Hi travel friends! This post is from our archives, March 2018. A whole lot has happened since we originally posted it, over 2 years ago. I wonder if United’s response would be the same nowadays? (not “coronavirus” nowadays; that’s a whole other kettle of fish. I mean just in general)
Not long ago, John Walker was going through a box he had thrown under his bed almost 20 years ago and found something he forgot he even had. It was a $378 United Airlines ticket voucher (a PRINTED voucher! When was the last time you saw one of those?), dated December 31, 1998. He read all the fine print and there it was, in black and white…the “domestic wholly unused non-refundable ticket(s) can forever be applied toward the purchase of another domestic non-refundable ticket, for the customer named on the ticket.”
Was it still worth anything? Walker intended to find out.
If you think about it, a whole lot has happened with travel since then. In fact, these are some of the travel-related things that occurred in 1998 alone:
- It was the year JetBlue was established
- Washington National Airport was renamed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
- Pan American Airlines declared bankruptcy and closed up shop (for the 2nd time)
- WDW’s Animal Kingdom opened – the cost of a 1-day, 1-park ticket was $42.00
- American Airlines became the first airline to offer electronic ticketing to all 44 countries it served
- The average price of a new car was $17,200 and a gallon of gas cost $1.15.
- The Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas opened on the former grounds of the Dunes Hotel
- Titanic was one of the most popular movies of the year (hey, cruises are travel! Even ships that sunk were travel for a little while!)
- The Space Shuttle Discovery blasted off with 77-year-old John Glenn on board, making him the oldest person to go into space (Also travel. And Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was on TV. Travel, as well. So there!)
But getting back to John Walker and his United voucher – a lot had changed with the airline since 1998, and United was not the same company that it had been back then. It declared bankruptcy in 2002 and merged with Continental in 2010. To add insult to injury, United hadn’t dealt with paper tickets in a long, long time. “No one knew what to do with a paper ticket,” when he called, Walker told a reporter from a local TV station. “They hadn’t been issued for 10 or 12 years.”
So he did what everyone else does nowadays when they want something done and they want to be heard – he wrote to United on Twitter. And they did write back, albeit with some bad news. As per The Points Guy:
[A] customer care associate explained that the “forever” referenced in his letter was no longer under a binding agreement because United went bankrupt … which meant all debts, including airline tickets such as his, were discharged by the airline.
But lo and behold, United decided to honor the voucher.“They decided to honor it partly because of the letter, even though it wasn’t legally binding. But also, because I think it was just good customer service on their part,” said Walker. Walker sent them the old ticket, and in return United sent him an electronic voucher. I’m guessing he won’t hold this one for another 20 years ;-).
Click here to see the accompanying video from WFMY Channel 2 news, from Greensboro, NC.
So, what do you think, travel friends? United is not the same company it was 2+ years ago. Do you think they would still honor it today? Or “Too bad, so sad?”
*** A huge thank-you to David P. for giving us the heads up on this story!
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary