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What is the benefit of booking directly with United? vs OTA?

What is the benefit of booking directly with United? vs OTA?

Old Dec 8, 19, 10:20 am
  #1  
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What is the benefit of booking directly with United? vs OTA?

Two recent events are making me question whether I should continue booking using United.com/United app. The first, of my own making, is a decision to cancel my Presidential Plus credit card and move to a cash back card. The second, of the airlineís making, is the discontinuation of the United.com club. I used to get extra miles and five bucks per round trip, going forward I will get nothing in terms of miles or money.

My replacement credit card is a Wells Fargo Propel; one of the ways to redeem benefits is to buy tickets through them. Iíll probably buy a ticket this way when Iíve accumulated enough rewards. I took a peek at Orbitz, they have a rewards program that allow you to ďdouble dip;Ē that is another possibility Iím considering.

Will buying tickets from these alternate sources have any negative impact on ticket charges, IRROPS, or anything else? Iím thinking my 1K benefits offer sufficient benefits in these situations. If there are negatives, they will probably trump the (presumably minimal) benefits of the Orbitz reward program.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 10:27 am
  #2  
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Originally Posted by RobH View Post
Will buying tickets from these alternate sources have any negative impact on ticket charges, IRROPS, or anything else? I’m thinking my 1K benefits offer sufficient benefits in these situations. If there are negatives, they will probably trump the (presumably minimal) benefits of the Orbitz reward program.
United's 24-hour cancellation policy only applies to bookings made directly with United; for other tickets, the travel agent's rules apply.

United may require that you deal with the travel agent for changes prior to the day of departure, or they may charge a fee to take over the ticket.

A travel agent may charge you additional booking or change fees beyond what United would charge. (In fact, I'm pretty sure Orbitz charges a ticketing fee, which likely negates whatever value they might have in their reward program).

If you fly on *A partner airlines, booking through United ensures, for better or worse, that the ticket is issued on 016 stock, meaning you get those rules: actual fare as PQP, 11x fare as redeemable miles. If you book through a travel agent, you may get a flight on non-016 stock, meaning that partner flights accrue based upon their individual tables. That can be good or bad, depending upon the airline and the fare.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 10:54 am
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Originally Posted by RobH View Post
Will buying tickets from these alternate sources have any negative impact on ticket charges, IRROPS, or anything else? Iím thinking my 1K benefits offer sufficient benefits in these situations.
When I book through a 3rd party website, say American Express Rewards, one negative is I have to do same day changes by calling United.

The app/website says something along the lines of "You booked via 3rd party. Please contact them to change your ticket." Calling United usually solves the problem. Not a big issue, just annoying.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 11:43 am
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My rule of thumb is never, ever book through a third party unless you have a very good reason to.

The huge difference (mostly relevant if you have status) is that you have to go through an intermediary to get any help with your reservation. In recent months, UA has gotten even more strict about this. I know the rules, I can get to the 1K desk quickly, so having a third party in the middle is a big hassle that I have absolutely no need for. jsloan notes more of the specifics, but it basically means I know what is going on with my ticket at all times. No OTA has customer service worth even 1% of what I get from the 1K line. IIRC some categorization of credit cards requires "purchased directly from airlines", too.

Obviously, I have to fly on agency tickets sometimes - redeeming various reward points for cash travel, etc. I try very hard to make these non-stop domestic journeys where nothing could possibly go wrong.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 11:51 am
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UA has that undisclosed $50 change fee if the fare drops within 30-day of purchasing. Used it once on a 016 ticket for an itinerary was all on partner carrier.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 11:59 am
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Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
United's 24-hour cancellation policy only applies to bookings made directly with United; for other tickets, the travel agent's rules apply.
I don't believe this is correct. Here's a screenshot from a test booking for a United flight via Orbitz.



It appears that the 24 hour cancelation is still possible when booked through Orbitz.

Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
A travel agent may charge you additional booking or change fees beyond what United would charge. (In fact, I'm pretty sure Orbitz charges a ticketing fee, which likely negates whatever value they might have in their reward program).
Although Orbitz does say it can charge a fee, it's not universal. Again, a screenshot from Orbitz on a United flight:



The price above is identical to what you'd pay when booked directly on the United website.

I'm just noting the above items in the interest of accurate information. Personally, I would not recommend booking anywhere other than directly with an airline because of the following reason that you note:

Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
United may require that you deal with the travel agent for changes prior to the day of departure, or they may charge a fee to take over the ticket.
Same-day IROPS aren't a problem, as airlines will deal directly with the traveler at that point. But, anything further out is going to have to go through Orbitz (or whatever travel agency used). For example: If your flight leaving tomorrow is under a weather waiver, you'll need to contact Orbitz to make a change (instead of handling it on the United website or by calling United). To me, adding an additional company/person isn't worth the minimal "rewards" that you'd earn.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 12:07 pm
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Originally Posted by writerguyfl View Post
Originally Posted by jsloan View Post
United's 24-hour cancellation policy only applies to bookings made directly with United; for other tickets, the travel agent's rules apply.
I don't believe this is correct. Here's a screenshot from a test booking for a United flight via Orbitz.



It appears that the 24 hour cancelation is still possible when booked through Orbitz. ....
Yes but it is not UA's policy, it is Orbitz's (or the OTA in general) policy. Which was the original point.

While it is true many of the major USA based OTAs have some 24-hour cancel policy, it is not required and there are differences in the fine print.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 12:08 pm
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Originally Posted by writerguyfl View Post
I don't believe this is correct...
It appears that the 24 hour cancelation is still possible when booked through Orbitz.

Itís correct. Unitedís policy only applies to tickets purchased through United. Orbitzís policy may be similar, but itís their own. And, a different travel agent can have a different policy.

Unitedís policy applies to all tickets purchased through United, including tickets on partner airlines. Orbitzís may not. (And, you might want to Google Orbitz cancellation policy for a few horror stories...)
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Old Dec 8, 19, 1:35 pm
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Originally Posted by findark View Post
My rule of thumb is never, ever book through a third party unless you have a very good reason to.

The huge difference (mostly relevant if you have status) is that you have to go through an intermediary to get any help with your reservation.
Yup. Nothing like, "Sorry, we can't help you with your reservation. You need to reach out to xxx."

For me, I can't think of many good reasons to book direct vs. OTA. Have I booked with OTAs in the past? Yes, but mostly on obscure non-US carriers where I am skeptical about their site.

Also, from a credit card points stand point, I am certain I will earn 5% for every dollar by booking direct.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 2:01 pm
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Originally Posted by Repooc17 View Post

For me, I can't think of many good reasons to book direct vs. OTA. Have I booked with OTAs in the past? Yes, but mostly on obscure non-US carriers where I am skeptical about their site..
One of my motivations is to punish United for changes I donít like. I cancelled my Presidential Plus because the United Club is so overcrowded and bad I no longer saw the value for the annual fee (specifically EWR terminal C, where I used it the most). Likewise Iím unhappy about the demise of United.com club. Based on the informative responses (thank you all) I can see the folly in that reasoning.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 2:51 pm
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Originally Posted by RobH View Post
One of my motivations is to punish United for changes I don’t like. I cancelled my Presidential Plus because the United Club is so overcrowded and bad I no longer saw the value for the annual fee (specifically EWR terminal C, where I used it the most). Likewise I’m unhappy about the demise of United.com club. Based on the informative responses (thank you all) I can see the folly in that reasoning.
I can see UA quaking in their boots, worried about the loss of your business and the impending impact on earnings
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Old Dec 8, 19, 3:01 pm
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You should closely review what you're buying from OTAs. Some people have been surprised they're buying unpublished bulk fares with various limitations; the same people never asked their selection of OTA what they were buying.
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Old Dec 8, 19, 3:26 pm
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3+ reasons for buying via OTA
1) they may extend 24hour cancellation (or even 24+hour/or over weekend) for flights that may not qualify under DOT airline rule
2) eg orbitz 2% reward for booking flights, plus any cashback sites on top of it
3) want to book a ticket that UA.com wont quote
~4) possibility of getting BULK ticket and BULK earnings, very YMMV

2+ reasons for not buying OTA
1) may have to change/cancel - OTAs may charge a fee on top of UA fee
2) any issue with ticket (eg schedule change, or causing misconnect), you may have to jump through hoops and OTA/airline will point ticket at each other
~3) OTA may issue BULK fares which you dont want. YMMV

if im travelling for leisure on a supercheap fare, i would go OTA to get the extra %
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Old Dec 9, 19, 5:54 am
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Originally Posted by paperwastage View Post
3) want to book a ticket that UA.com wont quote
This is actually somewhat common, and is the reason I check airline sites and OTA's. All else being equal, I'll buy directly from the airline. But I sometimes use mainstream OTA's such as Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity (these three are pretty much the same thing), or Priceline.
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Old Dec 9, 19, 7:59 am
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I am always concerned about cancelling a trip booked via OTA. On united.com, it is easy to reuse the credit on a future trip. Not sure what happens with the flights booked via OTA especially if the OTA booked two one ways instead of a RT. Do you deal with UA directly to reuse the credit or do you have to go through OTA?

Other than that, I don't find much difference in the trips themselves. I have saved almost $1000 dollars booking a packages on Orbitz getting the exact same UA fights and same apartment. For me it all about dollar and cents. The unknown comes if you have to cancel the trip or if there is an IROPS.
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