When Cole Jennings upgraded the frequent flier tickets she and her husband were using to go to Australia, from business class to first class, it should have cost her 20,000 frequent flier miles for each ticket. Instead her credit card was billed $3,800. What?
Question: My husband and I were booked on a United business class ticket on Jan. 7, 2017 from Baton Rouge to Sydney, Australia, with a return Jan. 26, 2017, from Auckland, New Zealand.
On Nov. 21, 2016, I called United Airlines to upgrade the Auckland to San Francisco leg from business class to first class after there was a plane change. I was told by the United agent that it would be an additional 20,000 miles each, a $75 change fee each and a few extra dollars in taxes. This was agreed upon and the change was made by me giving her my credit card number.
A little while later I looked at my credit card statement and saw the above charges were made along with a charge for $3,838 from United. After a little research I discovered this charge was for 102,000 miles. I never discussed buying miles with the agent, wanted to buy miles or needed miles to upgrade my reservation. I had plenty of miles in my account and would never spend that amount of money for the mileage amount.
I’ve spent hours on this and cannot get anyone to help me get my money back. I don’t know why this agent made this mistake but it had left me with no proof of what happened at a huge expense. Can you help?– Cole Jennings, Baton Rouge, La.
Answer: It became instantly clear to our advocates that you had worked hard to get this matter resolved as a self-advocate. Within an hour you’d discovered the charge and immediately called United and eventually spoke with a supervisor who promised to fix the problem.
“I don’t have much of a paper trail as all of my contact has been by phone,” you said. “I trusted the supervisor to refund my credit card and thought it had been done, I didn’t think to get her name.”
But you did get a reference number from the supervisor you spoke with, which should have been tied to the supervisor’s notes on the case. And what paper trail you did have made it very clear that you were in the right here. United’s frequent flier rewards chart confirms that the change should have cost you 20,000 miles for each ticket, plus some fees. But it looks like the rep tried to redeposit the miles from the business class tickets and then reuse them for the first class tickets, but the miles did not instantaneously reappear in your account so the rep charged the card to buy the additional miles.
But despite all the evidence, your refund wasn’t immediately forthcoming.
“Every time I call United I’m told something different. Today I was told that I bought these miles through the website, which I didn’t and have no clue as to how to even do that. I was also told to submit a claim to United online, which I’ve done.”
You also tried to request a chargeback from your Chase United credit card, but were told you didn’t have adequate documentation for your claim without the name of the supervisor.
There is an important lesson here: Make sure you get a name when someone at an airline makes you a promise. And request an email confirmation of that promise. If you find yourself getting the runaround as Jennings did, our advocacy site provides contact information for airline executives.
I’m happy to hear that after our advocates contacted United on your behalf, you got a call confirming that the fee would be credited to your account. And that as it turns out, since United also lost a piece of luggage on the way to Australia, you were each offered a $300 travel voucher as well.