United Award Ticket Drama

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Thinking about booking a United award ticket for someone else (before the award chart changes)? Here’s yet another potential problem to watch out for.

Some of my friends decided to take a weekend trip to Italy for their one-year anniversary. They had really helped me out recently (and I like to encourage weekend trips), so I sponsored a United award ticket in business for one of the directions.

United Upgrades

The flights they wanted were available online, so in a few minutes I had their information, including their United Mileage Plus numbers entered, the reservation booked, and seats selected. I had a confirmation number and the 100,000 miles had been deducted from my account.  That was easy! And if First Class on Lufthansa opened up last minute, they could chip in the extra miles and we could make the change with no charge since I’m still 1K.

This was July. Imagine my surprise in early October when they got a call from United. Apparently their account didn’t have enough miles to cover the ticket and United wanted to know whose account it was coming from. Wha!?

I checked my account, and I was up about 100,000 miles. Since I’ve been focused on American Airline and US Airways but still putting alot of spend on my United credit card I hadn’t really been paying any attention. At some point in the 3 months, the miles had been returned to my account and the reservation was still held, but never ticketed.

Using award miles to book amazing experiences

I called to straighten it out, and also to figure out how this had happened. The agent was very kind, but couldn’t offer any explanation, other than when it actually went to ticket the reservation several days later, it had defaulted to their MileagePlus number instead of mine. But then why was the reservation held instead of cancelled? And why were we only getting notified now? He had no idea.

Fortunately it all worked out in the end, and in fact, Lufthansa First Class opened up the night before they left. 🙂 But this was yet another good reminder to stalk your award reservation until you have a ticket number. And even then you should probably continue to check the reservation and call the airline you’re flying a week or so in advance to make sure they can see the reservation on their end.

And if I’m ever doing this again, I think I’ll probably just call and try to get an agent.


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