue when I use the voucher.

    All that said, it doesn’t come as a major surprise to me that they canned this program. Discovery of the refare option actually was a much greater surprise. I doubt many outside the FT community know about it. That’s where I discovered it, and everyone I have talked to about since then was surprised to hear that UA offered this. And while it was not exactly cheap, it was for me a reason to book early on UA vs. waiting for a sale.

  6. @Oliver –

    That’s assuming the customer has some sense of loyalty and would book their next flight on United. The voucher assures the customer will again fly on United. As a silver on Delta and United, there’s definitely a better chance of me booking on United if I have a voucher with them when the fares are comparable. In theory, this could actually increase United’s revenue.

  7. Not sure why I posted that under “Oliver”… Apparently I don’t even have a sense of loyalty to my OWN NAME! 😉

  8. Last year UA stated that E-500s would no longer be converting to miles upon expiry. This made a lot of FT quite angry and UA backed down and allowed a one time registration for 1Ps and 1Ks to continue to have the E500s convert to miles. We must vocally make our displeasure at this change to refaring known to United.

  9. I have seven booked UA itineraries, so between this stupid new “administrative fee” for refares and the DEQMs only applying to new bookings, this was not a good week for me.

  10. jetBlue also still offers free refaring for the same itinerary.

    This sucks, I suppose, but I don’t really understand the insistence on getting cheaper fares when they drop. Buy when you think the fare is reasonable. Don’t if you don’t. Not such a crazy concept, I don’t think.

  11. @chitownflyer – Agreed. I just sent an email to premier customer relations. Should hear back in a month or so.

    @Wandering – The biggest deal for me is when I buy my semi-weekly flights from BWI-ORD. For the flight times I need, the current cost is $425 but quite often it drops down to $260 when the e-fares come out. Of course, sometime, the fare bumps up to over $450 and no e-fare is issued. As I’m not made of money, I appreciate the ability to book it and not have to worry if it will drop since I make the flight 3 or more times a month and pay for it personally.

    What really bums me out with this new policy is those nice work paid trips for $800 that drop to $275 😉 Of course I… um… used the vouchers for other work trips… yeah.

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