June 26th, 2013
1. I drove my Father-in-law to the airport a few hours ago. Ticket prices between Kansas City and Cleveland are outrageously expensive for a short-haul flight, making the United 20K short-haul award a terrific value. While he was able to fly nonstop to Cleveland there were only connecting flights available for the return.
We noticed on the way to the airport thanks to the United app that his incoming flight had not yet left the ground (aircraft servicing) which meant his flight to Chicago would very likely be delayed as well even though it was still showing on time. I had him call United and ask to be accommodated on the nonstop flight to Kansas City due to the risk of misconnecting in Chicago. The agent cheerfully gave him the last seat on the flight which would get him home 2 hours earlier than his connecting flight was supposed to. The $75 confirmed standby fee was waived due to the incoming flight delay even though at the time his 2 hour connection time still would have been sufficient.
While in the United Club he overheard other passengers going to Kansas City via the same Chicago flight who were trying to get moved to the nonstop but could not due to the flight being full.
In the end his scheduled flight to Chicago arrived 2 hours late at 10:23pm and the last flight of the day from Chicago to Kansas City took off at 10:20pm. Not only did he not have to overnight in Chicago but he was able to save the 6 pound roast he was bringing home with him
Always check the incoming flight status and be proactive about asking to be accommodated on other flight options even before you get to the airport. If you strike out be sure to HUCA! If you don’t hear the answer you want Hang Up and Call Again! Sure, airport agents often have more leeway than phone agents. However there could be long lines at the airport during irregular operations and seats can sell out so just be persistent on the phone and insist on a supervisor or play HUCA if necessary.
2. On a similar note when my wife and I were dating some 5 years ago she wanted to book a flight to Cleveland. Last minute flights from Kansas City to Cleveland were running $800 but flights from Kansas City to Erie via Cleveland were $200.
A list of hidden city airports can be found on DDF. However we weren’t going to mess with hidden city tricks as Erie is just 90 minutes from Cleveland and if she missed the Cleveland-Erie flight she would lose her return trip. Plus the great Kansas City-Erie fare was only available as a round-trip purchase.
As soon as I noticed that her Kansas City-Cleveland flight was delayed I called Continental and had them drop the Cleveland-Erie flight from the ticket as we were no longer comfortable with the connection and she would just find her own way to get there. Of course as rental cars often need to be dropped off where they are rented they were happy to cancel the Erie-Cleveland return segment as well
3. Last week I was stuck on an American plane on the tarmac due to a LGA ground-hold. AA was unable to help me out over the phone so I went on United.com on my phone and grabbed the last 10K award seat on the next flight. Once I got off the plane I was able to get accommodated by an AA agent. Award tickets, like paid tickets, are refundable for everyone for 24 hours so it was a great way to have a backup plan in place just in case American wouldn’t be able to help me. If I didn’t have the 10K United miles a one-way ticket would have been $600…and that’s why I love my miles.
4. Last week a local Israeli friend of mine came to me with a sticky situation and needed to get to Israel ASAP. He had 60,000 miles in his account and called United at 4am to see what could be done. The agent was only able to find a 75K coach ticket leaving the nest day. So the agent then took the 60K business saver award ticket I had already help him book for Sukkos and charged him $75 and an additional 15K miles for the coach ticket.
When I went online I found a 60K business class ticket via Newark leaving in just a few hours. This often happens with United as they typically open up seats at the saver award level on the day of the flight.
Unfortunately someone else had already snatched up his Sukkos 60K Newark-Tel Aviv business award leaving him with just 45K miles in his account and a return trip from Israel after Sukkos for 60K in business.
I had United call me and walked them through the situation. The first agent couldn’t help me but after some HUCA and convincing them to patch me through to a manager I got them to speak to revenue management and open up his original business saver seat for Sukkos and switch his original itinerary back to that. By doing that he got an immediate refund of 15K miles and they agreed to refund the $75 he was charged. With the miles back he had 60K in his account and was able to fly right away to Israel via Newark on a 60K business saver award.
Even when things get messed up people have the power to fix them-it’s just a matter of finding them.
He has had some good luck though. He was in my house when the El Al deal came up and snagged a pair of $335 tickets to Israel. He also has cleared into business class saver awards twice when there were only coach saver award seats thanks to United Plan B award itineraries I have set up for him.
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