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Cancelling a basic economy flight

This is not about European travel, just more of a general question.

I bought tickets on United Airlines back in June, and I went with Basic Economy to save some money. This is for a flight in late October.

Now it turns out I will not be making the trip after all. So I am out the $300 I paid. Lesson learned, and I'm not trying to figure out if there's any way to get my money back.

I'm just wondering if there's any reason to cancel my flight. Any reason I shouldn't just not show up? Would it be "nicer" to cancel? And should I care?

Since I paid, will I earn miles even if I don't show up?

Posted by
4933 posts

No miles unless you fly.

United will probably give you a voucher (after change/cancellation fee) good for up to a year, but it may be almost nothing after the fee if your original fare was only $300.

If you think there's even a tiny chance you might take the flight after all? I'd hang on to it - unless the net voucher after the fee might actually be useful to you within the next year.

Posted by
5586 posts

Bummer.

If you want to be "nicer" to the airline, sure, go ahead and cancel. United will then sell the same seat again - they'll like that. Should you care about making United Airlines Inc happy or not? Can't help you with that.

So your original cost of $300 is now gone. What can you recover? Can your flights be changed (not canceled)? If you try to reschedule, you (may?) get a credit for the original cost, minus some fee. How long do you have to utilize that credit (assuming you get some)?

If it's unlikely you can actually use it before it expires, could you make a change to just your return flight and turn this into a "mileage run"? Can you fly the original outbound leg, change the return flight to the same day you arrive, then just basically do a airport turnaround? That is, fly the outbound, get off the plane, stretch you legs, grab a bite to eat, hit the loo, then check in for the return flight and go straight home?

Sounds crazy but at least you would be credited with the miles for actually flying the round trip.

Granted, there are easier ways to generate a few thousand United miles, but if you've got nothing better to do that day...at least you might recover something of value (the miles).

Posted by
21724 posts

You should try. You have absolutely nothing to lose. My experience is that United will give you a credit of $300 good for one year from the date of purchase. Then when you apply the credit to the next ticket, they deduct a $200 change fee (or that was fee at the time we did it) so you actual have a $100 credit for the next flight. There are no miles until the flight is taken. Other posters can rip on the cold hearted aspect of big, bad United but those are condition under which you bought the ticket and one of the reason the price was that low. If there was some doubt about you ability to make the flight you should have bought a refundable tickets. This is one of the reason we hang with SWest whenever we can.

Posted by
4262 posts

You should absolutely try. I cancelled a basic economy ticket (different airline) and was allowed to use that amount within a year on another flight. Just depends on who you talk to, and I suppose your reason for cancellation. As it turned out, no one died or was sick, I just made a mistake on my calendar and wanted to attend my daughters recital. I was "escalated" to a manager who apparently was impressed that I just "told the truth".

Posted by
8632 posts

One, I would contact UA and see what if any accommodation/credit they can make. Something is better than nothing
.
Second, rather than thinking of the evil airline, think of someone who may have a need to take that flight, but cannot get the seat because you supposedly are going to use it, and UA cannot sell it.

Posted by
3304 posts

Second, rather than thinking of the evil airline, think of someone who
may have a need to take that flight, but cannot get the seat because
you supposedly are going to use it, and UA cannot sell it.

Of course UA can sell that ticket. Airlines use an historical logarithm as they authorize the oversell of tickets which is why when everybody shows up, they seek volunteers to give up their seats.

Would it be "nicer" to cancel?

Nope. Like I said above, airlines oversell tickets.

Posted by
415 posts

I always fly regular economy on American. If I cancel that ticket they charge $250. So the penalty is kind of the same.

I was I could fly Southwest more often. I had to cancel my mom’s ticket. She got credit for the full amount and was able to use it the next year.

Posted by
607 posts

"No changes" really means that the airline will not make "free" changes. And "no refund" means they will not return all of your money. However, it is often possible to get a credit less a fee. I have done it several times with different airlines. I agree with advice above. It does not hurt to give a call and see if you can get at least a partial credit.

One time we cancelled a trip to New York because of a family illness. I only got a partial credit because of a cancellation fee. When i re-booked a year later, the new fare was less than my credit. Most recently, i cancelled my flight with Westjet and rebooked with Air Canada because i did not want my vacation to be ruined by a possible WJ pilot strike. WJ wanted to charge me a cancellation fee but i got it waived because i argued it was unfair that they had booked flights without informing me of the strike risk. They waived fee and now i am sitting on a full credit, which must be used within 1 year (and fyi can be extended for another year for a $20 fee).

Posted by
3491 posts

For United Basic, NO CHANGES MEANS EXACTLY THAT.

Use it or loose it. Unless you die, then out of the goodness of their heart they will refund the amount paid. Or if the flight gets cancelled and you don't accept their rebooking.

That's one of the reasons why it is hundreds of dollars cheaper than standard economy.

You can hope for a blizzard.

Posted by
4933 posts

Lane, do let us know what you did and how it turned out. I suspect you would get a small voucher (minus a change fee), even if the ticket was completely non-refundable.

Posted by
1464 posts

Thanks all for the advice.

I called United reservations and was told by the CSR that there is no way they can provide any accommodation. I asked if she could escalate it, and she did, and the supervisor came on and told me the same thing.

As I said initially, I understood that this is the chance I was taking by trying to save a few bucks and going with this Basic Economy fare.

Congratulations to those of you who had better results in similar situations. Mark, you were exactly right. So I guess I'll wait for a blizzard or a flight cancellation or significant schedule change that may give me the opportunity for a refund.

Posted by
4933 posts

Lane, they told you that they would not even give you a voucher if you canceled it?

I know you aren't upset about losing the funds - I wouldn't be either, actually, in that situation. It's just that I've heard from numerous people that they were able to get vouchers for non-refundable tickets when they were canceled from airlines like United. I'm really just curious if there are some tickets where "non-refundable" truly means "no credit, PERIOD." Because I fly SW most of the time domestically, it's rarely an issue for me.

Posted by
1464 posts

Andrew, that's exactly what they told me.

Here's what it says on their website:

This Basic Economy reservation has no value if canceled. The price of the ticket cannot be credited toward a future flight purchase.

So I guess they are standing by their policy.

Posted by
3491 posts

The United Basic Economy ticket is different.

Any other United economy ticket you buy you can cancel your flight and get a voucher good for a year for the amount of the flight minus the fee.

There are almost no people buying the basic ticket on United, at least on the flights I take. Too restrictive.

Posted by
5586 posts

There are almost no people buying the basic ticket on United. Too restrictive.

Au contraire. "Basic economy" tickets may be the current scourge of air travel, but they are actually quite popular, and you will see more of them. All the major legacy US airlines are fully and enthusiastically embracing them. Why? They're just giving customers what they want: low prices. Consumers have clearly been voting with their wallets and telling airlines that they only care about one thing, the absolute lowest price, and nothing else matters to the majority of ticket buyers. Personally, I'd rather stay home, but it's hard to beat the so-called Wisdom Of Crowds.

Posted by
1217 posts

Hold on for a bit and hope for a schedule change? If the airline makes a substantial change- generally more than 90-120 minutes in flight adjustment, or a change that would put you under their minimum legal connecting time for a multi-segment flight, you're generally entitled to a free rebooking or ticket refund. You are also entitled to a full refund or rebooking if there is a change in operating carrier (ie. if your United flight gets changed to a United Express flight or vice verse)

Posted by
4262 posts

I agree with Selkie and that actually happened to me, airline made a substantial change on a trip that wasn't panning out well for me, anyway, so I got a refund.