United Airlines flight credit: How to make the most of it after the pandemic

The clock is ticking on Bernadine Fong’s sizable United Airlines flight credit, which she acquired during the pandemic. Around this time last year, she booked two business class tickets to Europe for a dream vacation. But that was before the coronavirus ruined everyone’s summer plans for 2020.

With the pandemic entering year two, Fong worries her nearly $11,000 flight credit with United Airlines is in jeopardy. Now she wants to know what to do to make sure to make the most of it before it expires. (Last updated Sept. 10, 2021)

United Airlines holds plane so passenger can say goodbye to his dying mother

Kerry Drake’s mother was dying. She’d suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for decades and the drugs used to treat her condition had decimated her immune system. One morning his brother called him to say her time had come. Drake caught the next United Airlines flight from San Francisco, where he works for the federal government, to Lubbock, Texas, via Houston.

“I knew this itinerary was a risk because the stopover in Houston was only about 40 minutes, and my connecting flight was the last flight to Lubbock that day,” he says. “But I needed to get there as soon as possible, so I took the risk.”

How old is too old to be a lap child? It cost this couple $4,000 to find out.

Leslie Hillandahl and her husband received an unpleasant surprise when they tried to check in for their return flight from Italy. Their son, who had recently turned two was now too old to be a lap child. He would need his own seat — at an additional cost of $4,000.

The couple paid the fee and flew home. But Hillandahl wants a refund.

The DOT has fined fewer airlines this year. Should you be worried?

If it seems as if airlines are getting away with more passenger-unfriendly behavior, maybe it’s because they are.

The Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Transportation (DOT), which is responsible for enforcing federal consumer-protection regulations, is on track to punish significantly fewer airlines this year, issuing 18 consent orders for $3.1 million in civil penalties. By comparison, the DOT had 29 orders worth $6.4 million for 2016, which included a $1.6 million fine against American Airlines for violating its tarmac delay rules handed down in mid-December. Barring a last-minute flurry of penalties, 2017 will be a much quieter year for the department.

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