Why did United eliminate ticket holds on united.com?

For the three people reading this that don’t browse FlyerTalk between the hours of 2AM and 5AM (east coast time, that is), United just eliminated online ticket holds, which totally sucks. Holds are incredibly useful when trying to apply vouchers to tickets, be they paper vouchers or electronic vouchers. This change is going to cost me (and in turn United) quite a bit of time. In the past I would put itineraries on hold and then ticket them via web support (since I book many roundtrips using the multi-city tool) using an e-certificate. Now I’ll have to call web support and waste their time as they piece together my itinerary.

So why would United make this change? Well, I’m guessing it comes down to ticket holds screwing with inventory management a bit too much for their comfort. In the past you could only hold one of the same flight at a time, but as of late you can hold several seats on the same flight for the same person at the same time. I can see how this could be potentially problematic, especially on the smaller planes where inventory is tightly controlled. Along the same lines, I’m guessing somewhere in United’s thought process was the fact that people were holding itineraries and waited to ticket until the price either dropped or went up to determine when to ticket. Given that United recently got rid of the ability to refare, I’m guessing that was a consideration for them.

While the old system might have been too generous, there has to be some compromise. Why not go back to allowing one hold per flight, or something similar? This decision is bad for consumers and bad for United.

Filed Under: United
  1. You think this one is worth writing UA about? I’m really disappointed to lose this option, and it might be possible to convince them to bring it back in some form.

  2. definitely worth writing about. I often hold a ticket, not to apply a voucher, but simply because I need to look into something before pulling the trigger. I guess I’ll have to instead rely on the 24 hour cancellation policy… Until they eliminate that, too.

  3. They should allow 1 hold per MP# at any time. That way people can still use them for when ticketing vouchers

  4. To me the voucher thing is the issue. If UA could make all vouchers applicable to united.com reservations without requiring calling United or ticketing at the airport or by mail, then I could live without ticket hold. For paper vouchers they could do what Hertz does with paper coupons. Hertz collects the coupon when the customer returns his rental. UA could collect the voucher at the gate (like LH does with a paper SWU).

    I have complained to 1kvoice.

  5. In addition to redeeming vouchers, book and hold was also the best way to play amateur travel agent for friends and family. When I book and hold for someone with a different MP number, it shows up in their itins so they can pay for it, but it stays in mine as well so I can monitor for schedule changes (not to mention surprise my friends/family with upgrades!).

    Horrible decision by United. I was actually getting them revenue (pennies, really) they otherwise wouldn’t have received by being able to guarantee to friends and family that I would keep an eye out for changes. It wasn’t much, but it was just so damn convenient for everyone… UA you’re killing me here!

  6. I agree that this is a big degradation of service for me. Holding itineraries to share with friends, monitoring family travel plans, sending flights to be booked to TAs – the hold button did so much for me. I think eliminating this is a bigger revenue loss than gain for UA.

  7. I’m not so sure we want UA to implement electronic vouchers. Just about every carrier who has electronic vouchers ties them to the person who it was awarded too. UA still allows virtually limitless transfers. There are some of benefits to old-school paper — it lends itself to the ‘human touch’.

    I didn’t post this in the FT thread for obvious reasons, but I’d like to suggest that some of us put a lid on this. Feel free to chime in Ben.

  8. Wow, didn’t see the FT thread for this. Is there a link? This is sad news indeed. I can’t tell you how many times I held a ticket and later booked it on United. This will cause me to significantly change my thought process.

  9. Lucky, what is the evidence that this has relatively limited benefits to them? CO got rid of book and hold because it was effing up their inventory management significantly. Why do you assume this is not the case for UA?

    Do you have some data that they don’t?

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