I’m old enough to remember paper tickets when I was a kid, but it has been many years since I have seen one. One man recently found a 19-year-old paper ticket from United…and successfully redeemed it.
I deal with both revenue and award tickets on a daily basis at Award Expert. One sentence I can recite in my sleep is, “This ticket is valid one year from date of issue” which marks the usual validity of a ticket.
But “back in the day” paper tickets were like cash and did not always have such stipulations or expiration dates.
John Walker, a Tennessee resident, found a United Airlines paper ticket under his bed from 1998. It was from Nashville to Sacramento for his brother-in-law’s wedding. He ended up not being able to go the wedding and requested a refund for the ticket.
In March 1999 he received a letter from United stating the ticket was non-refundable, however, he could apply the value of the ticket toward a future flight. The letter included the following verbiage:
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.
Walker decided to see if “forever” really meant “forever”. He reached out to United Customer Service several times and received no answer. Finally, he contacted United’s Twitter team, who promised to get back to him.
Much to his surprise, United opted to honor the ticket. Not so much because it had to, but because it was amused by his story. Legally, United shed all its obligations prior to 2010 when it entered bankruptcy protection.
Walker is now awaiting an electronic voucher for $378.
This reminds me of the old Disneyland tickets, which had no expiration date. One time my father found a stack of them in his drawer from the late 1950’s and took them to Disneyland…they were accepted.
I’m happy to hear United honored the ticket even though it did not have to. 19 years is ancient in terms of airline years. I also note how fortunate we are to be in an era of cheap travel. $378 in 1998 dollars is about $575 today. A round-trip ticket between Nashville and Sacramento certainly does not cost that much today…