My Eternal Struggle With United Airlines
United Airlines has it out for me. I'm convinced they like to toy with my emotions. Here are a few fun snippets:
They recently sent me a “Companion Ticket” for flying 25,000 miles with them last year. A “companion ticket” means that the next time I buy a roundtrip flight, I can get a free ticket for the same roundtrip for a companion. I thought United was pretty cool for doing this, especially because they would now get me to buy another ticket from them when I would otherwise avoid them.
I went to united.com to look up roundtrip flights to NY from Seattle. It turns out that a flight is only $229 for the dates I wanted, which is a pretty good price for United (although JetBlue is about the same and has direct flights). Unfortunately, I couldn't buy online because I had to actually call an agent in order to use the companion ticket.
The 49:55 phone call was quite painful. There were a bunch of issues with the agent, who had to keep putting me on hold to find out how to book my flight, but that doesn't bother me too much. What does bother me is that the ticket I wanted was quoted at $304--$75 dollars over the same flight on the Web site. I asked why there was such a difference, and the agent explained that they used lower prices on the site to incent customers to buy from there. I guess I can understand that, even though I explained that I wanted to use their site but wasn't able to. Oh well, I figured the free ticket would make up for the extra $75. We went ahead and booked the ticket.
At minute 30 (after hold session 4), we ran into a new snag. Apparently the agent had used the wrong booking ID when setting up my flight. It turns out that when you buy a flight, the agent puts in a booking code that helps determine the fares. However, if you want to use a “get a free companion ticket“ certificate, like I did, it requires a separate booking code, which inflates the price almost twice. The agent slowly explained that my original flight was now going to cost me $575, but that this was a good thing because I would still get the companion ticket. This made me quite upset because I had already bought my flight under the assumption the companion ticket was included.
Anyway, within twenty minutes we had come to an agreement that I was allowed to get the companion ticket for the price they had already charged me. I guess it all ended well, but I just wish it didn't have to be such a battle.
In another story a few months ago, I booked a trip where I flew from Seattle to Boston, then Boston to Philadelphia, and then New York to Seattle (I was driving up from Philly to NY). A few weeks before leaving, I realized that I would have to cancel the Boston to Philly trip, but would still do the others and find my own way from Boston to NY. United told me that I couldn't cancel it because then I would have to cancel the whole trip and rebuild the other two flights for a $100 change fee and $1000 fare difference. They told me that my alternative was to just skip the Boston to Philadelphia flight. Sure enough, that's what I did. All was going well until I got to NY. The check-in agent told me that my seat to Seattle had been cancelled when I didn't show up for my flight in Boston. WTF?!? I was able to finally convince them to give me a spot on a flight, and they told me that I should be thrilled because they were supposed to charge me $1000 for the fare (no, they didn't do the Dr. Evil pinky-to-the-lips take) but were only going to levy the $100 change fee [United tax].
Finally, there's a fun one from today.
My wife's last name has just officially changed, so she called United to switch the name on her frequent flier account. They told her that she needs to bring her original marriage certificate to the United office at an airport to do it. She asked if it would be okay to just create a new account under her new name, and then transfer the miles over. The phone agent hung up on her.
Yeah, we're still going to use the free ticket and will probably continue to use them whenever they're the cheapest option. Go figure.