As I mentioned in Part I, when I reached SFO Saturday morning to check in for my trip to Philadelphia via Chicago, the agent could not find my ticket. I had been re-booked by a legacy Continental agent the night before during irr/ops and deliberately or not, she had not synced the new reservation—a necessary step in SHARES.
I recited my record locator to the SFO check-in agent and she pulled up my reservation, then motioned for me to walk behind the counter so I could see her screen (gotta love that—I did not even have to ask).
AGENT: See, your flights are here (pointing ot the top half of the screen) but they should be here (pointing to the bottom half of the screen).
She tried to rebook me on the flights, but now only 45 minutes before departure, not only was first class zeroed out, but economy class was as well. She tried poking around in SHARES herself for a few minutes (thankfully the counter was not busy) before calling over a supervisor. Neither could figure out why the agent had not set up the ticket properly the day before. They attempted to book me on a non-stop flight to Philadelphia leaving four hours later, which still had two first class seats for sale, but were unable to and sheepishly encouraged me to call the 1K desk.
I did, and only waited for about a minute before being connected to a legacy United agent in Chicago. I handed the phone to the check-in supervisor, who hesitatingly (it must have been my face) accepted it. A moment later, though, she handed the phone back to me and I explained my predicament to the agent who acknowledged the agent error the previous day and placed me on hold to work on the reservation.
15 minutes later she returned—proudly proclaiming that she had placed me on the non-stop flight…in economy class. I explained to her that I was on a first class ticket, but she (politely) explained that because there was no saver award space available, she had to place me in economy class (full Y by the way…). But she quickly added that she had written a note in my reservation “guaranteeing” my upgrade and that I should ask one of check-in agents to call the gate and have them “manually clear the upgrade.”
Here’s where I made my mistake. I was leery and did not buy that I could not be re-booked directly into first class, but am still unfamiliar with SHARES. Consequently, I accepted her word and hung up.
I went back to the first agent I had dealt with, who pulled up my reservation again and grumbled that this agent also had not re-synced the ticket. I stood behind the counter watching her do it—it is not a terribly difficult thing to do. She acknowledged the note on the record about the upgrade, but being four hours before the flight, there was no one available yet to clear the upgrade.
Oh, if only that could have been all the drama. But there’s more. When I got the United Club I chatted up an old agent/friend (we commiserated about SHARES) and explained what had happened. She complained there is no “FFCC” list anymore, a “super-priority” upgrade list and that she did not know how to work upgrade priority in SHARES.
But with only eight people on the list and me number one, she told me not to worry and that she would call the gate an hour before my flight to ensure I got my upgrade.
Sadly, we both underestimated the dirty Continental trick that United has now adopted of selling upgrades on the cheap to non-elites at check-in. I don’t know how much they ended up paying, but about 1.5 hours before flight I refreshed the upgrade standby listed and noticed that first class suddenly went from being booked 6/8 to 8/8. The $109 upgrade strikes again!
Even if it was a $500 upgrade, there is something fundamentally wrong about a passenger being able to purchase an upgrade when someone like me, who actually purchased a first class ticket, was waitlisted for one. Prioritizing loyalty on a transactional basis continues to befuddle me, but this is not a complimentary elite upgrade we are talking about–award tickets are not upgrades. I just shake my head, knowing that if I had pushed harder or found the right agent from the start, I could have been re-booked directly into F and none of this would have happened.
I marched up to my friend at the United Club counter and she was just as befuddled and apologized profusely. Stuck with a middle seat in the back, I asked what type of compensation I might receive for my ordeal, wishing to weigh whether it was worth it to continue the fight or just give up and fly home.
She conferred with a colleague on how to issue compensation, but soon stated, “The system will not let me give you more than $50. You deserve a lot more—just log on to united.com/appreciation and you’ll get something better.” Not without a serial number, but I wasn’t going to argue with her.
But I also wasn’t going to take a five hour flight in a middle seat in the back of the plane. As flight time approached, I trekked over to the gate to see if there were any no-shows in first class, but the cabin had boarded full.
So I asked to be offloaded. It had become a matter of principle, and I was not going to travel home in economy class. I returned to the United Club to plot my routing home.
Let’s save Part III for tomorrow. To give you a hint, I learned that SHARES can be flexible and an agent most certainly can book you into a premium cabin during irr/ops. There was more drama too…stay tuned.