The traveler manager's handbook for unused airline tickets

Unused airline tickets from corporate travel are piling up, causing disruption to efficient travel management.

Why it matters: The 2020 pandemic brought business travel to a halt. In the post-Covid era, travel teams have struggled to use these available airline credits for future flights. Conferences, meetings, and events are back on, and corporations want to send employees without breaking the bank.

  • Airlines have been challenging to deal with regarding unused credits. To make up for lost profits in 2020, they have made it increasingly difficult for travelers to get refunds. CBS News reports airlines still owe customers at least $20 billion in reimbursements.

What’s next: We feel for you travel managers and want to help! Learn the ins and outs of redeeming these credits so your employees can fly cost-efficiently.

What is an unused airline ticket?

An unused airline ticket is a purchased ticket for a flight, but the person couldn’t travel due to unforeseen circumstances. 

  • A big deal for travel management: When it comes to business travel, unused airline tickets are a frustrating matter. On a daily basis, travel managers have to handle multiple trips for several employees simultaneously staying within the company’s budget. Unused airline tickets are an easy way for travel managers to save on company revenue. 


  • The problem with non-transferrable credits: Airlines love customer loyalty, and restricting their airline credits makes it easy for them to retain customers instead of them  going to their competitors. For travel managers working in a fast-paced environment, this inconvenience causes more roadblocks in finding the best flights available since they can only use their credits on this one carrier.

Why are unused airline tickets hard to redeem?

 Airlines may only allow a certain amount of time to pass before the ticket expires, or require the ticket be used by the same passenger.

  • Why it’s a problem: Restrictive policies can add further complications in redeeming unused tickets for future company travel. 

Travel managers may deal with added fees for rebooking or be forced to pay the difference if the new flight is more expensive than the original ticket. 

  • Why it’s a problem: These fees and penalties can increase travel costs. For travel managers, that makes an already time-consuming situation all the more frustrating. 

Unused airline tickets may have different bookings that can be more complex. 

  • Why it’s a problem: This added step may include contacting the airline directly to make the booking or require additional documentation or proof of purchase.

Lastly, employees may accidentally or intentionally use airline credits for their personal leisure trips. 

  • Why it’s a problem: Once that voucher is used, proving the transaction was a mistake to the airline can be tough sell, wasting the business travel funds that can’t be redeemed.

How to maximize the cost recovery?

There are still ways to convert those unused airline tickets for future flight booking. 

What you can do: Look for tools and solutions that can automate redemption for unused credits.  

  • A reliable travel management platform can help. Routespring can empower you to recover up to 100% of the non-refundable airfares by automatically utilizing airline credits. 
  • Seize control of unused credits by transferring them into a Universal Air Travel Plan (UATP) account.

What is UATP?

UATP is a payment network specifically designed for the airline industry. It’s an alternative way to process payment for travel agencies, corporations, and consumers.

The impact: UATP’s centralized payment method helps businesses get travel refunds for non-transferable airline tickets.

  • 344 airlines, travel management companies, and agencies worldwide accept UATP as payment. Travel managers can request airfare credits from a carrier be deposited as a refund in their UATP account.
  • Popular credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard have partnerships with UATP giving more flexibility to a company’s preferred credit providers.

How to get your UATP card

Travel managers must set up an account and sign an agreement with the individual airlines first to get the card.

More challenging than it looks: Every business interested in getting a UATP account has to go through several steps to be qualified for the service.

  • Companies must meet UATP eligibility requirements, such as having a significant volume of air travel-related transactions.
  • The application process involves providing financial information, submitting the document, and going through the complex review process. 


The power of a travel advocate: Navigating UATP and unused airline credits can feel challenging, but redeeming them is possible. The approach can feel less intimidating by having a dedicated team assisting you in promptly achieving your UATP card.

  • Routespring is a top G2 performer in customer satisfaction and support. The company is committed to supporting its customers through their UATP journey from application to card arrival. 

Final thoughts

Unused airline tickets are a traveler manager’s worst nightmare. Since the pandemic, the issue has become more daunting and time-consuming. 

Not a total loss: You’re owed the travel funds that weren’t used, and as the world reopens, those credits are more crucial than ever. 

  • Initiate a plan to redeem those tickets that make the most sense for your business. For many companies, UATP can be the solution to get access to those credits again.
  • Partner with a platform that can automatically utilize those airline credits and a helpful guide in achieving UATP status.

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