Get a Business Class Award Seat and Coach Ticket Refund With This Booking Loophole!

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Get a Business Class Award Seat and Coach Ticket Refund With This Booking Loophole!

Million Mile SecretsGet a Business Class Award Seat and Coach Ticket Refund With This Booking Loophole!Million Mile Secrets Team

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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.

United Airlines Booking Loophole
Using Miles to Book a Comfortable Lie-Flat Business Class Award Seat at the Last Minute Was a Good Deal! But Getting a Refund for My Paid Coach Ticket Was Even Better!

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.

I paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

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.

United Airlines Booking Loophole
I Checked the United Airlines Website to See If a Business Class Award Seat Was Available on the Day of Departure

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.

United Airlines Booking Loophole
Traveling Across the Country in a Lie-Flat Seat Was a Nice Perk for My Overnight Flight Because I Could Get Some Sleep

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.

United Airlines Booking Loophole
After Completing My Flight, I Submitted a Ticket Refund Request on the United Airlines Website

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.

United Airlines Booking Loophole
I Was Grateful to See I’d Be Receiving a Refund From United Airlines

Proceed With Caution When Using This Booking Method!

Link:   United Airlines Contract of Carriage  

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.

Bottom Line

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.

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Well, I must be missing something. First, I am very surprised the United system allowed you to book yourself twice on the same flight. Second, it sounds like you booked in Business Class only for the first leg of your flight which was about 1.5 hours long and then went back to Coach…did I miss something. If not, then you got a business class seat for your entire (?) trip for 25,000 miles but only got refunded for the first leg of your outbound flight and had to eat the cost of the other legs(?). I’m not sure how you benefited.

The award seat I booked for the first leg of my journey was from Los Angeles to Newark, a ~4.5 hour flight.

Then, I continued on to Orlando and back to Los Angeles with the original paid itinerary.

Seems very dangerous to me. If you don’t show up for the first leg of your flight your whole itinerary might be cancelled. A stupid or unsympathetic gate agent could have resulted in lost or wasted flights. It is easy to imagine you showing up for the second leg of your fight only to find your reservation was cancelled and they gave your seat away because the first leg was cancelled.

Good point! There are definitely risks. Keep in mind, I booked the Business Class award seat on departure day. Because of the airline’s 24-hour refund policy, I could have cancelled, received my miles back, and kept the original itinerary.

I thought you are only eligible for 24 hr refund policy if you book ticket for at least a week in advance

In my experience, when you use the close-in ticketing fee trick and book a reservation 21 days out, it’s still possible to cancel within 24 hours if you switch to an earlier flight.

The cancellation policy says:

“…if you made your purchase one week or more prior to the original scheduled departure flight.”

I am surprised this is possible. On American you cannot book two tickets in the same name for travel ar the same time. I guess United doesn’t have that technology.

The chances of any reader replicating this seem near zero, especially now that you’ve brought it to United’s attention.

Why do you call this a loophole? You flew on an award ticket and had the agent cancel the first leg of a paid ticket. Maybe because you wrote to United that the agent cancelled the ticket, like it was the agent’s decision not your request, someone in a UA back office processed a refund. No loophole, just good luck!

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