Yes, six hours–and only two bookings.
Being the mileage runner that I am, I naturally rejected a conventional routing for my two trips to Los Angeles next month. It took me some time, but I pieced together a nice itinerary that would take me circuitously across the country–with connections through United’s hubs–in order to maximize mileage earning and VDB possibilities.
The problem with nine-segment itineraries is that united.com and United Reservations cannot price them: they run into problems with itineraries of more than eight segments. That means a call to United’s web-support is required.
United.com support agents, based either in India or the Philippines, are always pleasant–but pleasantness does not always equate to competence. I calmly explained what I wanted and provided the flight numbers.
The first agent repeatedly tried to talk me into going with a much simpler routing. I kept telling him thanks but no thanks–I chose my routing for a reason. I figured out about 20 minutes later that I kept being offered the simple routing because this agent was also having trouble pricing my complex proposed itinerary.
I e-mailed my ITA (check out itasoftware.com if you are not familiar with this site) itinerary to web support and was put on hold for another 20 minutes. Back comes the agent to tell me that United would not honor the fare. I told him that it was just pulled less than an hour ago from the UA reservation system.
Back on hold for another half hour. The agent returns and tell me has found a solution for me: and proceeds to offer me the same simple routing I rejected over an hour ago. I kid you not!
Back on hold. Finally, the agent returns and gleefully proclaims he has priced out my itinerary at the same amount I was seeing. Great news, right? Wrong. I pull up the itinerary, now on hold at united.com, and see that the price is much higher than was quoted.
I call back and run into a 15-minute wait time for someone to pick up on a Sunday night–and my 1K number had been entered. The agent listens to my problem and puts me on hold. I’m kept on hold for over an hour, with periodic interruptions to Rhapsody in Blue to be informed that he was still working on my ticket. Finally, the agent comes back and says everything is now in order. I pull up the itinerary and indeed, everything looks fine.
This morning, I pull up the itinerary and it is right back to where it was before my last call. UA’s computer system must not have liked the agent’s changes…
I call back web support and reiterate the problem, provide the specific fare basis I want (again), and am placed on hold again. Nearly 1.5 hours go by without a peep from the UA agent–just more Rhapsody in Blue (a scratchy version no less).
Agent comes back: no dice. The fare is invalid. I ask what the problem is and the agent says that one of my connection cities is not valid. ExpertFlyer confirms she is wrong.
I ask her to re-read the flights to me and it turns out the last agent, in reconstructing my itinerary, had booked the wrong flight between Chicago and Washington Dulles, making the connection exceed the four-hour limit.
Finally, I am quoted the right price. It only took four hours.
And that was only one ticket…
My point of this long rant is two-fold:
1. Maybe I should just go with a simple routing next time.
2. Call United web support at your own risk.
I’ve been successful with pricing 9+-segment itineraries on UA on Orbitz if you do a multi-city itin and narrow it down by airline and flight times.
That’s good to know, though I did use a voucher for each of the trips above–so that complicated matters further.
Next time I have a 9-10 segment route, I’ll take a look at Orbitz before I call UA web support.