If you have no status, the best thing you can hope for if you want to make a flight change with no penalty is for a disruption to your itinerary. Depending on how well you push it, a mere change of five minutes can be enough to avoid the fee. This is especially true if the five minutes happens a couple of times leading me to tell the airlines, “How will I know if I can make my connection if the schedule is this inconsistent?”
Part of my beautiful itinerary to Tahiti was booked and ticketed way back in August. I received three emails from United saying that my reservation had changed. I gave the first two the proper attention such emails deserve and couldn’t find any major differences that troubled me. Yesterday, I was booking the final leg from Shanghai back to the US and wanted to double-check the day I was arriving back in PVG after my stopover in New Zealand. Curiously, the itinerary just stopped in Auckland.
What happened to the Shanghai portion I wondered. I logged in to United.com suspecting it was only an email glitch. Nope. The itinerary showed that the route terminated in New Zealand. Frantic, I called United and while on hold I noticed that the business class tickets were sold out on my original route. This looked like it was going to be a huge problem.
The agent got on the phone and said that the codeshare partner had cancelled the flight but he too was puzzled because the flight was still being operated on the same time and date and with the same carrier as before. “Please hold, I’ll contact the support desk.”
While on hold, I recalled previous United flights which I thought I had booked but were never ticketed. I learned the hard way that making a reservation and ticketing a reservation are two different things. Until a reservation is actually ticketed by the codeshare partner, i.e., you have a seat on the plane, it can be cancelled. United says that ticketing can take up to 24 hours which is why I do not celebrate prematurely anymore. I wait to see the words, “You’re reservation was ticketed on August…” In this case, however, I had the documentation showing that everything was set up correctly.
What felt like an hour later, the agent casually came back on the phone and said I was good to go. I asked what happened and he cleverly replied, “Who cares what happened, it’s what we did to fix it that is important.” What a nice, smart man I thought as I hung up the phone.
That could’ve been bad. I would’ve been mad, real mad, Joe Jackson.