I made about 12 calls to United yesterday evening and finally found an ORD agent willing to do a manual booking. As expected, NZ confirmed the seat immediately and it looked like I was good to go. The flight even showed up on my reservation:
But the new taxes didn’t come up and the agent had to call the rate desk. She came back a few minutes later and said that she should not have done the manual booking and had a supervisor on hold for me.
The supervisor was rude–our conversation went like this:
SUPERVISOR: This is Mrs. XXXXX in Chicago. How can I help you?
ME: Ma’am, I need to get to London and Air New Zealand is the only Star carrier offering award seats in Business Class that day. Furthermore, the flight time is ideal, it is a non-stop flight, and I can see the flight is already confirmed on My Itineraries.
SUPERVISOR: Sorry sir. The agent broke the rules in booking that flight. Air New Zealand has not made that flight available to United.
ME: Then why was the agent able to book it for me using UA miles?
SUPERVISOR: She did not do it in the correct way. Air New Zealand will charge us the full fare for the flight because we booked it incorrectly.
ME (with a chuckle): Of course they won’t.
SUPERVISOR (angry): Oh, do you work for United accounting sir?
ME: No, but I’ve chatted with Graham Atkinson about the subject of StarNet blocking and know that Air New Zealand had gladly made award space open to all Star carriers, including United. Do you know Graham Atkinson?
SUPERVISOR: Yes, I’ve heard of him and I don’t care who you know. If he’s your buddy, why don’t you go complain to him?
ME: Ah, come on. What do you think about StarNet blocking?
SUPERVISOR: I don’t want to discuss it with you. Is there anything else I can do for you sir?
ME: Do you think it was wrong for me to try to book the NZ flight?
SUPERVISOR: You’re clearly trying to game the system by having agents do favors for you.
ME: Alright, I’ll leave the flight the flights the way they are.
SUPERVISOR: Ok. Goodbye.
The NZ flight was removed from my reservation–though I do have a screenshot and printout of the reservation with the NZ flight in it.
I called back and got another rude agent–he said "what are you trying to pull?" and read me the comments in my reservation–which said (in caps) MUST USE STARNET SYSTEM TO BOOK AIR NEW ZEALAND FLIGHTS. NO MANUAL BOOKINGS. Who knows what else it says after my 12 calls today?
So, it looks like I’m out of luck–with this reservation at least.
It seems like you have to find an agent who 1.) is willing to do a manual booking and 2.) knows hows to fix tax problems without calling another desk.
#2 may be impossible.
I am out of time–the phone calls took a big chunk from my day yesterday and I just do not have time to "fight" the system. One of these day I will get in NZ C, but I guess I’ll have to settle for other Star carriers for now.
It hurts though, to have something, then lose it…