United almost made us miss our flight (twice). Here’s how they made it right.

The night before our big trip to Cuba, I started checking our flights. We were supposed to fly from Albany to Newark and then onto Havana. Around 8pm I noticed the inbound aircraft for our Albany-Newark leg was delayed more than four hours, but it was still going to go out. I did the math in my head and realized if the same crew was going out for my flight, they wouldn’t get the required 10 hours rest. Still, United said my flight would be on time.

Initially, I thought Commutair must be using a different crew or perhaps they had added a crew base to their maintenance facility in Albany when I wasn’t looking. Around 10pm I started having doubts. Commutair didn’t open a new base and I only found one crew that would be legal to fly in the morning and I (correctly) guessed they would fly the 6:30am departure, not our 7:30am flight. Still, United said my flight would be on time.

I started getting ready for bed around 12:30am, but first I refreshed the United app...and there it was delayed “because your crew arrived later than scheduled.” The app said the flight would get in around 9:46am. I called b.s. right away because my experience has been those departure estimates are never right, especially for United Express. I also know 29 minutes to get from Terminal A to Terminal C is cutting it really close. The time drops to 14 minutes if the gate agent decides to remove our seats 15 minutes before departure and there’s only one flight a day to Havana.
I took a minute to calm myself and called United and got through to Joyce right away. She agreed there wasn’t enough time to connect and offered to put us on an American flight leaving later in the day and casually mentioned it would arrive at 8am the following morning...meaning we’d spend the night in Miami. It was a non-starter. I asked to get on a Delta flight that had seats, but Delta doesn’t play nice at re-accommodating United passengers, so Joyce nixed that idea. She also offered a flight out of Hartford or Syracuse, but I told her if I’m going to drive 2+ hours, it’s going to be toward Newark and our connecting flight. I also asked if she would upgrade us to Economy Plus, since it was almost completely empty anyway.

Joyce put us on hold for about 25 minutes to make the changes. When she returned, she said our confirmation number would remain the same and we were good to go. I asked her to hold while I checked on my end and noticed we were still showing booked on the delayed Albany-Newark flight. Joyce claimed she left the leg in there so we could file a refund online, but it wasn’t active and promised we wouldn’t have any problems.
I then went to bed -- grabbing whatever little sleep I could get since these changes meant instead of a 20 minute drive to the airport, we were facing a 2.5 hour drive in the middle of the night. 

When I got up, I noticed the reservation still looked the same, but we got in the rental car and headed south. Around 5am, I got a text from United with more information about boarding for our delayed Newark flight from Albany and realized something was indeed wrong. Tara used my phone, since I was driving, and called United. After a short hold, we were connected to Nidia and explained what happened. She listened and asked to put us on hold to work with the international support desk. We waited. And waited. And waited. After about 30 minutes, Tara decided to try calling United from her phone while we were still on hold. The system asked her something about a payment and she quickly hung up. We took it as a sign that Nidia didn’t abandon us. Sure enough, a few minutes later we received an email with just the Newark-Havana flight. 

Nidia returned to the phone to let us know she reissued the tickets, that we were good to go and asked if there was anything else she could do before she disconnected. I was happy to know there was a solution, but had to ask why this happened. Nidia hesitated and explained the ticket just needed to be reissued. I was reading between the lines and asked if Joyce messed up. Again, Nidia paused and admitted Joyce hadn’t done things correctly. In fact, all it looked like Joyce did was upgrade our seats. Had we not called when we did, Albany would have put us down as a no-show and our reservation would have been cancelled. I want to believe United staff in Newark would have been able to see the notes from Joyce and reinstated our tickets. However, my experience is that it's always easier to deal with before the reservation is cancelled.
Gas receipt sent to United

We checked in to Havana with plenty of time and decided to use our Priority Pass at the lounge in Terminal B. After a much needed cup of coffee, I filed a complaint with United along with receipts for gas and tolls. Thankfully, Hertz didn’t charge us any extra fees to drop off our car in Newark instead of Albany and I didn't think it was right to try to claim the rental car that we were going to need regardless.

A few days later, we received a response from Customer Care. They agreed to send us a check for $20 in expenses (as requested), refund the portion of our reservation from Albany to Newark (roughly $23 each) and issued us vouchers for $150 each toward a future flight, which is more than we paid to get to Havana.

This isn’t the first time United has made a mistake and then made it right, which is one of many reasons why I keep flying them. Certainly, I think United should have handled this correctly the first time. Joyce added a lot of unnecessary stress, aggravation and frustration to the start of our trip. Arguably, the system should have noticed we had an “illegal” connection time and offered self re-booking options that would have made the process faster. That said, United didn’t put up a fight to make this right.

Oh, and FWIW, the flight from Albany arrived in Newark at 10:06am...almost exactly when we pushed back for Havana.
United almost made us miss our flight (twice). Here’s how they made it right. United almost made us miss our flight (twice). Here’s how they made it right. Reviewed by Brandon on February 17, 2020 Rating: 5

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