I’ve just had one of those teeth-grindingly aggravating experiences redeeming some of my gazillion or so frequent flier miles for a “free” ticket on United Airlines. The good news: a seat to Philadelphia was available on 6 days notice. The bad news: bookings using the mileage program with less than 7 days advance require a “service fee” of $100. ( I should note that I booked this via the interactive voice system at United, with no human intervention, or “service” provided”). Then there’s the $10 in taxes on the “free” ticket. OK, no real problem with that. Then the always chirpy computer voice informs me that any changes to the issued ticket with less than 21 days notice will result in a $150 service charge. As I will undoubtedly need to make some minor change (date, departure time, etc) on my return flight 3 days later, and obviously on less than 21 days notice, let’s add $150 more to my “free” mileage ticket. Last but not least, the robo informs me that the mileage required for this ticket is not the expected 25,000 as advertised, but 50,000. So, lighter by 50,000 miles and $260, I have secured my “free” ticket to Philadelphia.
If anyone at United still wonders why the public holds the airline industry in even lower esteem than the banking industry these days, the above story should provide some clarity.