No organization with a business travel program wants to lose their unused airline tickets. In this FAQ, our Account Management and Operations Teams answer 10 questions from customers about how to best manage and reuse those unused ticket credits.
1. How do I use an unused credit when booking online?
Travelers can see their unused credits in the Concur Travel online booking tool. That said, Concur doesn’t indicate that a traveler should use a particular credit nor does it provide a button to “use this credit.”
The process of applying unused ticket credits to an online booking is actually automated through Christopherson’s mid-office quality check system. So if a traveler books a flight on the same carrier for which they have an unused ticket credit, the automated ticketing process sends the reservation to our team to review.
This happens because there are times when the airline’s rules for the old ticket render the unused credits invalid toward that particular new ticket. For example, some airlines have rules that result in the loss of any remaining balance if the cost of the new ticket is less than the unused ticket credit. In such instances, the unused ticket may not be applied so that you don’t lose any value of the original ticket.
It is because of the variety of variables that our team reviews those online bookings against the rules the carrier attached to your unused credits. When unused credits can be validated, they will be applied accordingly to the new reservation.
When unused ticket credits are applied, they will show on the receipt/invoice for the new ticket.
2. What if I don’t want to use an unused ticket credit when I’m booking online?
Christopherson’s systems are set up to apply your unused credits sooner rather than later so you don’t lose the value of the old tickets. Therefore, online bookings automatically prompt us to use your credits.
If you do not want a credit used for a specific trip, you would need to contact our advisor team to book your reservation and document why you do not want to use the available credit on file.
3. Can I get a refund instead of getting unused ticket credits?
More often than not, airline tickets are non-refundable. This is because refundable tickets cost more and purchasing them is a decision that must be made at the time of purchase.
Getting a refund depends on the airline’s rules and most situations do not permit a refund. Refunding non-refundable tickets is typically only allowed when there is a major schedule change and the traveler isn’t willing to accept the new option. However, the airlines did make some exceptions to their refund rules during the pandemic. Christopherson can help you look up the rules for your ticket and request a refund for tickets that match the refund policies. Additional service fees may apply.
Thankfully, airlines have reduced restrictions on changing tickets to maximize opportunities to use unused ticket credits.
4. Can unused tickets be transferred? What do we do with unused tickets for former employees?
Most major domestic airlines allow name changes for a name change fee. Most international carriers do not allow for transferrable tickets. Talk to your Account Manager to see if your airline contracts waive name change fees. Keep in mind that name changes are only allowed for wholly unused tickets and the difference in fare is always owed.
Christopherson’s software platform, AirPortal, shows whether a ticket is transferrable in a toggle located next to the unused ticket (in the unused ticket report). The toggle should be turned on for any tickets belonging to former employees so that they can be applied to other travelers’ reservations.
Here is a breakdown (as of 11/03/21) from a few airlines that allow name changes, their penalties, and name change fees:
Delta Air Lines
Delta charges a $100 name change fee. That fee is waived if the client has a corporate contract that stores the new fare with a ticket designator beginning with “x” or “c” and the original ticket was booked for international travel between February 25, 2020 and March 31, 2021 or domestic travel between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. Tickets must be completed by December 31, 2022.
Customers with a SkyBonus number get free name changes if their domestic travel was scheduled between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020 or international travel between February 25, 2020 and September 30, 2020. All travel must be completed by December 31, 2022. If the new ticket is less than the original value, the remaining value is forfeited.
United charges a $100 name change fee. Amenity funds can be used to pay the fee. If there is a change fee, you can use $300 amenity funds to both waive the change fee and change the name.
Any new ticket cannot have any codeshare or interline flights. It must be ticketed on and wholly operated by United. Any residual balance is forfeited.
American allows name changes for a $100 fee. Clients with a corporate contract or an AA Business Extra number get free name changes for tickets issued between March 1, 2020-March 31, 2021, provided all travel on the new ticket is completed by December 31, 2021. This also applies to unused tickets expiring March 1, 2020-March 31, 2021.
AAdvantage members can change the name on any 001 AA or codeshare space for AA prime flights only if both parties are AAdvantage members.
JetBlue allows name changes and there is no fee.
Alaska Airlines allows name changes for a $125 fee. If the person using the ticket value is an MVP member, the name change fee is waived.
Air Canada is allowing one free name change for valid tickets issued on or before October 31, 2021 with travel dates March 1, 2020-October 31, 2022. For tickets issued on or before March 31, 2021, travel must be completed within 24 months of the date of the last unused coupon. For tickets issued or reissued on or after April 1, 2021, travel must be completed within 24 months of the date it was originally issued.
5. Two of our former employees have unused airline tickets as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. We tried to use some of their credits to book travel for a different employee but the airline charged us $300 to transfer the credit. Is there any way around this?
Unfortunately, the airlines set their own rules and fees and they do enforce them. For cases like this, where a name has to be changed, many airlines do charge name change fees, and there may be a cost for the difference in fare.
While there typically isn’t a way around the airlines’ fees, the best way to get the most out of your unused credits, is to work with our advisors. They know the all the rules attached to your tickets and are experts at applying unused credits to new tickets. They will work to get as much value as possible out of the money you’ve already spent.
6. Who should I call if I need help with an unused tickets? Is there a fee for this?
Any of Christopherson’s advisors can assist in answering questions about what can or cannot be done with unused ticket credits. You can reach them via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (800-600-3737). There is no fee to inquire, but if your advisor has to process an exchange, refund, name change, etc., standard fees apply.
7. Are there any reports I should create to ensure we don’t lose any unused tickets?
While you can download ad hoc reports from our software platform, AirPortal, Christopherson sends automated unused ticket reports to travel managers on a monthly basis. Please let your Account Manager know if you’re not receiving those reports or have questions about your company’s unused tickets.
Travelers also receive notifications from Christopherson 30, 90, and 120 days before their own unused ticket credits expire. Their unused tickets are also listed on their AirPortal traveler dashboard and are viewable in your online booking tool. This helps travelers stay aware of their unused tickets and encourages reuse. Unused tickets are integrated with both travel agent and online bookings.
8. How do I get information about unused tickets for specific employees and departments within my organization?
Corporate travel managers are able to see their company’s unused tickets in our software platform, AirPortal, under “Unused Tickets” in the Main Menu.
9. I have unused tickets on American and United that are set to expire. Is there any way around the travel completion date?
At this point, the airlines have not indicated that they will extend ticket validity farther than they already have. While it does remain a possibility that they could, we don’t suggest holding out for another extension. Instead, we suggest trying to use your unused tickets within their ticket validity, perhaps even as one-way tickets prior to their expiration so you don’t lose that value.
10. Do you have advice for responding to a traveler who wants to upgrade to business class to increase their safety as it relates to COVID-19?
We suggest that you start by reviewing your company’s travel policy on upgrades. If you don’t have a travel policy or if your policy doesn’t include guidelines on upgrades, we encourage you to work with your Account Manager to create this. Collaborate with management teams from all your traveling departments to decide what is permissible. The final decision will require weighing the cost against corporate culture and traveler well-being. Keep in mind that any decision you reach can be temporary and allowable/not allowable for a limited time.
That said, research suggests neither business class nor first class are safer. In this Conde Nast Traveler article, Dr. Mark Gendreau, chief medical officer at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals, said that, “It really doesn’t make much difference where you sit on the plane. What’s most important are the precautions … face masks, proper hand hygiene, sanitizing surfaces.”
If your company decides to allow COVID-19-related upgrades, most airlines allow any unused credits to be used toward new tickets in any cabin. However any rules of the old ticket supersede the rules of the new ticket. Meaning that if the original ticket was non-refundable and the new ticket is considered refundable, the old rules would actually apply, making the ticket non-refundable.
If your company decides not to allow this, but the traveler still wants to upgrade at their own expense, we can process an exchange on their economy ticket and charge their personal credit card the difference in fare plus a service fee.
If you have a question about unused tickets that we haven’t answered, please let us know. And if you’re a client with unused tickets you’d like us to review, you can always reach out to our Account Management and Client Services Teams.