United Airlines has agreed to honour a ticket it issued nearly 20 years ago, after a man found it in a box under his bed.
John Walker from Greensboro, North Carolina discovered the 19-year-old airline ticket last month. It was for a flight from Nashville to Sacramento on 31DEC 1998: “It was purchased in December to fly to Sacramento for my brother-in-law’s wedding, which was 2JAN 1999,” Walker told WFMY2. “I didn’t get to go.”
He requested a refund at the time, and in March 1999 was sent a letter from United saying that although the ticket was non-refundable, the value could be used towards a future flight.
“I put it away because at that point I didn’t have any plans to travel,” said Walker. “And I completely forgot about it.”
He only discovered the ticket when looking for something else – Walker opened the box and went through it, discovering the United letter at the bottom.
As it said in the conditions that “domestic wholly unused non-refundable ticket(s) can forever be applied toward the purchase of another domestic non-refundable ticket, for the customer named on the ticket,” Walker decided to find out if “forever” would still apply.
Several attempts to get an answer from the airline’s customer services department led nowhere: “No one knew what to do with a paper ticket because by this time paper tickets were long gone,” he said. “They hadn’t been issued for 10 or 12 years.”
So Walker did what people seeking customer service often do these days – he sent them a message on Twitter instead.
Although the letter wasn’t legally binding – an agent told him that when United went bankrupt in 2010, they were absolved of all outstanding debts including “forever” tickets – the airline decided to honour it anyway.
According to Walker, the agent said his situation was so unique that the airline would uphold the voucher. “I think it was just good customer service on their part,” said Walker.
The $378 voucher is now valued at $571.60 based on an inflation calculation.