After I posted the original post below, people on Twitter sent me messages that the same thing happened to them and that they emailed United 3+ months ago but never heard anything back.
In an effort to make sure that doesn’t happen to me and to help those Twitter Followers get their United issues sorted, we ended up forming a huge chain of Tweets addressing our complaints for @United. Surprisingly it worked and ended up getting @United’s attention. They asked for all of us to send them our case numbers and they said they would look into it.
Well a couple of days ago, I received an email from United informing me that they would be crediting my Dad with 7,000 United Miles and refund the ridiculous $50 Service Fee that I was charged to get his ticket issued.
Does 7,000 United Miles make up for the huge hassle United put us through? Not at all, but it is better than nothing so I am not complaining.
People on Twitter said I should have asked for more compensation and that 7,000 Miles was ridiculously low, but to me it isn’t even about the Miles.
I’d much rather have United save the cost of giving me those 7,000 Miles and instead invest that money in their IT systems so this kind of ridiculous glitch doesn’t happen again to anyone else.
Anyways, I am glad that this whole mess has been settled in a timely manner, and as I talked about below, always call to make sure your Award Ticket has actually been ticketed. This is especially true if you are redeeming your United Miles on a Star Alliance Partner!
The Clusterf%&# That Is United
My Parents left for India yesterday Afternoon flying on Lufthansa Business Class using 120,000 United Miles each.
Due to lack of availability in Business, I had them originally booked them on some in-direct flights just so they had something locked down. As space opened up this month, I made changes over the phone and got them both booked on the same Chicago – Frankfurt – Bombay flight.
Earlier this week, I went ahead and logged into United.com and checked them in. United.com shows the Lufthansa Confirmation Numbers, so I went ahead and also picked their seats on Lufthansa.
Their tickets on United.com showed the updated Chicago – Frankfurt – Bombay routing, and since I was able to check-in and pick their seats, I thought everything was fine.
I dropped my Parents off at O’Hare Airport yesterday afternoon and drove back into the City. Well about 1 hour after I dropped them off (and about 1 hour until their Departure), my Mom calls me saying that the Lufthansa Check-in Agent is showing that my Dad’s ticket was never updated and was still showing the old routing.
I told my Mom that it doesn’t make any sense since United.com showed the new ticket and confirmation number, plus I was able to check them in without issue.
Well the Lufthansa Agent got on the phone and said there was nothing she could do since the ticket was booked by United, so I had to call United and get this sorted out in the next 45 minutes before their flight was scheduled to leave.
Well unbenounced to me, for my Dad’s ticket, even though I had called and made all the changes over the Phone, the United Agent apparently never issued his ticket and left in place the old routing on the ticket even though United.com showed the new routing.
Anyways, for anyone who has called United without Status, you know that you are almost guaranteed to get your call routed to Asia. Unfortunately I didn’t have a choice, so I quickly got off the highway, ducked into a Starbucks, booted up my Laptop, and phoned United.
Not surprisingly my call got routed to India (which is ironic because that is exactly where I needed to get my Dad…), and I explained what happened and that my Dad’s flight was set to depart in 45 Minutes, so if he could please hurry and re-issue the ticket.
Of course that simple request turned into the Agent putting me on hold for 15 minutes while he looked at all the old information on the reservation.
Finally he said he could reissue the ticket, but IT WOULD BE A $50 CHANGE FEE…
I asked what was the change fee was for since nothing had changed.
He said since the ticket was changed from what was originally booked, there was a fee to re-issue it.
I explained that $50 is not even a real fee, the change fee is actually $75 and that fee had been waived earlier when I made the changes.
The Agent absolutely refused to waive the fee, so I ended up paying the $50 just to not have to argue with him and get the ticket re-issued.
The ticket was re-issued with about 20 minute left to my Dad’s flight, so I called my Dad and told him it should be good to go. The Lufthansa Agent processed it for him, escorted him through security, and held the plane for him so he made it on the flight.
In the process of being on the phone with United, I was tweeting my utter frustration with United on Twitter and United surprisingly picked up my tweet, so they messaged me to help but by that time, the ticket was already re-issued.
How Does This Happen?
As I am digesting the absolute clusterF$%& that transpired yesterday afternoon, I am really trying to figure out how this mess happened in the first place.
While on the phone with United yesterday, I logged in to my Dad’s United account and checked his confirmation, and noticed the following message:
The message reads “ ! A modification has been made to your itinerary. Please contact United Reservations to have your ticket reissued. This reservation was ticketed and confirmed on Mon., Jul. 30, 2012 at 4:07 p.m. Central Time.”
While I suppose it is my fault for not seeing that, it just amazes me that United thinks that this small message suffices as a proper warning that you might go to the Airport and not have a ticket.
I am a fairly proficient with Award Bookings and Tickets, and if I missed this, I can’t imagine normal people who travel on miles once in a blue moon, would see this “warning”.
The worst part is that all the changes that I made to my Dad’s tickets were originally made on the phone, so I don’t know why the ticket wasn’t re-issued then instead of having to call back in again at a later time.
However the most mind boggling part to this whole saga is that even if the ticket wasn’t actually issued, how on earth does United.com show the correct itinerary, allow you to check-in for the flight, pick your seats, and allow you to make it as far as the Airport Check-in Desk, where you then casually find out that you don’t actually have a ticket…
Luckily for my Parents, they had me on call and I conveniently had my laptop in hand, but if this were just normal people, they would have been absolutely screwed.
Just imagine if they were flying United to Frankfurt, and then connecting onto a Lufthansa flight and found out in Frankfurt that Lufthansa didn’t have their ticket!. There is no way they would have been able to contact me and get it sorted out.
Not As Rare As You Think
Although this may sound like some random shitty one time experience, this is far more common than you think especially if you make any changes to your flight.
It happened to The Points Guy when he was going to France in Swiss First Class booked on United Miles. He didn’t even bother with trying to have United fix it, and booked a British Airways First Class Ticket while standing at the United counter at the Airport.
The comments section on his post has 59 comments from people with similar tales…
Similarly on Twitter, a Follower said it has happened to his Parents too.
How To Prevent This
To be honest, I am not really sure how to prevent this because I am still not sure what caused this mess.
My best suggestion is to check your confirmation online and then to be safe, just call United and confirm over the phone that it has been actually ticketed. I’m sure 99% of the time, it will be ticketed and everything will be fine, but you don’t ever want to deal with going to the Airport and finding out you don’t have a ticket.
Although United tweeted me, I am going to write them a strongly worded letter this Afternoon. Although I am extremely annoyed that the first United Agent never issued the ticket in the first place, I am FURIOUS that when I called United in an emergency and explained the situation and time constraint, that the Agent casually took their time and then charged me a “$50 Change Fee” when the changes were already confirmed by the last Agent and the fee was waived.
I guess if there is a silver lining to this story, it is that other people hopefully will learn from this fiasco and triple check their tickets to make sure they are actually ticketed.
I will keep you updated on what remedies United offers for this situation. At a minimum I would like my $50 back.