Well shit, stupid coronavirus is making me cancel a Polaris seat

I’m in Cali visiting family right now. I was gonna go back to NYC tonight to work, but no one wants me in their homes, and I don’t blame them. And it’s zombie apocalypse over there. Plus, trying to flatten the curve and all that. So, I guess I’m just gonna stay here forever. Could be worse. Fuck it.

Anyhoo, I thought I’d share what happened with my cancellation with United.

First off, I noticed something sneaky with their “change fees waived if you book now” policy:

  • Change fees will be waived, but you’ll need to pay the difference if the new fare is higher.
  • If the new fare is lower, you will not receive a voucher for the difference if the fare is lower. I’ve never seen this before, and think it’s really obnoxious.
  • The new travel date has to be within a year of the original ticket issue date. (SOP, but also obnoxious.)
  • Because you’re changing a ticket in your name, even if you cancel it first, the value of the ticket is not transferable to someone else.

Now, for a ticket I bought in January for travel today, it’s a little better, apart from the hour I had to wait on hold for the Premier Desk:

  • I was able to cancel the ticket without having to book a future date now.
  • The value of the ticket remains associated with the confirmation number, and is not transferable to someone else.
  • When I’m ready to use the value of the ticket, I would look it up by confirmation number on the web site, or call them, and then change it to wherever I want to go. (Normally, there would be a $200 change fee for this, but it will be waived.)
  • I have to change the ticket by Dec 31 2020, and the travel date must be within one year of the original ticket issue date (which in my case would mean I’d have to travel by Jan 5, 2021, since I purchased the ticket on Jan 6 of this year).
  • If the newer fare is higher, I pay the difference. If it’s lower, I am issued an electronic travel certificate (i.e. voucher) for the balance, which is valid for one year from the date it is issued. It is also transferable — you could buy someone else’s ticket with it.
  • The agent said that if towards the end of the year I have been unable to use the value of the canceled ticket, I could submit a request to the Refunds department and they would consider it.

So, it seems to me that, refund possibilities aside, the useful life of the ticket value could be extended by a year, if needed, by finding the cheapest ticket I can, to anywhere, and changing the ticket to that. Then I’d get an electronic travel certificate for the difference. Or, I could do it right now if I want to use the value of the ticket for Ms. X, plus I could then probably cancel the cheap ticket i just bought and retain its value.

In fact, I’m sort of wondering whether I should just cancel *all* of my future UA bookings, as long as they can be rebooked now at similar or better prices, so I have change flexibility on those flights I wouldn’t otherwise have. If I just leave them in place eventually they’ll rescind the change fee waiver now in place.

Oh, and finally: fuck coronavirus. I mean, seriously.

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