Old May 24, 2011, 1:57 PM
stroura stroura is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 2
Default The horror of a United ticket with Star Alliance carriers

If you want to experience the worst that all airlines have to offer, here’s what I recommend based on personal experience. Book a star alliance set of flights from United where the flight segments are operated by Continental and USAirways. This way you will not be able to do web check-ins for any of the flight segments and you will need to wait until you get to connecting airports to check in for the connecting flights. If the flight is crowded you will be lucky to get seats and you can expect to sit in the back corner of the plane by the bathroom and jet engine.

So here is what actually happened to me (and my wife).
I purchased tickets from Expedia for my wife and me to travel between Cleveland and Nashville. The confirmation from Expedia indicated the ticket was from United but my departing flight was Continental. I tried to do a web check-in at the United web site the day before departure and was redirected to Continental. The Continental web site provided boarding passes for the CLE-CLT segment but the boarding pass for the connecting flight was not valid for boarding and instructed me to check in with Continental at CLE to get the connecting flight boarding pass. Web check-in would not even allow me to select seat assignments.

So far not too bad, right? We drove to CLE and went to the Continental check-in counter where we were told to proceed to the gate since we already had Continental boarding passes. The agent said we could get boarding passes for the USAirways connecting flight at the gate. We proceeded to the gate where we were told the connecting flight boarding passes would need to be issued by United (but at this point I knew it would need to be USAirways) when we arrived at CLT. When we handed our boarding passes to the gate agent in CLE to board the airplane they were not accepted. The agent said our reservation had been deleted and needed to be reentered. After holding up the boarding line for a few minutes we were allowed to board the plane but were wondering what was in store for the CLT – BNA segment.

Now for the CLT experience. We stopped at a USAirways gate to check on seat assignments and boarding passes, actually hoping to get on an earlier flight. The earlier flight was full and the agent wanted us to proceed to our scheduled departure gate. I asked him for a boarding pass, showing him what I had printed from the web. He worked for at least 30 minutes trying to get us boarding passes. He said our itinerary had been cancelled by expedia and had to be reentered. Eventually he was successful but warned us he was only able to reenter our itinerary for the USAirways segments because United owned the ticket. That would at least get us to Nashville (BNA) and supposedly the return segment from BNA to CLT. However the flight was full so he assigned us seats 22E&F in the last row of the plane between the bathroom and jet engine with a 300 pounder in the aisle seat. Fortunately I was able to move to 20F (the olny empty seat on the plane) to give my wife some breathing room. At least we made it to BNA on time and thought we were all set for the return flight from BNA to CLT. This turned out to be wishful thinking on our part.

Next it is important to understand that our return flights were scheduled for Monday May 16, 2011. Interestingly I received a web check-in reminder from USAirways on Friday May 13th for our BNA-CLT flight scheduled they had scheduled for Saturday May 14th. So I called USAirways to get the schedule corrected for a May 16th departure. Initially I was told to call United because they owned the ticket but I was able to convince the USAirways representative that I really needed her help by explaining what happened on the outbouind flights. Thankfully she was willing to call United and get the schedule corrected and she assigned us seats 4B and 4C. She also warned me that she could not do anything with the connecting Continental flight.

Now advance to Sunday May 15th. I decided to call Expedia and explain what we were going through and try to get help making sure our return flights were not going to present problems. She was not able to help, referring me to the airlines. I called USAirways and they confirmed our Monday BNA-CLT flight and seat assignments but said I needed to get the boarding passes at the airport. Then I called Continental. They confirmed our CLT-CLE flight and seat assignments, also 4B and 4C. All set, right? WRONG!!!

On Monday morning we arrived at the airport an hour before departure and checked 2 bags. The ticket agent spent about 30 minutes trying to get us boarding passes because “United owns the ticket”. When we finally got our boarding passes (now seats 8C and 8D) it was 15 minutes before departure. It took almost 10 minutes to get through security. We were able to get to the gate 5 minutes before departure and the plane was still at the gate, but the agent would not let us board. We had the pleasure of watching the flight depart without us.

The gate agent spent another 30 minutes and a call to the help desk rebooking us on the next available flight with open seats departing at 7:01 PM. That’s a 13 hour delay. He also put us on the standby list for a 7:55AM departure.

Finally things took a turn for the better thanks to USAirways and my Gold Preferred status. We were at the top of the standby list so we were able to get seats on the 7:55Am departure. Since USAirways placed us on a connecting flight that was also operated by USAirways we did not have a problem. We were only about 2 hours late arriving at CLE.

Never again will I purchase a ticket owned by United where the flight segments are on other airlines, especially through a third party like expedia.

P.S. During summer 2010 I was delayed on a United flight and received a voucher for a future flight but was not allowed to use it on the itinerary described in this memo. Just one more sore point with United.
Old May 26, 2011, 4:49 AM
Ombudsman Ombudsman is offline
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 136

Your beef isn't with United, the blame for what happened rests solely with Expedia. Expedia should not have issued a United ticket for an itinerary that contains not only no flights on an actual United aircraft but also mixed flights on two other partners. I agree it was a mess but not one United had anything to do with. I would write a letter to Expedia. You'll probably get nothing more than a canned reply but then again you might get some token of apology in the form of a discount on your next booking. Of course you'd be stuck booking through Expedia again to use it.
Contributing editor to one of the largest travel blogs on the internet.
Old May 26, 2011, 12:17 PM
stroura stroura is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 2
Default all flight segments had United flight numbers

Thanks for the reply and I'm sure you know a lot more about Expedia than I do, but every flight segment had a United flight number even though the carriers were other airlines. I believe they call it code sharing.
Old May 26, 2011, 11:48 PM
Ombudsman Ombudsman is offline
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 136

Originally Posted by stroura View Post
Thanks for the reply and I'm sure you know a lot more about Expedia than I do, but every flight segment had a United flight number even though the carriers were other airlines. I believe they call it code sharing.
Code sharing is a very common practice especially within an alliance. But to issue a ticket through United without any actual United flights was a mistake on the part of Expedia. Think about it; what was the first response whenever you went to Continental or US Airways? "This is United's ticket, you need to go to/speak with United." If all of the airlines had the same systems it would be different but they do not. Any changes made by one airline have to be communicated to the other, and Expedia, through a network of computers. It's no wonder every time an airline made a change that the itinerary was erased with the other airline. Once again, Expedia's failure to communicate those changes properly.

It's probable that Expedia booked your itinerary with UA codeshare flight numbers on a UA ticket because it was slightly cheaper that way but in the end the few dollars you saved added up to much more in frustration.
Contributing editor to one of the largest travel blogs on the internet.

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