United called me a no-show, but I was on the flight!

Bernadine Fong enjoyed the outbound portion of her round-trip flight from San Francisco to Newark without incident. But her return trip is a different story. At check-in, United Airlines informs a stunned Fong that she had been a no-show for that original flight. As a result, her ticket home has been canceled. Can we fix this flight fiasco?


I have been trying to get United to refund me for a one-way ticket home that I had to purchase because United canceled my original reservation. They told me that I was a no-show on the outbound flight, so the return flight was canceled. My only option was to buy a new ticket for $418. Needless to say, this was a bizarre experience and I want to be fully compensated for this unnecessary disruption to my travel.

I am also concerned, as United should be, about the “security” of its boarding procedures for something like this to have happened. And I also wish to receive the frequent flyer miles for that outbound flight. United must have records that prove that I was on that flight! Can you help me? — Bernadine Fong, Los Altos, Calif.


Yes, Bernadine, I can help you. And United should have been able to help you, as well.

But when you attempted to advocate for yourself by using United’s company contacts that we list on our site, the representative’s suggested resolution was far from adequate. In fact, her response only served to cause further aggravation, since it appeared to you that she did not have a firm grasp of the problem.

That is when you turned to our advocacy team for assistance.

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I reviewed the documents that you sent to United to back up your claim that you were, in fact, on the outbound portion of your flight. This evidence included your electronic boarding pass and your receipt for the purchase of the ticket.

A no-show?

You convinced me that you were on that flight.

And in United’s response to you, they appear to agree and that a mistake was made on their end. So I was as surprised as you were that your refund for the additional ticket was not immediately processed.

United’s suggested resolution was puzzling. Instead of refunding the extra ticket, which was at an expensive walk-up rate, they refunded your lower-priced original ticket of $296. And they did not mention your missing frequent flier miles at all.

Fair? You didn’t think so — and neither did I.

When a company makes a mistake, their goal should be to make the customer whole. This resolution fell short of that expectation.

I contacted United on your behalf and pointed out that their proposal did not make you whole. You should not bear any of the financial consequences of a mistake that was not yours. As you pointed out to United, this “resolution” garnered the airline an additional $122 that was not due them, and they still owed you the base miles that you should have earned from that flight.

The good news

A fresh set of eyes at the airline reviewed your case and agreed. They offered you an additional $150 travel voucher and all of your base miles for the original flight. Because you frequently fly on United, you were pleased with the voucher. The miles were equally important to you since you are a Premier Gold member on United and you would like to keep that status.

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I’m pleased that, in the end, United did the right thing for you. But this case does serve as a reminder to keep those boarding passes until you see your frequent flier miles credited to your account and you are safely checked in for your return flight.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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