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United Airlines now has cashless lobby

United States
posts: 6,934
reviews: 64
United Airlines now has cashless lobby

United Airlines (aka United Continual) and a number of other US airlines have been cashless on their planes for a number of years. All sales on the planes, for example for duty-free purchases, require the use of a credit card or a debit card.

I recently returned from several domestic US flights on United where I needed to check my bags. The use of the overhead bins and the under the seat space were not options in my case. When I arrived at the airport I fully expected to pay a baggage fee and took cash to cover the full cost. However, when I arrived at the airport lobby I fund that the only way to pay United the required baggage fee (another sore issue with me) was with a credit card or a debit card.

With cash in hand I found that United Airlines had installed several machines, all owned by a third party, to sell me a prepaid debit card. As the debit card selling machine will not make change and cannot be reloaded, it took a while for me to find someone to make change.

In just over half an hour, I was able to get the proper change, put the proper amount of cash into one of the debit card selling machines, get a prepaid debit card, put the debit card into the United check-in kiosk about two feet away, and then discard the debit card in the nearest trash bin.

I rate the exercise: 1) a waste of my time, 2) ecological unsound, 3) probably (?) profitable to all of the parties except me, and 4) rather customer unfriendly. The only 'upside' of the incident was that I arrived early at the airport and I did not miss my flight.

9 replies to this topic
San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 22,870
reviews: 114
1. Re: United Airlines now has cashless lobby

typically if you are based in the US as your profile says, you have the ability to check in online with your pc or laptop or mobile phone and pay for bags in advance. People who don't have their personal web devices while visiting the US can use the hotel business center or a Kinkos to print boarding passes in advance

so there are many options. Trying to do this at crowded airports while it can be done in the comfort of your home or ... is the way to do this to avoid (1) (2) and (4) in your list above

Now if you don't have credit or debit cards -- that is not a travel related issue but there are solutions out there.

Curious -- how did you purchase the tickets ? Cash via a travel agent ?

Edited: 10:14 pm, February 03, 2014
Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 17,432
reviews: 5
2. Re: United Airlines now has cashless lobby

Lots of facilities are going cashless these days. Even London's red buses are going cashless from this summer - tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g186338-i17-k71719…

A little awkward for those that don't carry any form of credit or debit card, but that's a huge minority these days.

Are you sure you were flying somewhere with no credit or debit card whatsoever? That seems rather strange, especially here in the US.

Berkeley, CA
posts: 420
reviews: 11
3. Re: United Airlines now has cashless lobby

The op is not at fault here. If he cares to carry the cash with him, the cash should be accepted. That this isn't the way you or I would do it is not the point. However, his point that every entity other than him profits from this seems correct. United has found a new way to annoy its passengers, which is quite a feat.

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 17,432
reviews: 5
4. Re: United Airlines now has cashless lobby

Sorry I'm not buying this.

Let's start with the first sentence ..... "United Airlines (aka United Continual)..."

That reeks of "my beloved United has been ruined by Continental", ... or "My beloved Continental had been ruined by United". Get over it, it's one airline and it's not going to change. If not, then FlyerTalk is the place to post.

And, with more than 5,000 forum posts and nearly 50 reviews, overwhelmingly about overseas travel, don't tell me the OP doesn't have a credit card.

The cash for debit card option is an absolute last resort option for the tiny tiny minority that don't have plastic. And there's no evidence that it's profit making for the airline. I don't believe for one minute that the OP doesn't have plastic based on all the trips and reviews posted here on TA.

Edited: 2:36 am, February 04, 2014
australia
posts: 2,551
reviews: 17
5. Re: United Airlines now has cashless lobby

Wow USBT..... bit big on the assumptions today...everyone has their own pet names for companies... who cares

ONYA United....Great way to do some money laundering, opening debit cards with no ID.

.... as an overseas traveller I wouldn't be happy about paying by credit card having to stump up for an overseas transaction charge as well as more currency conversions when I have cash in hand I'm trying to get rid of before I fly home other than wasting it on worthless trinkets ....

United would want to be getting payback for those cards not charged for them....for the amount of ancillary revenue at an airport in one day the fees would be pretty substantial on their entire network

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 17,432
reviews: 5
6. Re: United Airlines now has cashless lobby

".... as an overseas traveller I wouldn't be happy about paying by credit card having to stump up for an overseas transaction charge as well as more currency conversions when I have cash in hand I'm trying to get rid of before I fly home other than wasting it on worthless trinkets ...."

Jaget,

Except that wouldn't happen to you in that case. For international flights (including domestic connectors) you get one checked bag free, so you wouldn't need to scramble your last few greenbacks to pay.

The $25 bag fee is for purely domestic flights only, in which case you wouldn't be leaving the country and needing to offload your last few bills. And as the OP is based in the US that's a completely moot point as he wouldn't face foreign transaction fees.

And even if your CC attracts foreign transaction fees (in which case I'd change your credit card if you travel internationally) you'd be using it anyway while in the US and paying those fees for all your other transactions. When was the last time you checked into an overseas hotel and handed over wads of cash?

It's an absolute last resort option for the very few domestic pax that don't have a CC or DC. And I don't believe the OP doesn't have either, or else he wouldn't be able to travel overseas.

australia
posts: 2,551
reviews: 17
7. Re: United Airlines now has cashless lobby

When was the last time you checked into an overseas hotel and handed over wads of cash?>>>>> quite often especially in Italy, Greece ...they prefer cash to card you get a 10% discount if you pay by cash... the hoteliers don't like the merchant fees/card fees either

Clearly Americans don't use the "how much for cash" question when travelling

Edited: 3:33 am, February 04, 2014
Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 17,432
reviews: 5
8. Re: United Airlines now has cashless lobby

Greece and Italy isn't in the US. And as I said you don't get charged for bags on your outward flight from the US so that's moot ..... unless your bag is overweight in which case the transaction fee is negligible compared to the overweight charge that you'd have avoided by paying attention to those good old T+Cs. :-)

And the OP is in the US and would have been traveling within the US in those cases.

Edited: 3:42 am, February 04, 2014
Bangkok
Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
posts: 13,894
reviews: 71
9. Re: United Airlines now has cashless lobby

Hi,

I don't think it's an intentially way to irritate passengers at all.. I do think there's a cost issue here -- but it's not with the machines and the card issuance...

Remember that by accepting cash, each location that deals with cash, must now have the infrastructure to properly handle it -- that's things like having proper local internal audit controls, ways to account for it, and the big cost part - to arrange for - and pay for - a 3rd party to provide cash pickup/delivery either daily or on an arranged schedule...

And while each one of these elements has a relatively small cost -- when you multiply them out over perhaps 200+ stations, now you're talking about a real cost...

And that cost I think needs to be looked at very rationally -- how many people do we really see each day that use cash? Are there some? Absolutely yes.. But I think the reality is that it's a small number and getting smaller as time goes onward.

... And to the end the debit card vending is provided.. Does UA make money off it? I bet it's less revenue that they expend to have the machines on property, staff resources to support them and the real estate costs to cover the machines footprint.

I think they have them simply as a stop-gap solution for those passengers who are cash-only passntgers..

And again, i think that for UA, looking at their passenger demographic profile, I bet that the numbers who are truly cash-only are very, very small.. And as such, carriers like UA can no longer justify all the costs that go with running a daily cash acceptance business model.

Travel Safe,

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