Sorry Craig, not those vouchers.
United offered me a pretty sweet deal last winter: in exchange for taking a flight six hours later, they’d give me a hotel room (it was midnight), a bump to first class, and a voucher for a free round trip anywhere in the continental US.
I finally got around to claiming that voucher today. I figured I could just use it online, but that would have been far too easy. I searched around a bit and found this page, which told me to call a 1-800 number. So I went through the automated phone system until I got a human, who immediately told me that I needed to go to the airport! And so I jumped in the car for a surprise visit to the San Jose airport this morning.
The whole voucher business strikes me as the pinnacle of mindless bureaucracy. My voucher said that it was applicable to tickets of classes W, V, and Q. Huh? There’s no way to tell which is which from United’s web site. I wanted to go from San Jose to Newark, but the lady at the desk quickly ruled that out (there was only “Class H”). Then there was San Francisco to Newark, but nope, that was class H, too. Eventually she found some class Q tickets from San Francisco to New York JFK. After another fifteen minutes of fighting with the system, the tickets were mine. Ugh.
The real lesson learned here is that I should book tickets with these vouchers more than 18 days in advance of a holiday weekend. But I still came out well ahead. I got direct, non-stop flights each way and a $608.80 ticket for free.