I’ve put out the clarion call several times in the past. But it bears repeating often. And every time this happens to me, even I remain surprised.
A year ago I wrote about United award tickets on Asiana cancelling themselves. United’s system doesn’t always pass ticket numbers through to some partners and when the partner you have redeemed your miles on sees an ‘unticketed’ reservation, they may go ahead and cancel. United blames the partner, but United’s system is the only one that regularly does this.
- Solution: When you issue award tickets, call up the airlines that are operating your flights. Make sure they see the ticket numbers and confirm you are ready to travel. If there are changes to your flights that require re-issuance of tickets, repeat this step.
I also wrote about the problem where you book tickets but they just sit in a queue, United never actually issues the tickets.
- Solution: Make sure you get not just the email saying you have booked the award and will get an e-ticket later, not to worry — make sure you also get the followup e-ticket email. (That’s when you want to also confirm the ticket numbers can be seen by airline partners, as well.) If you haven’t gotten the e-ticket after several hours, call.
I pulled this advice together when a friend nearly lost her Singapore Airlines first class award. Singapore wouldn’t let her check in for the flight because while there was a reservation, they did not see a ticket. Singapore said United had to fix it. United said it was Singapore’s problem since everything looked just peachy on their end.
When airlines blame each other there is a…
- Solution: conference call the airlines, don’t let them bat you back and forth between the two, let them hash out a fix between themselves (usually involving supervisors on both sides).
Twice this month I’ve run into problems where United didn’t actually issue award tickets that were booked, each time a little bit different, but worth underscoring that this is a common problem but one you can protect yourself from with a little bit of vigilance.
- Ticket booked over the phone, agent takes credit card and says they are processing the award. The e-mails were set to go straight to the passenger. No emails arrived, and two days later the reservation itself had cancelled. Back on the phone with United, re-created an award, this time I ensured the emails came through to show tickets were issued in real-time. I got caught not following my own advice.
- Ticket held online, then went back to the website (once points had been transferred in from Chase Ultimate Rewards) to issue tickets. The website took the credit card. E-mail confirmation was sent. But the followup email with the eTicket and receipt did not come after five or six hours. I went back online and the reservation was never even queued for ticketing. I went back through the purchase process and this second time both the confirmation email and the eTicket/receipt were processed. Since it was never queued for ticketing, the reservation hold would have auto-expired despite an email saying everything was confirmed and no followup required.
When you book a ticket using United miles, you should always:
- Make sure you get the “eTicket Itinerary and Receipt” e-mail. If it doesn’t arrive after a few hours, cal.
- Ring up any partner airlines that you’ll be traveling on. Make sure they see the ticket as properly issued, with ticket number, and that you are ready to travel.
It is worth repeating step number two after any significant schedule change between the time you book your ticket and the time you plan to travel, just to make sure that any needed ticket re-issue has happened and also that once it has the partner airline sees the ticket number.
You can’t be too careful out there!