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Entries during 2014-08

Why is using airline vouchers so hard?

Q. On our return trip from Chicago my wife and I gave up our seats because the flight was oversold and we each received a $400 voucher for future travel. Can these vouchers be redeemed only at the United desk at an airport or can we do it online or on the phone? Do all major airlines have the same policies?

A. Not surprisingly perhaps, some airlines don't make it easy to use vouchers. United and American, for example, don't allow you to enter the voucher number on their websites and book travel that way. You either have to do it at an airport ticket counter (or city ticket office, but those are far and few between; AA only has three left). You can also buy your ticket on the phone and tell the agent that you have a voucher; you'll be asked to mail the voucher and the value of the voucher will be deducted from your fare once it's received. I recommend that you make a copy of the voucher. Delta, in contrast, allows you to apply the voucher's value online.

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Schedule Change & Refund

Q. I have a flight booked with US Airways for late October and they moved my departure two hours later without any notice to me. Upon finding out, I called and had the flight moved to an earlier time and the new tickets were cheaper, but when I asked about the refund of about $170.00 for the 4 of us traveling, they told me they don't do refunds! I threatened to sue in small claims court and they still didn't seem to care. So much for customer service. Isn't there anything to be done?

A. They actually do refund, but each ticket change requires a $200 fee (which is also charged by Delta, United, and American--it's slightly less on some other airlines) which wipes out the refund if the fare difference is $200 or less. They really should have notified you of the schedule change. By the way, usually when there's a major schedule change like that you're entitled to cancel your reservation without a penalty and get a refund, but that's usually only if they can't find you a suitable replacement flight.

Above image via Shutterstock

Mileage Upgrades

Q. I am ashamed to admit that in all of my years of mostly international travel that I have never once used my miles to upgrade, which I think is a mistake. I am very tired of economy class although economy plus is okay. My question is can I purchase a ticket to Bangkok from anyone & upgrade it with United or do I need to specifically purchase it from United? What to do?

A. You definitely need to purchase the fare from United or a United partner airline. The number of miles needed will depend on the date of travel and perhaps the routing, and also the fare you pay. It's sometimes a good idea to call the United MileagePlus helpline (1-800-421-4655) and consult a reservation agent to determine which fares and flights are eligible or available for upgrades.

Above image via Shutterstock

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