Denied boarding because I didn’t pay a change fee

Always read to the end. The very end.

That’s my takeaway from today’s failed case, which involves a woman who was denied boarding on a United Airlines flight because she hadn’t paid a mysterious fee.

Kelsey Doorey was flying from Los Angeles to Ancona, Italy, with stops in Newark and Munich, in May. She made it to Newark without incident. But when she tried to board her flight to Germany, she ran into trouble.

She explains,

The agent at gate 74 told me that United had changed my reservation to a later flight in anticipation of me missing my tight connection.

I was told to speak with customer service across the hall change my reservation back to my original flight.

The customer service agent I spoke with was rude and unhelpful. She told me that I was not going to make my flight, despite the gate agent holding the gate open.

She then informed me that I owed $552, but failed to provide any explanation why. I offered my credit card and paid but it was too late for my original flight so she then booked me on a later flight.

I was flying to Italy for a four-day weekend family obligation and the new flight I was put on resulted in me losing an entire day in Italy. Instead of arriving at 11:20 a.m., I arrived after 5:30 p.m.

That’s as far as I read before I sent a note to my United Airlines contact, asking if he could look into this case. I should have kept reading. (Sorry, United.)

Let me skip to the end: The $552 charge was correct. The agents did the right thing, although they could have been a little nicer about it.

But at that moment, after I got done reading the last line of Doorey’s letter, I thought United had screwed up big-time. Maybe it had something to do with the disastrous cutover. Or maybe it was just overall incompetence, I thought. I was wrong.

The response from United was right to the point:

Our records indicate that you were charged a $250 change fee and a $286.66 fee for the difference in the fare.

This was due to the changes made to your ticket on February 25th. Because these fees were not collected during the change, you were denied boarding until the fees were paid.

Huh? I reviewed the entire document.

Here’s a little detail in the note that I had glossed over: Back in February she had changed her flights. And for some reason — it’s not entirely clear why — United never collected the change fee and fare differential.

To be fair, that fact was buried near the bottom of the document she sent me.

Had I continued reading, I would have seen a more detailed account about how United mishandled her ticket at Newark. The agents were not that nice. (The part about the ticket change didn’t come until much later.)

After being re-booked on a later flight, I sought out different United Airlines customer service agents.

I spoke with a manager in the Newark ticketing department, who was very upset to hear how I was handled. She reviewed my record and informed me that [the agent] had added supposed quotes from me to my record that I have never said.

She informed me that the LAX ticketing agent who checked me in and printed my boarding passes should have collected the amount due but she never mentioned it at all. I have never heard of an airline flying a passenger with an amount due on their ticket and am surprised that happened.

So the bottom line is that United should have asked her to pay the change fee much, much sooner. And because it didn’t, this passenger got the runaround and a delay.

Dooley says she’s “extremely” unhappy with that response. After all, she paid more for her flight and lost a day of vacation. Plus, she was treated rudely by an ticket agent in Newark. She’d like her $522 refunded, “at a minimum.”

I don’t see how she might have avoided this, beyond making sure United had her up-to-date credit card information. And even then, there’s no telling if the airline would have billed her.

For me, the lesson is obvious: Read every email until the end, even the ones that ramble a little. I’ll try to do better.

Interestingly, the most scathing comments that appear on this site and on my Facebook page come from folks who don’t read the entire story.

I used to be pretty critical of them, but now I’m one of them.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Hmmm. That’s weird. I’ve never heard of this happening before. The OP isn’t disputing the change fee but only that United’s glitch of waiting until she was already in transit to bill her made her miss her flight.

    I’d probably support splitting the difference. She probably knew that she owed something (I’m guessing she was aware of the fare adjustment when she made the change) and I’m curious as to why she didn’t bring it up to the first agent upon check-in. Was she waiting to see if it simply fell through the cracks and she’d get a free change? If so, she gambled and lost.

    In either case, United screwed up. I think splitting the fee with her is fair.

  • kakeyte

    so a ‘whole day’ is now 6 hours?????

  • lost_in_travel

    Very bizarre!  I can understand the passenger not noticing that the $522 was not charged – one notices charges much sooner than the lack of them – but United missed it too.  Certainly the agent in Newark could have explained the problem and handled it quickly to keep her on the flight.  United bears a lot of responsibility for this blunder, they should not have let her obtain a boarding pass or get onto the first flight.  If United had caught their mistake, there would not have been a problem in Newark.  Chris makes a comment about keeping one’s credit card information current – was that the reason United did not bill earlier?  If so, there have been other letters about reservations being canceled because the credit card did not process.

    The charge was valid.  The timing was all wrong on United’s part.  The remedy – very difficult – the time cannot be replaced.  I do think United owes her an apology and some financial gesture.

    BTW – I keep hitting the same misspelling as I type this reply – United becomes Untied.  Freudian slip??

  • lost_in_travel

    No, it isn’t but there is a substantial difference in arriving at 5:30 pm instead of 11:20 am.  Most businesses and stores would be closed so it is a “lost day” for any transactions that could have been done.

  • emanon256

    After reading the whole story, I had to vote yes, but at the beginning, I was thinking how horrible the new United is.
    She made the change pre 3/3 which was the system cut-over date.  The old United in the old United system would allow you to make a change by phone and pay at check-in.  Also, if you made a change on-line and entered the wrong credit card number, it would simply tell you the credit card number was invalid and to pay at check in.  I made changes by phone several times and paid at check-in.  The Continental system which they switched to on 3/3 requires a payment at the time of a change.  I wonder if this is the root of her problem, she made a change in the old system and was supposed to pay at check in, when they were in the new system that required advanced payment, so they let her board and it wasn’t until Newark that they caught the problem.
    Either way, I am shocked that the gate agent could not have handled this issue and got her back on the flight and charged her and let her board.  My question is, was it the flight the gate agent was holding her new flight?  Or was that her old flight and she actually changed herself to the later one?

  • sdir

    I’m curious what change she originally made to the flight.  If she was originally scheduled to fly later that evening on the same flight she ended up with, I’d say she should be refunded the $522 change fee because she still flew on her originally-booked flight and ultimately didn’t change anything.  Really depends on what the change was supposed to be

    What I find suspicious is her claim that the agent told her to pay $552 without explanation, and she then offered up her credit card for payment.  Makes me think she knew about the change fee and hoped she could keep quiet and avoid paying it.  Because really, who offers to pay a sudden $552 without an explanation?

  • kakeyte

    she went for a ‘family event’ and there is nothing in story about missing any family events.  And given the tendancy of OPs to exaggerate we certainly would have known if she had!

  • Raven_Altosk

    Rude agents in Newark are par for the course. Deal with it.
    The rest of this…she made the change, she needs to pay for the change.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Like x100, especially the last paragraph

  • john4868

    @Raven_Altosk:disqus Too bad I can only like this once. Better written than my deleted attempt

  • cjr001

    I’d agree with this… except that United should’ve collected anything owed up front, not halfway through her trip.

    IMO, United should’ve eaten the fee since they didn’t feel it too important before she flew. Instead, because they messed up, somebody felt it best to mess up her travel plans. Classy.

  • Joe Farrell

    Like Raven says its new york. Somebody was processing the manifest and caught the charge and lack of payment at that point. It’s just the bureaucracy. No one caught cause it did not need to get caught yet.

  • Joe Farrell

    Stores and restaurants in Italy are open late almost every day. Gosh, no one eats dinner til 9.

  • Joe Farrell

    Good explanation. I like facts that make sense.

  • KatellaTravelMgt

    So the reality of the situation:  United made a mistake not getting the fees before departure.  They had a delayed plane that would have caused the woman to miss her connection which then allowed them to catch and fix their mistake.  The woman was then delayed and inconvenienced while United fixed their mistake, made the woman feel like a criminal and further enhanced their ability to control how / when people travel without consequences to them, the airline.

    In every other industry if a mistake is caught it generally falls on the one making the mistake.  When was the last time you ate out, paid your bill, left the restaurant and were run down by the manager who took away your car keys and made you come back in and pay for the coffee the waitress forgot to add to your bill?  In this industry we automatically look at the airline as king because they hold the effectual car keys to our getting to out destinations.  Because they have complicated the paying process to such a point that they are always right even when they make a mistake in their own complicated process.  Ridiculous.

    I love the comments here that the woman probably exaggerated her story for the drama of it.  Or that she should have known she made the change and owed money.  Yes, because in this industry the customer is the one responsible for his or her experience, professional knowledge of the change / fee process and controlling their temper and attitude when faced with a difficult airport problem.  Not the provider.  The user.  It is certainly an interesting world we fly in.

    Thanks for the great story.  Unfortunately one of many – at least twice a year I have clients with stories very similar to this one.  It’s also good to see a writer admit he jumped without understanding the whole scenario and correct his mistake.  Too bad United will not be able to do the same.

  • jgb123

    Yes she lost an entire “day,”  day hours.  The difference from arriving before noon and arriving at 5:30 pm is having the whole day – daytime hours –  to get to wherever, get business things done, doing things with family, perhaps get some sightseeing in, is an entire day lost.  It’s not exaggerating, it’s putting it in perspective.

  • mencik

    The part of the story I am missing here, why United changed her second flight assuming she was going to miss a connection, while she obviously did make it on time, as she was at the gate with the door still open. Why not wait to change until after she actually missed the flight.

    Or, did they assume correctly that there would be a long delay while she was told about the change fee and additional fare?

  • Carver Clark Farrow II

     I respectfully disagree

    When you purchase something and the deal isn’t done, its not unusual to fix the mistake.

    In your cherry picked example, the deal is done, both sides have performed and you’ve left the premises.  But even in your example, had you bought a $1000 meal and the waiter only ran $10 on your credit card, the manager would be running down the street to catch you.

  • cjr001

     Sorry, Joe, but to say it’s “just bureaucracy” is corporate-speak for ‘it’s our fault, make it the customer’s problem’. Which is exactly what happened here, and is inexcusable.

  • Alan Gore

    So now we’re paying change fees when the airline involuntarily reschedules your flight? Next time you head for Europe, keep in mind that overseas you’re not stuck with the likes of United and AA.

  • ClareClare

    ???  Restaurants, maybe.  Everything else, you’ve gotta be kidding me!  I live in Italy and apart from bars, and restaurants that serve dinner, you can’t count on ANYTHING else being open “late almost every day.”   

  • john4868

    No… Re-read the article Alan. She made a change and didn’t pay the change fees when she did (Apparently old UA allowed you to do that). The agents then caught that she hadn’t paid when they rebooked her. The fee wasn’t for their change. It was for the change she made in Feb and never paid UA for.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    this sort of thing happens all the time. People change their flights with agent or whoever, but never gwet around to paying the fees & then tery to bluff their way onto flights, saying someone said this or that.

    It generally doesn’t work anymore, as legacy airlines are going broke trying to compete with LCC’s & ULCC’s.

  • IGoEverywhere

    99% of all airline tickets charge a penalty to change a ticket. That $$$ is not always due at the moment of change, (but normally is). If Kelsey was acting as her own travel agent, then she too, should have read all of the fine print! A legitimate ASTA travel agent would have already know this. Keldey, you need to find yourself a real live travel agent. I also have never heard of an airline automatically changing flights because of a tight connection. A schedule change – yes. When flights are booked, a good travel agent knows that it is going to work under normal situatuations or not. United did hand Kelsey a line of … Rudeness is to be expected in every airport every day. The airline quality of staff rivals TSA. I travel 100,000 miles a year and hate each contact with airport personell worse each trip.

  • Daves

    United never collected the change fee and fare differential

    Assuming the ticket was bought directly with United instead of a travel agency or whatever, Chris, can you find out from United if the original payment for the February change was perhaps declined and United made efforts to contact the OP about it? Just curious.


  • Joe_D_Messina

    Mistakes happen.  She owed the money and eventually they wanted what they were owed.  Could it have been handled better? Probably, though I’m not 100% sure it wasn’t handled far better than the OP claims. The whole “They wanted me to pay over $500 I knew nothing about and I blindly handed them my credit card” seems a bit unlikely to me.

  • Nica

     I was thinking the same thing…

  • Mel65

    If United had charged her upon initial check-in, it sound like she would have made her flights, so while yeah she owed them the fee differential, it’s still largely their fault she missed her connection and got in late.  They’re the professionals here and the agent could have handled it better; maybe an announcement for her to check in w/ agents in Munich, after landing and charging her then rather than keeping her off a flight she was preparing to board?  Because, frankly, if I were the OP, once I’d checked in, I’d have assumed that “I have my boarding passes, all must be copacetic” too. Do others really think she should have asked at check in, “oh by the way, do I owe you any money?” It’s their job to sell her a ticket and to collect the fare, not hers to keep their books straight.  *shrug* As for the “missed a whole day” I feel for her.  Delta’s equipment malfunction a couple years ago got us into Orlando at 6:00pm instead of our originally scheduled 10:00am. So, yeah I felt we’d lost “an entire day” use of our 4 day Disney passes as a result.  6 or 7 (daytime) hours can feel like a substantial amount when it’s your vacation or leisure time that’s gone.

  • Wrona

    I’m going to guess is her flight to Newark was delayed enough enroute that their computer system said this person will miss this flight and automatically rebooked her.  But then the flight managed to make up some time and/or her flight from Newark was delayed at the last minute allowing her to run and make it  to the gate where the system popped out and said you’ve already been rebooked. And when the gate agent looked at the record to get her back on the flight, the missing payment popped up.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Did delta give you any compensation for your lost time at Di$ney? I doubt it as their contract of carriage states they promise to get you there, but not necessarily on time. (as all airlines CC state)

  • Raven_Altosk

    Ten years ago, I hired movers to move me from an apartment to my first house. I wrote them a check that was never cashed. After a month, I called them, they said they had the check and not to worry. That check was NEVER cashed. Nine months after the move I received a letter from the movers demanding payment or it would be sent to collections. I called the office and it seems that new management had taken over and was trying to clean up mistakes of the previous manager. They apologized for the tone of the letter and agreed to my terms: I would write them a new check for the cost of the move less the cost of me stopping payment on the old check.

    That seemed fair for both sides. I mailed the new check with a letter restating my terms and put “payment in full” on the subject line.

    Seems this lady just gambled on UA not catching their mistake and then whining when she lost.

  • sershev

    It depends on the agent. One day I woke up late and missed my 9 am flight. When I arrived to the airport the agent rebooked me for 5 pm flight and said she is not going to charge a change fee. Waiting for my 5 pm flight I learned there is another flight at 1 pm when I asked to get rebooked on 1 pm flight they said there is $75 fee. Another time I called United reservation to rebook an old unused ticket. The ticketing agent had to call internally to get a supervisor process the ticket exchange. We were on hold for supervisor a nearly an hour finally when it was done the agent said she is going to waive $150 change fee for inconvenience. I didn’t even ask for it. Another time I flew on Friday and my flight was several hours late. On Monday I was returning and I called to change my return flight to a later one. The agent asked for $75 fee. I said my flight on Friday was late and I didn’t get $75 from the airline. She said she is not going charge the fee. There are might be a cases when a ticketing agent makes change and makes an exception on a change fee. It doesn’t mean we have to pay it at the airport. If ticket is reissued without a change fee it should not a problem at the airport.

    I assume since OP flown a segment from LAX to EWR she had a valid ticket and should not be charged half way to her destination.

  • lorcha

    How was the new ticket even issued without a valid credit card?

    Anyway, she owes the fee, and she should pay it. That she was treated rudely in Newark is immaterial to the $522 that she agreed to pay.

    Should they throw a few hundred miles her way for being rude to her? Perhaps. But she has no claim on that $522. 

  • lorcha

    “Because really, who offers to pay a sudden $552 without an explanation?”

    Uhh, somebody who is stuck in Newark, NJ and needs to get to Italy? I mean, heck, I’d pay someone $522 just to take me out of Newark, in general. 

  • bodega3

    I agree.  I wonder if there was a glitch in the collection due to the merger?  Lots of weird things have happened with that!

  • lorcha

    If United owed OP a refund, you’d be up in arms that United owes her. So why so blase when she owes United?

    She agreed to pay it. She thought she could keep quiet and fly under the radar, and she was wrong. Time to pay the piper. Really, what difference does it make if she paid her bills from home or from EWR?

    Rude treatment does not entitle her to $522. Her poor little feelings aren’t worth that. If she wants to be taken seriously, she could ask for a few miles or something.

  • bodega3

    We don’t know when the change she made.  She could have just changed the connecting flights from EWR not the first leg, so the boarding pass could be obtained on that segment.  There is more to this than is being told.

  • Adam_The_Man

    So if I change my flight, the airline charges me.  If the airline changes my flight, they still get to charge me?  How is that fare?  I think they should let her keep her $552, as they had a delay. Why should she pay for the change, when it was changed on her later?  It should be a wash.  Dare I call it a scam?  Or will people will just call me a troll.

  • emanon256

    That is hilarious!

  • sershev

    In the past there were cases when United sold ‘fat finger’ fares, they sold for instance $1000 tickets for $100. Some people got lucky, purchased the tickets and were able to travel without paying extra $900. The bottom line when someone has an issued ticket it should be sufficient for travel, because a ticket is a legal contract between an airline and a passenger.

  • emanon256

    You did the right thing, not everyone does.
    When I worked for a university collections department, we also processed refunds.  Many times students would take out a federal loan, we would refund them their cost of living money, and they would drop out, and the government would cancel their loan.  That was actually the majority of our collections.  The students would often claim, “Well why did you refund me if I wasn’t eligible for it?” The answer was they were eligible at the time, and then when they withdrew, they were no longer eligible and hat to repay it immediate.  Unfortunately, the government makes the school responsible for collecting it, and actually pulls the funds right out of our accounts.  I cannot believe how many times I heard student quote the monopoly card, “Bank error in your favor.” and refuse to return the money. 

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Missing coffee from a bill is quite a bit different than missing a charge in excess of $500.  If United had got back to the OP months after the trip demanding payment, I’d feel much differently, but certainly as long as they caught this error while the trip was in process it is reasonable for them to be paid.

    The OP made the change to the ticket and agreed to the fee. Whether that fee was collected instantly or later on in the process is immaterial.  It also doesn’t help their argument that according to their own story they were so unconcerned with paying another $500 they handed over their credit card without even knowing for sure what they were being charged for. That makes it very much seem as if they knew they owed something. Otherwise, they would have raised a ruckus about this huge “mystery” fee.

  • emanon256

    I don’t see how they made her feel like a criminal?  She changed under the old system where you pay at departure.  While her flight was delayed, they asked her to pay.  If she felt like a criminal, it was because she was guilty of something.  If she had done nothing wrong, she would not feel like a criminal.

  • sershev

    Another example: United recently had a promotion  “Map Your Dreams” mileage bonuses. You fly four roundtrips and get 25000 bonus miles on top of the actual miles flown. I got invitation to register and flown four round tips from SFO to LAX. A few days later I received 25000 bonus miles posted on my account. A few days later I purchased an award ticket. A few days later I received an e-mail from United:We routinely audit our flight offers to ensure they are accurately crediting bonus
    award miles. During a recent audit we discovered that our system had started to
    award bonuses for the “Map Your Dreams” offer prematurely and, in some cases, incorrectly.

    To ensure that we credit accounts accurately, we removed the bonus miles that had
    been awarded so far. When the offer ends on July 15, 2012, we will validate all
    participating member accounts and award the correct number of miles by July 28, 2012.
    Please note that the final number of bonus miles credited to your account may be
    different from the number we removed. Also, only tickets purchased on or after April
    15, 2012, are eligible for the offer.

    Now my account is negative 12000 but United did not cancel the award ticket I purchased. Hopefully after July 28 they will re-post 25000 miles.

  • Lorii Abela

    Never heard of being able to travel even if you haven’t paid all the fees. I also love travelling and it never happened to me before. Thank goodness. 

    The problem is that United should have collected the fee beforehand before stopping her in Newark just to collect the fees. 

  • bodega3

    Things happen and especially during the merge lots weird things showed up. 

  • cjr001

    Because United had the chance to get what they were owed BEFORE she started her trip. They didn’t.

    Then they expected her to pay up during her trip, AND cause her trip to be delayed as a result because they screwed up her reservation on a whim.

    As I’ve pointed out countless times: You make a mistake, it’s your fault; they make a mistake, it’s your fault.

    So, consider me long past tired of feeling sorry for companies like United for screwing up, and more than willing to stand up for customers who keep getting bent over by the airlines.

  • bodega3

    Before you jump on UA, I had times where the carrier says the fee can be collected at the airport or they can handle it at the time of the call.  We don’t know what took place, but if something is to be done at the airport, you need to allow extra time for it.  Again, there is more to this story.

  • lorcha

    Eh. My sympathies are normally with the traveler, but in this case, OP did everything she could to make it look like the fee was being charged for an involuntary rebook. It wasn’t until the last sentence that she deigned to reveal that the charge was valid.

    She didn’t get bent over by the airlines, at all. She tried to bend the airlines over, and failed. So the ground crew at EWR was rude to her. Whatever. I’m sure she was just a complete saint about the whole thing, too.

  • john4868

    @Adam_The_Man:disqus Re-read the story. She made a schedule change and never paid for it. It wasn’t UA’s schedule change she was being asked to pay for

  • judyserienagy

    UA didin’t collect the change fee at the time of the change.  The passenger didn’t notice.  Many of us now have multiple credit cards and play the mileage game, so not noticing the lack of change fee is completely understandable.  UA is reaponsible for collecting the fee.  What is the pax supposed to do … put a note on her calendar to be sure she’s charged correctly?  It’s UA’s responsibility; penalizing the passenger is just dumb.

    What’s been going on at UA/CO since the merger involves many mysteries.  UA should give her whatever she wants, the rude agent at EWR should have it deducted from her pay.  Good for the pax to escalate this up the management line and place the blame where it belongs.  No reason to treat paying customers like this and UA needs to deal with their problem … the problem is a rude agent who could have handled this properly in the first place.

  • Adam_The_Man

    What I am saying is she should not have to pay the schedule change fee now, because the airline had a delay and made her miss her flight.  So they should call it a wash.

  • jennj99738

    The lady made a change to her own schedule in February.  We don’t know what the change was.  It could have been that she decided to go out on a Wednesday instead of Friday.  Secondly, there is no indication of a delay.  It says she had a tight connection.  Some people here are assuming she was delayed and that United protected her on a later flight.  We don’t even know the reason for the delay if there in fact was one.  The fact she made a schedule change in February is entirely separate from whether there was a weather or mechanical delay on her flight from LA to EWR.

    The  fact remains that she owed for a schedule change.  She didn’t pay it.  United charged it. Could United have handled it better?  Probably but I have less sympathy for a woman who does not disclose what the $522 was for in her letter to Christopher.  

    Also, people would probably stop calling you a troll if you stopped calling everything that happens a scam. And I mean everything.

  • Carver Clark Farrow II

     If you are stranded midway to your final destination and they won’t transport you without more money, and the only chance of getting on the plane is to fork over $500, which you have. That would be a no brainer.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Let’s say that in the rush to make the first flight, she pays the $500 with no explanation at all. I think most people  would have demanded SOME sort of explanation or at minimum demanded a supervisor repeat the “I have no clue what I’m taking your money for” but let’s say she went along with it….  That still leaves us with the reality she didn’t make that plane.

    So, she’s pissed about missing her original flight and is now sitting around for her next flight.  Yet she doesn’t track down a worker to figure out what the heck they just charged her $500 extra for?  

    But, if she knew she owed them something, suddenly getting an explanation isn’t required. She’d be ticked about having to pay it, but she wouldn’t need anybody to tell her what it was for.

  • sunshipballoons

    I’m caught up on the fact that United apparently changed her flight without notifying her until she was in Newark. Huh?

  • Lindabator

    CAN you read????  Back in FEB she changed her flights – that’s what the charge was for – again, like Chris said, READ TO THE END!

  • Lindabator

    Amen to that!

  • Lindabator

    Not all changes NEEDED to be paid in advance – many allowed you to pay at the time of departure, but after the merger, no longer.  So United/Continental staff might have been confused at the time of checkin.  All a moot point – she wonders WHY she was charged, when she knew darn well.  No case here.

  • Lindabator

    You need to re-read the ENTIRE article – SHE changed her flight, they just caught the lack of payment until she flew into Newark.

  • Buckettripper

    You know, I should probably have read all 2000 words of the last terms of service I clicked “I agree” to before using that new website. And I should have read all four pages that the credit card company sent to me saying that they were changing how they billed interest. Oh, yeah, and prospectuses from my retirement accounts: Dozens, scores, maybe even a hundred or more pages of legal details a month. 

    Sure, it would be nice if each of us read down to the bitter end of every piece of correspondence sent to us by maniacal lawyers with too much computer power on their hands. We should know every single detail of every single policy of every airline, and anticipate everything that could go wrong, and check that out, and get it in writing, because god knows, what an agent tells you isn’t anything you can actually USE in case of a disagreement. 

    Or hey, maybe companies can simplify pare down. Stop trying to squeeze out that last nickel (and relaying of thousands to dollars of legal nonsense to support their position). Maybe they can try being a little more HUMAN? 

    I keep reading all these comments on posts on various posts on this blog saying the customer should have known, read, done such and so, that it’s the customer’s fault for not knowing this that or the other thing. And sure, sometimes that’s true. But when is the last time YOU read a prospectus for an investment from start to finish? The TOS for a website? The entire contract for a plane ticket? 

    You have to wonder how society came to this…. and to the point where people think it’s okay to do business like this — and to blame the customer for not having read to section II, paragraph A, subsection 97.

  • bayareascott

    The new system used by United (Continental’s old system) allows anyone to be checked in regardless of their ticket status.  This can cause problems like the one by the OP.  It should have been caught in LA, but say if the check-in agent misses it and it gets caught at the gate, you could be denied boarding because your ticket has not been “updated” for your flight if there is not enough time to fix it.  Yes, the agent should have caught it at check-in, but you are the traveler and you know you owe money.  If you want to try to get away without paying it, you are the one who will pay the price (in more ways than one) if it is caught at an inopportune time.

  • bayareascott

    It’s the customer’s problem that they incurred a charge and tried to avoid paying it.  The OP could have acknowledged the change to the agent at check-in and paid the amount, thus insuring no enroute problems.

  • bayareascott

    She tries to get out of paying what she owes, but GIVE her everything she wants and have it deducted from the agent’s pay?  The EWR agent isn’t even the one who made the mistake.

    It is customers like YOU that is everything wrong with the traveling public.  You are probably the one screaming at people at airports when your flight is delayed 20 minutes.  

  • bayareascott

    There was no penalty.  She had to pay what she owed.  She made a change and owed money, and tried to get away with not paying it.  So you think UA should GIVE her “whatever she wants” and make the agent pay for it?  The EWR agent is not even the one who made the error.  I’d like to see you run your business in this manner, being a tyrant to your employees.

    You are exactly what is wrong with the traveling public with your entitlement.  You are probably the one screaming at agents in the airport when your flight is delayed 20 minutes.

  • Daves

    Also, people would probably stop calling you a troll if you stopped calling everything that happens a scam. And I mean everything.

    Precisely. When some people use “loaded” words with more or less specific meaning rather loosely, it tends to blur issues more than they already are.

    You may find this hard to believe, Adam, but not every screw-up is necessarily a “scam”, and not everyone is out to get consumers like you and everyone else here. If you keep that mindset, though, I doubt any company is eventually going to consider doing business with you if ever they find out.


  • cjr001

    Yes, she changed her flight in February. But then there’s this:

    “The agent at gate 74 told me that United had changed my reservation to a
    later flight in anticipation of me missing my tight connection.”

    So, based on this, it sounds like the next leg of her itinerary was changed without her knowledge while she was on her first leg.

  • Carver Clark Farrow II

    My comment was directed only to the first part of the supposition,to which I repeat, if you are trying to catch a plane, quibbling with the supervisor seems imprudent and unwise at best.  Perhaps you would, but not everyone would.  I certainly wouldn’t. I’d much rather catch my plane than worry about money that I might get back later.

  • TonyA_says

    Emanon, when I was reading this last night, it made my head spin. I was too tired to fire up my GDS so I waited till this morning.

    Note she made a change in her reservation (PNR) last February for a flight 2-3 months later in May. Since the change had a fare differential, we can assume she made a change “for a better flight time”. Looking at United/Lufthansa schedules for May, a LAX-EWR-MUC-AOI passenger really had only 2 basic options:

    (1) Take UA106 EWR-MUC departing EWR at 535PM  and UA9295 (LH1956) MUC-AOI arriving AOI 1120AM.

    (2) Take UA9254 (LH413) departing EWR at 820PM and UA9541 (LH1958) MUC-AOI arriving AOI at 525PM.

    I assume her original reservation had her arriving AOI at 525PM because it was cheaper, so she changed her mind and rebooked on the earlier arriving flight at 1120AM.

    You cannot make a change in a paid booking without knowing you will pay the change penalty and any fare difference. Therefore, she knew her old tickets were for different flights and she had to pay for new ones to be issued. Notice how quiet she was about this “minor detail”.

    I believe that the only reason she was able to fly LAX-EWR was because she was on the same LAX-EWR flight on the old and new (changed) reservations. That said, the agent in LAX probably saw her LAX-EWR res and old coupons matched. She probably did not see the mismatch of the EWR-MUC and MUC-AOI res and coupons. Maybe because of the system migration confusion from Apollo to Shares, the agent probably just printed the boarding pass and did not re-sync the ticket coupons. Had s/he checked a little bit more, s/he would have noticed that an additional collection was due to issue the correct coupons for the flights.

    If the OP departed LAX at about 835AM, here are the connection time info for her “scheduled” flights:   FLT.NO      LEG      DEP  TR ARRIVAL TR  EQP  CITY   CT  MCT
      #UA1703   LAX EWR    835A  7  454P    C  752
      #UA 106   EWR MUC    535P  C  740A#1  2  764   EWR   DI   40
      #UA9295   MUC AOI    940A  2 1120A       AT7   MUC   II   45
    Note she had 41 minutes scheduled between flights where the Minimum Connection Time was 40 minutes. In other words, she was scheduled to perfection.

    Since she knew as early as February that she had not paid for her new tickets, checked-in and boarded at LAX still without paying for her new tickets, was she thinking she was going to get lucky at EWR without paying ??? Who does she think she is fooling?

    IMO, This is one of those cases where you have a customer who probably thinks they have gotten away with not paying  then gets caught at some point. They get pissed off and find a kind-hearted venue that is willing to listen to their one-sided story so they can bash the vendor.

    Dear OP — If your four days of vacation is so important, then why didn’t you pay early enough so there wouldn’t have been a delay. I’m sure if you called United between February and May, they would have gladly taken your credit card. If you ask United, I am sure they believe that collecting their money is just as important as you having a great 4-day vacation.:-)

  • Mel65

    I sent them a politely irritated email explaining that I’d prepaied for both a car service that I couldn’t use (the vehicle we’d requested was already booked for the later time by someone else) and  lost 1 day at the park and they “generously” opened skymiles accounts and gave us each 5K miles (including the children, weird).  I’ve never been a collector of miles, so they were useless to us of course :) In the end, we had a great time in Orlando and after a lot of deep breaths, I let it go…mostly ;)

  • wyoming1949

    With regard to derogatory comments about a customer placed on the reservation record:  The airline should be required to (1)  Provide the customer with a print-out of said comments, and  (2)  At the customer’s request, the airline should provide re-booking on another airline provided the customer agrees for fare forfeitures, payment of “walk-up” fares, etc.  I would rather complete my trip by TRAIN or BUS, if necessary, than become a victim of a minimum wage employee taking-out his/her personal problems on customers!

  • bodega3

    Well it doesn’t work that way.  Comments are put into PNR’s all the time.  I will never forget pulling up a PNR in my GDS and seeing the airline’s comments about my client’s mother calling to try and get a change done with no add collect or fee.  She could be very persistant and I guess she ticked off the agent .  It is rare for us to see these messages, but I guess the agent wanted me to know what a PITA my cilent’s mother was.  Too funny and so very right on!

  • Allan Jayne