United “Free” Cancellation Loophole up to 24 Hours Prior to Departure?

Could this be a potential loophole allowing you to cancel and refund your United flight up to 24 hours prior to your scheduled departure? Reader Cy recently noted the following language at the bottom of the trip summary purchase page which appears to allow for refunds minus a potential 10% charge as well as a more generous 48 hour cancellation policy:

For purchases made in Colombia, customers have the following Rights of Withdrawal and/or Retraction:

Right of Withdrawal: You can cancel travel up to 24 hours before the scheduled flight departure. If you cancel your reservation, United will refund your purchase, but may keep up to 10% of the fare. The Right of Withdrawal does not apply to promotional fares, so please refer to the fare rules for your ticket.

Right of Retraction: When you purchase a ticket through a United Customer Contact Center or on united.com, you can cancel your reservation within 48 hours after purchase and request a refund as long as the cancellation is completed at least 15 days before the scheduled flight departure. If you cancel your reservation, United may keep $50 or up to 10% of the fare, plus nonrefundable taxes and administrative service charges.

Now, it clearly states for purchases made in Colombia, which would mean using a Colombian billing address (if they determine that you’re “in Colombia” the same way they do for tax calculation purposes). You’ll also probably want to complete your purchase on United’s Colombian landing page to be safe, though the text now seems to appear across all United purchase pages, regardless of region. Of course, the usefulness of this would depend on the total purchase price of your ticket, though a 10% fee (on domestic flights) is likely cheaper than the normal $200 change fee (same day changes are only $75 and waived for MileagePlus Premier members) as well as your comfort / ability in entering a Colombian billing address (selecting Colombia as your country appears to still allow you to select a US state and zip code). The other hangup is the promotional fare language, what exactly qualifies as a promotional fare is not clear.

Does anyone have experience taking advantage of this language?

Colombia Restrictions

Colombia Billing Address

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  1. Most airlines charge the 10% service refund fee. I travel into countries that have a 30-90 day tourist visa lets say and do not have a return flight back. I buy a refundable one way to a different country and then refund at their office to be able to enter without a return flight essentially.

  2. It’s posts like this that give ‘travel hack’ bloggers a bad name. This is not something you should advocate be done–it quite simply crosses the line. If United catches someone doing this that doesn’t legitimately live in Columbia or isn’t buying tickets from inside Columbia, don’t be surprised if your Mileage Plus account is shut down or worse. Nobody will pity them either. They’ll say they should have known. Meanwhile the blogger just counts their clicks generated from the post.

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