United gave me a $2,000 travel voucher to take a later flight

Well, I feel like hit the lottery with United recently.

In the wake of the 2017 “incident” on a United flight when a passenger was left bloody and bruised for failing to give up his seat, United introduced a new policy where they would compensate passengers with up to $10,000 in travel vouchers to take later flights. Their logic is that with offers that high, they’ll never need to forcibly remove a passenger again (and they also changed their policy for allowing that to happen in the first place).

I’m happy to say that a few weeks ago, I was the beneficiary of this policy and was given a $2,000 travel voucher to take a later flight.

I was on the last flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco, having just attended my 10 year (!) law school reunion. I was, as usual, first in line for the Zone 1 boarding group, when I heard a United announcement that they were taking volunteers for a later flight. I asked the person behind me to watch my bags, went up, and found out they were offering $500 plus hotel for the night, but it would require flying out at 7pm the next night. I was also told that my ability to get the voucher wasn’t guaranteed, as I would need to wait for everyone to board to see if they really needed my seat.

I hate checking luggage and knew that if I boarded last, there would be no place for my overhead luggage. Also, flying out at 7pm wasn’t appealing, especially because I had to work (remotely) on Monday and they wouldn’t guarantee a late check-out at the hotel. So, I told the gate agent that I didn’t think I was interested and he offered me $600. I told him I’d think about it.

About 5 minutes later, the offer went up to $1,000 and I decided that was good enough for me, so I grab my bags and ran over. But, to my delight, on my way to the desk, the gate agent announced that it had gone up to $2,000 and I let him know right away that I would take it.

The $2,000 was on the same conditions as before – I had to wait for the plane to board and there were about 6 other people who volunteered. After the plane boarded, the gate agent started calling the 6 of us waiting by our names. First, there was a couple and the gate agent let them know that their seats were needed (they were thrilled). Then they called a single traveler who was told they would not need his seat and that he should board. I was beyond nervous. About a minute later, my name was called and I was told that they needed my seat – I’m pretty sure I let out a gay gasp of excitement.

Although there was a ~6am PHL to SFO flight, I was told it was full and that I would need to be on the 7pm flight (and that the only seat available was middle and in the back). So, throughout the night, I kept checking Google Flights and at around 11pm, I saw there was an opening in Economy Plus (although a middle seat) on the 6am flight. I called United right away, they booked me on it, and instead of landing in SF at 11pm on Sunday night, I got in around 8am on Monday morning.

I was trying to decide how to use my travel voucher – mostly deciding between using it to pay for my flights throughout the next year or to use it on something more extravagant. Ultimately, I decided to treat myself after finding a ~$2,500 business class fare sale between San Francisco and Europe and book a trip to Mallorca via Frankfurt in United’s Polaris business class.

There’s only one other time that I’ve made out better with airline compensation – when Delta paid me $2,400 in cash and three nights hotel to delay my flight to Mexico.

Something to keep in mind with the United vouchers is that you can’t use them for non-United flights, even if you can book them through the United platform. So for my flight to Mallorca, I book the business class flights to and from Frankfurt using the voucher and then booked my flight to Mallorca on Lufthansa separately. But it was a small price to pay for an almost complimentary business class ticket.

What’s the most amount of compensation that you’ve received from an airline? Let me know in the comments!

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