After what was perhaps the best summer of my life, I have left Germany and returned to Philadelphia. The one upside to being back in Philadelphia is that my domestic travel has now resumed, and that is something I enjoy and look forward to. Although I intended to give American Airlines a real chance this autumn, United has really impressed me lately and I am finding it increasingly difficult to leave my “first love.”
Last Wednesday my brother and I flew home from Germany together on US Airways. We were both on bmi award tickets and the plan was to stay overnight in Philadelphia, then fly home to Los Angeles the following afternoon. But when we finally landed in Philadelphia, we were both tired, had little desire to go into Philadelphia, and were ready to get back to Los Angeles.
I whipped out my mobile phone as soon we landed to see if I could find a routing to get us home in “I” class (saver business class). Once in the 24-hour window before departure, United can take over the ticket and make changes. Earlier in the day there had been I space via Houston, but that had disappeared during the flight across the pond. The only thing left was the late flight from Washington to Los Angeles, showing I7.
But there was a problem. The United Express flight down to Washington Dulles not only had zero award seats, it was zeroed out–a 50-seat aircraft oversold by five. Most would have given up, but I did not. Having lived in Philadelphia off and on since 2009, I know both the United and ex-Continental staff there pretty well, and two wonderful agents happened to be working the premier line that afternoon.
Either one would have helped, but I got a legacy United one who just went out of her way–taking about 20 minutes of “fighting” with SHARES–to find a way around the problem of the first segment. Think of the factors I had working against me: traveling on an award tickets issued by another airline that is no longer part of Star Alliance and trying to get on a sold-out flight a day early.
Most agents would have said “forget it” but this one not only agreed to help, but was happy to help, and determined to find a solution. And somehow she found one. We were waitlisted for the flight to Washington and eventually cleared the flight. Upon reaching Washington Dulles, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the Lufthansa Lounge at IAD before boarding the late flight to Los Angeles in first class and sleeping from takeoff to touchdown.
I stress again: the agent could have said no, and I would have had no right to complain. But she went above and beyond for my brother (who has no status) and me and I cannot tell you how good that made me feel as a customer. It is always the little things that make a difference.
The sad thing is I feel afraid to name this agent, because she did bend the rules to get us home–but she demonstrated why “rules should never overrule.” Two flights that would have gone out with open seats went out with us and a Philadelphia-Houston and Houston-Los Angeles flight the next day suddenly had two additional first class seats available.
And this has been my experience with United the last week or so. Great telephone calls with the 1K desk and electronic support folks. My upgrade cleared on my flight back to Philadelphia last night, with only eight seats in first class. The purser was outstanding on the flight.
I need to fly back west this weekend and my transcon upgrade to San Francisco has already cleared–something that rarely happened pre-merger.
The lack of internet onboard is bothersome, but I have been so pleased with Untied of late that I cannot see myself doing much travel on American this fall. Star Alliance/United miles are much more valuable in Europe (as are oneworld partner BA miles) and I simply see no reason to re-qualify for ExPlat if I will be back in Germany next year. 1K status will be hard enough to re-qualify for.
United: thanks–you’ve really come through for me this week.