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Sunday Reader Question: What Ever Happened With Your Swiss First Class @United Fiasco?

Dec. 09, 2012
5 min read
Sunday Reader Question: What Ever Happened With Your Swiss First Class @United Fiasco?
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Travel blogger and friend Parag from @FrequentFlyerU Tweeted me this past weekend with "@thepointsguy What ever happened with your Swiss First Class @United fiasco?"

For those of you who don't remember, in September I was supposed to fly from Miami to Nice via Zurich on a United airlines business class saver award using 50,000 Chase points that I transferred to United. When I showed up to the airport, the agent couldn't check me in and after numerous calls to United and even Swiss corporate in Zurich, they couldn't figure it out and I wasn't allowed to board the plane. I luckily was able to burn American miles and booked a last minute trip on British Airways first class, but I had to use more miles and pay hundreds more in taxes and fees- and got to my destination later than planned.Throughout the whole fiasco I was Tweeting @united and they never responded to me either (a huge difference from Delta and American whose social media teams are empowered and proactive).

What I was supposed to fly to Zurich

I filed a formal complaint on and then called the Premier Platinum line to discuss the situation. The phone rep was sympathetic, but simply stated should couldn't do more than give me back my original miles, but said that I should escalate it with customer service and they'd be able to at least figure out what went wrong and try to make it right.

I never heard back from United customer service (and I do have a formal case number). Several TPG readers recommended that I email senior leaders at United who can have their senior customer service reps who will make certain situations "right". On September 25, 2012, I sent Jeff Smisek (CEO), Anne Seeley (Managing Director - Customer Care & Refunds at United Airlines) and Scott O'Leary (Managing Director, Customer Solutions at United Airlines) the following email:

Subject: MileagePlus Award Reservations Not Being Honored by Star Alliance Partners
Dear Mr. Smisek:

I recently redeemed 50,000 United miles for an award trip on Swiss Airlines from Miami to Nice via Zurich but when I arrived at Miami airport to check-in I was told the reservation had an error and was not allowed to get on the flight. Apparently there was an issue with the ticket and after repeated calls to United, they were unable to fix it. They attempted to find a United supervisor at MIA who could manually issue the ticket, but no such person was available.

The Lufthansa agents working the Swiss counter complained that nearly every single United award since the merger has major issues. When I asked them to detail the problem, they were unable to identify it- simply stating something was wrong and their systems could not check me in. I even tried buying a last minute ticket, but at that point it was too late, so I ended up calling American AAdvantage while walking to the British Airways terminal and luckily booking a flight with them.

The point of this email is to urge United to fix the ticketing mishaps that are currently happening to your customers around the world. I know I am not the only one who has experienced an issue like this, but I do hope I am the last. I'm sure you have a lot of issues to work on since the merger, but this one should be a top priority.

As a member of pretty much every frequent flyer program, I do believe that MileagePlus miles are the most valuable frequent flyer currency- at least when they work as planned!

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My official complaint is detailed below, but I wanted to make sure this situation was addressed to those who are in positions to be able to fix them so other fellow travelers do not experience what I went through.

Best and safe travels,
Brian Kelly
United Platinum Premier #1234567

To date I have not received a response or acknowledgement of the email.

Then in November I went on the Star Mega Do and was able to speak directly with reps from MileagePlus, Aileen Furlong and Praveen Sharma. In the session I told them about my experience and they stated that they were unaware of any issues like mine and to forward them my information and they'd look into it. On November 20, 2012, I emailed them all of the pertinent information and to date have not heard back from them.

So this past weekend, when Parag Tweeted me he CC'd United and to my utmost astonishment they responded! I direct messaged them with my Case number and I am waiting to hear back.

So there you have it. I didn't just forget about it, it is just that United has atrocious customer service - even for their elite members. I hope their social media team is empowered to change the status quo, but I'm not holding my breathe!

To be continued...
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