One leg of itinerary canceled without notice

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Nov 6, 2017
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#1
In mid-July this year, I booked a reservation on the United Airlines website for a January 2018 trip from SFO to Nairobi Kenya, returning from Kigali Rwanda, using Award Miles. In mid-September I went to the UAL website to look at my itinerary and found, to my total surprise, that one leg of my return trip, Kigali to Brussels, was gone! The rest of the itinerary was intact. I called the international reservations number to find out that the flight I had booked, which was on Brussels Airlines, a UAL partner, was canceled and the replacement flight did not have any award seats available. So, they removed that leg from my itinerary. And didn't bother to notify me! In my phone conversation they told me that I could buy that leg on the replacement flight for about $1600 apiece, or I could wait, call back later, and see if an award seat becomes available. "Can I be put on a waiting list and have you book it automatically if it does become available?" No, I have to keep calling in and checking. What if I hadn't bothered to look until it was too late? Hitchhike from Rwanda to Brussels? Uber?

What's your desired resolution? I want my itinerary put back together. It does not have to be the same flights or the same route, but I want a return trip from Kigali to SFO using the frequent flyer miles. If not that, I want a full refund of the miles I used for the return flight, 80,000 miles, with no penalty, and a refund of the service fee I paid. And at the very least, a policy to notify customers when a change is made to an itinerary.

I understand that United doesn't have total control over their partners, but to simply drop the leg from the itinerary doesn't make sense. With several months' advance notice, there should be some way to book this.
 

Neil Maley

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#2
If the flight is canceled, they aren't going to put it back for you. There is no longer a flight. This is not a highly popular airport do if flights don't sell, they will cancel them.


They should have notified you. But award tickets are not the same as paying for a ticket. If there are no award seats on other flights, you have to pay for a ticket. There are only so many award seats and when they are gone- they are gone.

I am afraid there really is no choice. Try calling the awards desk and see if they can re-route your trip on other days. If they can't- I am not sure you have a case.
 
Nov 6, 2017
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#4
Thanks, Neil. I agree with what you said. It just seems unconscionable that there would be no notification at all. And not much interest in helping fix it.

I have an update. I called the international reservations number again today. She told me the same thing, that there were no award seats leaving Kigali for Brussels that day. If I could stay an additional 2 days (I can't), seats are available then. I asked if there was some other route from Kigali to SFO that she could book, but she kept going back to trying to get us to Brussels and found nothing. She did not come up with any other airline or route. She told me that I could file a compensation request with UAL and that I might get a travel voucher out of it. I thanked her and ended the call.

I didn't think of looking at other Star Alliance carriers as @JustAGuy suggested, but I wanted to find for myself if there was another route. So I went to the UAL website and searched for award seats from Kigali to SFO on that same day. Sure enough, I found that I could book seats connecting through Istanbul on flights serviced by Turkish Airlines, for the same number of award miles. I called the UAL reservations desk once again and told her what I found. She booked it for me, switching our reservation to this new one. She even refunded a portion of the fees I paid before. Why couldn't they have found this and offered it to me a long time ago?

Thanks to Neil and JustAGuy. I appreciate your suggestions.
 

Neil Maley

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#5
Thanks, Neil. I agree with what you said. It just seems unconscionable that there would be no notification at all. And not much interest in helping fix it.

I have an update. I called the international reservations number again today. She told me the same thing, that there were no award seats leaving Kigali for Brussels that day. If I could stay an additional 2 days (I can't), seats are available then. I asked if there was some other route from Kigali to SFO that she could book, but she kept going back to trying to get us to Brussels and found nothing. She did not come up with any other airline or route. She told me that I could file a compensation request with UAL and that I might get a travel voucher out of it. I thanked her and ended the call.

I didn't think of looking at other Star Alliance carriers as @JustAGuy suggested, but I wanted to find for myself if there was another route. So I went to the UAL website and searched for award seats from Kigali to SFO on that same day. Sure enough, I found that I could book seats connecting through Istanbul on flights serviced by Turkish Airlines, for the same number of award miles. I called the UAL reservations desk once again and told her what I found. She booked it for me, switching our reservation to this new one. She even refunded a portion of the fees I paid before. Why couldn't they have found this and offered it to me a long time ago?

Thanks to Neil and JustAGuy. I appreciate your suggestions.
Just check to see if you need a visa to go through Turkey- visas are not being issued now to Turkey. Don't book that flight unless you can transit without a visa.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#6
Welcome to the world of international awards, Bert. You literally need to check your flights every other week to be sure this doesn't happen. It WILL happen, but if you're checking often, you'll catch it. And when you catch it, as you have now learned, FIRST you do your research so you can tell the agent what is available.

All this "Alliance" stuff is just some marketing department's dream. It does not translate very well to the passenger if there are issues. But, as always, if you know what you're dealing with before you make the call, your results will be positive more often. VERY glad we were able to offer you good advice. Have a great trip! But keep checking your flights!
 
Jan 25, 2016
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#7
[QUOTE="Neil, post: 72168, member: 591"...But award tickets are not the same as paying for a ticket...[/QUOTE]

Why not? A ticket is a ticket,and confirmed space is confirmed space, regardless of how the ticket was paid for. Sure, UA tickets on other airlines can be more problematic than UA tickets on UA metal, but a ticket is a contract (which the airline will do anything to get out of), and it's fairly well known that a lot can go wrong with reservations involving multiple airlines.

Award tickets result in different compensation from UA to the other airlines, and are subject to different rules, but the rules are also different for refundable vs. non-refundable fares. At the end of the day, it's another fare class, and in my experience (mostly with UA, but covering several decades), I have never had an agent say or do anything which suggests that my award ticket would be treated differently than a paid ticket when an irregularity occurs. I'm not arguing that a given UA agent would not treat a Y fare passenger differently than an XN, but am asserting that the ticket does not convey any difference in rights of the ticketed passenger (even if totally ignored by the agent).

If you have seen documentation which defines award tickets as being different than paid tickets, please share it with us. I have not been able to find anything on this topic in UA's CoC - in fact, the only reference to "award" is in the context of fraudulent or otherwise irregular reservations that UA can cancel.

Thank you.
 

Neil Maley

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#8
They are not the same as cash. If they were, you would be able to book as many seats as you want on any flight.

With award tickets, they only have so many seats on certain flights. If there are no award seats on a flight- you don't get a seat.
 
Jul 27, 2016
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#9
They are not the same as cash. If they were, you would be able to book as many seats as you want on any flight.

With award tickets, they only have so many seats on certain flights. If there are no award seats on a flight- you don't get a seat.
Only sometimes the case. With Delta, if there's a seat, there's an award seat. The mileage might be really high, but it's available.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Jul 27, 2016
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#10
Just check to see if you need a visa to go through Turkey- visas are not being issued now to Turkey. Don't book that flight unless you can transit without a visa.
You can transit at IST without a visa, but you (supposedly) can't leave the airport. Apparently, even that rule is unclear, since it seems to be enforced as "they won't issue leave-the-airport visas on arrival to US citizens if they're arriving from the US, but arriving from another country is fine."

Assuming the schedule is the same as it is now, then it's a ~3 hour layover at IST. The only issue would be if the incoming flight was really late, in which case you might have to spend a day in the int'l transfer lounge at IST. In that circumstance, they might end up rerouting you via the East Coast (IST-EWR-SFO, for example), rather than waiting a day for the next SFO flight.
 
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Neil Maley

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#11
You can transit at IST without a visa, but you (supposedly) can't leave the airport. Apparently, even that rule is unclear, since it seems to be enforced as "they won't issue leave-the-airport visas on arrival to US citizens if they're arriving from the US, but arriving from another country is fine."

Assuming the schedule is the same as it is now, then it's a ~3 hour layover at IST. The only issue would be if the incoming flight was really late, in which case you might have to spend a day in the int'l transfer lounge at IST. In that circumstance, they might end up rerouting you via the East Coast (IST-EWR-SFO, for example), rather than waiting a day for the next SFO flight.
Which is why our writer needs to understand the possible ramifications of this flight option.
 
Nov 6, 2017
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#12
Thanks again Neil and JustAGuy. I checked Turkey's visa website and found: "A valid passport and onward ticket are required to transit through Turkey on the way to another destination, as well as a visa for the final destination if required. If the traveler intends to pass through immigration or stay in Turkey overnight for a connection, an electronic visa, called an e-Visa, is required." And as you pointed out, visas are not being issued to US nationals currently. So, as long as the connection at IST is not missed, all is OK. If it is missed, then all bets are off. But that is often the situation with air travel, particularly international travel.
 
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Neil Maley

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#13
Bert, the majority of air travel goes by without hitch so the odds are in your favor.

We just try to make sure that we educate consumers who are do it yourselfers, since this is information you would get if you had used a travel agent.

Happy travels!
 
Likes: Bert@408
Jan 25, 2016
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#14
They are not the same as cash. If they were, you would be able to book as many seats as you want on any flight.

With award tickets, they only have so many seats on certain flights. If there are no award seats on a flight- you don't get a seat.
We are talking about two different things. I believe you are talking about availability of award seats, which can certainly vary. I am talking about, once ticketed, how the ticket holder is treated, and which I still believe is no different than a ticket purchased with cash.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#15
We are talking about two different things. I believe you are talking about availability of award seats, which can certainly vary. I am talking about, once ticketed, how the ticket holder is treated, and which I still believe is no different than a ticket purchased with cash.
We misunderstood each other. The ticket itself is not treated the same way as a ticket that was paid in cash. You should be treated with respect regardless of the ticket type.