Thanks to shrewd planning and a watchful eye, I’ve dodged landmines and avoided most calamities in the post-merger world of United Airlines. Others have not fared so well. Will today be my day of reckoning?
I’m flying from Newark to Los Angeles this morning and applied a regional premier upgrade (RPU) to the reservation in order to secure a first class seat–forget about a complimentary upgrade on this route. Turns out there were no seats to assign–when I checked in online a boarding pass was generated that said “See Agent”. That’s not a good sign.
And note the electronic boarding pass does not even mention first class–
When all this transpired yesterday afternoon, I knew exactly what was going on. The first class cabin was oversold and I was one of the lucky ones confirmed in first class without a seat assignment. I was not ready to panic (though the thought of a 6.5 hour daytime flight in coach does make me panic) but I was curious…so I picked up the phone and called United, reaching the Chicago call center–
AGENT: United Airlines Premier line.
ME: Can you take a look at this record please * * * * * *?
AGENT: Okay, I’ve got it up.
ME: Take a look at UA1275 from Newark to LA.
ME: Notice I do not have a seat assignment.
AGENT: Hmm. Let’s see. [tapping away] They’ll have to give you your seat at the airport.
ME: Is the first class cabin oversold?
AGENT: The flight is not oversold.
ME: But is the first class cabin oversold?
AGENT: The flight is not full.
ME: Again, I know there is plenty of room in economy class but are there more than 24 passengers booked into United First?
ME: How many more?
AGENT: I can’t tell you.
ME: Thanks. Goodbye.
* * *
I called again and reached a different agent in Houston–
AGENT: Thanks for calling the Premier desk. How can I help?
ME: Hello. I’m calling about an existing reservation. I’ll give you the record locator when ready.
AGENT: Go ahead.
ME: * * * * * *
AGENT: Okay, Mr. Klint. I’ve got it. How can I help you?
ME: Take a look at the Newark – Los Angeles flight. Notice I don’t have a seat assignment and there are no seats available. That typically means the cabin is oversold. Is that the case on this flight?
AGENT: Hmm. Well, the government allows us to overbook.
ME: I’m aware of what the government allows–can you just confirm whether the cabin is overbooked?
AGENT: It is.
ME: Before I decide whether to change this flight, can you help me understand how many seats the cabin is oversold by?
ME: Is it booked to 25?
AGENT: That one.
AGENT: But there’s plenty of room in coach.
ME: Sure, but I don’t want to fly in coach and I won’t fly in coach.
AGENT: Well, usually the lowest ones on the totem pole lose their upgrades. You should be okay with your status.
ME: Or the ones without seat assignments…
ME: Ok. Let’s leave the reservation alone. I need to be on that flight.
AGENT: Ok sir. Good luck. Hopefully you’ll get to keep your upgrade.
* * *
Part of the reason I left the reservation untouched is because I want to be on the flight–it gets into LA at a good time, allowing me to avoid rush hour traffic. Also, there were no other viable first class options–I checked.
So now I’m in a state of limbo–am I worked up about nothing or will I find myself in a fight at the gate? I just love that the boarding pass fails to even indicate the cabin I am confirmed in. It’s like a perfect excuse for the gate agent to argue that I never had an upgrade in the first place…
I’ll soon find out.