No question about it – airlines are hurting financially and so are the employees that work for them. This is why the airlines are doing some creative practices in getting people to book now with the promise of a credit later if the customer wants to cancel. Some airlines are even going beyond “creative” and are on the total wrong side of how to handle customers. With award tickets, United Airlines is in the lead on the wrong way to handle this.
United Airlines Won’t Reinstate Miles on Award Tickets for Canceled Flights Without a Fee
I have already written about how United Airlines started this out with a negative policy on schedule changes that gave them more freedom in regards to your money. Then they made another change that allows them to keep your money for a year if they make a cancellation and you don’t want to rebook.
Below is from Dustin, a former contributor here and popular YouTuber.
Hey @united where do we stand on waiving that redeposit fee on award tickets that have been cancelled?
— Dustin (@wallerswallet) March 23, 2020
Those moves are all about money – they need the money and they would rather give you an IOU in the form of a flight credit for the future. But, with award tickets, they are behaving in a really wrong way that is only angering customers.
United Airlines is on the Wrong Side of Award Tickets
The normal deal is this – award tickets can be canceled and redeposited but it will cost you a fee to use those miles again. Depending on the status you hold, it can be no fee at all or $125 per ticket if you have no status. Currently, their policy on older tickets is that if a flight is canceled, they can allow you to rebook for free (ahh, thanks, United??) but you need to pay the redeposit fee if you want to get the miles back to use them for something else.
They also want to charge me to reinstate my miles I used to buy my ticket on the flight they cancelled – $250 for 2 tickets to put the miles back I already earned following their rules.
— Dave Hobbs (@hobsterD) March 24, 2020
So, they cancel the flight (in fairness, it is due to the global pandemic and not something that they just decided they wanted to do) but they will not let customers use the miles for something different without paying the fee.
United is Missing the Opportunity to Let Customers Waste Those Miles
Here is why this is so shortsighted and absolutely wrong by United. First of all, many customers are worried about what airlines will look like when this is all over. Some of the less travel-savvy of those customers are hurrying to use their miles for things like toasters and other product redemptions (you should never do this as it is a horrible value for your miles).
Why would United NOT want to get the miles back to customers that may waste their miles in this way and take away the greater value of award travel? So, United is kind of kicking themselves on this one just with this. Better to return the miles to customers – even give them a discount if they use them for something like an iPod Touch (where United is making a killing on the value of the miles). But, no, they aren’t thinking that way.
United is Not Making a Play for Cash Here
The next thing that makes this a stupid move is that returning miles to a customer’s account for a flight that was canceled costs United NOTHING. It is simply a button press by the customer in their account and it takes no time at all from United’s agents. It is literally the easiest, cheapest thing that can be done.
And returning the miles to the customer is not taking money out of United’s pocket, unlike if they were to refund a cash ticket. These are miles that are only worth something if the customer uses them. United is better off letting the customer get them back to make sure that the customer actually does fly them in the future.
Plus, the customer may decide to use those miles for another trip that costs more miles. That means United makes money on the customer buying miles (bad idea), transferring points from Chase, or spending on a United credit card. No matter what, United will make money on that.
Sure, United could count the money on the redeposit as something that can help them but they are being extremely shortsighted because this is not about some customer that spent $300 on a flight. This is about a customer that has accrued anywhere from 25,000 miles to 140,000 miles or more to redeem for a flight. Giving the miles back is not going to make the customer go spend with a competitor like giving money back would.
United is letting the other airlines be the good guys in this and United is eventually going to have to let customers get the miles back for free. In the meantime, they are just being very foolish in letting this bad mood towards United build within their customer base.
United needs to remember this – air travel will come back and the customers will come with it. Does United really want their customers remembering how they were treated when things were bad for everyone?
United, we have long memories and many options – just remember that.
I noticed that I keep using this featured image for United – maybe it should just be my go-to for them now?