2.01.2018

From the News: An unused United Airlines Ticket - supposedly good forever... is it? I got them to honor ours from 1993!


I haven't updated CoffeeTalking too much lately as I've just not been in the mood to talk about coffee or history and I've been busy making the camping and hiking plans for our Girls Road Trip 2018 but even that was 'blah' to chat over morning coffee on the blog so I've admittedly been lax in posts.

Tonight I'm just hanging out online, reading some news and I come across a story that made me chuckle.  Since when does an old, unused airline ticket become news?  Apparently in 2018.  When most of the airline workers and young news blog writers haven't a clue as to what an 'old fashioned' paper ticket looked like or what to do with one. 

Here is the Source of the article - and to tell my story, I'll reference the original article in bold while my thoughts are not in bold.

Sixteen years ago, John Walker's family moved from Tennessee to North Carolina. He slid a box like the ones we're talking about under the bed in the master bedroom.  There it stayed for the better part of two decades, until recently. Buried inside: a United Airways $378 printed ticket voucher, dated December 31, 1998. 

"Printed," as in, "on paper," and "existing in the physical world." 

Walker checked the fine print, which said it could, "forever be applied toward the purchase of another domestic non-refundable ticket, for the customer named on the ticket."

"forever be applied toward the purchase of another domestic non-refundable ticket, for the customer named on the ticket."

That is actually what got my attention when I read the story.  That exact phrase is what was on my ticket!  The tickets I found in the Fall of 2004.

Our ticket(s) were issued in 1993.  Yes, back when you used a travel agent, on a land line telephone, to book tickets.  At the time my husband and I had been married for a few years but had never gone on a vacation since we were married.  We had two children just 20 months apart and after a friend was telling me about a trip they were taking in which they were leaving their baby son with her parents for a week, we got the idea that maybe we should plan a vacation too. 

We decided we would fly back to where we lived pre-children, in Southern California.  We chose an October date, booked the United Airline tickets, got a rental car lined up and prepared to have my parents watch our two little ones.  And then?  Neither of us talked about it.  We didn't mention it, didn't discuss it at all.  We weren't excited about it, weren't making plans.  I finally asked my husband if he noticed that neither of us was bringing up the topic of our upcoming trip.

It ends up, neither of us wanted to go.  Neither of us were the least bit excited about leaving our two little ones.  We were dreading this 'vacation' instead of looking forward to it.  At that point I called United and talked to them about canceling the trip and refunding the tickets.

I was told I could keep the paper tickets and they would be good forever towards the purchase of another flight.

I explained to them we had two children under the age of two and probably wouldn't be flying for years.  They assured me the paper tickets were good forever.

Fast Forward:  It was 1998 and we now had 3 children, had relocated half way across the country and once again, while going through old files to shred, I found the tickets.

Once again I called United to ask if I could get a refund on these unused tickets.  It had been 5 years and we had STILL never flown.  With 3 small children, we couldn't afford for the family of 5 to fly anywhere.  We drove cross country and probably wouldn't be able to afford airfare for years.

Again, they told me they were sorry, no refund but keep those tickets and they were good forever towards the purchase of a future flight.  I wrote them explaining the situation but got a letter from them stating the same; "your tickets are good forever..."  blah blah blah.

Back in a box they went.

Fast forward to 2004.

We had moved to another state, and still had never booked a flight as there was no way we could afford to fly a family of five anywhere.  We were preparing to relocate yet again with my husbands job.  Packing up boxes from storage, I came across the tickets and called AGAIN to see what they would say.

This time I stumped them.  They had no idea what to do.
The woman on the phone with me said all tickets are now issued by computer and since I wasn't in the computer, they couldn't honor it.




"No one knew what to do with a paper ticket," when he called, Walker told a reporter at WFMY television. "They hadn't been issued for 10 or 12 years."

Last ditch effort: He reached out to the company via Twitter. And he learned that the voucher, as you might expect, was no longer valid
[A] customer care associate explained that the "forever" referenced in his letter was no longer under a binding agreement because United went bankrupt in 2010, which meant all debts, including airline tickets such as his, were discharged by the airline.
Then came the unexpected. The stunning decision. 
United decided to honor the voucher anyway.

It took a couple phone calls and a letter I sent them but I finally must have bugged them enough that out of exasperation I'm sure, a customer service person finally told me they would honor them IF I would not only send in the original tickets, but I had to send in proof of payment. From 1993.

Oh, how they underestimated my organization skills.

Although I shred old files, I keep some things I have a 'feeling' about and when they told me this, I went to the storage closet, got out a box that had random kept files from 1988 - 1995 and there, tucked away in my 1993 file was my credit card statement showing the purchase of the United Airline tickets! WHY I had this particular credit card statement eleven years after the fact, I have no idea.  But I did.

And maybe somebody at the airline just wanted to see what one of these old paper vouchers actually looked like.
The "vintage" voucher is nostalgic for him now, Walker said, but United wants him to mail in the physical ticket in order to convert it to an electronic one.


I did indeed mail in my 2 paper tickets and a copy of the credit card statement showing the purchase.

They did so begrudgingly but I was told I had 30 days to find a flight or flights to put the the ticket voucher amount of $512 towards and it had to be used within 90 days.

Considering we were in the middle of moving to another state, it was not easy but I was adamant we were not going to lose $500+ so I booked 2 tickets within the 30 days I was given.

My husband and I flew for a 3 day 'vacation' to Florida with those tickets in February of 2005. It wasn't 'easy' to get United to honor their tickets, but they did it.  Even if it was just to get me to stop bugging them about them!  Ha.





.... it's just the coffee talking again.