Airport Ticketing: Comparing AA, UA, and US

My uncle will be embarking on a multi-city trip to visit extended family members this winter and asked me to find and book the airfare for him, specifying only the days and times he wanted. He has no airline status and is flying to small cities in the South, some of which are not even served by regional affiliates of each major airline.

The price was not pretty, but I finalized an itinerary for him that included travel on American, US Airways Express, and United Express. After my uncle approved it, I booked the US portion online and placed the AA and UA reservations on hold so I could use vouchers to ticket the itineraries.

I had a trip out of SNA the following day and showed up an hour early to complete the ticketings.

American Airlines

I took the picture above after I completed the ticketing, but there was no line when I showed up. A pleasant agent greeted me and quickly located the reservation I had placed on hold. I handed her the voucher and she deducted the amount from the ticket. A few moments later, she gave me a revised grand total for the ticket, including a $30 airport ticketing fee. I asked her if the fee is waved for Executive Platinum members, to which she responded, "He's not an ExPlat" (referring to my uncle). I did not argue, but I was disappointed that AA levies a $25 phone center fee or $30 airport fee to use a voucher that cannot be booked any other way. To my knowledge, UA waves the fee when you use a voucher.

She took my credit card and slid it multiple times in her keyboard reader before the card was read (perhaps because I was using my UA Visa?). I signed the receipt, received a copy of the itinerary, and was on my way after being wished a pleasant afternoon.

Other than the ridiculous $30 fee for five minutes of AA's time, the process was smooth.

United Airlines

After checking in for my flights to PHL by a very frazzled agent who seemed to be in another world, I asked the agent working next to her if she could ticket an itinerary for me. She said, "Sure. You got a reservation already?" I nodded and rattled off the reservation number. She printed out the itinerary for me to confirm, then took my voucher and quickly completed the purchase. I signed the receipt and received an additional copy of the itinerary with a copy of the receipt stapled on the back.

Another simple process.

US Airways

Although I did not have a reservation to ticket, I went up to the deserted counter to ask for a copy of the itinerary and a receipt that I could mail to my uncle with the other reservations. The agent entered the confirmation number and moments later a copy of the itinerary and receipt popped out. I suspect that ticketing would have been a breeze.


Maybe I just happened to be at SNA during the early afternoon lull and got lucky, but I was impressed at how easy it was to complete ticketing an airport counter. I knew UA would be a breeze, but was unsure about how AA would treat a no-status passenger. I am happy to report that everything went well. 

Although vouchers can be redeemed over the phone, I am much more comfortable redeeming them at an airport so that they can be ticketed immediately. The idea of mailing in the voucher and waiting for confirmation does not sit well with me, even if means the hassle of driving to the airport.


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