Huge United/Swiss mistake: looking for advice

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by bilspacecadet, Jul 1, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. bilspacecadet

    bilspacecadet Silver Member

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    First of all, thanks for reading and let me know if I should try posting this in a different forum. Yesterday, I (and my wife and daughter) were in Rome, where we had a flight to Zurich on Swiss. It was an award ticket, booked through United. I have confirmation numbers for the tickets and miles from my MileagePlus account had been deducted, and the fees had been paid for, etc.

    You can see where this is going.

    At the Swiss check-in, they say no tickets exist. After a lot of going around and around, best we can figure is that United "made the reservation" but Swiss didn't accept it or needed some info from United and never got it, and ultimately Swiss cancelled it.

    We HAD to get to Zurich. After a few calls with MileagePlus and dropped connections, long hold times, etc., we gave up and purchased the seats.

    Here's the question: what's my recourse?

    United took my miles, charged me for the taxes/fees, and gave me an itinerary. They've obviously messed up, hugely.

    When I get back to the US and yell at them, what should I be looking for? I suspect what I want--have Swiss refund the charge and allow the original award travel to stand--ain't gonna happen.

    Will they offer anything? Will they stonewall? Has anyone had a similar experience?

    Any advice as I embark upon what might be a fruitless journey is greatly appreciated.
     
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  2. mrpickles
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    mrpickles Silver Member

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    Write a demand letter to United for the amount of the Swiss tickets, send by certified mail return receipt requested. In the letter give them 14 days to refund you the amount that they caused you to be damaged by. On the 15th day file in small claims court for the amount of the tickets. Bring proof of payment to court of the amount you paid Swiss with copies of the boarding passes and receipt. Bring also copies of the United reservation, email confirmation if you have one, and proof of the miles being deducted. Tell it to the judge, you should get a judgement and then send a marshall to the ticket counter to collect the payment from customers as they pay in cash for new tickets.
     
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  3. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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    Before your trip did you double check your United reservations page? I assume you did and the tickets were there. That being the case, You will obviously win in small claims court. United has absolutely no leg to stand on.
     
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  4. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    This is something that happened to me and it was a frequent problem with PMUA in which they would make an award reservation on another *A carrier, send the passenger a confirmation number, but never bother to actually ticket the reservation. When a reservation goes for a given period of time without being ticketed, it just gets dropped from the A* carrier's computer. The result is what just happened here.

    In my case, I had redeemed miles through UA to travel from PVG to HKG on FM (Shanghai Airlines), which was still a *A member or partner at that time. I arrived at the airport and presented a hard copy of my reservation, but the FM desk agent could not find a corresponding ticket in his system. He told me that he could see the reservation but that UA never ticketed it. In some way I was luckier because the reservation did not just get dropped altogether. To resolve the issue, the agent told me that if I would agree to pay $100, he would be able to issue me a ticket right away. It was, of course, a no-brainer and I agreed. While still in PVG, I called UA CSR and related what had just happened, and without a fuss, they agreed to give me credit for the $100 that I had to pay to have FM ticket the reservation.

    My sense is that UA will agree to refund you for any extra expenses, especially if you have the proof that they had made the award reservation and taken the miles out of your account for it.

    The moral of the story is that one must always check with UA to ensure, before embarking on an award trip, that the award reservation had been ticketed.
     
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  5. aptraveler

    aptraveler Gold Member

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    Before I were to proceed with any letter writing and paying the filing fees of the court; I would certainly contact United's Mileage Plus desk and request to speak with a supervisor. They should have the documentation on what they did with the miles deducted from your account and where they went. I would explain the facts of the case and how it negatively affected your trip. I would emphasize the surprised you felt and the frustration you experienced in dealing with the representative of SWISS at the airport. How s/he would not budge on the issue and how you ended up having to buy new tickets due the time constrain you had. I would certainly NOT yell at anyone regarding this matter, regardless of the fact that your European trip was dramatically affected by this whole mess. If United does not accommodate your refund request AND compensate for the inconvenience you endured, I would then take them to court! Document everything and try to get the names of everyone or anyone you speak with or have encountered in relation to this matter. It can be done, I had a similar situation and with all the evidence I presented, it got resolved. Good luck! ;)
     
  6. Lufthansa Flyer
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    Lufthansa Flyer Gold Member

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    I dont think your way is going to work.....A marshall will not be able to collect any cash from any united ticket counter. I'm hoping you were being sarcastic!
     
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  7. Lufthansa Flyer
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    Lufthansa Flyer Gold Member

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    Dont worry about the court stuff. If you have proof that UA took your miles and you have your itinerary UA will be reasonable and make you whole. The only thing that I think may be something to confirm is did swiss change flight numbers, etc on the flight you originally had on them? that doesn't avoid UA's liability but sometimes can screw up a reservation. I had an swiss F ticket get canceled because they stopped flying a certain route on a certain day. It was part of a larger UA issued award itinerary and I only found out when I logged into Swiss.com to see my booking code as being invalid. Lesson to learn: next time you book on *A partners make sure you get the operating carriers PNR code for your itinerary so you can check directly with the airline you are flying. The UA PNR only works on UA.com but having the PNR's for the other airlines lets you deal with your itinerary directly with them.
     
  8. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    It's all excellent advice for US - granted terms such as marshall or specific garnishment methods would vary based on the state (not that you would likely need to do this). Calling United while certainly might get you an apology certificate would still lead you to sending in your receipts for reimbursement. CMRR is a great way to get attention.
     
  9. Interestingly enough I had the same situation in reverse. I got an Aeroplan reward on BMI just days before they officially left *A on May31 with the trip to happen in June. It was to CMN and fit my plans perfectly as I had to be in LHR on the way and they were the only *A carrier I could take ex LHR unless I wanted to take two flights with TAP. I had the return flight yesterday and while thye were busy charging all sorts of people for additional baggage my bags which were overweight by BA standards were not even weighed when she checked the ticket origin. Boarding pass was issued with same seat number and all went swimingly well.

    Important fact. I did call and verify the reservation with BMI a couple of days prior to starting their leg of the trip in LHR and they had everything down pat. I must admit I was surprised it all turned out so well as BMI is now on the BA system and no longer able to "talk" to the AC system who were the original ticket issuer.
     
  10. craz
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    craz Silver Member

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    I dont get it, if say the tkt was JFK-IAD-FCO-ZRH-IAD or JFK-IAD-FCO ZRH-IAD it would be the same amount of miles needed for either Itin. So by the OP showing taht UA took the miles from their acct doesnt prove anything in regards to the FCO-ZRH segment. While had it been say JFK-IAD (stopover)-LAX-JFK for 35K instead of the usual 25k and is coded as such that is proof that at least the person paid more miles for the stop

    where UA goes with it is anyones guess. Ive tried booking 1 ways in Europe before an dended up always booking a r/t since it was alot cheaper then purchasing the 1 way. If the tkts were purchased at the counter in some States that would make the amount over what the max is for a Small Claims Court
     
  11. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Do we know that that's what the ticket routing was? (vs just FCO-ZRH)?
     
  12. Gary Steiger
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    Gary Steiger Silver Member

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    For future reference: Whenever I make an award reservation for a partner airline flight, I always get the confirm number of the carrier on which I will be flying. In your case, that would be Swiss. The booking airline can always give you that number - it is different than the confirm number of your booking airline reservation (in your case, United). Then I always check to be sure that the carrier on which I will be flying has my reservation (on their website, or by calling them), and then regularly check online at the carrier's website to look for changes or cancellations. I never rely on the booking airline to keep me posted on these.
     
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  13. milchap
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    milchap Gold Member

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    Keep us posted please.
     
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  14. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    There are two separate things. The other carrier can have and show your reservation in their system, but the important thing is that UA must ticket the reservation or it will be no good at travel time, and I suspect that what happened to the OP is that UA never ticketed the reservation on SWISS.

    In PMUA, the PNRs for the carriers on which award travel was redeemed used to automatically be part of the reservation for that booking in one's UA account. I have not booked award trips since the merger to know how things have changed...
     
  15. bilspacecadet

    bilspacecadet Silver Member

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    Wow, everybody--thanks for all the replies and advice. I'm just back from exploring Zurich and haven't had time to go through all of the comments, but I will, and I'll respond to the questions and points made.
     
  16. loudnotes

    loudnotes Silver Member

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    bilspacecadet, I had a similar problem last month with an AA award ticket on an EK flight ticketed by RJ (long story). We were similarly making international phone calls from Nairobi when EK found a reservation but no paid ticket because of an RJ systems error. We ended up paying for the tickets on EK, and my first inclination was to go to them for a refund. If your situation is similar to mine you won't get anywhere that way, since the airline you paid and carried you feels they've fulfilled their obligation. You need to go to the airline that made the mistake, in this case United. In my case, an AA supervisor gave us some token e-voucher compensation for the inconvenience, but the ticket was RJ's so we're after them for real recompense. IMO you deserve a full refund of the cash payment, NOT the miles for the trip.

    So far we're still waiting, and I'm seriously considering small claims court as described above if my efforts don't bear fruit. I would recommend you do the same with United, but be patient and keep your documentation. It may well take more than 15 days!
     
  17. Mapsmith
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    Mapsmith Gold Member

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    Also, check your return has not been cancelled because 'You did not show up for the FCO-ZRH" Flight that United had booked for you. Even if they didn't ticket it, it might be in that never-never land called United's Computer Files. If they say you did not show up they might cancel the rest of the reservation.

    Better safe than sorry.
     
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  18. Jenny & Curt
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    Jenny & Curt Gold Member

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    Had a similar situation I posted about happen with BA Avios mile award ticket for travel on LAN. It was the final leg of a multi-muti-leg and 6 week itinerary (thanks, BA VISA card!), and BA had reserved but not ticketed the flight. Looked fine on BA and fine on LAN's website. BA even claimed I should have known because I had changed the itinerary and they had failed to charge me the change fee. I am sorry that in planning such a long trip I did not babysit this aspect of my itinerary, but, really?? In any case, bless the hearts of all at LAN, they had not cancelled the booking, and BA was able to charge my card and ticket it on the day before departure. It was a great trip, but a harrowing final day (Easter Sunday, no less) in Cusco!
     
  19. bilspacecadet

    bilspacecadet Silver Member

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    So I've read through all the replies (again, thanks) and I've got a bit of more info to add to clarify/answer:

    The ticket was the only flight on the itinerary, one way FCO-ZRH (the rest of the vacation was SkyTeam, and the KLM/Alitalia flight went off without a hitch), so when miles are deducted and credit cards charged for fees, that's why I assumed there was, y'know, a ticket waiting for me, somewhere.

    I absolutely agree that, in retrospect, I should have double checked with Swiss; however, I kind of feel that I shouldn't have to. United says, "thanks, we've taken your miles, given you an itinerary, charged you fees and taxes, but the rest is up to you to see if there's actually a ticket"--seems, well, wrong.

    Yes, I have a PDF of the itinerary and confirmation for all three tickets printed the day before we left Los Angeles. The three were recognized by United up to the point we left the country. No one ever called or emailed to warn us the tickets were not issued.

    I'm going to go through United directly at first before trying a legal remedy. I'll keep y'all posted. Again, thanks for the advice.
     
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  20. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    UA has been known to drop LX reservations. It's happened to me, but fortunately I caught it, the space was still available, and the reservation stuck. Well, it stuck after the fifth phone call. :)
     
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  21. bilspacecadet

    bilspacecadet Silver Member

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    Nothing to report yet, as I'm still travelling through Germany with family. I've emailed MileagePlus to try to get my ducks in a row--all they've said is:

    "Regrettably, we at MileagePlus, do not have access to customer's reservations or flight information. Please call our United Reservations at 800-864-8331 to verify the transaction. "

    So that's encouraging.
     
  22. SFOPeter
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    SFOPeter Silver Member

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    This is a valuable lesson that many of us have learned the hard way. Always, always check with third party carriers to make sure everything is a-ok. Thanks for posting.
     
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  23. Phudnik
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    Phudnik Gold Member

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    The UA website does show the PNR on other carriers for partner awards, but it's not easy to find; you have to click on some small print saying something to the effect of " partner confirmation number" under the UA PNR on the reservation page.
     
  24. redtailshark

    redtailshark Silver Member

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    IME, it often doesn't generate a partner confirmation for LH.
     
  25. colpuck
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    colpuck Gold Member

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    well from a contract point-of-view. you are entitled to the difference between what you purchased and what you got. So you should get your miles and taxes-and fees back plus difference between what those taxes and fees are and the total cost of the replacement ticket.

    I.E. if you paid 20k miles +100.00 and the replacement ticker was 500.00 you should get 20k miles and 500.00.
     
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