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How I Missed my Flight Because of United Airlines

I missed my flight because of United.

Let me back up a little. My sister and I were stoked to go to Canada and booked our flights using our Chase Ultimate Rewards points. This would be a flight from SFO to Calgary and it was a United flight operated by Air Canada. We received a confirmation email from Chase Ultimate Rewards with our United flight number and date/time. This was a family girls’ trip so my mom was going too and I bought her ticket on the Air Canada website.

On the day of the flight, my sister and I show up at the airport. We tried to check in online, but it wouldn’t let us and stated that we should do it in person. We head to the United ticket counter and they inform us that we should go to the Air Canada counter for our ticket. We go to Air Canada and they tell us we are not on their passenger list for the flight. Um, what? And my mom is successfully able to check in. We go back to United and they tell us that they have our reservation from Chase and Air Canada should have our ticket. I call Chase, they tell us this is United’s fault. I talk to Air Canada, they also say this is United’s fault. I talk to United, they do not say this is their fault.

Interestingly enough, the Air Canada representative told us that this wasn’t the first time something like this happened. Apparently, United does this intentionally. Why? Because if their passenger flies on Air Canada, they have to hand over the ticket revenue to Air Canada. However, if that passenger has no flight, then they are rebooked on United, which allows United to keep the passenger’s money. And the United flight numbers on the confirmation email? Not real. Also, since they didn’t send us a ticket number, only a confirmation number, it meant that technically, we didn’t have any tickets. How is this legal? I have no idea.

Ultimately, United was able to rebook us onto another flight, but it was for the next evening, which translated to lost PTO, car reservation changes, additional transportation costs, and loss of hotel utility. This also meant that my mom had to travel to Calgary alone. I told this to United and they said there was nothing they could do nor any vouchers they could issue us because in their system, we had successfully booked a flight. But they could upgrade us to Economy plus. Um, I’d rather be on my correct flight, but thanks for the extra leg room.

I felt better after I angry tweeted them. I also positively tweeted Air Canada for all of their help.

After we returned from our trip, I filed a complaint with their Customer Service department on August 30. Although their website states that complaints are answered within 7-10 business days, I have yet to receive a response… Their confirmation email also offers no phone number or contact information for you to follow-up on your complaint. I found their number on Google and reached out and they told me it would still be a few days, so we shall see.

Moral of the story: Always make sure you have your ticket number and not just a confirmation number. If you’re booking with points or through some third party travel agency, call the airline and make sure you get your ticket number and for good measure, your seat number as well.

Update (October 12, 2017): After reaching out to United multiple times via phone and email, they sent an apology email along with a $300 travel credit for both me and my sister. Woop woop!

Have you ever had a bad airline experience? What did you do to rectify it? Share in the comments below.

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