United’s Paper Vouchers Must be Costly

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 first page is just the cover, which has reservation telephone numbers on the reverse. I’m surprised it doesn’t include how to reach United by telegraph or morse code.
United Voucher Page 1

The second page just thanks me for choosing United and tells me what vouchers are enclosed. Oh thank you. I couldn’t have figured that out on my own, and now I feel good about it.
United Voucher Page 2

The third page is the only one that matters. This is my voucher for $32.40.
United Voucher Page 3

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.
United Voucher Page 4

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.
United Voucher Page 5

The sixth page is my e-ticket passenger receipt. It’s just a receipt that, as far as I can tell, has no useful information that I can’t get online if I needed it.
United Voucher Page 6

The seventh page is where you start to fall asleep. This one just has conditions of contract. It’s pre-printed legalese.
United Voucher Page 7

The eight page has more conditions of contract. Hey, wake up. Seriously. I’m almost done.
United Voucher Page 8

The ninth page has notices of limitations of liability and overbooking. I’m sure this needs to go out with every ticket that’s paper, but remember, I didn’t want paper in the first place.
United Voucher Page 9

The tenth, and final, page is the most interesting. Wait. That’s crap. This one is the back cover and has info on dangerous goods, baggage, and check-in. Oh thank you for telling me all this.
United Voucher Page 10

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.

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