Upgrade Drama at the "Leading Airline": A Cautionary Tale

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by NYCUA1K, Apr 21, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    This is so outrageous I must share it. Beware!

    I have a scheduled trip to MEL for early May, which I booked back in February and immediately put down a couple of SWUs to try to get upgraded. The itinerary is:

    JFK-LAX-SYD-MEL-SYD-LAX-JFK.

    All segments were clearly shown as waitlisted.

    I had 7 SWUs, as one that was expiring in February had carried over from last year. I could not use it, so it expired at the end of February, leaving me with 4. However, shortly after, someone agreed to sponsor me for an upgrade on this very trip. The sponsored upgrade was successfully done, freeing up one of my upgrades that expires at the end of the year. My inventory was back to 5 SWUs.

    About a month ago, the UGs for the inbound and outbound JFK-LAX p.s cleared, but each time this happened, I got a message telling me that my reservation had been modified and that I needed to call UA to have them reissue the ticket. But then when I called and asked what the change was, the agent could not find any, so we concluded that each time an upgrade cleared, the system thought that there was an actual change in the reservation and flagged it as needing a ticket change. That strange behavior was probably a prelude to what just transpired...

    Last month I booked an RT to PEK, and put down a couple more GPUs, leaving me with 3. All the segments for this trip were also waitlisted. Everything looked kosher in my account.

    As the MEL trip got closer and the LAX-MEL segments had still not been upgraded, I started to get nervous at the prospect of doing 14 hr in E+, so I posed a newbie question here about how to find out whether upgrades for a flight had been released to enable me to jump in there asap to secure an upgrade. That is when it happened...

    Around 3:00 am today, I searched the "R space" and found R1 RN1 for the outbound LAX-MEL segment. Hurrah! I immediately called 1K desk and told the agent that I noticed that one upgrade had been released and wondered if I could have it. She said no problem and tried to do it but the system would not let her. So, she put me on hold to speak with whoever made decisions about such things, who turned out to be a "supervisor". When she came back, the agent said she has been told that the system has no record whatsoever showing that I had requested an upgrade for this trip. Say what? Then she said that rather than being the middle person, she would just let me speak with the other person directly. Fine. So I asked this new person what seemed to be the problem. She said that they had scoured their records and could not find any evidence that GPUs were ever pulled out of my account to secure this upgrade. I said that something was obviously wrong because, I am online now and I can see that I have 3 SWUs remaining from a total of 7 (6 as a 1K + 1 sponsored minus 2 for MEL and 2 for PEK = 3) and the reservation shows in red the LAX-MEL segments to be waitlisted both ways. So she said, that's wrong, please refresh your browser. I did and now it showed that I had 4 GPUs remaining and I asked her what it meant. She said that according to their records, no GPUs were ever pulled to cover the MEL trip, their math was that I had 7 SWUs, including the carry-over, which expired, leaving me with 6, and then 2 were pulled for the PEK trip leaving me with 4, which is what the system was displaying now. I said that for over a month after I booked the PEK trip, I had 3 GPUs remaining, which was correct according to how I had used my inventory. She said they just found one GPU just laying around so they put it back and now I had 4. Say what? Then I explained AGAIN why I should have 3 and not 4 GPUs remaining. I had 6 on Jan 1 as a 1K, one had carried over from last year but it expired leaving me with 6, and then I was sponsored for an upgrade, which gave me 7 and then 2 were pulled for the MEL trip and 2 for the PEK trip, leaving me with 3. So, I asked her what was wrong with my math. She repeated her math above and claimed that she was absolutely sure that she was right. Then, I asked her if their record showed that I had been sponsored for an upgrade this year, and that it was for the MEL trip. While saying that she could see the sponsored upgrade, she continued to insist that her scenario was correct, completely ignoring the sponsored upgrade because then she would be wrong! At this point she told me, strenuously, "Sir, I am sorry but I cannot help you with this any longer." This is when I asked to speak with the Supervisor and she said: "I am the Supervisor!" Alright then, Madam Supervisor, if you could see the sponsored upgrade, then by your own math I should have 5 and not 4 GPUs remaining. Right? I also said that all of this had happened on the PMUA system and that I had checked my account after the sponsored upgrade had gone through and a GPU expiring in December (one of mine) had been redeposited into my account. She said, weakly now, that they had checked the PMUA system! Silence...Then it seemed to get through to her, and she asked me if I knew the membership number of the UG sponsor. I said that I did not but that I knew the name and that I had the PNR for a flight that this person would be taking later this year. With that, she was able to confirm the sponsored upgrade and that my math and not hers was correct. She applied the GPU to the one released upgrade and also applied a second one to waitlist me on the return trip.

    Incredibly, even after having been shown to have been totally wrong, this person asserted that somehow it was all my fault or the PMUA's system problem, never admitting that she failed to see the obvious!!!! Something else that I should have said, but did not think of at the time, to leave her stuttering for answers even sooner was: If I had not put down any GPU to secure the MEL upgrades, why did the p.s. segments of the same trip clear more than an month earlier? Was the "new UA" in the business of giving free upgrades on p.s.?

    I have seen reports of people having "GPU problems" but this was simply and utterly incomprehensible:

    1. Everything from my end looked correct -- number of remaining GPUs, 2 segments already upgraded, two waitlisted.
    2. If I had not called after I found R1 in the "R space", I probably would have had a rude awakening at the airport, being told that I was not even waitlisted because no GPUs had been pulled to cover the UGs.
    3. A Supervisor, who is supposed to know better, was so totally clueless.

    Like I said...beware! Do not take anything for granted, especially those upgrades that you truly care about clearing. Things might look okay on this end but the system on the other side is buggy.

    In short, Mr. Smisek, that "leading airline" that you keep promising still has some distance to travel before it can live up to that claim...
     
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  2. sobore
    Original Member

    sobore Gold Member

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    :( Does it have to be this difficult?
     
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  3. RRK

    RRK Silver Member

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    Thanks for sharing your nightmare experience. Yes, currently there are plenty of clueless UA MP agents answering the phones. Unfortunately not everybody is updated on the merged new United MP policies. It's funny, I called last week and spoke to 3 different agents about a problem I had .... and guess what, I got THREE different answers.
     
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  4. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Apparently, yes...
    Agreed. I have a sense that the company could have used a lot more time to ensure that everyone was on the same page before merging the systems. The most exasperating aspect of this fiasco now is the unpredictability. You do not know what you're going to get, whether you stay put and let things happen or be proactive to try to steer things to a satisfactory outcome...

    Because of my ordeal above, I decided to search for "R-space" (the final frontier) for my upcoming June trip to PEK (JFK-SFO-PEK-SFO-JFK) and found R5 for the outbound p.s. Goodie, upgrade available! So, I called 1K desk again and I got reservation. I told the agent that I just saw R5 on the p.s. and I would like to see if I could be upgraded at this time, since I was waitlisted. After checking, he replied: "I am sorry but I see no seats available for upgrades at this time on that flight." Then I repeated that I just searched and I am looking at it now; it shows R5. To make sure, he too searched and saw what I was talking about. It was time to go to 1K web support and another 'Supervisor'. The upshot of the story is that their reservation computers and those that put out the info for customers do not appear to be in synch. The supervisor confirmed that both the agent and I were correct: the agent could not see any upgrades available and my search for R-space did correctly yield R5. So, to her credit, this Supervisor decided to just go ahead and clear my upgrade :cool:. Nice to see that she wanted to err in favor of the customer and end it right there...

    Like is said... totally unpredictable, and that is no way to run a business in which running things on time determines success!...
     
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  5. AZjohn

    AZjohn Silver Member

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    This is yet another data point among others that say right now you must be pro-active and search for R inventory yourself. I think it has been mentioned that ExpertFlyer subscription is worth it's weight in gold right now. At least they will continually search for R inventory for your PNR routes and then send you a e-mail when it becomes available.

    But even then, it requires us to call UA customer support and "force" them to clear us. I hope this is not going to stay this way, but for right now it seems the only way if you want to get an UG.
     
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  6. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    It is almost certain that this will not go on forever, but a little bit of diligence and vigilance seem to be in order until things are more predictable...whenever that will be.
     
  7. HaveMilesWillTravel
    Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Is this how it worked on CO as well, or did they break it when they moved the two airlines to the new Shares system?
     
  8. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Although I knew how to, I never felt the need to search the upgrade space on UA prior to the merging of the systems...it did not seem necessary since without doing anything I was upgraded >95% of the time as a 1K year after year...
     

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