Stroke? Sorry, United will charge you to re-bank your frequent flyer miles. And get well soon.

George Hobica, February 18, 2009
Fares from Washington DC:

    Get a load of this. This is why people hate airlines:

    "I have  a close friend who is 76 years old.  He used his United Frequent Flyer Miles to book two tickets to Ft. Lauderdale within 21 days of the flight.  United charged him $75.00 each to book.  No problem there...Then, just two days before the flight, he had a stroke and was rushed to the Hospital.  He spent 10 days in the hospital and another 10 days in ReHab.  Prior to the flight, His wife called United to cancel the flight and asked that the points be placed back into his Bank.  His Doctor faxed a letter to the airline as per instructions by the agent that cancelled the flight for her.   United charged them an additional $150.00 per ticket (on the credit card they held from the original $150.00 booking fee)  for placing the points back into his bank.  They are now out $450.00.   In talking with United, They claim that they do not have someone's health as an excuse for cancelling and that is why they charged the extra $150.00 per ticket.  This is an older couple who live on a fixed income.  The $300.00 charge under these circumstances is excessive and unreasonable.   Can you help?"

    Disgusting. They're your friend's miles, what gives United the right to charge a whole $150 to re-bank them? And does it actually cost them $75 to issue a reward ticket? It's done on line these days, probably without human intervention.

    Yes, I can help. Not by calling my friends at United, because I have none. However, I can sort of help by advising you to switch your loyalty to Southwest. Southwest doesn't charge for last minute frequent flyer tickets, because as soon as you earn enough points, they send you a an award, which you can keep until you're ready to use it.  (Fly 8 round trips, of any price or length, within a 24 month period and you'll get a free reward ticket.) You can also get credits toward free travel by renting cars, using a Southwest Visa credit card, staying in hotels, and so on.

    Once you receive an award ticket, it's transferrable to anyone, without a fee. And if you book a trip using your award, and have to change your plans, does Southwest charge a fee? No, they do not. You can use the award for up to a year from the date of issue. But if the award "lapses" (i.e., goes out of date past the one year) you have up to another full year to pay a modest $50 fee to extend the validity for an additonal year. Which means, in effect, that after paying the fee, awards can be valid for up to three years. Pretty neat, eh? Read the rules for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program.