United Airlines

A few weeks back we flew to Boston and back. We booked our return flight about 4pm … confirmed, the whole nine yards. We were set. Then they notified us, via e-mail, that we had been pushed back to the 5:30pm flight. Kris, who handles our flights, assumed United had canceled the 4:00pm flight. Lo and behold! When we got to the airport — too early — about 3:15pm for the return, we discovered the 4pm flight was still in operation. So we began asking questions … here’s what I learned from someone who had gotten inside to discover what United had done.

1. The 4pm flight is easier to book than the 5:30pm flight.
2. So, United bumps some from the 4pm flight to the 5:30 flight in order to open up seats in the  more attractive flight (4:30pm) and hopes that folks re-assigned to the 5:30pm flight won’t cancel.

What do you think of this procedure? Have you had this happen?

By the way, we got on the 4pm flight and sat in the dead last row.

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  • I imagine the airlines do these kinds of sneaky things all the time. I know there is a logic to it, but I don’t like it. For other reasons I had a bad experience with United earlier this year, which I wrote about here: Flying United (for the last time?)

  • James

    Once again, a Seinfeld quote is apropos.
    Jerry: I don’t understand. Do you have my reservation?
    Car Rental Assistant: We have your reservation, we just ran out of cars.
    Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here, that’s why you have the reservation!
    Car Rental Assistant: I think I know why we have reservations.
    Jerry: I don’t think you do. You see, you know how to *take* the reservation, you just don’t know how to *hold* the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them.

  • Brian in NZ

    Yes it happened to me once, but I didn’t realise it until it was too late to say anything

  • macmanbob

    As a businessperson, I understand United’s reasoning and motivation to fill as many seats as possible. The decision-maker at United was ONLY following the prime directive of business = maximize income. (Obviously, this is accomplished by flying as many planes with more passengers rather than fewer.) However, the prime directive is never the ONLY directive to be followed; it ALWAYS works in concert with other directives. The other directives address customer loyalty, repeat purchases, and product satisfaction & delivery. Best practice is for a company to deliver on all directives, not only the prime directive.
    As a consumer, I consider booking a seat on a flight as a mutual contract: I pay for a seat & the company provides the seat. Intentional overbooking and frivolous bumping are both breaches of contract by the airline and should not be permitted without a significant premium or penalty. I will volunteer as a “bump-ee” if I am not making a connecting flight and have slack in my itinerary, but even then there should be a premium offered by the airline. Never, I should not be forced, against my will, to be bumped by some last-minute “emergency” passenger (unless they are trying to get to the funeral of an immediate family-member) or a supposed VIP (there are way too many sham VIPs these days).
    Scot, how was the last row experience?

  • hotrod

    This is why I fly Frontier Airlines now.

  • Dianne P

    This is one of the reasons that we’re transitioning from United. That and the increasingly frequent surly attitude. If you hate your job, please go and work somewhere else and stop ruining my already not-so-great travel experience.
    When hubby was still working with a company that granted United premier status to all, and we lived in Chicago (captive to UAL), we appreciated United for those coveted premier seats. Hubby is 6 foot 5 with a history of blood clots. Those few extra inches were precious. And that premier status whisks you through the fast track line at security (I don’t even get how that is allowed to exist, but not for today’s discussion). For all of that, we put up with all the other increasingly horrid practices which I won’t bore you with here, but include a frustratingly poorly designed web site for booking. Has anyone at United actually tried to book a ticket
    Occasionally we would fly other airlines – Midwest, Southwest, Continental, Mexicana, US Air – and they actually seemed to employ people who acted as though, most of the time, their job was to be helpful to the passengers. At the very least, they didn’t seem to get bonused for being hateful.
    Now that hubby is retired (no more United premier status) and we live in Phx (not a United hub), we’re looking to use up our last frequent flyer miles on United and switch to mainly US Air and Southwest Air.
    Hoping that posting here will be easier than the other day.

  • Jennwith2ns

    I used to have a United rewards card because back in the 90’s I had an exceptionally good experience with them on my way to India. The last couple of years, though? Not so much.
    Within the last three years or so, I’ve had one trip where they tried to actually bump me off all of their flights completely–three or four times, in advance (I should’ve just let them), and one flight where they essentially did to me what they did to you, only they tried to rebook me on a flight leaving THE NEXT DAY. I would have none of it, but I also would have no more of them, so like Diane P above, I used up my miles and haven’t flown them since.