A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I had a credit on United that I was only able to partially use. The remaining $32.40 from the credit was mailed to me. At the time, I said, “Let’s forget about how ridiculous it is that United can’t handle this transaction online and just appreciate the fact that the airline actually, adequately served me via their phone reservations team.” I think it’s time to revisit that point.
Airlines always like to tout how much they can save with new technology, new procedures, etc, but clearly, at least on United, there are still some areas where technology is vintage, to say the least. I booked my new ticket over the phone, but for the remaining $32.40 credit, I received a shockingly large ten page “travel document” that had only one page that mattered to me. Five of these pages were printed on thick, expensive cardstock. The combined costs of paper, printing, labor, and shipping has to be astronomical for something other airlines can effortlessly handle on line.
I know it’s not a simple task, but if you’re really looking to move people online and reduce your costs, this is an incredibly obvious place to look. Here’s a fun-filled tour through the document.
The fourth page has my voucher terms and conditions. It is my least favorite page, because it tells me exactly how hard United has made it for me to redeem this. Yes, I’ll have to wait in line at the ticket counter if I want to use this. Oh, I could go to a travel agency, but for a simple air ticket purchase, the agency fee will wipe out at least half my voucher’s worth.
The fifth page has my itinerary for the flight I booked using the other part of the credit. Yes, I could easily look this up online and I got an email as well. But just in case the world melts down, I have a paper itinerary as well.
How is it possible that this sort of waste still exists? I emailed United asking if there were timelines to automate this process, but I have yet to hear back.
Update 4/9 @ 1146a: United spokesperson Robin Urbanski confirmed that there are plans to make this electronic. I’m still checking to see if there’s a timeline.