5 Weeks in Asia: Costs
A Quick Trip Out of FRA
Money Problems in Beijing
72 Hour Visa Free Transit of Beijing
Scams in Beijing
The Angkor Experience
The VIP Sleeper Bus Experience in Cambodia
Sleepy Kep, Cambodia
Arranging Visas on the Move
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Mekong Delta
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Easy Riders Tour
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Tailored Hoi An
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Solo Motorbiking
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Halong Bay
The Adventure of A Ricetime: Sapa
Scams in Vietnam
6 Hours in Bangkok
Scams in Bangkok
A First-Timer First Class Experience
Over Easter weekend I spent approximately 4 hours on the phone with United trying to get my summer trip booked. Getting my award to price out at the old levels on UA required a lot of persistence on my part. In describing the situation to my parents, I was reminded that often, both in this hobby and in life, it is very important to be your own advocate.
Here’s how it went:
First off, I had 2 awards booked together at the pre-devaluation levels. A friend and I were going to go to Thailand, but some plans changed and I was free to travel on my own. The first step was to split the reservations and redeposit miles from one of the awards. Now, since I am Silver on UA, this should have cost $125, but for some reason I was charged $200. It was easy to get that refund processed simply by going to the refunds page on the United website. The refund showed up on my credit card within about a week.
Re-booking my award and locking in the pre-devaluation rates ended up being quite the challenge. I knew that it should be possible even when changing dates, class of service, and even routing from the Flyertalk thread and from talking to others who had successfully changed their tickets. My new routing plan was a little bit more complicated than the original, so I was unable to change the flights on my own online. I checked availability by searching segment-by-segment on the United website, found and noted flights that worked for me, and called up United.
I was booking N. America – S.E. Asia in economy on the outbound (32,500 at pre-deval levels) and S.E. Asia – N. America in first on the inbound (70,000 at pre-deval levels). I was expecting my flight to price at 102,500 miles (+ taxes + a $50 change fee). The first agent I talked to on the phone initially quoted me 170,000 miles, I told him that I thought the computer was over-pricing the award. He talked to his supervisor (?), who manually priced the award at 120,000 miles, which I insisted was still over-priced. He told me that I would have to call the next day before 8:00 pm to talk to the Mileage Plus Service Director (1-800-864-8331).
The next morning I called the Mileage Plus Service Director, they said they were unable to help me and I would have to talk to reservations (UGH). I tried calling the Premier Line, but the hold time was much longer, so I eventually gave up and just called the regular line again. The second agent I talked to saw the notes from my call the previous day and priced the award at 120,000 miles. I said to him that I thought the ticket should cost 102,500 miles, and after looking at it closer he told me that the correct price should actually be 170,000 miles (UGH). I asked to speak with his supervisor. His supervisor initially priced the award at 120,000 as well, and when insisting that it should cost 102,500, he also concluded that it should cost 170,000 miles. At this point I had been on the phone for well over an hour, and it was time for dinner with my family, so it gave me a great excuse to hang up.
Before having dinner with my family I sent a quick request to the UA Twitter Team. I tend to have a lot of luck with customer service on twitter, especially with KLM/Air France, so I decided it was worth a shot. I explained the situation to them and what I thought it should be pricing out as, and why. This was their response: “Your current routing via Europe requires an additional 120K miles, 40K on the outbound & 80K for the return.” I asked why routing via Europe required additional miles, I was unaware that this was the case, and I knew I was under the Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) for my itinerary. United’s response was: “Because you’re traveling to two different regions & it’s not in legal routing to do it as one award. Thus, more miles are required.”
I called BS on that, and after dinner decided to call the web support line (1-800-396-1751). This line usually routes through the Philippines call center and people on Flyertalk had mentioned particularly high levels of success in talking with them. I was initially connected with an agent who stated the cost of my ticket was 120,000 miles. I explained to her why I thought it should be 102,500 miles. She said she was unable to manually price the award and connected me with her supervisor. The supervisor initially looked at the award and also quoted 120,000 miles (which at this point I was just about willing to pay). After explaining the situation to him, he finally agreed to manually price the award at 102,500 miles, and told me that he would make a note that I was not allowed to change the ticket again without repricing at the new levels.
In conclusion, getting this award booked was a huge pain in the butt, and I spent way too many hours on the phone with United over Easter weekend. Also, I listened to enough Rhapsody in Blue to last me for about a year. BUT, I did get my award booked, and because I was persistent, and knew the rules related to my award, I was able to get the correct pricing of 102,500 miles. Saving those 17,500 miles was definitely worth the time spent on the phone.
Sidenote: It is very important to stay calm and be nice when talking to the airline agents! This would have been disastrous if I had gotten a bad note left in my record.
I had a similar experience a few weeks ago. Tried to make some changes to a DC-NRT-DC flight (new routing DC-NRT (stopover) – ICN (destination) – JFK – DC). Of the six agents I spoke to, 5 of them insisted that the new pricing would apply. Also, two of them were simply unable to get their heads around the idea of a stopover en-route – those I just had to give up on.
To the credit of United, three of the agents were willing to check with their supervisors when I (politely) insisted the old pricing should work and all were able to confirm that was correct. I kept running into the issue because I was trying to make changes for 2 people on 2 different tickets and only one seat would show up at a time – arghh! The difference in pricing was 130,000 vs. 220,000, so as exhausted as I was with this rigmarole, I had no choice but to keep trying.
The takeaway – you better know the rules cold, because they don’t and any errors won’t be in your favor. Having said that, if you are right, most of the time you can get it done, but prepare to burn a lot of time. Four hours on Easter doesn’t sound pleasant – I’m guessing I spent close to six hours over the course of four days in getting this done. Having said that, the two long 1st class legs were just a delight ….
Glad you were able to get it worked out! I had been giving my parents the play-by-play, since they were around, and at one point my dad said “I would have just ended up paying the 170,000 miles the first time I called.” Unfortunately, I’m sure that happens to most people!
[…] was planning to travel with can no longer come, so I decided to mix things up a little bit! It was quite a hassle to get the award changed and price out at the pre-deval rates, but it worked out in the […]