A reader noticed something funny happening with United miles (plus cash co-pay) upgrades. If the first segment of the itinerary didn’t clear, the miles and co-pay would get credited back even if the first segment was a short flight and the long international flight was upgraded to business class.
- Example itinerary: East Coast – Washington Dulles – Europe – Copenhagen. Domestic short hope to Dulles upgrade doesn’t clear, passengers flies DC – Europe in business, gets both their 20,000 miles and $550 co-pay credited back.
- Same thing happens on the return: United flight Europe – Washington Dulles is upgraded, but short domestic flight doesn’t clear. Miles and co-pay refunded.
- The Star Alliance wrinkle: He’s flying a Star Alliance partner airline intra-Europe. That segment wasn’t upgraded (and Star Alliance upgrades with United miles would generally require being booked as full fare tickets).
I received an automated email notice from United telling me that I was on the upgrade standby list [intra-Europe]… which was booked on a T fare.
Perhaps there was something about how this upgrade was set up, in the case of both the outbound and return itineraries the first segment did not clear (and the last segment did not clear).
This reader reached out to United. He wanted them to charge him for the upgrade. He feels that United has been fair to him over time and though you win some and lose some with airlines and hopefully it comes out in the wash, 40,000 and $1100 was too much to pocket without saying something.
Now the way this is supposed to work is that if you clear one segment, you pay for the award. For international premium business class (what United markets as ‘Polaris’ even though most flights don’t have the new Polaris seats) if you clear the domestic segment but not the international one you get your miles and cash back. Not the other way around as in this case.
United was contacted over a month ago. As I predicted to him, he never received an acknowledgment. United may have a program to proactively identify software bugs they aren’t very good at dealing with customer communications when a simple cut and paste response doesn’t suffice.
Maybe writing about this will help others figure out what’s going on with their accounts when requesting United’s exorbitantly-priced miles plus cash awards. Or maybe it’ll encourage United to fix the issue. It’s too much to hope that it’ll encourage them to replace their inferior SHARES passenger service system when other airlines have better technologies and it leaks revenue like a sieve while providing poor customer experience.