United Airlines Honors Flight Voucher From 21 Years Ago

This is actually a story from 2018 – however, given the state of the world and the aviation industry, this is the kind of story we need right now. It all started when a man from North Carolina found an unused United Airlines voucher in an old box under his bed. That voucher was 20 years old…

United Airlines Honors Flight Voucher From 21 Years Ago
The voucher even predates the merger of Continental and United. In 1998, this was United’s livery. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

A voucher that was “forever good”?

According to a report from The New York Post, John Walker of Greensboro, North Carolina opened up a box under his bed to find an old United Airlines voucher that was dated December 31st, 1998. It was something he had received as a refund for an unused flight between Nashville and Sacramento.

Seeing as two decades had passed, and we so often find that vouchers and certificates are only valid for a limited time, what made him think he had the right to redeem the voucher?

Along with the ticket was a letter Walker had received from the company after mailing them his request for a refund. Sources confirm that the ticket itself was non-refundable, but the letter that accompanied his voucher stated that his “domestic wholly unused non-refundable ticket(s) can forever be applied toward the purchase of another domestic non-refundable ticket, for the customer named on the ticket.”

United Airlines
United merged with Continental in 2013 and changed its livery. Photo: Getty

How did the airline respond?

Walker made a call to United Airlines to inquire and see if the terms were still in effect. Naturally, this is not a call most low-level customer service agents receive or would have the authority to make a decision on. Thus, Walker was transferred repeatedly between different departments, all of them trying to figure out how – and if – his credit was “forever good.”

“No one knew what to do with a paper ticket because by this time paper tickets were long gone…They hadn’t been issued for 10 or 12 years.” -John Walker

Without any luck over the phone, Walker decided to send a direct message to the airline’s Twitter account. Funny – since Twitter didn’t exist in 1998!

“They got back with me rather quickly and resolved it within just a couple of days,” he said.

United Airlines at Denver
United should be applauded for honoring the voucher – something many businesses wouldn’t do. Photo: Getty Images

An airline representative contacted Walker and told him that because of United’s bankruptcy in 2002, all outstanding debts, including airline tickets, were discharged by the company. This meant that “forever” was not actually “forever” in a legal sense.

The big BUT here is that the associate told Walker that his situation was so unique that the airline made the decision to honor the “vintage voucher”:

“They decided to honor it partly because of the letter even though it wasn’t legally binding. But also, because I think it was just good customer service on their part.” – John Walker


United – or the United managers in charge of the decision – made a phenomenal decision in honoring the voucher. Clearly, the fact that we are talking about this over 21 years since the voucher was issued (and two years since the story surfaced), means that United is certainly getting its money’s worth in free marketing and publicity.

Hopefully, it can somewhat balance out all the bad publicity they’ve had in recent times…

What do you think of United’s move? Was it smart, kind, or self-serving? Or all of the above? Let us know in the comments!