Are United Airline’s call centers useless for booking Mileage Plus tickets?

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, 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 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 since sometimes they have more availability.”

I found that to be surprising because I always thought it was the opposite. Didn’t you?

Johnny Jet

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About the Author

Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

5 Comments on "Are United Airline’s call centers useless for booking Mileage Plus tickets?"

  1. My experiences with United echo yours Johnny

  2. Totally share the same frustration with you. On a recent call to the United Call center to book my trip to Naples, Italy I used to book a biz class saver fare from Seattle to Naples. But found a first class saver so called the call center. Spoke to 3 different agents and they could not find the saver on their system and kept giving me the run around. When I asked to speak to a manager on duty, they first said they could not transfer my call as it’s not something they do and when I pressed them on it, they kept putting me on hold…first disconnecting my call and when i called back again kept putting me on hold. The last call alone with being on hold was more than 1 hour. In the end, was not able to speak to a manager. But ended up changing my reservation via within 24 hours. How frustrating! United has really lost its edge. From a system standpoint, can’t understand why the heck the data/info being pulled up from the live agents screen does not match with what we see in the screen as they would pull from United’s same database…poor design of systems or unwillingness by customer service to assist?

  3. please send me information on how to travel first class ay a low price .Iteavel to USA. ENGLAND AND JAMAICA most of the times

  4. I write, mostly about health and fitness. Recently I posted a blog about the “Best Way to Discover New Places” that contends the best way to get a feel for the culture and people of new destinations is to either walk, cycle or run. The story refers to David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries, as well as my forty years experience running the streets of cities and towns worldwide. The post is at on my Rite2Run blog. If you like what you read, feel free to share with your readers… Thanks Johnny!

  5. United call centers are useless for everything.

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