Multiple Avenues Of Contacting United Means It’s Easier Than Ever To Play HUCA

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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?

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25 Comments On "Multiple Avenues Of Contacting United Means It’s Easier Than Ever To Play HUCA"

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Glushtygiz

Im still waiting for them to deposit miles for a flight that they cancelled. they refuse to do it. Very strange. Was 150k miles I tried huca

Harry

Did HUCA with the ETC. Took a while but now it seems all agents finally are up to date

Shia

it doesn’t always work though.

I have tried for months to get a retention offer on my amex Marriott, chat, calling, supervisor. Nada

El Capitan

Is this a possibility for plan B awards as well? Or do I need to specifically phone in for those? Also can a gate agent book those as you said they tend to be the best…

Bonnie

I used to work for United. Unless it has changed, when you ask to speak to a supervisor, it is just another agent who is assigned to take these calls for the day. They have been selected because they are good reservation sales representatives. Sometimes they can help, but their authority is limited.

Fjdo

Stayed at a Marriott recently and when we arrived back home, I saw the Amex Marriott offer was posted to a different cc. Called hotel to ask them to switch charge to a different card. They said they can only do that if I physically bring in the card (Was across the country so not possible) Called next day, spoke to different agent and refunded cc and charged diff one.

Dr Moose

Okay, Karen.

Chaim

Since your pointing this out, one of threat think about iPhones is the recently added ability to text most businesses including airlines,hotels, Verizon etc.
Most in app chat are pretty bad, you get cutoff or the notifications aren’t consistent but with regular iMessage you can continue with whatever your doing while messaging customer service.

The only company that I m still wait to integrate the feature is Hyatt

Chaim

*Great things

Sammy

I had an interesting troubling experience with United recently, we flew CUN-EWR flight 1051 upon arrival in Newark airport as we went through CBP they stopped my wife and had her escorted to a private room they did not allow her to bring along our 4 month old baby, the agent did not say why they needed to question her, they did not allow any cell phone use in the room and they made her wait a while then finally someone asked her a bunch of questions at the end they told her the reason this all transpired was because the airline never put her on the flight manifest and that raised an alarm!
in addition they told her that the airline will get a fine for this mistake.

Has anyone heard of such a story happening ? I tried contacting united but they didn’t seem to care at all….

Yitz

“She worked at United for over 20 years and would know how to find a flight if it actually existed!”
My blood pressure is rising just reading this. Dont you wanna grab the mouse from some of these agents and educate them sometimes…

Mendy

When you’re blood pressure is rising, that’s the time to HU, calm down, and when you feel ready CA

Dave

Look at it this way. She had been in the same position for 20 years, without any advancement, or huge promotion to a manager role. Shes satisfied with her 2% merit increase each year. That tells you something.

ChapsTheMatzav

Dan, do you say goodbye when you hang up?

Nechama

I was told I can only use the travel certificate for a year from when the flight was booked . Can I get that changed at this point ? How ?

PS

I have a flight TLV-EWR and wanted to move it to a few days earlier but when I called they said I’d hv to pay an extra $270. So I did HUCA and when he mentioned that I’d have to pay extra I told him, “You know [John] I’m a long time United customer and I know that you’d be able to help me so can you waive the fee just this time”. He put me on hold for a minute and then came back and did it for me no problem!

Menashe

On a trip to STT this past Dec/Jan, I got five tickets there on United using Turkish miles. On the return, no mileage tickets, paid flights at $900+, I got three on Delta (paid) into JFK and two on United via SJU – but they had lie flat business upgrades for only ~$150 so got two business class tickets STT-SJU-EWR for about $900 all in.

On the morning of our flights, I saw that the United nonstop into Newark had six open seats, that United was selling for around $90 each. I decided that at least for the three Delta tickets, I would definitely cancel them for a credit and pay to get into Newark. That was a straightforward call to Delta and an online booking with United. Unfortunately, they did not allow me to change the two already booked through the website or the app.

I called, agent #1 said she couldn’t see the new flights as a choice and said there was nothing she could do. HUCA, told agent right upfront that I wanted to cancel and rebook if she couldn’t just change the flights, she said she could do change the flight, and we’d get the business class upgrade refunded, but no fare difference refund. While she put me on hold, I got disconnected. Called back and the third agent found the change in process, ticketed the new itinerary and offered the business class upgrade refund along with the fare difference refunded as an ETC. Went from ~$240×3 on Delta and ~$450×2 on United with a layover to five nonstop tickets for a combined total of $450 and full refunds or credits from the original tickets. Win!

Delta originally told me that they could only give me their credits for a year from when the ticket was originally booked, but when I pressed, they got a manager to agree to denote the account and allow it to be extended to the end of the year if I could not use them by May. I took it, figured I’d call back in a week, but before I had a chance to do that, I saw that they automatically extended the credits without me calling back. I’ve since used the Delta credits for a planned flight to NAS in October.

All in all, we went from having two sets of flights planned to two different airports to one nonstop flight to our preferred airport for a lot less and got the entire fare difference back either as a cash refund or a credit.

Anon

Hi Dan, I have American Airlines tickets to Japan next month that I don’t think I’ll be able to use because Japan still isn’t allowing tourists. These were the $200 per person RT ones you alerted. Do you think it might be possible to reschedule without having to pay a fare difference? Would you recommend HUCA or is that pie in the sky? Any advice? Thank you.

walter

great post Dan, you know, now more than ever right?

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