Q. I wanted to make consumers aware that United's Low Fare Guarantee (LFG) is primarily a marketing ploy and not much of a guarantee. I was purchasing a ticket from Washington to Bangkok. The top result on Bing's travel search engine was from airfare.com. It was $100 cheaper per person than United's fares. However, I made the terrible decision to trust United's Low Fare Guarantee. I went through the trouble of taking screenshots, submitting a form, and reading the fine print that requires me to send a follow-up email in addition to the form submission.
The end result was that my claim was denied and I was out $200 on two fares. Worse, I did not heed the advice of my wife (who wanted to buy the cheaper ticket on airfare.com) and now I must endure her ridicule and teasing (which I expect to last for years). As it turns out, United's fine print excludes "consolidators" and "travel agencies". As far as I can tell, that excludes pretty much all online competition. Isn't every online travel site a consolidator? United's response implied that I should contact any website with a lower fare, call them, find a person to confirm their status as a travel agent and their ticket terms, and then submit my claim.
In short, buy the cheapest ticket you can find and don't expect United to price match. Their guarantee is nothing more than a ruse to discourage comparison shopping. My question: Any thoughts on how get my wife to stop teasing me for being gullible enough to trust United? Alternatively, any thoughts on how to get my money back?
A. As you discovered, lowest price guarantees come with a lot of fine print. And you’re right that by excluding travel agencies and consolidators, the United’s guarantee isn’t worth much. The only good news is that consolidator fares often come with fine print of their own, and airfare.com was probably selling you a consolidator fare. The restrictions on some consolidator fares include but are not limited to using the ticket only on the exact flight that you reserved, absolutely no reuse or refund under any circumstances, and no validity on another airline should your original flight be canceled or delayed. So, for example, should you miss your flight due to a traffic accident your ticket might be completely worthless, whereas a fare bought from United might be changeable for a fee or they would probably put you on their next flight out or on a partner airline. So tell your wife that. For $100 in savings, consolidator fares might not be worth the possible aggravation.