Should you check in even if you know you might miss your flight?

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This week I did something by accident that will be helpful to me moving forward, and it may benefit you as well.  Several months back on a sale I purchased a cheap non-refundable round-trip fare ORD>MSP.  I just wanted to take the trip to check out the Priority Pass Escape Lounge at the MSP airport, and perhaps have a bite at Caffe Latte prior to returning to ORD at night.  I live about 2 hours out of Chicago O’Hare and my ticket was for 7:45am.  In all honesty, I have no idea what prompted me to do this to myself, even if it was steal.  It was about midnight the night before departure and I wasn’t certain whether I wasn’t going to be able to wake up early enough to consciously and alertly drive to O’Hare.  Still, I decided to check in, as there was still a part of me telling me that I would in fact go.  And that turned out to be the best thing I could’ve done. 

The alarm clock went off at 4:00am and all I remember is later waking up at 7:00am.  I didn’t make my flight.  So here were the options I was weighing:

  1. Call United for a same-day flight change.  Thanks to my premier status this would’ve been free (non-premiers and Silver Premier’s pay a $75 fee), but I wouldn’t have been able to take a later flight and come back home at a reasonable time on the same day.
  2. Change my ticket altogether to a different date and pay the fee associated with the change of $200.  This wouldn’t work, as this was already more than the ticket itself.  Also, I had no unplanned life event that I could provide as a reason to waive the change fee or request a refund (see United’s refund policy here).
  3. I could call United and tell them I wasn’t able to make it, beg a little, and maybe they’d refund me the money or provide me with an electronic travel certificate for the amount to use at a later time.
  4. Let it go.

Then, at 7:17am I receive a text message…and then another, and then another…

I became happier with each passing notification.

My flight ultimately took off over 2 hours after the original time of departure.  Even if I had made it, I wouldn’t have taken the flight as I was going to miss the whole point of the trip, which was having several hours to spare at MSP.  But, fortunately, I was now certain that I’d get the value of my ticket back upon submitting a request for refund, as per United’s refund policy.

In conclusion, when there’s no better options and there is the slightest chance you might make your flight, you may choose to check in as early as you can for your flight, and you might find yourself with the leverage to request the full value of your purchase back.  Although, yes, this is a little selfish, some delays are, in fact, good news…

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