Should United Airlines pay for its mistake – or should I?

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A booking error by a United Airlines agent forces Evelyn Jaffe to pay for a new flight to Hawaii. Is she entitled to a refund?

Question: I am writing to you for advice and help regarding a most frustrating experience with booking award travel and the resulting confusion and lack of help from United Airlines.

My husband and I recently bought tickets from San Francisco to Lihue, Hawaii, on United Airlines. I wanted our daughter and granddaughter to fly to Hawaii with us, and since we had enough miles, I decided to book award tickets through the United website. But the site kept crashing before we could complete the transaction, so I called the airline.

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I gave a representative my exact dates and specific flight information over the phone. This person was an outsourced agent, for whom English was not a first language, and we were having some trouble communicating. I never received an email confirmation for the award tickets.

When we got to the airport, my daughter and granddaughter did not have tickets. The outsourced agent had booked tickets, but for a week later, and therefore were unusable.

A desk agent found two empty award seats on the outbound leg of the trip and gave them to us. Unfortunately, the airline could not find available award seats in the coach cabin for the return leg. It had two seats in the first-class cabin, but that cost us another 120,000 miles. Can you help me recover the extra miles?

Evelyn Jaffe, Tiburon, Calif.

Answer: United’s records probably show that you used your miles to upgrade your daughter and granddaughter on their return flight from Hawaii, but it doesn’t have any information about the booking error.

I think this could have been avoided. When you pay for a ticket, you should receive an email confirmation from the airline. You didn’t have any confirmation for the award tickets booked for your daughter and granddaughter.

Don’t assume that you have a ticket unless you get an email confirmation. Also, you should always take the confirmation number for the ticket, which is also known as a PNR (Passenger Name Record), to the airport with you.

You sent an email to United, which was a good start, but you needed to appeal this to someone at a higher level. I shared a few executive contacts with you, and you sent another email. The response? Another rejection.

United, like many large companies, records phone calls with customers for “quality assurance purposes.” Your case would be easy to prove — or disprove — simply by reviewing the call. Incidentally, I believe customers should have access to their conversations with any company representative. If you’re being recorded, then you should be able to get a copy.

I normally wouldn’t miss an opportunity to rant about the questionable value of frequent flier miles, but in this particular case, your miles bailed you out at the last minute. It’s a shame United didn’t consider your loyalty to the company when it sent you repeated rejections.

I contacted United on your behalf and it returned the extra 120,000 miles you had to spend.

Who should have paid for this mistake?

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105 thoughts on “Should United Airlines pay for its mistake – or should I?

  1. You obtained a booking without getting a confirmation number and then checking it. It is your fault, not the airline’s fault.
    You need to check everything.

    Maybe they should give back the miles, but whether it is take out food, airline tickets, hotel reservations, or locking your car – check, check, and check again. Ultimately it is your responsibility.

      1. Due diligence. You don’t make reservations anywhere and just assume that it’s all good without any kind of confirmation. If I’d been the LW I would have been back on the phone within 24 hours if I didn’t receive my confirmation email. The only reason the LW was in the position they were in was because they didn’t follow up on their lack of reservation information.

        If the LW has so many miles built up that they can get two people to Hawaii on award miles and still have enough left over to pay for the 120,000 extra, then I expect they are seasoned travelers and should have known better. Does United hold any responsibility? Yes, and if the LW had contacted them before arriving at the airport and United had refused to correct the problem, then I would be more sympathetic. But you should never make assumptions with travel arrangements. Trust but verify.

      2. United absolutely bears fault. But who makes an airline reservation, fails to get a confirmation, then does nothing to check on things before getting to the airport on the day of travel? Even worse was the fact the OP ran into multiple problems making the reservation, so presumably would have been on guard for further problems. The website didn’t work, the phone agent was having troubles understanding her… I’m simply blown away that after all that the OP would simply assume everything was taken care of.

          1. I have a more cynical view. I just don’t believe everything people say they said or anyone else said. Most of them lie or forget. Unless you can show me documentation then I just ignore you or point out other things that make your case weaker. I have had enough of this lying and exaggeration BS just to make their case look better.

          2. I have been lied to by ‘quality’ people, so I, too, don’t take everyone at their word. In this case, I have no doubt that an error by UA occurred, but the LW should have made sure she saw her reservation BEFORE hanging up the phone. Since she is had been on UA’s website, she was knowledgeable on navigating around on it.

          3. I have to disagree with you. I read the original article. I got a totally different conclusion. She had problems with the site. I don’t agree UA made an error. She simply did not understand the person on the phone.

          4. Could be, but she should have gone back to the website to see her reservation before hanging up the phone or wait with the agent until the reservation came across by email.

          5. I think she misunderstood what the agent was saying.
            My guess – maybe SAVER award availability was not available for the same date as their PAID flights. So the confusion ensued …

          6. It absolutely is. If, however, the LW is correct in her conclusion that part of the problem with this particular reservation occurred because of a language barrier between her and the United rep, there is at the very least a case to be made that for any company serving US customers, it’s important to have reps available who are native speakers of English and Spanish, regardless of where in the world they’re located.

      3. Seeing some of the further comments, I would reassert that she should have checked and therefore bears responsibility for not catching the error.

      4. They did get to fly first class, though. In this case, I’d say give them half the miles back… 60k. I understand they are upset and I would be, too. But at least they got home and got a nice experience out of it. I was able to pay $500 to upgrade to business class from Honolulu to Tokyo when the military sent me to Hawaii for a surgery (3 week paid for vacation, woohoo). It was worth every penny of that $500. So yeah… United sucks for screwing up, but I think half the miles back would be appropriate. That seems like a nice mediation result 🙂

      5. United is an airline. It operates under special rules absolving it of responsibility for any errors. Don’t complain, or it will zip-tie you and turn you over to the nearest SWAT team.

    1. One thing that we sometimes forget is that many of the people asking for Chris’ assistance are not seasoned travelers who are used to dealing with the system on a regular basis. They just are not savvy enough to take the precautions that you or I might take since they have never thought of airlines as predatory creatures. For someone who hasn’t flown in a few years, the concepts of e-tickets, confirmation numbers, luggage fees, seating charges, paying for meals and off-shore reservations agents are new experiences. How about showing some understanding and compassion?.

        1. The original article said she had problems with the WEBSITE so she called about it. It seems she talked to a technician about the website and not an agent. If she had actually talked to a telephone agent and she did not have “enough” status, would she have paid some kind of a call in booking fee?
          Note she had PAID tickets for her and her spouse. So that part worked online I suppose. I reckon she could not find AWARD seats on those same flights – that why she was having problem with the website 🙂
          I use that site very often (people ask me to search for award availability).
          UAMP site is very good so I can’t imagine what kind of problems she was having. Maybe she was the problem.

          1. I don’t think so… that’s not how I read it.

            I once tried to book award tickets on Delta’s site and they were 40k from Osaka to Honolulu (I was there for a surgery and was trying to get my husband and kid to me so we could have a short vacation). So 80k miles roundtrip from Japan to Hawaii for two people (that’s total… it was only 20k each way). Good deal. But the site kept crashing. It was legit… there WERE 40k roundtrip flights, but I couldn’t book them bc the site crashed. When I got back to it 5 minutes later, those tickets were gone.

            So I called the Skymiles reservation number and told them that I had gotten all the way through to the final screen. Literally, all the info was in and I clicked on the “hold” button, so that I could have the 24 hold on the tickets. That’s when the site crashed. So those tickets had been mine, and then I lost them bc of their crap website.

            So that’s why I called. I told them I wanted them to find me my 40k seats. They did actually find me some on different flights, so it was all good.

            I think that’s what happened here. She tried to book on the website and then called to book on the phone instead. I do believe the UA rep made a mistake. I don’t think she was calling tech support. She called to book the tickets. That’s how I read it.

            She still should have checked for confirmation.

          2. You are comparing Delta’s to United’s?
            I do this for a living. I use both plus almost all others.
            So far so good. I am sure there are plenty of Flyertalk folks who would agree with me 🙂

          3. “Plenty of Flyertalk folks” and folks on many other websites would *disagree* with you. Google:

            “We’re sorry, but united.com was unable to complete your request due to a technical problem. Please try later or call 1-800-396-1751 for assistance.”

          4. “Plenty of Flyertalk folks” and folks on many other websites would *disagree* with you. Google:

            “We’re sorry, but united . com was unable to complete your request due to a technical problem. Please try later or call 1-800-396-1751 for assistance.”

          5. We don’t need your obfuscation. Readers can check it out for themselves. Note date when the thread was started.
            www dot flyertalk dot com/forum/united-airlines-mileageplus/1417342-consolidated-united-com-down-thread.html

      1. Big Fail! Why do they need compassion?
        Thousands of UA flyers do use the app and the Award Website.
        Why should we have compassion for those who can’t?
        That’s just another ultra socialist agenda. Survival and promotion of the weakest.
        Darwin won’t agree.

      2. I agree to an extent, but what sticks for me is that she had already booked the reservations for herself and her husband and presumably received the confirmation email for that travel, since she specifically mentioned she did NOT get one for this booking. And even giving them a pass for that, who doesn’t go online at least ONCE before they travel to … I don’t know, check bag restrictions or see if a better seat has become available, or whatever? I’m glad they got the miles back; it was the right thing to do, but I’m still a li’l irritated by this OP…

        1. Did she not go online to get her boarding pass? You always get a message from UA when you can do that. If you got one, but not for the other reservation wouldn’t you also question that?

          1. Yep exactly… or a “Hey it’s time to check in for your flight to … ” email .. ANYTHING. And the times I’ve had to talk to a reservation agent over the phone they ALWAYS say “Ok, Mrs. Mel, I have Hortense and Griselda booked on Flight 123 out of XYZ on the 12th of Never, correct” MULTIPLE times. Blargh.

  2. According to United’s website, cancellation of award tickets 21 or fewer days before the date of travel is possible for a $100 fee (or less depending on your mileage level) resulting in redeposit of the miles to the account. If the flights weren’t for another week for the daughter & granddaughter, why would United not have done that when they checked in, and then rebooked them with the available seats that day?

    I agree the LW should have done more to get a confirmation, but United has a policy it seems they didn’t follow or make known to the LW when she checked in and everyone discovered the problem. I think for $200 I would have been irritated, but would have let it go if they gave me back my 120k miles right then and there. By waiting until after the other scheduled flight a week later to request the miles back, she was conveniently (for United) outside the realm of the redeposit policy.

    It pays to know the rules – and the company’s own policies) associated with your miles.

    1. I think you have misunderstood what happened. UA charged them an additional 120K miles for the return portion of the trip for the two upgrades to 1st. The original miles were used immediately for the rebooked flights.

      And while it is possible to get the miles used to book a reward ticket refunded for a fee, what good would that have done? The daughter and granddaughter would have been stuck with no tickets at all then.

        1. No problem. I had to read it twice to understand as well. I am still in shock that UA didn’t make them pay cash for new tickets because the rewards were booked wrong. 🙂

  3. It is obvious that UA’s agent probably made the error and they should have re-booked the flights on the correct dates for the same miles regardless of availability of mileage tickets. I am glad you were able to get the additional miles returned. However, the LW does hold some responsibility as she did not follow up when she did not receive a confirmation. She should have done this within 24 hours at the most. UA emails ticket information fairly quickly so she should have gotten the receipt within a few minutes.
    And as for loyalty—the LW might have obtained the majority of those miles through shopping with a UA credit card. Many people accumulate a lot of miles through credit card affinity programs. The number of frequent flyer miles one has no longer indicates a great deal of travel on a particular airline. A friend of mine has charged a car, tuition for his 3 college students and other assorted high value items through the years to accumulate miles on a carrier. He does not travel much but when he does it is in first class with the miles he has accumulated by using his card.

      1. Yup, I think that was the original problem (award availability).

        A standard (not saver) award to Hawaii is 45,000 Miles in coach.
        First class standard award is 102,500 Miles.
        That is about 60k miles difference, right?
        So I guess this explains why they had to pay 60,000 x 2 pax =120,000 miles more at the airport.

        What is not clear (or no good explanation) is the supposed incorrect award booking in the first place. She said the UA agent made a date mistake, giving them an award booking one week later than the requested date! Really? How do we know if she was the one who made a mistake?

        It is so damn easy to use the UA Award calendar. I think UA may have the best system out there (for their own flights). I find it very hard to believe this LW. Sorry.

      2. John, just to be clear on the accounting of the miles.
        You can find a F/BC award for 90K miles. But there are times the Award site says it needs 102,500 miles.
        Trying to figure out why airport agent charged about 60k each was quite interesting 🙂

        1. Don’t think that is accurate from the original author either, as the “new” United no longer allows airport agents to issue mileage tickets.

          1. I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt in that she didn’t have tickets for the flight she thought they would be on that day, but did for the next week.

  4. I remember back before the internet I had to use the phone to book a flight to Jamaica. I had a voucher from a bumped flight to use so I called AA and told them I wanted to go to Ocho Rios the rep told me the closest airport was Kingston so I booked a flight to Kinston. Then I started looking for transportation from Kingston to Ocho Rios only to find the only way was a private shuttle at about 250.00 per person. I called back to change the flight as was told I would have to buy a new ticket to fly to Montego Bay that has a 25.00 shuttle. I felt it was the reps fault for telling me Kingston was best. This taught me to use a travel agent of do your own research online before booking.

      1. LOL. Yes, a very odd story. The airport shuttles not only have zero connection to the airlines, but the call center rep was probably thousands of miles away and very likely had never even been to Jamaica. Yet, they were supposed to have all the knowledge in the world. Presumably, if the hotels and restaurants in Jamaica hadn’t measured up it also would have been the rep’s fault.

  5. It is great to see that UA does still have airport agents that are actually willing to help a customer, even one redeeming miles for tickets! In most cases you see here, the frequent flyer is left at the airport with no option except to buy a last minute ticket for cash when their frequent flyer reward goes wrong. Glad the trip was saved by a UA agent who was willing to find reward seats at the last minute (and that the LW had enough miles remaining in their account to cover the 1st class upgrade).

    But, the LW should have become very nervous when no confirmation was received for the two reward tickets booked. When I book reward tickets on UA, even for someone else and no matter which method used to book them, the tickets always show up in my account online. It would have been a simple task to check and see the dates were wrong right away. Just goes to show, never assume.

    And not having a transcript of the conversation with the telephone agent, we just have to take the wry of the LW that the information provided was 100% correct. We don’t know who it was that got the date wrong. And if you get someone you can’t understand in a situation like this, either ask to speak to someone else or hang up and try again. Once I got someone with a Scottish accent that was so strong I could not follow along with what I was being told. And that person’s first language was English.

  6. no offense intended to the “victim” but if you travel enough to have earned a couple hundred thousand air miles you should know to verify every booking — either by checking for a confirmation email or by logging onto United’s website to verify the reservation details.

    1. That’s a good point!!! If she had enough miles to have an ADDITIONAL 120k after she already used other miles, she either spends a ton on credit cards with miles or she travels enough to know better.

  7. It bothers me that people think consumers should take responsibility for making sure a company does its job. She called and requested something. The service agent assured her it was done. It wasn’t. Not her responsibility – United’s. If she had called back until she got a confirmation, she would have saved herself aggravation, of course, but IN NO WAY does that make it her responsibility.

    It wasn’t an accident that Ms. Jaffe dealt with someone whose English was problematic. United is saving a boatload outsourcing their customer service (probably to India – I work for a company that has shifted much of our work to India and our profit margins for those areas have more than doubled). There are language issues. Based on my experience with outsourcing, I would bet the training is minimal – agents are probably trained on the top three or four transactions and how to use scripts and that’s it. Everything else is guesswork and if it’s India, they are dealing with a culture where people never say “I can’t do that, I don’t know how” so it’s a recipe for errors like this. If United did ANY due diligence about offshoring CS, they realize that in return for an increased profit margin, the errors will double or triple or quadruple. It’s only fair that that United pays for them – not the customer.

    1. She booked the reservation and was given a confirmation number. She should have gone to United’s website and pulled up the reservation immediately when she had the agent on the phone. I do this all the time when booking award travel for clients and myself, as we can’t use the GDS for this type of reservations. I, too, have caught errors and while on the phone get them corrected. Why would you go to the airport without proof of travel reservations in hand? BIG mistake on the LW’s part, so yes, she failed in her responsibility to verify everything was correct. Off shoring is an issue. As the saying goes, been there, done that, so I understand her frustration with that. Fortunately UA brought their agency desk back to the US.

      1. This is the #1 reason why I do not execute orders over the phone anymore.
        If you call me, I write down what I think you said in an email and you must confirm it by replying to the same email (or Instant Message) me or else I don’t move.
        The worst kind of mistakes are committed over the phone.

        Also many mistakes are being done when the airline reschedules flights.
        I cannot blame a foreign call center for this 🙂
        It pains me that I have to fix a perfectly good itinerary that the airline screws up because it can’t get its act right. Today I have to fix a KLM nightmare. They did not do their DL codeshares right after rescheduling USA to AMS. What a big mess.

    2. I run into the “Can’t do that” all the time now with UA — at the airport! The airport agents are not a third party offshore company hired by UA to make the problem customers go away. When their local front line employees have that attitude, it is no surprise the farmed out support does as well.

      On a Recent trip I decided I didn’t want to fly that day. So went to the agent in the club and asked to rebook to a later date. The agent pushed a few keys on the computer and said “Hmmm, that’s not something we do unless the flight is cancelled.” So I asked who could do it. She said do it myself online or call the support line. Again I asked if there was anywhere at the airport I could do this because I tried going online but could not get a working connection on my laptop and UA does not allow this type of change on a smartphone. Once again it was “No, we don’t rebook at the airport.” My response was that I have done this multiple times in the past at that very desk with no issues. She said “Well, that must have been one of those Continental people that did that.” I said I appreciated the “Continental people” that are willing to help me.

      I was able to get the ticket rebooked before I left the airport at the main luggage check counter. And they didn’t even charge me a fee after I told them I was too ill to fly.

      1. Wow, she actually called them “Continental people” and acknowledged they were effectively smarter/more caring than the United people?

      2. Wow. The UA agents used to do this all the time pre-merger, at the airport. But after the merger they blamed the system for not being able to do it. They have gotten really bad.

      3. Not talking about this specific incident, as I don’t agree with the agent, but the integrated United does prevent airport agents from doing some functions that previous were able to be done. This does include mileage ticketing. United upper management wants customers to ticket online only.

    3. The only flaw in that is that you are assuming that this is the companies fault and they made the error. There is no way to really tell who made the mistake.

      It’s not completely out of question that the OP gave the agent the wrong dates either. If the agent didn’t speak great English, plus the website was “broken” I could easily see the OP being frustrated and make a mistake, just as I could also see a foreign agent screw up the dates.

      Either way, the entire problem could have been avoided if she had simply looked at the reservation. I booked a flight 8 months ago for an upcoming Hawaii trip and I’ve checked on it at least a dozen times since then to insure all is still good.

    4. But you do have to take responsibility for making sure companies do their jobs. That’s just reality and it extends outside the travel industry. Let’s say you buy a furnace for your house. Would you let them come by and do the installation without confirming they had the correct unit? Of course not, because you’d know it would be a huge mess if they did happen to install the wrong one. And this story is similar to that. When you by airline tickets you get some sort of confirmation and/or reminders about checking in. If you don’t see any of those, it’s a safe bet something is wrong. If you ignore those warning signs you’ve contributed to whatever problems you end up having.

      1. It’s not as much of taking responsibility to make sure a company does it job (talking about automation as much as humans), but it is simply taking responsibility to make sure that your own plans go off with as few problems as possible.

        1. If you use a company for your plans, then you need to make sure you have it correct. She screwed up by not checking on the reservation when it was made. Mistakes happen, but you don’t wait weeks later to find that out when you can do so immediately.

  8. We have to assume UA made the mistake because she was adding people on to an exiting reservation, the agent should have noted the dates as she was booking it. I know because I recently added my husband on over the phone and the agent repeatedly stated the dates to and from reading from our reservation so that she booked him on our same flight. Coincidentally it was UA and it was not outsourced. The agent was fantastic. In the end she got us a refund for all four tickets because a lower price was available.

    1. She was not adding people to an existing reservation. The existing reservation was for PAID tickets for her and her husband. What she wanted to do was DUPLICATE those same flights for AWARD tickets for her daughter and grand daughter. This is no easy feat.
      The mistake was the AWARD tickets were for the wrong RETURN date (one week later).

      What the airport agent did was use the wrong dated ticket (bought with miles) and reissued a correct dated ticket on first class by using her additional miles. This way they all returned on the same flights on the same day.

      I disagree with you that we ALL have to assume UA made a mistake. You cannot prove what return date she said over the phone. You just simply do not have enough evidence, do you?

      1. Actually the entire schedule was shifted one week in the future from when they wanted to go. The airport agent rebooked the entire trip for the award tickets. When making date errors booking, this is a more likely scenario than booking only one portion for the wrong dates.

        “When we got to the airport, my daughter and granddaughter did not have tickets. The outsourced agent had booked tickets, but for a week later, and therefore were unusable.

        A desk agent found two empty award seats on the outbound leg of the trip and gave them to us. Unfortunately, the airline could not find available award seats in the coach cabin for the return leg.”

        1. The way I read it, ALL of them were able to travel on the couple’s return flight. The daughter and grand daughter were rebooked for their same flight for 120k more miles. (The 120k is to change the award from coach to FC.) That’s why she (the LW) is so pissed.
          She thought that her daughter’s award tkts were returning on their same schedule. Then she found out they are really one week later.

          Otherwise the daughter would have to come back a week later and that does not make any sense 🙂

          1. They probably would have been happy to stay another week. 🙂

            But i still don’t see the ticketing issue the way you do from what the LW was quoted in the article.

          2. Yeah, I’m reading it totally different than you. She’s pissed because they booked her kids on the wrong week and took her miles. Then she had to buy tickets for more miles because they were standing at the airport packed to go to Hawaii.” It had two seats in the first-class cabin, but that cost us another 120,000 miles. Can you help me recover the extra miles?” She wants the extra miles it cost her back, right??

          3. Do you know exactly when they found out about the error?
            (a) when they checked in on the departure leg to Hawaii, or
            (b) when they checked in for the return flight back to California?
            This point is not even clear from the article.

            What is quite clear is that the LW and Husband had paid tickets and the award ticket of the daughter and grandchild had to be changed so their RETURN flights matched those of the LW’s.

            BUT YOU never knew if there was reward space available when they booked the tickets. So why do they get a break?
            Ordinary people can only redeem awards if space are available.
            And they don’t use stupid excuses such as the webpage is acting up.
            Well they can wait and do it again later.

          4. Ok, this is my last response, because this is actually getting silly. OBVIOUSLY there was still award space on the flight because when they got to the airport they got them. There wasn’t on the return, only first class award seats. Exactly how many times do you think these people need to board a flight to and from Hawaii?? My guess is 2. One time they easily rebooked them for award tix, the other leg, not so much. They had to buy first class award seats. OMG!

          5. Yup it gets really silly if you have the guess the facts.
            I bet the LW and maybe Elliott has not printed everything they knew.

          6. You are making an assumption. Just because there was award space on the outbound does NOT mean it was available at the time they were booking the flight. Also, we have no idea if award space was found OR if the airport agents simply got them onto the flight with their existing tickets. Could truly be either one.

          7. We do know because she says this “A desk agent found two empty award seats on the outbound leg of the trip and gave them to us.” And, again, what difference does it make if they were available at the time of booking. I highly doubt there were none and then at a later date there were some, But even so, all she is asking for is the difference between coach and first class award points refunded.

          8. Actually, that is exactly how airlines work. They limit space in advance, and then may open it up later if there are still more available seats than expected on a flight.

          9. Actually, it is very clear. They found out when the got to the airport, on the first leg, outbound to Hawaii, as stated here: “When we got to the airport, my daughter and granddaughter did not have tickets.” and ” A desk agent found two empty award seats on the outbound leg of the trip
            and gave them to us. Unfortunately, the airline could not find
            available award seats in the coach cabin for the return leg.”

          10. (a).

            It is perfectly clear to me.

            Why else would the LW state: “A desk agent found two empty award seats on the outbound leg of the trip and gave them to us.”

            If they were already in Hawaii and then found out they were not on the same return flight together, who cares about the outbound flight since they have already flown?

            And I agree that we do not know if the dates they flew actually had award tickets at the time of the original booking. Obviously they did have award availability at the airport when they were leaving to Hawaii or the agent would not have put them on those flights.

          11. The paid tickets were fine. Nothing changed with them.

            What changed was the mileage tickets for daughter and granddaughter. They were booked for the wrong dates. UA found two seat for the trip to Hawaii for the same miles as was originally paid on the same flight/same date with the paid tickets. The return trip required the 120K extra miles to get them all together on the same flight and same day because all that was available was 1st and they originally booked coach rewards.

      2. I’m totally confused by your reply, and I don’t understand what you are talking about. She says this “I wanted our daughter and granddaughter to fly to Hawaii with us” and then this “When we got to the airport, my daughter and granddaughter did not have
        tickets. The outsourced agent had booked tickets, but for a week later.” This suggests to me she was adding them to her flight. What does it matter if they were paid with cash or points. When I added my husband on (as referenced above) one of the three original flights was purchased with miles and so was his. I fail to see your point. Sorry.

        1. What does it matter if they were paid with cash or points.

          Because it DOES. You purchase a ticket with money. You redeem an award ticket with miles. I hope you can tell the difference. They are not the same ticket and they are based on entirely difference rules and inventory.

        2. “When we got to the airport, my daughter and granddaughter did not have tickets.

          Really? They had tickets for a different DATE. The daughter and grandchild was never booked on the same return flight with the LW and husband. They HAD tickets though. Since when do you show up in an airport without checking your itinerary. Such a dumb move.

          1. Yes, that statement by the LW is at the very least incomplete. It should have ended with something like: ” … on the same flights and days we did.” Because they did have their award tickets, just for the wrong days. And yes, it was wrong for the LW to assume the flights are for the correct dates and times. If I was making a trip like this, I would probably check the confirmation online weekly just to make sure nothing changed.

  9. Seriously ?….she continues with a language problem on the other end of the line ? That right there would have told anyone to hang up and call again and to certainly check up on the booking immediately. Sorry, but this woman was ditzy. Just another whiner who wants to blame the airline for HER mistakes.

  10. Letter Writer should have used an Award Booking Service.
    Costs about $99 and they do everything for you.
    That’s the solution here.

  11. This is yet another story that doesn’t add up. She didn’t receive ANY email confirmation? Not even for the flight that was two weeks later? Did she receive a conformation for her own flight? Presumably, the confirmation is stuck in her spam box. United was at fault for getting the reservation wrong, but she was also at fault for not reviewing the confirmation (or contacting United when she didn’t get one). However, since the miles are worth nothing to United, I think it was the right thing to return them.

  12. Evelyn has proven to be the ultimate whiner. She has all of the information in her head and trusted her brain and notes to be superior than a printed / emailed confirmation. Shame on United for refunding the extra miles, when it was totally Evelyn’s responsibility to have checked for the correct booking details. This was never a customer service situation to begin with. It was customer whining with an excellent advocate backing her story.

    1. Definitely just another whiner who got more than they deserve by abusing the free advocacy system. Wow free upgrade for First Class for 2. Can’t beat that.
      More will complain now and join the CE lottery 🙂

  13. The passenger hit the nail on the head at the beginning of her message: an essentially non-English-speaking agent (she was more delicate then I about this problem). Please don’t tell me I’m prejudiced. I wouldn’t get a job that required speaking to Rumanians if my Rumanian was minimal. Aren’t there enough native English speakers who need jobs?

    1. The carriers know that offshoring their reservations centers hasn’t bee positive. Some are moving those offices back to the US. This is huge issue with many companies, not just US carriers. I can’t understand the agents on the phone with my medical insurance company. Blue Shield of CA won’t say if they offshore those workers, but they must. It is really bad.

  14. Customers should also record these conversations, for quality assurance (meaning, no lying later on by the airline) purposes.

    1. Or she could have check on the reservation, with her confirmation number, while she has the agent on the phone. MIstakes happen. You don’t wait until you travel to verify your booking. She screwed up and it is nice that UA is being so workable on this.

  15. Of course it’s UA’s mistake. But how could anyone be so naive as to a) continue to talk with someone they were having trouble communicating with, and b) not triple check the final booking based on a) above. How could someone accumulate so many miles and not know how to deal with an airline? I remember during the merger with Continental, my upgraded seats changed or disappeared every time there was a schedule change. I was checking my reservations every week to stay on top of it. Had I not, UA would have just told me “that’s too bad” because that’s the way airlines are run these days.

  16. “Don’t assume that you have a ticket unless you get an email confirmation. Also, you should always take the confirmation number for the ticket, which is also known as a PNR (Passenger Name Record), to the airport with you.”

    This is poorly-worded or not correct. PNR means you have a *reservation*. It is not a “confirmation number for the ticket”. The two are very different; there can be a rez with no ticket for a variety of reasons. (Example: I recently booked online with AA and a PNR was provided. The next day my plans changed and I simply let the 24 hour hold expire without purchasing a ticket. Using the PNR I could still pull up the rez in the weeks leading to the date I would have traveled. A ticket never existed.

    A PNR is a handy reference, but the only true confirmation a ticket exists is the 13-digit ticket number.

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