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What does United owe me?

Falls Church...
posts: 62
What does United owe me?

Hello--I hope someone who is familiar with award travel can help me with this question.

Last year, when I had platinum status with United, I booked two international first class award tickets (round-trip) for travel later this year. Due to extended illness last year, I didn't travel a lot, so I did not make status for this year.

I regularly check my itineraries to ensure everything is still accurate. Tonight I discovered there was a schedule change that results in my 2nd domestic connection flight departing 90 minutes before my first domestic connection arrives. Obviously that won't work.

The issue is, when I search for available award seats for a new flight, I don't see anything besides economy. This isn't surprising given my low status; higher status definitely sees better availability--I understand that. But I specifically booked the flights I did so that we could have first class for the entire trip.

So my question is, are my first class seats gone for the last part of my trip due to this schedule change? Or does United have to book us on new flights that are equivalent to the flights we originally booked?

There is no issue with fees here--the schedule change notice specifically says if the change results in a misconnect, then the segment can be rebooked at no charge. But I'm not concerned about the fee. I want the first class seats we booked.

I do plan to call United but I wanted to hopefully understand first what my options are, from people who are experienced with this, so I know the right questions to ask when I call.

Edited to say--the reason why I'm so worried about calling them and asking the right questions is because if something happens to the reservation, I know that I will -never- get the international first class seats back because my low status won't even let me see that they even exist when I search for award travel. I hope this makes sense.

Thank you all in advance for your advice.

Edited: 7:58 pm, February 13, 2013
Florida - Alaska...
Destination Expert
for Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai Province, Outdoors / Adventure Travel
posts: 3,095
reviews: 1
1. Re: What does United owe me?

United "owes" you two seats in the class you originally booked. Your current status doesn't change the "value" of the ticket, it only keeps you from seeing availability online.

But if United changed one flight, why didn't they automatically change the connecting flight to accommodate the later arrival? Are all flights on the same ticket?

Falls Church...
posts: 62
2. Re: What does United owe me?

MrCycling, Thank you for this!! This makes me feel better. I appreciate you taking the time to read through my admittedly long-winded posting. :)

Yes, all the flights are on the same ticket. The originally-booked flight was the last departure of the night. I didn't realize that at the time of booking--I was just looking for a flight that allowed us lots of time to make the connection and that one worked. The issue now is that flight doesn't appear to just be "changed"--it looks like it was dropped entirely. It no longer appears on United's schedule (after checking their website as well as the matrix software search tool).

So now there are no longer any flights departing after we arrive at the connection point (which is 7:30 PM). The latest available flight now departs much earlier, at 6:00 PM. This is the one we were automatically rebooked on. So if there isn't a connecting flight anymore that accommodates the later arrival, I don't know what United's computer system does with that.

The whole thing is puzzling, though, because we are talking about flights out of ORD to IAD. I find it odd that the latest departure out of Chicago headed toward Washington is 6:00 PM? Hmmm.

Edited: 9:58 pm, February 13, 2013
Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 15,281
reviews: 5
3. Re: What does United owe me?


Where are you booked to fly from and to, and via where (I see ORD and IAD in there somewhere but the full itinerary would help)? And which leg(s) are you being asked to downgrade on?

Yes, United does need to rebook you in the same class of service. Don't forget they can also reroute via another hub if necessary (and they have enough of those now), and possibly in conjunction with a partner airline.

Edited: 10:22 pm, February 13, 2013
Falls Church...
posts: 62
4. Re: What does United owe me?

USBT--We are booked SYD-SFO-ORD-IAD.

The SYD flight arrives in SFO sometime mid-morning, and then we have about 2.5 hours before the SFO-ORD flight departs. So there's not much wiggle room there.

I know this is a crazy and convoluted itinerary. The irony of the whole thing is that at the time of booking, I could not get first-class award seats on a direct SFO-IAD flight. United said I could ask to be waitlisted, but knowing that my status would drop this year, I opted to take the itinerary with the connection via ORD because it meant I could secure the first-class award seats right away.

It is the ORD-IAD leg that has been changed. No one has --yet-- said I need to be downgraded--I haven't called United yet. In fact, we are in first on the flight we've been rebooked on, the 6:00 PM departure from ORD. But we can't take that flight because we don't arrive at ORD until 7:30 PM. If there are no other ORD flights and if we end up completely rerouted (which is fine, as long as we get home sometime), I was concerned about how it would work out if there were no award seats left on flights that would work with our itinerary.

I wanted to ask for advice here first because I wanted to see what my options might be before I called them. I have had the experience in the past of talking to United representatives who, shall we say, have widely varying levels of knowledge about what can and cannot be done. I travel for business a fair amount (sadly, just not last year) but this is really the first time I have redeemed miles for a trip of this magnitude, so I'm pretty uninformed about how mileage tickets work when schedules are changed like this.

Thank you all for your help. I am grateful for your time.

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 15,281
reviews: 5
5. Re: What does United owe me?


You're welcome. I think you should call United and discuss this with them. If you're back to general member you probably won't be able to get the Premier line, and it'll be an overseas reservation agent. So have your ducks in a row before calling, and have researched some options. :)

As far as I can see here United should rebook you into First in this case; award availability should be irrelevant. Also, as this is an involuntary change due to United's scheduling, they should reroute you if necessary to get available First seats.

So, look for suitable reroutes just in case. The obvious one is SFO-IAD non stop, but you also have options via Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and (at a stretch) Newark although the last two are going out of your way a bit.

Edited: 11:03 pm, February 13, 2013
New Delhi, India
posts: 938
reviews: 23
6. Re: What does United owe me?

I agree, award seat availability should be irrelevant in your case. UA will reroute you in first to IAD; they're quite good at this.

San Diego...
posts: 782
7. Re: What does United owe me?

I had a similar issue on an award ticket, albeit on a different airline. My flight times were changed and I couldn't make the connection. I was able to be switched to an earlier flight, still in first class, even though at the time of booking the earlier flight was classed as a high redemption flight (70K) miles vs the low 30K miles that I cashed in for my later flight.

posts: 11
8. Re: What does United owe me?

It would be a fair thing to give you first class service for your entire trip. But are you willing to be rerouted for this? After all we're talking 1h20min flight from ORD to IAD. Bigger seats and some drinks extra that's about it.

I have taken many late flights out of ORD to DCA and IAD and I know there are flights at 9ish and 10ish. But the free seats are gone now?

Falls Church...
posts: 62
9. Re: What does United owe me?

Thank you all for your replies! USBT is right, I need to call United. I did not get a good opportunity to do so today but will do that tomorrow.

I think (hope!) my understanding of the system was incorrect--I was thinking that in order to get rebooked into an award seat on a different flight, that there had to be an award seat available to get booked into. But hopefully as those above have said, the availability on any given flight at this point is irrelevant since I have already "paid" for my ticket.

Regarding whether it's worth being rerouted just to get first class--you are right that it's only a ~2 hour flight and it seems a trivial thing to quibble over. (I was thinking that last night as I was typing the original question.) It just seemed like after already traveling for 24 hours, it would be nice to finish out the trip in first as well. I would say it's likely I will not be awake to enjoy those free drinks anyway!

I would not be opposed to a different later flight out of ORD. But since we don't arrive into ORD until 7:30 PM, the 6:00 PM departure isn't an option for us. Hence the need to reroute.

HairyBob--I too have taken some late flights out of ORD in the past. But I searched the matrix.itasoftware tool and it shows (for 11/23/13) no non-stop United departures ORD-IAD after 6:00 PM. It seems strange to me. If you see something that I have missed, please let me know. The USAirways departures look like codeshares with the UA flights.

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
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reviews: 5
10. Re: What does United owe me?

I just checked united.com and the last ORD-IAD flight on 11/23 is indeed the 6pm departure. On the Friday (11/22) and Sunday (11/24) there is a 9.15pm departure, so it appears that later flight just isn't operated on Saturdays.

There is (thanks for the suggestion HairyBob) a 7.37pm United Express (with First) from ORD to DCA on 23rd. However given SwimAndSail's reply #4 that's not going to work either.

I would be careful booking on a code share with US Airways, as in the light of today's announcement they will probably be merged (business wise) with American by then, and have left Star Alliance. There probably will be some honoring of award tickets with UA, but be careful.

And finally, I have also taken a downgrade from First on one sector of an international award booking, a while ago. American changed their schedules on PDX-DFW, and the rebooked earlier flight had only coach availability. I took the downgrade as (a) it was the first sector en route to London, and (b) while I was offered a reroute with first, that would have been to Heathrow and my family live closer to Gatwick (where AA served at that time). So not quite the same as SwimAndSail.