One of my strategies when dealing with airlines, banks, or pretty much any customer service line is to HUCA, or Hang Up and Call Again until you get the answer you need.
Many times, agents are ill-informed, ill-trained, don’t have the proper tools, or just don’t want to go the extra mile to resolve your issue. The way around that is to HUCA.
United now offers support via SMS (just send a message to 32050) or via DM on Twitter. In addition to calling United, that means there are more ways to HUCA.
Here are just few recent examples where those have come in handy:
1. Last Wednesday I had a day trip booked to Newark, but United cancelled all of their flights from Cleveland to Newark in the aftermath of the snow storm in NYC.
I called United to rebook the trip for Thursday, which the agent did for free, but the agent said I couldn’t keep my upgrade. In the past I have been able to keep my upgrade when a flight was cancelled, so I messaged United on Twitter and they moved me back to first class.
Afterwards, United added a new flight from Cleveland to Newark on Wednesday. I messaged United on Twitter to get moved to it, but they said I would have to pay the fare difference of $1,321.
So I called United, and the agent spoke to me like I had mushrooms growing out of my head. There were no flights operating from Cleveland to Newark on Wednesday and whatever I saw on United.com was clearly not a United operated flight. She worked at United for over 20 years and would know how to find a flight if it actually existed! <click>
OK, time for the SMS route. This time the agent was able to locate the newly added flight sector, rebook me, and retain my first class upgrade.
I got a nice little scare when I arrived at the airport and it showed all the flights to Newark as cancelled, but my flight was never even added to the airport flights board. Go figure.
2. Last year, United introduced a customer friendly policy of allowing flights to be cancelled and refunded into an ETC (electronic travel certificate) that could be used by anyone for 2 years.
They removed the ability to request an ETC when cancelling a flight online, but I have had success getting an ETC via HUCA.
While phone agents and SMS agents have been a mixed bag, Twitter DM seems to work well. Sometimes I get the ETC right away and sometimes they say that it will submitted to the refunds department for approval and will have to wait for approval, but I’ve gotten it 100% of the time.
3. After our photo DO in an RV to the west coast in November I was booked to fly home from San Francisco to Cleveland via Los Angeles and Chicago. United’s nonstop flights from California to Cleveland have been suspended due to COVID.
I would have rather flown back via Newark for the lie-flat seat on the red-eye flight, but I wasn’t about to spend 75,000 miles via Los Angeles and Newark over 12,500 miles via Los Angeles and Chicago. While the Newark flight was available for 12,500 miles in coach, United doesn’t offer free premier upgrades on that route. I was upgraded on the flight home via Chicago, but wasn’t able to get switched to the Newark flight via any method of contacting United.
After arriving in LAX I went to the United Club and explained my desire and the agent there happily handed me boarding passes in lie-flat business class to Cleveland via Newark. I capped off the celebration with a phenomenal dinner at Tierra Sur during our 5 hour LA connection before returning for the red-eye to Newark.
Sometimes the best HUCAs happen in person and club agents are often angels!
4. I’ve long wanted to go to South Africa (I’ve been to 6 continents and crossed into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, but that isn’t technically part of Africa for me to claim to belong to the 7 continents club) and was excited in January 2020 when I nabbed 2 business saver awards for me and a friend to fly to Cape Town.
Here is what the 140K mile itinerary with an excursionist perk to Victoria Falls looked like. We were planning on additional flights to visit the Kruger National Park.
Alas, COVID hit and United cancelled those flights.
I had no luck getting rebooked over the phone or Twitter, but United SMS took care of us after some negotiation. Here’s a peek into how that worked out:
In short, explain the situation and your desired outcome, be empathetic, and ask for a manager if you need to.
In the end, United wound up cancelling their Cape Town flights for the season, but I was able to get accommodated for this fall. That took a phone call, as SMS shot me down the next time. You just never know which avenue will work out best. We’ll have to wait and see if the trip will actually happen.
What have you HUCA’d for recently and did you try using multiple points of contact to get it done?