United Airlines bait & switch - fare code purchased changed on operated flight

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Dec 7, 2017
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I am having problems with resolving my United ticket fare code being changed from T (purchased) to L (flown) on United Flight UA6805 operated by Air New Zealand as NZ 29 from IAH to AKL. The change resulted in me being awarded no-miles and failure to maintain my frequent flyer status. I contacted my frequent flyer program (Asiana) who told me my tickets shows up as fare code L. Asiana told me to contact Air New Zealand or United, since it is not their ticket. I called both United and Air New Zealand several times while in New Zealand with all of them pointing at the other two airlines. Both Air New Zealand and United acknowledge the fare code I purchased was T. I have contacted United’s customer service through their website and got the following response.


Dear Mr. Moore,

I know earnings for flights operated by a partner airline can be confusing at times.

If you purchase a ticket for a flight that is marketed by United but operated by a partner airline (known as a codeshare flight), earnings are based on the operating airline’s rules which are reflected in their earning chart. The booking (or fare) class that appears on your ticket may differ from the fare class that the operating airline uses to determine flight miles earned. This may affect your base miles and Premier mileage earnings.

If a partner flight is not eligible to earn award miles, then it is also not eligible to earn Premier qualifying miles, segments or dollars.

For complete details regarding mileage accrual on our airline partners, please visit www.united.com/air and click on the appropriate airline name.


Regards,


Jeanne Costello

MileagePlus® Service Center”​


First, I find the above statement very unhelpful. I find the above statement allows them to sell you something that it is not and make fare code conversions that are not published/publicly available. I believe my ticket to be a case of bait-and-switch, since the fare code I bought and intended on flying is not what shows up on my frequent flyer account. I paid several hundreds of dollars extra for this fare code and bought a separate more expensive ticket from Seattle to Houston in order to have the correct fare codes and receive enough miles. I also have spent significant amounts of money of the last two years of my status cycle in order to buy tickets earning miles. On my return trip I had one fare code higher (W) and it was awarded properly. I would have paid the $50 more if they told me T would be converted to L.

I am aware that my miles are based on the operating airline and fare code, which is how I selected my tickets and double-checked with Asiana Club. I however cannot find how they can change my fare code or sell me it as something they don’t know. I also did not see fare code mapping publicly available.


What's your desired resolution?

I would like ticket fixed and miles awarded to restore my frequent flyer status. If not I would like compensation for the significant extra I spent on this ticket to get desired fare codes / loss caused by not being able to maintain status – i.e. extra money invested in other tickets.
 

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Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#2
We have company contacts on top of our page. Since you’ve already written to customer services move up to the first executive shown.

Give them a week to reply. If they don't respond or refuse to help, write to the next executive shown.

If you get all the way through without response come back and let us know, Make sure you keep all the emails as you'll need to forward them to the writers if they need to get involved.

Good luck and let us know what happens.
 
Jan 25, 2016
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#3
In my experience, and I've been bitten by this also (though it was simpler because just UA ticketed on an AC flight without a 3rd party FF program involved), there is no way to know for a codeshare how the operating carrier will book short of looking up the PNR on the carrier's site after the ticket has been issued. As you have unfortunately discovered, when it comes to FF credit, the booking class of the code share ticket issue is irrelevant; only the booking class on the carrier determines the credit.

Yes, this stinks. After my experience a couple of years ago, I will only either a) book directly with the operating carrier (avoiding the codeshare), or b) book the codeshare, immediately check to see what class I'm booked into by the carrier and, if not satisfactory, take advantage of the 24-hour free cancellation UA has (although this can vary by ticketing airline).

One question, if you don't mind, I'm curious as to why, given that Asiana is your FF program (so getting UA PQD credit for purchasing the codeshare isn't a factor), you didn't book directly with Air NZ? Also, I'd wonder if an Asiana codeshare might have also been available, somewhat simplifying things?

Hopefully the advice Neil offered will get you somewhere, but I'd also advise that you avoid all references to "bait and switch", etc., as you communicate with UA. This may be a tough one though, because I don't think UA has any control over what code Air NZ or any other carrier books into for codeshares (though I could be wrong).

Good luck!
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#4
I have had this issue with trying to understand the programs and miles.

I guess I am confused about need to book on UA when the program ISO asiana.

Did the OP ever check the Air New Zealand before the flight
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
17,114
15,592
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#5
I have had this issue with trying to understand the programs and miles.

I guess I am confused about need to book on UA when the program ISO asiana.

Did the OP ever check the Air New Zealand before the flight
You don’t have to book through UA- once you see it’s a code share you can go onto the other airlines website and book it that way. In some cases you can also get a seat assignment booking directly with the code share airline that you couldn’t booking it as a code share. (You May have to pay for the seat assignment but you might not have to wait until check in to do so.)
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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San Francisco
#6
Codeshares, partner airlines and frequent flyer programs ... a tangled web that nobody really seems to understand.

What fare code did ANZ put on the PNR? Did you book through United so you could get the fare code you wanted on your booking? I can't see this as a United issue, but an issue between Air New Zealand and your Asiana frequent flyer program. If ANZ codes the fare correctly, they'll issue the miles, right?
 
Jan 25, 2016
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#7
Codeshares, partner airlines and frequent flyer programs ... a tangled web that nobody really seems to understand.

What fare code did ANZ put on the PNR? Did you book through United so you could get the fare code you wanted on your booking? I can't see this as a United issue, but an issue between Air New Zealand and your Asiana frequent flyer program. If ANZ codes the fare correctly, they'll issue the miles, right?
- ANZ fare code, good question, and not in UA's domain (not that they don't know, but certainly don't show the codeshare fare code when you buy the UA ticket).
- UA fare code, however, doesn't drive ANZ fare code, AFAIK, other than the obvious class of service.
- Agree that it isn't a UA issue, so I also disagree with the "bait and switch" characterization, though do understand that OP and others could legitimately feel like they were misled.
- "...codes the fare correctly...", that's the $64,000 question (showing my age). Given that there's no transparency as to how the airlines compensate each other in these codeshares, not to mention the joint ventures (like UA and LH have had TATL for quite some time), to me it's a complete crapshoot. Therefore, as I stated earlier, I only go with what they actually book, as opposed to trying to guess. The PQD requirements for various levels of status have made this a real pain for many FF'ers, particularly where, for example, UA shows a much higher fare on a LH flight booked with a LH flight number than LH shows.

Also, repeating myself a bit, I don't see a frequent flyer-related reason for OP booking the UA codeshare, so my best guess is that UA showed a fare price that he couldn't pass up, and thought would do the frequent flyer trick. Mr. Moore, we really would like to know why you chose to ticket the ANZ flight through a 3rd party.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
17,114
15,592
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#8
- ANZ fare code, good question, and not in UA's domain (not that they don't know, but certainly don't show the codeshare fare code when you buy the UA ticket).
- UA fare code, however, doesn't drive ANZ fare code, AFAIK, other than the obvious class of service.
- Agree that it isn't a UA issue, so I also disagree with the "bait and switch" characterization, though do understand that OP and others could legitimately feel like they were misled.
- "...codes the fare correctly...", that's the $64,000 question (showing my age). Given that there's no transparency as to how the airlines compensate each other in these codeshares, not to mention the joint ventures (like UA and LH have had TATL for quite some time), to me it's a complete crapshoot. Therefore, as I stated earlier, I only go with what they actually book, as opposed to trying to guess. The PQD requirements for various levels of status have made this a real pain for many FF'ers, particularly where, for example, UA shows a much higher fare on a LH flight booked with a LH flight number than LH shows.

Also, repeating myself a bit, I don't see a frequent flyer-related reason for OP booking the UA codeshare, so my best guess is that UA showed a fare price that he couldn't pass up, and thought would do the frequent flyer trick. Mr. Moore, we really would like to know why you chose to ticket the ANZ flight through a 3rd party.
That is part of the issue. It is often cheaper to book a flight as a code share then going directly to the other airline and booking directly. I don’t understand why it isn’t the same price on both airlines but in most of what we see- the price is almost always higher on the operating airlines website.
 
Dec 7, 2017
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#9
The main reason for buying through United Airlines (UA) was buying through Air New Zealand (ANZ) seemed to put my return flight from LAX on Alaska Air (none Star Alliance) and not United Airlines. (It was not about price as this was the end of my qualification period and I double-checked email & phone-call with my FF before purchasing ticket) Another reason might have been ANZ not having inventory or seats (I bought the ticket about 20 days before departure). ANZ does not have direct flights from Seattle, which means I would need to fly a code share for either UA or ANZ. I believe you end up buying separate tickets unless you buy code share ticket. My first ticket was Seattle to Houston (required much higher fare code “U” to get 100% miles on UA) and my second ticket was Houston to Auckland with return to Seattle. Outbound I needed to fly through Houston in order to obtain enough miles during my qualification period (my return trip was after my qualification period). I did originally ticket both legs of my code share flight on ANZ as fare code “W”, but changed my outbound to lower “T” when my hold came off another ticket after purchasing the “W.” Unfortunately my less time critical return flight on “W” came across correctly. In my past decade of maintaining frequent flyer status I do not remember a fare code being changed from what I purchased. If ANZ recodes my ticket to “T” I will get the miles and regain my status. I found my ANZ PNR, but not know how to look up the fare code.


I agree that UA may not drive ANZ’s fare code, but ANZ does not sell me the ticket. UA should market & sell me a ticket that corresponds to the fare code ANZ applies to it or they could/would be sell me something (bill of goods) it is not. I bought a ticket based on fare code not another fare code. I believe UA has the duty to make sure the ticket is what it appears and that ANZ agrees. ANZ cannot control what UA markets/sells me. I would like to note that when I called UA, ANZ and Asiana before my return trip no one could tell me what fare code would be applied for the return leg. I was considering changing my return flight, as a result of my first ANZ flight.


A note on Asian Airlines (South Korean Airline), I do not believe they have code share agreements on flights to US or did not see them. I have my frequent flyer account through them since they were my first international trip and usually travel internationally. In the 10 years I have had them they have been reasonably helpful until this trip. I did ask them for help restoring my account, which they were unwilling to do as it is miles based (I was less interested in the miles and more interested in status). I last few years, I have been happier with them than the US airlines that have imposed more requirements on frequent flyer status. I will say that more and more partner airlines fare codes offer reduced or no miles, which has made buying tickets more time consuming.
 
Dec 7, 2017
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#10
You don’t have to book through UA- once you see it’s a code share you can go onto the other airlines website and book it that way. In some cases you can also get a seat assignment booking directly with the code share airline that you couldn’t booking it as a code share. (You May have to pay for the seat assignment but you might not have to wait until check in to do so.)
My understanding is that the UA and ANZ may have separate inventory on the same flight. I do not remember if I could get the IAH to AKL flight on ANZ. Also booking through ANZ seemed to put me on Alaska Airlines not United. Is there a way to force you onto ANZ from AKL to LAX and UA from LAX to SEA without buying separate tickets?
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Dec 7, 2017
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#11
Codeshares, partner airlines and frequent flyer programs ... a tangled web that nobody really seems to understand.

What fare code did ANZ put on the PNR? Did you book through United so you could get the fare code you wanted on your booking? I can't see this as a United issue, but an issue between Air New Zealand and your Asiana frequent flyer program. If ANZ codes the fare correctly, they'll issue the miles, right?
Can you tell me how to look up my fare code on ANZ using my PNR? I did not book through UA solely based on fare codes, but flight availability/routing. ANZ put me on Alaska Airlines in the US. My understanding of my FF miles is the purchasing airline is irrelevant and it is based on fare code and who the operating airline is. To figure out miles I look up my fare code under the operating airline in my FF chart. Before purchasing, I called Asiana and provide fare code and flight number to double check.

Talking to Asiana leads me to believe this UA/ANZ issue and they cannot see the flight until after it occurs. All Asiana cares about is the fare code reported after the flight, which shows up as L and not T. If Asiana see T (or higher) I get 100% miles and L I get 0%.

I am currently avoiding flying code share due to the potential for fare code changes, which generally means not flying UA as they usually do not fly to my final destination in SE Asia or Europe.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
7,935
7,823
113
San Francisco
#12
The main reason for buying through United Airlines (UA) was buying through Air New Zealand (ANZ) seemed to put my return flight from LAX on Alaska Air (none Star Alliance) and not United Airlines. (It was not about price as this was the end of my qualification period and I double-checked email & phone-call with my FF before purchasing ticket) Another reason might have been ANZ not having inventory or seats (I bought the ticket about 20 days before departure). ANZ does not have direct flights from Seattle, which means I would need to fly a code share for either UA or ANZ. I believe you end up buying separate tickets unless you buy code share ticket. My first ticket was Seattle to Houston (required much higher fare code “U” to get 100% miles on UA) and my second ticket was Houston to Auckland with return to Seattle. Outbound I needed to fly through Houston in order to obtain enough miles during my qualification period (my return trip was after my qualification period). I did originally ticket both legs of my code share flight on ANZ as fare code “W”, but changed my outbound to lower “T” when my hold came off another ticket after purchasing the “W.” Unfortunately my less time critical return flight on “W” came across correctly. In my past decade of maintaining frequent flyer status I do not remember a fare code being changed from what I purchased. If ANZ recodes my ticket to “T” I will get the miles and regain my status. I found my ANZ PNR, but not know how to look up the fare code.


I agree that UA may not drive ANZ’s fare code, but ANZ does not sell me the ticket. UA should market & sell me a ticket that corresponds to the fare code ANZ applies to it or they could/would be sell me something (bill of goods) it is not. I bought a ticket based on fare code not another fare code. I believe UA has the duty to make sure the ticket is what it appears and that ANZ agrees. ANZ cannot control what UA markets/sells me. I would like to note that when I called UA, ANZ and Asiana before my return trip no one could tell me what fare code would be applied for the return leg. I was considering changing my return flight, as a result of my first ANZ flight.


A note on Asian Airlines (South Korean Airline), I do not believe they have code share agreements on flights to US or did not see them. I have my frequent flyer account through them since they were my first international trip and usually travel internationally. In the 10 years I have had them they have been reasonably helpful until this trip. I did ask them for help restoring my account, which they were unwilling to do as it is miles based (I was less interested in the miles and more interested in status). I last few years, I have been happier with them than the US airlines that have imposed more requirements on frequent flyer status. I will say that more and more partner airlines fare codes offer reduced or no miles, which has made buying tickets more time consuming.
You are so right, code-shares and miles-earning status per codes have become really a gamble in the last couple of years. This is so frustrating.

If you look at it from the airlines' standpoint, however, it makes perfect sense. All airlines are desperate to streamline or just downright get rid of their FF programs because they're such a huge liability, not to mention an enormous amount of work. We receive regular posts from people who are furious because their miles have disappeared after several years of non-use. We have to explain the FF program rationale over and over. Those people are calling the airline and taking up hours of time complaining about their situation.

No airline wants to shutter its program, so they make it difficult to maintain status, thereby thinning the ranks of members. Based on what I've learned on this forum over the years, I'd never count on a code-share itinerary to produce a certain number of miles ... you just never know what you're going to end up with.
 
Jan 25, 2016
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#13
@Trek5500, Thank you for all the information in your responses - yours is certainly a situation with complexity above and beyond the norm. Not that it will do much good for you at this point, but I do have one comment.

I don't know if there's a general answer about how to "force" a UA connection off of an ANZ flight, but it may be more a matter of how you shop. I have found that Google Flights will offer combinations (code shares or not) that are perfectly valid, and then directs you to the website of a ticketing airline (so no dreaded OTA involved), but said itineraries cannot be obtained by going directly to the airline's website. I've also seen that Google will show the operating carrier flight number, which is converted to the codeshare when you are directed to that airline's website to purchase the ticket (example #1 below).

As a simple exercise, I've just requested AKL/SEA 1-way for 26-Dec. Google offered me two alternatives that would have satisfied your requirement to get a UA connection:

1) UA 6752 (operated ANZ 6) to LAX, connecting to UA 5475 (United Express, but treated as regular UA for FF purposes).
2) UA 916 to SFO, connecting to UA 618 - the obvious advantage of this one is that there's no codeshare involved, so there would be no doubt about the fare class used for FF credit.

I had a situation earlier this year where I wanted to book SFO/FCO with a connection in Europe, and return PSA/SFO also connecting in Europe. Since UA has flights to Rome from EWR it wouldn't offer me anything I wanted (everything was on UA via EWR), but using Google, I was able to find SFO/ZRH/FCO on Swiss (using LX native flight numbers), and PSA/MUC/SFO on Lufthansa (using UA codeshare, enabling UA to issue the ticket and get PQD credit).

Certainly it is possible that inventory wasn't available in your situation, and I agree with your point that the airlines are maintaining inventory separately. And yes, we all agree that they don't make it easy, and it's pretty clear that the airlines a) restrict flight options available on their website when it pleases them, and b) are quite opaque.
 
Likes: jsn55
Dec 7, 2017
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#14
@Trek5500, Thank you for all the information in your responses - yours is certainly a situation with complexity above and beyond the norm. Not that it will do much good for you at this point, but I do have one comment.

I don't know if there's a general answer about how to "force" a UA connection off of an ANZ flight, but it may be more a matter of how you shop. I have found that Google Flights will offer combinations (code shares or not) that are perfectly valid, and then directs you to the website of a ticketing airline (so no dreaded OTA involved), but said itineraries cannot be obtained by going directly to the airline's website. I've also seen that Google will show the operating carrier flight number, which is converted to the codeshare when you are directed to that airline's website to purchase the ticket (example #1 below).

As a simple exercise, I've just requested AKL/SEA 1-way for 26-Dec. Google offered me two alternatives that would have satisfied your requirement to get a UA connection:

1) UA 6752 (operated ANZ 6) to LAX, connecting to UA 5475 (United Express, but treated as regular UA for FF purposes).
2) UA 916 to SFO, connecting to UA 618 - the obvious advantage of this one is that there's no codeshare involved, so there would be no doubt about the fare class used for FF credit.

I had a situation earlier this year where I wanted to book SFO/FCO with a connection in Europe, and return PSA/SFO also connecting in Europe. Since UA has flights to Rome from EWR it wouldn't offer me anything I wanted (everything was on UA via EWR), but using Google, I was able to find SFO/ZRH/FCO on Swiss (using LX native flight numbers), and PSA/MUC/SFO on Lufthansa (using UA codeshare, enabling UA to issue the ticket and get PQD credit).

Certainly it is possible that inventory wasn't available in your situation, and I agree with your point that the airlines are maintaining inventory separately. And yes, we all agree that they don't make it easy, and it's pretty clear that the airlines a) restrict flight options available on their website when it pleases them, and b) are quite opaque.

In the past few years, I have been using Matrix ITA Software as it allows me better control over what I am searching for in particular fare codes. It is also fairly helpful in how advanced you can do the routing compared to Google Flights, Kayak, etc where you have refilter after every new search and you cannot control the codes. After I find the ticket on Matrix I have my travel agent purchase or hold the ticket. I have found that sometimes Matrix shows inventory that is not available. Prior to this trip, I have not had an issue with fare codes changing and knew to look at operating airline mileage charts. I was not overly concerned about the code share, but would rather not have had it particularly on my longer more important flight. If everything else matched I would have probably picked Air New Zealand as the marketing airline. Perhaps, I did not force Matrix to show me the flights. I will have to see in the future if I can force it to give me none code share flight without a price increase.

I still have an ethical and trust issue with an airline selling me a ticket as a certain fare code and operating airline applying it to my account as another fare code. This creates a scenario where airlines can sell you tickets that are different than they appear and you would not have I purchased them. I believe the marketing airline has a duty to reflect the fare code the operating airline assigns. They made the agreement to sell the tickets/inventory and should agree on the fare codes.