Since the merger, United Airlines has offered a handy little trick for holding revenue tickets that has finally vanished. I’m frankly surprised it took so long to remove it, but I will sure miss it.
United actually had two tricks–a holdover from the Continental days–in which revenue tickets could be held either by clicking on the “phone order” page (for those not comfortable providing their credit card details online) or by clicking on the Western Union/pay by cash link (for those who wanted to pay their fares with cash). Both options were displayed on the final purchase screen, in the same field in which you enter your credit card information. Needless to say, in 2012 people don’t typically pay by phone or by cash if it can be avoided.
I focus on award bookings and am not a travel agent, but I still do quite a few revenue bookings with United for my clients and the “phone order” button was frequently pressed by me in order to send an itinerary over to a client prior to ticketing. With that option gone, I envision I will be taking advantage of United’s 24hr risk-free cancellation policy more in the future.
While I appreciate the chance to cancel after booking, I much prefer’s American Airline’s system of allowing a fare to be held prior to purchase. That way, if a trip did not work out, at least I would not have to wait for a refund (which sometimes takes several weeks with United). AA does not offer a 24hr courtesy cancellation period after booking while United, up to this week, has essentially offered a free two-day hold in addition to a 24hr post-booking courtesy cancellation offer.
What is driving this change? The “phone order” link was convenient way around United’s FareLock feature–a tool that allows a 3 or 7 day hold for a fixed price, usually between $10-20 that does not count toward the price of the purchased ticket. It is really no surprise that United dismantled this option in order to increase ancillary revenue. Still, I think very few people knew how to take advantage of this.
There is some good news in this. United still has the “phone order” link when purchasing award tickets, so at least when you are redeeming your miles you still can have a day or two to think about it.