Unresolved Paid Upgrade Confusion

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by KenInEscazu, Nov 17, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I sometimes travel with my 86 year old father. He lives with me in Costa Rica, but sometimes likes to go home to Texas.

    Having dementia, he spent all of his savings, so his Social Security check and I support him. His old bones don't work too well, and his brain can't always get the message to his limbs that they need to move one way or the other. In other words, he is in need of a Business First seat to be comfortable, but he can't afford it. I don't mind pitching in for it, and in fact always have. But...

    We are headed to Dallas next week, but have the most strange situation I have ever seen with regard to his upgrade. I bought our coach tickets on one online purchase. The upgrade was $281 per passenger in each direction. I wanted to spread out the cost, so I bought him an outbound upgrade at $281, and planned to buy his return upgrade a week or so later. When I went back to do so, his return upgrade had changed from $281 to $451. Mine still shows $281, but I don't want one for me, as I have never failed to get an upgrade on this route.

    I called the Elite desk, and they say that both figures are correct. We are both traveling on the same fare class. I thought they were mistaken, so I waited a few days and called back. Same answer. I have since spoken to two ticket agents in person (one at DEN and one at IAH) who tell me that it makes no sense. Both of us should have the same rate on an upgrade.

    I could (and may have to) buy my upgrade for $281 and let him use it, but that means that we will be separated in flight, as he is not Elite, and I separated the tickets so I could buy his upgrade and still get my comp. Sitting in coach won't kill me, but he may suffer some dementia-related confusion without my guidance. There is always the option of using miles, but I hate to do so. A Business First ticket costs 30,000 miles one way if booked in advance, and they want 25,000 for this upgrade. That just burns me up. Before the merger "improvements" it was always 15,000 miles for an upgrade on this route.

    If the pricing were not so obviously wrong, then I would do what I have to do to resolve this. With it so painfully clear that the price is wrong, however, I want to be sure that there is no way to fix it before I step up and overpay - be it with miles or money - for his return upgrade.

    Sorry for the rant. Has anyone else ever dealt with such an issue and achieved a satisfactory solution?
     
  2. snod08
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    snod08 Gold Member

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    Very kind of you to make sure your father is comfortable in his life.

    Could you please post the fare classes for each way for both your tickets? There could be something related to the fare class which is changing the upgrade fare from 281 to 451.

    I presume you are "buying up" to the front cabin (as opposed to a miles plus/minus Copay?
     
  3. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Sounds like you are elite and he isn't which explains why the buy-up rates are different. You get upgrades out of Y or B fares (or M if you are a Platinum) while he likely has to buy up to Z as a non-elite.
     
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  4. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    We are on "L" class fares. The thought crossed my mind that my status could have something to do with it, but all 4 CO employees (2 on the phone and 2 in person) confirmed that lower cost upgrades are not an Elite benefit. At least not in this case.

    The Elite desk says that "buying up" on his outbound caused his return buy up rate to increase. Huh??? It was $281 in both directions when I bought the tickets. I bought him an upgrade in one direction, and it was still $281 in the other. A week later, his changed to $450 and mine is still $281 on the return with no availability on the outbound.

    I like bargains, but I'm not a tightwad. If I could find the logic in this, I'd just buy it and move on. I simply don't think it is correct, and I sure don't want to spend the money if it isn't absolutely necessary.
     
  5. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Buying up absolutely depends on status. Elites can buy to B or Y fares while non-elites have to buy to a Z fare.

    If you were on the same PNR before and it split with the original buy-up then it is possible that the system was seeing you both as elite and now it is not.

    The published L fares vary between $4-500 on SJO-DFW. The ~$281 buy-up seems to match the difference to the M fare that is published at ~$1050-1100. There are a variety of Z fares out there (some are cheaper than the M!) but I'm guessing that the one you're getting for your father is higher.

    If you call in again ask the agent the specific fare basis that you're being asked to buy up to in both cases. That should clear it up pretty quickly.
     
  6. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I ended up paying the $450 for his return upgrade. After having done so, I tried to change my seat to an exit row. It wouldn't take. I phoned the Elite desk, and they tried to change it. Same result, but they promised to at least restore my original seats that they moved during the process of trying to "fix" my problem. Not wanting to keep me holding, they said they would handle it. They didn't.

    My original seats were lost, and I still couldn't move to an exit row, so I called again. The woman who took my call figured out the problem. When I originally booked the trip with my dad and I on one reservation, the system blocked us from the exit rows. This is because he needs wheelchair assistance, so it's a programming thing to keep someone from accidentally choosing a seat they can't use. I get that, but she said that even though I had split up the tickets and paid for him to upgrade, the system still had us connected, so I couldn't pick an exit row until I got to the airport.

    She also added that it was a moot point, as I was "obviously going to get an upgrade." I questioned her positive attitude, and she laughed. "Are you serious? The capacity is 24 and only 16 are booked. You're five days away. Do you think we are going to sell 8 more BF tickets in less than a week?" She laughed again. OK. I felt reassured.

    The flight is tomorrow morning, and there is now only one BF seat available. I am stuck in a seat I don't want, and I'm second on the current wait list. I believe that my connection to my father prevented me from getting the automatic upgrade that I probably would have received on Tuesday (I'm Gold), thus I'm having to wait until I arrive at the counter to get an upgrade, if available. There were 8 seats available in BF last night, so 7 have gone away. It is not looking good. I've called again, and they can't change it on the phone.

    They are now telling me, "Well... The return is wide open, so you'll at least get upgraded on the way back." Yeah... Sounds verrrrrrry familiar to the laughter-filled call I had 4 days ago regarding the outbound. Sheesh! I hope your holiday is better than mine.
     
  7. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I was right. I arrived at the airport this morning to learn that even the ticket agent at the airport, looking at my dad's BF ticket, couldn't put me on an exit row. She said that I can't disconnect from him. BF was full, and I was sixth on the wait list by that time, so I rode to Dallas in coach.

    It's really disappointing, but I'm not taking any chances. I paid for the upgrade for my return. This has turned into a really expensive, frustrating trip. I have never had anything like this happen on CO before. It's a real disappointment, but it's so odd (the circumstances) that I don't even have the energy to write to them about it.

    Live and learn.
     
  8. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    May I at least offer condolences?
     
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  9. AZjohn

    AZjohn Silver Member

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    KenInEscazu,
    Looks like you are learning the hard way as many of us have done this past year. Not saying it's right, but just the way this new airline is heading.
    Funny part was you said you never had these kind of problems with CO. I have never had these problems with UA in previous years. The bottom line IMHO is this new airlines is all about upsells and cashing in on any extra $ they can. A year ago if there was 8 open F or C seats with less then a week to go, there would be no waitlisting. Now they are trying eveything they can to sell those upgrades.
    It's just the way it is and we have to learn the new system;)
     
  10. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    No one here knows what price was paid for those F seats and whether they were outright purchases or upgrades. Might be worth considering that what stating as fact things like the company is selling out the elites for the sake of a couple bucks.

    The thing about no exit row because of the original link in the reservation is unfortunate but I can understand how it happened. It is that sort of link that also lets elites split to get EUA while non-elites don't from the same original PNR and everyone still getting the baggage benefits, for example. I'd say that, in the bigger picture, it usually works out in the favor of the passenger. Not in this case, but more often than not.
     
  11. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    My sense is that this is a glitch in the programming rather than an intentional action to make me pay for something that would have normally been complimentary. While that perspective does make it easier on my nervous system, it still hurts my wallet severely.

    The ticket agent at SJO confirmed that I would have been upgraded without the link on the outbound portion. She also said that nothing could be done to remove this connection for the return. That's why I paid for an upgrade on the return despite the fact that the F and BF cabins are wide open on both returning flights. Normally I would "know" that I had an upgrade coming, thus save myself the money. I might also have saved the money if I could have booked my exit row seat, but with that option gone it was either pay or suffer. "Suffer" may seem like a dramatic word, but my 250 pound frame doesn't fit well in a coach seat. I was seated next to two really tough looking women between SJO and IAH on the way up, and I'll bet they each would match my weight on a scale. It was really a miserable < 4 hours.

    The good news is that so much will be changing next year that this is not an issue worth raising. Companions will be getting the upgrades in advance, and surely there will be a new system in place. I don't expect CO to spend programming money fixing this glitch. I will, however, likely write to them and express my disappointment. That's the only way they can warn the IT people of problems they should try to avoid in the new system.

    Funny side note: These were the cheapest tickets I have ever bought between SJO and DFW. It was an insanely low price. By the time I paid for all the upgrades, however, it cost several hundred dollars more than just buying 2 BF tickets at the onset.

    Typical of most things that we have come to know as "learning experiences," this one hurt. I know I can't win them all, but it sure stings to feel like I came in last.
     

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