Watch those expiration dates on your United e-certificates because all of a sudden UA seems to be enforcing them.
For the last few years, UA’s e-certificates, issued for service problems experienced onboard or on the ground, have had expiration dates on them, but whether deliberately or not, the e-certs have been valid for use past their expiration dates.
According to the terms and conditions of the certs, however, we see that for a cert issued today (for example) the following restrictions are clearly noted:
5. Ticketing Dates: Valid for 1 year from May 25, 2011
6. Travel Dates: Valid for 1 year from May 25, 2011
Although I have not picked up one skykit this year (tip of the hat to UA for insuring their IFE and overhead reading lights are in working order, seats are functional, and special meals are loaded) I have an assortment of e-certs leftover from the last two years when UA used to give them out like candy.
Unfortunately for me, three of my certs–all from 2009–have now expired, one valued at $250, another at $200, and a third at $150. I am a bit bummed, but have no right to complain–the terms and conditions were clear and I took a gamble by not using them before the clearly prescribed expiration date.
I still have a few more that should have expired but have not, so UA still has some kinks in their system that they may be working to address. Time to shop for flights!
Note the terms of the voucher specify not only that travel must be booked by the expiration date, but travel must be completed by the expiration date. That means you cannot book a trip in July with an e-cert expiring in June, even if you are making the booking weeks before the e-cert expires.
When I heard the news that e-certs were suddenly expiring, I thought about the California law making it illegal for gift certificates to expire, but a quick look at the law made clear that UA e-certs would not apply. Furthermore, recall that a court sided with Southwest last year after the carrier imposed expiration dates on paper onboard alcohol vouchers that had no expiration dates! I am not going to fight this one.
Once again, you can learn from my mistake–monitor those expiration dates on your UA vouchers so you don’t lose $600 like me. If one of your expired certs still seems to work, it would be prudent to use it soon.