Ridiculous Airline Complexity #372

One of the primary reasons people are constantly annoyed with airlines is the unbelievable complexity involved in the operation, and how that complexity ends up as customer-facing nonsense.  To wit:

I flew to Amsterdam yesterday on United, though I bought it through Continental (it’s a codeshare).  (Side note:  My company travel policy suggests I fly on partner airlines, of which Continental is one.  It would allow me to book this ticket as a Continental flight, but if I tried to book it as a United flight, it would not let me.  It’s the same flight).

Anyway, I wanted to upgrade (if that’s the word) to Economy Plus ($97, a steal), so I called United.  Here’s the conversation:

Me: Hi, I’m flying on United on Sunday and I’d like to buy Economy Plus — I’m on a Continental ticket, though.

United: Oh, we can’t help you with that.

Me: Do I have to call Continental?

United: No, they can’t help you with that either.  You have to call our travel agent.

Me: Really?  They can upgrade it but you can’t?  Are you sure (as I’m about 100% sure the travel agent will tell me to call United).

United:  Yes, the travel agent can help.  They have to reissue the ticket as a United ticket.

Me: Isn’t there a fee associated with making that change?

United: I don’t know, you have to ask your travel agent.

Me: No, I mean in the fare rules, doesn’t it say what the change fee is.

United:  No it does not.

Me: Wait, you don’t know what the fare rules say?

United: No.  You have to call the travel agent.


I’ll spare you the part about where I call the travel agent and they tell me I have to call United.  In any case, good luck the next time you use a corporate travel agent to book a codeshare flight on United and want to get Economy Plus.


  1. This specific example should be resolved, eventually, after the merger. One would hope. I ran into something similar myself recently: I booked a United flight using my CO frequent flier number, and then found it impossible to select seats online until I discovered an incredibly stupid loophole: I could log into United’s site using a United frequent flier number, find my reservation using the ticket code, and THEN select seats.

  2. There’s a potential class action lawsuit for all you ambulance chasers, ehehe ;-)

    There are too many airlines out there that don’t make it clear (or make it impossible) for the customer to see the carriage rules, change fees, etc. This is totally wrong and would be an easy win and actually, it would help all of us clients at the same time. I can understand mid-merger problems. But a couple of years ago, on a well-established airline, I couldn’t get the rules for my ticket nor could anyone on the phone tell me what they were (change fees, refunds under which circumstances, etc.). After 2 hours on the phone, someone agreed to cut and paste them from their system into an email to me… sheesh, aren’t WE supposed to have access to that?!?!?