Considering I book multiple awards per week, mostly from US carriers, I have become intimately acquainted with award routing rules on the legacy carriers like United, Delta, American, and US Airways. You would not believe how often the agents misquote or make up rules and last night was a prime example.
I was booking a honeymoon trip for a couple to Bali and they wanted a stopover and an open jaw on the way back, in addition to their destination. They had United miles and after finding availability, I called United to reserve the tickets. No problem–everything was put on hold and I sent the reservation over to the clients so they could look it over.
They promptly gave me the green light and I called back United to complete the ticketing. I reached the Global Services desk in Dearborn, Michigan where an agent, sounding pleasant enough, greeted me. I provided her the reference number for the reservation and asked her to issue the tickets. Our conversation then went like this:
AGENT: Hey, this itinerary isn’t right. Hold on.
ME: What’s wrong with it?
[It was too late, I was already on hold and listening to Rhapsody in Blue]
AGENT: Yup. This is invalid routing. You can’t have a stopover or an open jaw on an award.
ME: What? First off, traditionally you have been able to have either a stopover or an open jaw on award, but not both. Since earlier this year, however, as the Continental OnePass and United Mileage Plus programs have begun to align, you are allowed both a stopover and open jaw on an award booking between regions.
AGENT: No, you are not allowed any stopovers. We have to price those as new tickets.
ME: Ma’am, you are wrong. Pull up your S*MPI/STAR ALLIANCE AWARD profile and you will see that I am correct.
AGENT: I have that in front of me.
ME: Good, let’s read it together.
[I read the pertinent part to her]
AGENT: No, you cannot have the stopover.
ME: Can you please check with your support desk?
AGENT (sighing): Fine.
[I am on hold for another 10 minutes]
AGENT: Oh, you’re really going to hate me now. Your routing is invalid is well.
ME: What do you mean? You are allowed to exceed the MPM by up to 15% and I only exceed it by 12%.
AGENT: We are gong to have to change the routing.
ME: Okay, thanks. Goodbye. *click*
What’s the point of dealing with agents like that? I called back and got Dearborn again:
AGENT (right away): Oh, that itinerary looks funny. I don’t think your routing is valid.
[She spends a couple minutes looking at it]
AGENT: Hmm, someone’s red flagged this itinerary–it’s probably because of this bad routing–you have too many stops and you cannot have that gap betwen cities.
ME: Look at your profile. I am allowed a stopover, destination, and open jaw.
AGENT: Okay, hold on.
[She places me on hold for ten minutes]
AGENT: Well, you were right about the routing.
Honestly, when it comes to routing rules, the Philippines and Indian call centers are more well-versed than United’s supposedly best agents in Dearborn. It is beyond sad that United agents are unfamiliar with rules that went into effect months ago, and even worse that the first agent (whose name I should have asked for) refused to budge even when confronted with the rules.
I got the routing I wanted in the end (a perfectly legal routing according the rules), but it was a painful process and an ordeal that should never have happened.