Saturday, April 18, 2015

A New 15-Year Low in Our Dealings with United Airlines

United eventually prevailed in the "Million Miler" lawsuit. Our complaints about "Silver Wings" membership have gone nowhere. "Lifetime" and promises of any kind are whatever airlines decide them to be, revocable on a whim. We've come to grudgingly accept that. Today, however, we hit the wall.

We booked a one-way Business "Saver Award" many months ago from Warsaw to Seattle. Indeed, a major reason we traveled to Poland after disembarking from our transatlantic cruise was the availability of a Saver Award out of WAW. Our eventual reservation included First Class seats from LOT to London Heathrow on a reservation that included WAW-LHR-IAH-SEA (Warsaw to Heathrow to Houston to Seattle), the LHR-IAH leg on one of UA's new 787s.

We got an e-mail about a schedule change from United a couple of days ago and noticed that we were no longer in F on LOT (WAW-LHR) nor had we seat assignments. Once we'd arrived in Warsaw this afternoon, we took a closer look. We saw we were no longer in Row 1 on LOT but in unassigned seats on a charter airline called Small Planet that we presume LOT contracts. We read some very dubious reviews of the airline.

We called the United Premier Line, hoping to get seats together on "Small Planet" for the first leg of a very long day.

The agent said she immediately noticed something wrong with the first leg. What it came down to was this: When LOT canceled its original flight, some agent somewhere changed our ticket on that leg to a revenue ticket, for which UA would have to pay.

After an hour on the phone we felt angry, frustrated and thoroughly worn down when the agent (supported supposedly by a supervisor) repeatedly told us we could pay an additional 12,500 miles per person for alternative flights on Lufthansa (WAW-FRA-SEA), but that we absolutely could not take the flights which United had confirmed in writing months ago. We're ashamed we felt so worn down that we eventually said we'd find our own way to London since during the call we'd noticed seats available for less than $150 each.

After hanging up, it turned out those cheap flights we'd seen during the phone call were no longer available and we'd be paying closer to $500 per person for this short flight. We called back and explained the situation to a another United agent. She put us on hold for a few minutes and came back to say she had booked us on Lufthansa in First / Business from Warsaw to Frankfurt to Seattle non-stop (WAS-FRA-SEA). She said quite correctly that she disagreed with the previous agent and that we shouldn't be penalized by having to pay more in miles to replace a flight that had been canceled and waived any increase.

Thus, instead of arriving in Seattle at midnight and staying over in a hotel, we'll arrive around noon, retrieve our car and drive home. The Lufthansa seats are in the old configuration rather than flat-beds but that should be fine for a daytime flight. In any event, it will get us in shape for an upcoming flight to China on American Airlines in their old-style Business seats.

We're still furious with ourselves for allowing the first agent to wear us down, but appreciative of the second agent for recognizing that the problem was between LOT and United, and that we shouldn't be the ones to pay for somebody else's mistake.

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