No, I didn’t want to buy United’s “Promotion Bundle”


Mary Bradley selects her seats on her upcoming United flight, but is confused by the confirmation that she soon receives. She is sure that she didn’t purchase anything called “United’s Promotion Bundle,” so why is she being charged for it?

Question: I purchased two round-trip United Airlines tickets from Philadelphia to San Francisco, but then I had eight extra charges for selecting two seats round-trip. I called United to ask what the extra charges were for, and they said something about a promotion bundle. I told the representative I never agreed to a promotion bundle, and she told me I would have to request a refund.

I don’t even know what a promotion bundle is. But I don’t want it. I just wanted my seat assignments. I went online and asked for a refund, but United did not respond. Can you help me get a refund for this package that I did not request? Mary Bradley, Wayne, Pa.

Answer: You should never be charged for anything that you did not intentionally purchase.

These days, all the extra amenities that airlines are offering to customers can be confusing — even to the most seasoned traveler. Which ones are necessary? Which ones are a good bargain?

Before hitting that final confirmation button, there can be a dizzying array of choices to make.

Do you want a seat assignment? Would you like to pre-pay baggage fees? How about priority boarding? An upgrade? What about purchasing bonus mileage? During your self-booking process, all of these options, and more may be presented to you on various screens.

The variety of supplementary options for air travelers are increasing by the day. It would appear that the airlines are constantly searching for additional revenue sources.

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And the complaints that we have been receiving seem to suggest that the airlines’ customers are a bit confused. Accidental online purchases of unwanted amenities are becoming common — at least in our helpline mailbox.

When you purchased your tickets, though, you were clear that you only wanted to secure an assigned seat for you and your husband.


Because you were selecting two seats on a round-trip itinerary, there should have been four charges. You sent me a screenshot of your credit card that showed that you were charged for the seats that you selected, but also for something called the United Airlines Promotion Bundle — four more times. These charges added $250 to your trip.

So what is this bundle?

There is not a simple answer to that question. When I went to the United website and searched for the promotion bundle, I was taken to a page that has a multitude of additional products that may be part of your bundle — including, among other things, amenities such as premium seats, wifi, snacks and extra luggage.

The FAQs explain that “Travel Options Bundles” are customized based on your trip, and could include any combination of products.”

So what products did your bundle include? It was a mystery to you. The four charges on your credit card only noted “United Promotion Bundle.” The representative that you spoke to wasn’t quite sure either.

Looking further into the explanation of this bundle, it appears that the options are shown to you, at some point, before you click the final confirmation button and purchase your ticket.

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You didn’t recall seeing any screen that offered you multiple products, and you were certain that you did not agree to the purchase.

I contacted United Airlines on your behalf and asked why you had been charged for the seat assignments and the “bundle.”

Although United did not explain the confusion, they quickly sent you a confirmation that your bundle would be fully refunded, and the seat assignment charges would remain.

You are pleased with this result, and I am happy to have helped.

In the future, remember to carefully review each screen prior to that final confirmation button — or you may find yourself once again with a bundle that you neither want or asked for.

Are these additional amenity offerings something that airline customers want?

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, consumer advocate, writer and photographer who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. She is Advocacy & Editorial Director at Elliott.org.

  • FQTVLR

    The answer to the question will depend on the individual traveler and what the amenities are. Some might find value in the amenities and others may find them of no value at all. I do not like paying for checked luggage or for extra space in coach class. These so-called amenities need to go back to being included on all flights.

  • SirWIred

    If United wants to “unbundle” amenities from the fare, fine, whatever… it’s a stupid business move, and encourages a race to the bottom (that United will lose) with the endpoint of with Spirit-level pricing and service.

    But the least United can do on the way to being idiots is to tell consumers what it is they’ve actually purchased when they pay an allegedly-optional fee.

  • The Original Joe S

    UNTIED got caught with its hand in the cookie jar, and backed off immediately. Ha ha.

  • Steve Rabin

    I just purchased tickets on the UA website for my daughter, and yes, they do offer ‘bundles’, things like combined extra bag plus Economy plus seating, or buying up to get on the plane earlier and get faster security lane access (yes, that’s a real fee!). These aren’t required to select seats which is done a bit later in the transaction, but if you don’t know that I could understand how someone would get a bit flummoxed. Good on United for refunding (albeit with Michelle’s help), bad on UA for not making it obvious that you don’t need to do that to select seat assignments.

  • Jeff W.

    Third answer: Sorta.

    There is obviously a market for these amenity offerings, otherwise Spirit and Frontier would not exist (along with their European brethren). But there is also a portion of the population that wants everything included, Southwest being an example. But beyond SW, others still want the options to sit in first class and travel internationally.

    United (as well as AA and DL) are trying to be all things to all people. Which means we now have what we have. Which means sometimes the less frequent customer gets confused or the airline does not present the various options as efficiently as it should.

  • Mark

    Absolutely amazed that there was no email trail confirming the payment and what the payment covered. Even more baffling that United weren’t able to explain the charge either.

  • justanotherguy

    Customer- I don’t understand this charge… what is it for?
    Company- we don’t really know…

    Completely unacceptable- if a company can’t tell you what a charge is for, it should be refunded right then and there.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I totally concur. Every email confirmation that includes a bundle should include what was purchased. I wonder if they hide it so when it isn’t delivered (and you know that United will sometimes, at least, mess up), you won’t be able to prove you paid for that particular amenity.

  • Alan Gore

    If it’s an option, then surely it should be presented in a way that allows pax to make a choice. Sometimes you want an option, sometimes you don’t. That’s why we call them options.

  • Ward Chartier

    Prediction: “promotion bundles” will become the resort fees of the airline industry.

  • joycexyz

    “We really don’t know” = somebody, somewhere, somehow decided to add this mystery bundle to the mix (probably not the passenger’s doing). Reminds me of telephone company scams where the salesperson added all kinds of extra services to an account without the customer’s approval or knowledge because they got paid accordingly. Is someone tweaking the reservations program to do just that??? Just saying.

  • Mel65

    I think I posted before that American Airlines in July instead of refunding me for my first class and economy plus upgrades charged me a total of 37 more times. They then refunded those 37 charges, but didn’t refund the original charges that they were supposed to refund in the first place for almost another month of me going back and forth with American Airlines. Eventually, I got all the charges (I think) reversed (because frankly they’re a mess–the numbers don’t match– some are more than the original charge some are less); but I figure at this point I’ve gotten all I’m going to get and I’m at least close to whole if not completely whole.

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