As I mentioned in Part I, when I reached SFO Saturday morning to check in for my trip to Philadelphia via Chicago, the agent could not find my ticket. I had been re-booked by a legacy Continental agent the night before during irr/ops and deliberately or not, she had not synced the new reservation—a necessary step in SHARES.
I recited my record locator to the SFO check-in agent and she pulled up my reservation, then motioned for me to walk behind the counter so I could see her screen (gotta love that—I did not even have to ask).
AGENT: See, your flights are here (pointing ot the top half of the screen) but they should be here (pointing to the bottom half of the screen).
She tried to rebook me on the flights, but now only 45 minutes before departure, not only was first class zeroed out, but economy class was as well. She tried poking around in SHARES herself for a few minutes (thankfully the counter was not busy) before calling over a supervisor. Neither could figure out why the agent had not set up the ticket properly the day before. They attempted to book me on a non-stop flight to Philadelphia leaving four hours later, which still had two first class seats for sale, but were unable to and sheepishly encouraged me to call the 1K desk.
I did, and only waited for about a minute before being connected to a legacy United agent in Chicago. I handed the phone to the check-in supervisor, who hesitatingly (it must have been my face) accepted it. A moment later, though, she handed the phone back to me and I explained my predicament to the agent who acknowledged the agent error the previous day and placed me on hold to work on the reservation.
15 minutes later she returned—proudly proclaiming that she had placed me on the non-stop flight…in economy class. I explained to her that I was on a first class ticket, but she (politely) explained that because there was no saver award space available, she had to place me in economy class (full Y by the way…). But she quickly added that she had written a note in my reservation “guaranteeing” my upgrade and that I should ask one of check-in agents to call the gate and have them “manually clear the upgrade.”
Here’s where I made my mistake. I was leery and did not buy that I could not be re-booked directly into first class, but am still unfamiliar with SHARES. Consequently, I accepted her word and hung up.
I went back to the first agent I had dealt with, who pulled up my reservation again and grumbled that this agent also had not re-synced the ticket. I stood behind the counter watching her do it—it is not a terribly difficult thing to do. She acknowledged the note on the record about the upgrade, but being four hours before the flight, there was no one available yet to clear the upgrade.
Oh, if only that could have been all the drama. But there’s more. When I got the United Club I chatted up an old agent/friend (we commiserated about SHARES) and explained what had happened. She complained there is no “FFCC” list anymore, a “super-priority” upgrade list and that she did not know how to work upgrade priority in SHARES.
But with only eight people on the list and me number one, she told me not to worry and that she would call the gate an hour before my flight to ensure I got my upgrade.
Sadly, we both underestimated the dirty Continental trick that United has now adopted of selling upgrades on the cheap to non-elites at check-in. I don’t know how much they ended up paying, but about 1.5 hours before flight I refreshed the upgrade standby listed and noticed that first class suddenly went from being booked 6/8 to 8/8. The $109 upgrade strikes again!
Even if it was a $500 upgrade, there is something fundamentally wrong about a passenger being able to purchase an upgrade when someone like me, who actually purchased a first class ticket, was waitlisted for one. Prioritizing loyalty on a transactional basis continues to befuddle me, but this is not a complimentary elite upgrade we are talking about–award tickets are not upgrades. I just shake my head, knowing that if I had pushed harder or found the right agent from the start, I could have been re-booked directly into F and none of this would have happened.
I marched up to my friend at the United Club counter and she was just as befuddled and apologized profusely. Stuck with a middle seat in the back, I asked what type of compensation I might receive for my ordeal, wishing to weigh whether it was worth it to continue the fight or just give up and fly home.
She conferred with a colleague on how to issue compensation, but soon stated, “The system will not let me give you more than $50. You deserve a lot more—just log on to united.com/appreciation and you’ll get something better.” Not without a serial number, but I wasn’t going to argue with her.
But I also wasn’t going to take a five hour flight in a middle seat in the back of the plane. As flight time approached, I trekked over to the gate to see if there were any no-shows in first class, but the cabin had boarded full.
So I asked to be offloaded. It had become a matter of principle, and I was not going to travel home in economy class. I returned to the United Club to plot my routing home.
Let’s save Part III for tomorrow. To give you a hint, I learned that SHARES can be flexible and an agent most certainly can book you into a premium cabin during irr/ops. There was more drama too…stay tuned.
Can you explain what syncing is/does? What exactly is being synced?
Fozz can probably explain it better than I can, but I think of it as adding a flight to a reservation (like getting up to the final purchase screen when we buy a ticket), then failing to type in a confirm command line (hit purchase).
They used term “sync”, not me–but I think it means simply making sure what is reserved matches or is synced to what is actually ticketed.
How late in the day was it when you headed back to the United Club? Is the United Club open 24hours? Is United probably not going to give you a hotel room for the mixup?
Syncing is on the ticketing side of the house. So when a reservation is made, it needs to have a ticket issued and syncing does that. What is necessary with SHARES is that the two of these have to match before the system will print out boarding passes.
Now, what’s interesting is that once you have a reservation, the seats are blocked. So i’m very confused as to why they couldn’t just sync the reservation in the first place. (This may be an education issue). But I’ve had reservations which have existed out there for months without resyncing with no issue — even on sold out flights.
As for the upgrade list, the agent was wrong. There is a category for ‘Displaced First’ and this does indeed trump all the other people on the list. And I wouldn’t be so quick to blame the upgrade system for your lost upgrade. UA had it’s issues as well, I had a 1P jump over me in the middle of boarding on a flight back in Dec – all because he elected to use a CR1 at the last minute.
Matthew, did you receive mileage credit for whatever flight you ultimately flew, as it sounds you were rebooked in a revenue booking class? I ask because I’ve been rebooked into rev booking classes on award tickets twice since Mar 3, and in neither instance did I receive mileage credit.
@Dan–Yes, today I received mielage, booked into full F (meaning big COS bonus). A small compensation for what I had to go through, but appreciated nonetheless.
i’m a bit confused… i thought you’re traveling on an award ticket in this tale, but then you say:
” there is something fundamentally wrong about a passenger being able to purchase an upgrade when someone like me, who actually purchased a first class ticket, was waitlisted for one.”
Did you actually PURCHASE a first class ticket or were you on a first class award ticket? big difference
@jason: There is not a big difference–in fact, there should be no difference at all. I purchased a first class ticket–I booked directly into United First and paid for the ticket using miles. Yes, my booking code was “I” rather than “F”, but that should make no difference–UA was willing to sell me my ticket for either ~$1,600 or 25K miles and I chose to pay for it with miles. The mentality that using miles is somehow like upgrading is just wrong.
You are unbelievably pompous