We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Million Mile Secrets team member Keith recently got a refund for a non-refundable United Airlines ticket. And instead of flying in coach with a paid ticket, he used miles to book a last-minute Business Class award seat.
Some folks might not be comfortable with this booking loophole because there are risks. But I asked him to share his experience!
Keith: I booked a paid round-trip coach United Airlines flight ~1 month before my planned travel dates. But on the day of departure, a low-level Business Class award seat was available to book for 25,000 United Airlines miles.
So I booked the Business Class award seat. And also ended up receiving a refund for the non-refundable paid ticket.
I can’t guarantee this strategy will work for everyone. But I’ll share how I did it!
How I Got a Coach Ticket Refund and Business Class Award Seat
Here’s a play-by-play of how I secured a Business Class award seat and got a refund for my paid coach ticket.
1. Book a Paid Coach Flight
First, I booked a paid United Airlines flight. This was a multi-city itinerary and the total cost was ~$622.
2. Redeem United Airlines Miles for a Business Class Award Seat
I checked United Airlines’ website on the day of departure for the first leg of my itinerary and saw a Business Class Saver award seat was available for 25,000 United Airlines miles.
I decided to redeem miles to secure the Business Class award seat. And I used the trick to avoid paying the close-in ticketing fee.
At the time, I figured I’d just give up the coach seat I had already booked with cash and lose the money for that part of the flight. But this is where it got interesting!
3. Request Cancellation of the Paid Coach Ticket at the Airport
When I arrived at the airport, I explained my situation to a friendly United Airlines customer service agent at the check-in counter.
I said I had 2 seats on the flight because I booked one in coach with cash and one in Business Class with miles. So she said she would cancel the paid coach ticket. But leave the rest of my itinerary unchanged.
At the time, I figured I was just going to lose the money I paid for the coach ticket, which was ~$200. I thought about it as using 25,000 United Airlines miles and paying ~$200 cash to get the Business Class award seat. This was a good deal in my opinion because the same seat was selling for ~$1,647.
4. Submit a Refund Request
When the United Airlines agent cancelled my flight, she didn’t mention anything about a refund. But I thought I’d try submitting an electronic refund request on the United Airlines website just to see what would happen.
In the “Comments” section of the refund request, I was honest and wrote that I had 2 tickets for the same flight and the United Airlines agent at the airport cancelled the paid ticket.
5. Wait for Refund
Within 1 week of submitting the refund request, I received an email from United Airlines saying I would get a ~$214 refund. That was the cost of the first leg of my journey.
Proceed With Caution When Using This Booking Method!
Admittedly, I think I got lucky getting a refund for my coach ticket. I was also fortunate to find a Business Class award seat available at the last-minute.
I would NOT recommend this strategy unless you’re comfortable losing the money you paid for your coach ticket.
You should also know that United Airlines’ terms & conditions are NOT favorable to folks who take advantage of potential booking loopholes. The airline has the right to cancel reservations if they see multiple reservations for the same passenger on the same flight.
Team member Keith booked a non-refundable ticket on United Airlines in coach. But on the day of departure, he was able to redeem miles for a low-level Business Class Saver award seat. So he had 2 seats on the same flight.
At the airport, the United Airlines customer service agent at the check-in counter cancelled his paid flight. And after the flight, Keith submitted a refund request and got his money back for the paid coach fare.
I can’t guarantee this loophole will work for you. I’d only try it if you’re comfortable with the risk of not getting a refund for the paid ticket. And keep in mind, the United Airlines terms & conditions give them the right to cancel your reservations if you have multiple reservations on the same flight.