Changes once travel has started

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Old Jun 9, 19, 9:20 am
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Changes once travel has started

I'm sure that there is a "right thread" for this somewhere, but I can't find it...

I booked a SFO-FRA-HEL rt. I flew the outbound and I'm currently in HEL. Now there is talk of me making a trip to London before I go home.

If I cancel my return flights (to book with another carrier), what happens? Do I just get the half-round-trip for my return refunded, minus the change fee? What about miles+copay I paid for an upgrade that has not yet cleared? What if it clears before I cancel?

What if, instead of cancelling, I change to LHR - SFO on UA (and fly HEL-LON on a non-UA ticket, to avoid taking the scenic route). Will LHR-SFO price as a half-round-trip? Is that allowed? Does this require both fares to allow surface sectors at fare break points? (is that even what that terminology means in fare rules?). Again, what about miles+copay I paid for an upgrade that has not yet cleared? And what if it clears before I change?

Lots of questions... I just want to know what my options are. This is mostly OPM but I'm still expected to minimize costs (and the upgrade fees are out of my pocket, since my employer only pays for premium economy)
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Old Jun 9, 19, 9:57 am
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Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
If I cancel my return flights (to book with another carrier), what happens? Do I just get the half-round-trip for my return refunded, minus the change fee?
No. If you cancel your return flights, having already flown the outbound, nothing immediately happens. It’s up to you at that point. You can ask for a refund, or you can attempt to use the leftover credit for any flight that’s valid in combination with a one-way SFO-HEL fare. It’s only when you do one of those two things that the change fee would be assessed.

However, your refund would not be half the round-trip price, if you were to go in that direction. Your itinerary would first be re-priced on a one-way basis. It’s likely that the one-way price is higher than the round-trip price was, so you’d have zero refund.

Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
What about miles+copay I paid for an upgrade that has not yet cleared? What if it clears before I cancel?
If it hasn’t cleared, you can cancel the request. If it has cleared, you might need to pay a redeposit fee, depending upon your status. (I’m not 100% sure if the miles would redeposit for free or not). The co-pay would be returned, although you’d probably have to write in for it.

Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
What if, instead of cancelling, I change to LHR - SFO on UA (and fly HEL-LON on a non-UA ticket, to avoid taking the scenic route). Will LHR-SFO price as a half-round-trip? Is that allowed?
This is likely to be a far better idea. In most cases, both SFO-HEL and LHR-SFO would price as a half-round-trip in this case. What you’re looking for in the fare rules is whether or not the fare is valid for an open jaw. (Note: you’d actually be looking at SFO-LON fares here, not LON-SFO. You use the fares that are valid for departure from your origin for both legs of a round trip or open jaw).

Note that you may actually be able to do this all on one ticket without taking the scenic route. Some UA fares would allow you to route back from HEL via CPH and LON and add a stopover, so it’s worth pricing out the two options to be sure. Generally, the most effective way to do this is to use matrix.itasoftware.com with a dummy outbound flight. You may need to push the flights back a couple of weeks to account for advance purchase requirements on the dummy outbound; ideally, you’d like that flight to be on the same fare that you actually flew. If you have to do that, just remember the inventory codes on the SK and UA flights, and then look for inventory in those classes.

Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
Does this require both fares to allow surface sectors at fare break points? (is that even what that terminology means in fare rules?).
No, this is an open jaw. If your SFO-HEL fare allowed surface sectors at a fare break point (few do), allowed routing through LON (most do), and had a HIP check* exclusion (many, but not all, UA fares do), you would be able to rebook the return to LHR-SFO without actually repricing to a SFO-LON fare, because HEL-LON would be treated as a surface sector at the fare break point (HEL).

Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
Again, what about miles+copay I paid for an upgrade that has not yet cleared? And what if it clears before I change?
Same as above, although I doubt that you’d be charged a redeposit fee since you’re not actually redepositing anything. Note that UA will charge you either an extra £85 (if they’re still using the old tax rate) or £94 (if they’ve updated their systems) for a return from LHR to the USA in business class or PE as opposed to coach. (If your employer is paying for PE, there’s no additional upcharge to go to business).

*Higher Intermediate Point check. For fares with stopovers — and a surface sector creates a stopover — the Higher Intermediate Point rule requires that the fares be calculated as if travel were to the intermediate point, and, if that would be more expensive, the fare is increased to match. So: if the SFO-LON fare were more expensive, on a half-round-trip basis, than SFO-HEL, your ticket would get that higher fare. The intent is to keep people from bypassing a more expensive destination by adding on a cheaper destination. Most ex-US UA fares actually waive this check; it’s common on mileage-based fares, but most ex-US UA fares have a routing table instead. Since UA can then pick and choose what cities are allowed for stopovers, they don’t seem to have the same concern about people bypassing their fare scheme.
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Old Jun 9, 19, 10:01 am
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Lots of questions in here.

No refund, unless the whole ticket was refundable to begin with. In that case, at least theoretically, you'd be refunded your total ticket price minus the value of the one way SFO-FRA-HEL, so unlikely to get anything.

More likely, assuming you were on a non-refundable ticket, you'll cancel the space to leave the coupons open and then will be subject to the change rules, see below.

If you were to change to return from LHR, yes, you have it correct. It would price as if you had booked the return from LHR when you bought the ticket, but with current availability. That, plus change fee, would equal the fare difference. If negative, you'd get an e-cert. Technically, yes, your original fare has to allow all sorts of things like open-jaws and combinability, but all the normal UA fares to Europe allow them, so I wouldn't overthink that.

Not an expert on miles+copay upgrades, but I believe no penalty to cancel the request if it hasn't cleared, but redeposit fees apply if it has, but I am far from sure on that, so wait for someone better informed to chime in.
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Old Jun 9, 19, 10:10 am
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Originally Posted by stevenshev View Post
No refund, unless the whole ticket was refundable to begin with. In that case, at least theoretically, you'd be refunded your total ticket price minus the value of the one way SFO-FRA-HEL, so unlikely to get anything.
Sorry, yes, I should have been more clear in my answer. If the ticket is non-refundable, you wouldn’t get an actual refund, but you could get an ETC for the difference if you asked them to re-price as a one-way. It’s still the case that the one-way might be more expensive than the entire round trip, though.
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Old Jun 9, 19, 10:28 am
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Thanks for all the info.

I misused the term "refund" -- I did mean "travel credit".

I'm familiar with the HIP rule. I suspect that the inability to allow surface sectors at fare break points makes this moot?

By "scenic route", I meant any non-nonstop HEL-LON flight. I suspect that Finnair and/or BA could get me there nonstop for not too much money. CPH is not too much extra flying time but the connection is a hassle. If I can reprice with LON-SFO as my return, that seems like the best option.

Thanks!!
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Old Jun 9, 19, 11:47 am
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Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
I'm familiar with the HIP rule. I suspect that the inability to allow surface sectors at fare break points makes this moot?
If your SFO-HEL fare allowed a surface sector at the fare break point and contained a HIP waiver, then you could use your existing fare, assuming it’s cheaper than SFO-LON. Since it likely doesn’t, you’ll need to refare.

Originally Posted by VegasGambler View Post
By "scenic route", I meant any non-nonstop HEL-LON flight. I suspect that Finnair and/or BA could get me there nonstop for not too much money. CPH is not too much extra flying time but the connection is a hassle. If I can reprice with LON-SFO as my return, that seems like the best option.
Fair enough. I thought you might be under the assumption that you’d need to transit FRA. I’d say the chances are 99/100 that changing the return to LON-SFO would price exactly the way you’d hope — as two half-round-trips.
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Old Jun 9, 19, 2:49 pm
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OP, I am assuming that you booked this ticket directly with UA and not a travel agent. Have you contacted UA pertaining to the specific fare rules of this ticket? The advice provided above is good; I concur that your best bet is to purchase a oneway HEL-LON and reprice the unused return portion to travel LHR-SFO instead.
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