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May 21, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: United Airlines' penalty policy

Jason at 37signals points out United Airlines' penalty policy: NONREF/CHANGE100PLUSFAREDIF//CXL...


This penalty policy is :/DOUBLEPLUSUNGOOD//

Posted by: faxtar at May 21, 2005 12:51 AM

There are numerous examples like this on the web (though I'm too lazy to Google some up) where some internal computer system has been piped to the web with all the in-house jargon intact. They have been dealing with it day in and day out for years and have honestly completely forgotten that the rest of the world doesn't speak like this. That or there wasn't enough money in the web budget to pay someone to write up a translator script or consumer-friendly text block.

Back circa '96-'97, many travel sites were like this because they connected more or less directly with the reservations system used within the industry since the '60s. Most have evolved and changed, though apparently not all. It does beg the question how this sort of thing still sneaks through almost ten years later.

Posted by: Erich at May 21, 2005 11:27 AM

I couldn't translate that...

Posted by: nickd at May 21, 2005 04:14 PM

"Non Refundable/Change in ticket is $100 + the difference in fare price/Cancel by flight date or ticket has no value"

I used to work in travel.

Posted by: Faolan at May 21, 2005 05:52 PM

Well I guess it was pointless to translate that since I just now noticed that they went ahead and translated it for you. I'm sure everyone knows "Nonref" and I thought "cxl" was widely known as "cancel".

Maybe it's just because I'm used to seeing these sorts of abbreviations but it just doesn't seem that hard to decipher. Anyway, it's always best to get their cancelation policy in writing because there is usually a lot of fine print that people gloss over and then, because they didn't read or understand it, (meaning, when they didn't understand, didn't ask), they turn around and get upset with the airlines or cruise ships or whomever when in reality, it was all written.

This has nothing to do with whether I think this is broken but I urge you, whenever you travel, PLEASE DEAR GOD understand the cancellation and refund policies before you buy. It will save you a lot of headache.

Posted by: Faolan at May 21, 2005 05:57 PM

Well, there's no "x" in "cancel", and "cxl" isn't familiar notation for me. "Nonref" took me a long time, and I wasn't sure which "ref" word it was "non-". Then again, I don't work in travel.

Posted by: Shadow at May 21, 2005 06:58 PM

how'd that sneak by the "legal" team

Posted by: jak at May 21, 2005 08:22 PM

JEEZERS! Beans and Rice, I am glad someone knew what the flip that all meant! Deff. broke! Good Call! Thank-you for the shout out from everyone who understood it, must be more traveled than the rest of us!

Posted by: TC at May 21, 2005 10:38 PM

Good question. What language do legalese have to be in? That hardly qualifies as standard English by any means.


Posted by: josephc4 at May 22, 2005 03:29 AM

This is broken. Almost as broken as some explanation of benefits that are sent by insurance to "explan" what they paid, why and how much you owe. These have gotten better over the last couple of years, but they could still get better.

My point it pretty much the same as Erich's in his first paragraph. If you are in the industry, you read it so often, it you translate it without thinking, but if you aren't, well, you may or may not.

Posted by: Randy at May 22, 2005 01:41 PM

"I'm sure everyone knows "Nonref" and I thought "cxl" was widely known as "cancel"."

Don't be so sure, I have only flown twice, How am I to be expected to to know what NONREF means? What "CXL" widely known as cancel? Obviously not wide enough, cause I did not know that!

Posted by: Andy at May 22, 2005 01:43 PM

What's broken is that there isn't a "You must be this knowledgeable before using this site" sign -- for the regular folks, that's what travel agents are for.

Posted by: Buddy at May 23, 2005 01:15 AM

Broken. Simple pattern matching and replacement can translate it from abbreviation into English.

Posted by: Jay at May 23, 2005 09:09 AM

I've never seen "cxl" used as an abbreviation for "cancel". And I'm not sure I would've gotten "non-refundable" out of "nonref" either, had I not read the expansion of the abbreviation...

Posted by: codeman38 at May 23, 2005 09:32 AM

They must write like this to get more money out of consumers, oblivious to the fact that "CHANGE100PLUSDIF" means "changes cost $100 plus the difference in fares"

pretty much, I think the strategy is to penalize and suck more money out of consumers who cant read the horribly abbreviated penalty policy. I'm not sure, but I think there are laws against this.

Posted by: John at May 23, 2005 10:02 AM

Well, "cross" doesn't have an 'x' in it either yet "xing" is known as "crossing". Again, it is your duty as the customer to ensure that you understand the policies and if you don't, you need to contact the company and have it explained to you or, better yet, get it in writing.

Posted by: Faolan at May 23, 2005 01:57 PM

FAOLAN, you are right in saying that we, customers, have to ensure that we understand the policies or else, contact the company to have them expalined. But you are totally missing the point that the company HAS TO make sure their policies are well understood by their customers and be friendly and straight forward to them.

Every industry has its own jargon and lingo and it is really stupid to assume that anyone outside the industry will undertand it.

The same principle applies to the travel industry.

United's explanation of their cancellation policy in this particular case is absolutely broken. Is not clear, is not friendly and is, at some point, deceiving. I guess that if a passenger sued United for applying a penalty for a cancelled reservation, there are good chances that he would win in court based on the fact that United never clearly explained to the customer those policies.

Definitely BROKEN.

Posted by: sam at May 23, 2005 02:15 PM

Sam: The chances of someone winning that suit are pretty slim. The airlines and cruise ships will always win because the cancellation policy is available to anyone if you ask for it.

MY POINT, was, if you don't understand something, call them up and ask them to clearly explain it to you and/or get the FULL policy in writing. I didn't miss the point about it being hard to decipher. Too often many miss the point that they have responsiblities as consumers and cannot blame every company because they "didn't know" something.

Posted by: Faolan at May 23, 2005 07:26 PM

It's written in Newspeak. Give it up.

Posted by: Bob at May 24, 2005 09:27 AM

I'm sure what all of you mean to say is... THSISBKN/OFCRS


(just in case... translation: "This is broken, of course!")

Posted by: Brandon at May 29, 2005 02:17 AM

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