United Still Isn't

Recently, I took my first flights on United Airlines in quite some time, using my accumulated miles to attend a friend's wedding in Vancouver, BC. While the financially troubled carrier seems to have its act together in many ways, it still has a long way to go.

When I booked my flights on-line at United.com I tried to buy the few additional miles I needed for first-class flights between IND, ORD, and YVR. That option wasn't immediately obvious, so I called customer service the next day to inquire. The agent checked and told me that the option hadn't come up because there were no first-class seats available. Oh. OK.

However, when I checked in on-line, I was offered the option of upgrading either one or both segments for a fee. The 4+ hour leg from Chicago to Vancouver is the one where I'd want to be in first-class, but the $300+ fee was, I felt, too much. Besides, my Premiere status got me into Economy Plus, which does have extra legroom. Oddly, though, this contradicted what the reservations agent had told me on the phone.

Once in Chicago, the sign at the gate said there were six first-class seats still available for upgrade. Hoping for a better deal than the $300 I was offered on line, I inquired. To my surprise, I was told that, "This is a free ticket; you can't upgrade a free ticket." Again, a contradiction to what I was offered earlier by a different faction at this beleaguered airline.

United is doing a few things right: extra legroom in Economy Plus, not charging for coffee and water, adult beverages at $1 less than some other airlines. But it still has a long way to go if excellent service is its goal.

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