As I promised yesterday, it’s time to talk a bit about my United award experience over the past few days.
On Sunday I finally crossed the 280,000 mile mark on United, which means I had enough miles for two first class award tickets from the US to Egypt for my brother and mom. Since they’re going in November, I figured time was of the essence and I didn’t waste a second.
After doing some research on the ANA tool and ExpertFlyer I called UA to see what they had available in first class, and not surprisingly they came up empty handed despite finding a bunch of availability on Swiss for JFK-ZRH-CAI-ZRH-JFK in first class via ExpertFlyer. While the agent seemed like she was trying, I decided to try my luck with a different agent.
I was a bit more flexible with dates this time around, hoping that would help, and long story short after over 90 minutes on the phone we found an award for two people all the way in first class. All of the availability was there on ExpertFlyer, so I was happy to see UA not doing extensive blocking for once. My mom would be flying TPA-CLT-JFK-ZRH-CAI-ZRH-ORD-TPA, and my brother would be flying TPA-CLT-JFK-ZRH-CAI-ZRH-GVA-JFK-CLT-TPA, with a stopover in Geneva because he wanted to spend three days with a friend there at the end of the trip. I was quite pleased and said at least a dozen times during the call “wow, it looks like today’s my lucky day!”
I put the award on hold for 72 hours and since it was 1AM I went to bed trusting that the agent did everything correctly.
The next evening I had the opportunity to discuss the award with my mom and brother, and they were both ecstatic at having the award booked and in first class no less. That being said, my brother wasn’t too happy at the prospect of returning from GVA on Sunday, so I called to change his return to Monday, which seemed easy enough since it also showed as available on the ANA tool.
I called the 1K desk to make the change, and the agent said it was available. Just to be sure (as I always do) I said “and in first class, right?” She quickly responded “No, I was actually looking for coach, but first is available as well. Did you want me to make this a first class award?” I responded “Well, the rest is already a first class award, so it would be nice if this segment were in first class as well.” She said that all of the segments were actually in coach.
I was speechless for a moment, and in complete disbelief said “you must be kidding, right?” I asked her over and over again to make sure that she wasn’t reading the codes incorrectly, because I distinctly remember asking the agent the night before whether or not each segment was in first class individually, and she always confirmed that they were. It simply couldn’t be!
For the better part of ten minutes I didn’t know what to say, but the excellent agent did her best to to rebuild the itinerary. She worked like crazy, and eventually gave me an option of IAD-MUC in business on UA, MUC-ZRH in business on LX, and then ZRH-CAI on LX after 24 hours in Zurich. I said “Ma’am, does that seem like a fair solution to you? You’re doing a great job and I know you’re doing all you can, but can I please speak to a supervisor that might be able to open up some inventory and check the call record from last night, considering the circumstances?” She agreed and put me on hold for ten minutes, at which point she came back and said “OK Mr. Lucky, here’s what we can do: IAD-ZRH in first class on UA, connecting to your original LX flight from ZRH-CAI…”
Blah blah blah. While I was initially a bit apprehensive about booking my brother and mom in UA F, it actually didn’t sound like that bad of an option. It should be the new 767, which means they’d be two of only five passengers. Plus, it’s an overnight flight and it’s hard to argue against the UA Suites, be they the new or old ones. Out of curiosity I asked the agent whether a supervisor opened up space on these, and she said “yeah, it was the only right thing to do.” I really appreciated that, and was at that point transferred to the supervisor.
While the supervisor was efficient, she wasn’t the friendliest agent I’ve interacted with. Clearly being a “United Airlines International Reservations Supervisor,” as she touted in a monotone voice, got to her head a bit.
Anyway, we were able to rebuild the rest of the itinerary as I wanted before, except the supervisor claimed that I couldn’t book CAI-ZRH-GVA-JFK, because “it’s not in the permitted tariff fare.” I explained it was within the MPM though, and she claimed MPM doesn’t apply on Star Alliance awards. I decided not to argue with her, and let her just book the stopover in ZRH. Sad when supervisors get it so wrong.
I called back and got the same agent that was so helpful before (what the heck are the chances of that?), and I mentioned the change I’d like to make, which she happily did for me.
So now they’re booked TPA-IAD-ZRH on UA, ZRH-CAI on LX, then CAI-ZRH on LX together, at which point they split up. My brother then flies ZRH-GVA on LX (with a three day stopover), then GVA-JFK-CLT-TPA, while my mom flies ZRH-ORD-TPA. They’re booked in the highest cabin on each flight, which means F for all the longhauls.
Overall the problem I had with UA infuriated me, because I know for a fact that I asked over and over whether each segment was in F, and the agent confirmed. I still have no clue how it happened, it’s really beyond me. On the plus side, UA resolved the issue, and in the end I’m actually happier with the new routing than the original one. To be honest, I’m kind of peeved that my lame-o brother gets to try UA’s new F suite before I do. 😀