I’m not sure about you but I really despise U.S. carriers having call centers overseas. More often than not I find the agents not having any pull and not knowing all the ticket rules or airport codes. This was true yesterday when I called United Airlines‘ regular 800 number (1-800-241-6522) and kept saying “agent” and pressing zero until the annoying automated answering service finally patched me through to an operator. Actually I was quite impressed how little time it took — less than a minute. But it went downhill from there. For starters the polite agent didn’t know how to spell Erie as in Erie, Pennsylvania.
After I told her I was looking for a last minute ticket she said sorry but there are no award seats available for “saver awards” (12,500 miles) just “standard awards” which is double the amount. I informed her that I just logged on to United.com, which by the way does a good job of showing availability, and was showing two flights via Newark with saver award seats available.
TIP: Airlines tend to release unsold seats at varying times (but especially last minute), so to find award seats, check back frequently so you can scoop them up as soon as they’re available before someone else does!
On United.com there were two flights available for 12,500 miles but both had ridiculous layovers, such as six and a half hours at Newark airport in the middle of the night. I called to see if I could make it longer so I could go get some real sleep in the city and take a later flight to Cleveland then Erie later the next day. But the agent said the flights I found were not showing up on her system. And yes, I refreshed and entered all my info again just to make sure that award ticket was still available (see above).
I then called the Premier Executive line which is for United’s frequent fliers. Again I got through quickly to an agent based in the U.S. Hallelujah! She too was friendly, knew her airport codes but confirmed she wasn’t showing any saver awards. The only difference with this agent is that she was willing to walk through each flight for me to see if we could make it happen. In the end, we couldn’t and she said “if I were you I would just book through United.com since sometimes they have more availability.”
I found that to be surprising because I always thought it was the opposite. Didn’t you?