Matthewonlive and let's fly

I Love United Airlines' Indian Call Center

I doubt that it has ever been said before, but I am happy to say it here: I love United Airlines' Indian Call Center. Allow me to explain.

I was putting together a relatively straight forward award ticket today on united.com, but the website just would not price it. I called reservations, expecting to only be on the phone a few minutes, but after over an hour on hold, the legacy United agent came back saying her team could not price the itinerary correctly. She could not explain why, she just said the system was pricing it out at 125K (the standard/easy-pass level). I could not even get it to price, so I asked asked her to place the reservation on hold, which she did. I called back immediately, hoping it was just a SHARES learning curve issue, but the next agent I spoke with (again a legacy United agent) ran into the same problem.

To give a bit more background, I was trying to book a three-segment one-way to Europe:

1. Los Angeles to Chicago on United in Business Class (I)

[~2hr connection]

2. Chicago to London on United in Economy Class (X) because no saver business was available on this route or any other route on the preferred travel day

[~3hr connection]

3. London to Warsaw on LOT in Business Class (I)

Simple enough, right? It should have priced as a one-way saver business class ticket to Europe for 50K miles. But for some reason--almost as if the computer was trying to say it would be ridiculous to book a business class award when the longest segment was in economy class--it just would not book at that price. While I could not even get it to price, the agents said every time they put in the Chicago-London flight in saver economy (X) class and clicked save, the flight rebooked to standard award business (ZN).

Next call: web support

I must admit, I am not a fan of the former Continental Electronic Call Center. While there are many agents there who are quite good at what they do and courteous at the same time, I run into more (sadly) that 1.) have an attitude problem and 2.) don't know how to do their jobs.

Guess who I reached today? I stayed calm, but after an hour of holding I was not happy to have this conversation:

AGENT: The price is 125K for this itinerary.

ME: Why not 50K?

AGENT: The system doesn't allow your routing at the saver level. It's not a valid routing.

ME: That's not true. It is under the MPM, the minimum connect times are met, and the award space is available. Plus, if it is not a valid routing, why does your computer price it as 125K? Surely you did not keep me on hold for one hour because it was pricing out correctly.

AGENT: Nope, this is 125K.

ME: Because your computer system says so?

AGENT: Yes.

ME: Well your system is wrong!

AGENT: No, it's not.

ME: I am not going to argue with you--clearly when the system reprices from X to ZN automatically, something is wrong.

AGENT: No.

ME: Is it possible for you transfer me to the Indian Call center? They know how to work around your broken system.

AGENT: I cannot transfer you and our system is not broken.

ME: Thanks. You Continental folks need to learn that SHARES is not flawless.

*click*

I called back a few hours later, hoping the Continental folks had gone home, and sure enough--I got the Indian call center.

I talked through the problem and the friendly agent quickly admitted that the system was not pricing the award correctly and told me to wait just a moment.

Five minutes later, the agent came back saying he and his support team had fixed the problem and my reservation was now pricing correctly at 50K/ticket. I asked him to issue the ticket, which he promptly did.

Pulling up the reservation, which has since been ticketed, I see that 50K miles per ticket were deducted and the reservation looks perfect.

Whatever the Indian Call Center did--I offer my thanks. They did in five minutes what the rest of United could not do in over three hours.

For all the constant complaining about them on Flyertalk and MilePoint, I remain a big fan of United's Indian Call Center. They are lacking in certain areas, but when it comes to tech support, they are my go-to call center.

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Comments

#1
Andy May 12, 2012 at 01:39 am

I always have good experience with Indian call center. Despite the language barrier, they actually listen to what I say and genuinely want to help me. I'm glad it works out for you too. I'd choose them over CO agent in a heartbeat!

#2
A. S. May 12, 2012 at 08:33 am

Just adding a +1 to the above. The Indian call center isn't without its problems, but "attitude" has never been one of them, in my experience. That alone resolves all else, as they are willing to find out (when) they are wrong and change gears! CO/UA agents are generally very arrogant and thus unwilling to accept the remote possibility that they could be wrong, which they frequently are, of course.

#3
HF May 12, 2012 at 01:08 pm

Just wondering how to reach India call center?

@HF: Good question--it's luck of the draw, unfortunately.

The number for UA's electronic support desk is +18003961751. There is no longer an elite number and hold times can be long, depending on time of day.

#5
SM May 12, 2012 at 01:29 pm

+1 on the Indian CC. Sometimes the accent and quality of sound makes it hard to understand, but they always have a pro-active attitude and are willing to help. Not like the divas I get in the U.S. CC's and the clueless ones in the Manila one.

#6
Travis May 12, 2012 at 04:09 pm

I still prefer speaking with U.S. folks. An irritant I consistently encounter, not just airlines, with Indian call centers is repeating back of everything one says. "just so I understand, you are wanting to...blah, blah." It's exasperating! While polite, it's irritating enough to avoid them. I've had good service when booking awards with USAirways and United over the phone, but I thoroughly prep before speaking with any customer phone rep.; helping them do their job helps get want you want - most of the time - and off the phone ASAP.

#7
Tony May 13, 2012 at 11:54 am

Why do you say it's MPM? If this is a published one-way fare (paid not free) in Business, you will need J class to get MPM. The other discounted BC fares must use route # 406. I don't believe you can route UA-LAX-ORD-LHR-LO-WAW for route #406. Try it in your GDS, it (406) won't work via LON.

Looking at UA Award site, none of the Award tickets from LAX to WAW are via LHR.

What can India do for you knowing this? How do you know Awards are based on MPM? Where is that published?

Tony, UA doesn't look for published routings on award flights. They (and by they I mean more the legacy UA folks, since the CO folks seem to let anything go as long as their system will price it) instead allow the MPM to be exceeded by 15%.

The MPM for LAX-WAW is 7461. 15% over is 8580.

LAX-ORD-LHR-WAW is only 6597 miles.

In terms of UA award ticketing, my routing was valid. Period.

I blogged about UA's award routing rules in an earlier post:

http://upgrd.com/matthew/united-loosens-routing-rules-for-star-alliance-awards.html

#9
Tony May 14, 2012 at 08:10 am

Matthew, I understand that your point but I do not think that is the issue.

I agree, the route LAX-ORD-LHR-WAW Ticketed Point Mileage (TPM) is less (or within) the Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) between LAX-WAW

MPM of LAX-WAW - 7461 miles (and mileage bands): GI M 5M 10M 15M 20M 25M MPM AT 7461 7834 8207 8580 8953 9326

TPM of LAX-ORD-LHR-WAW is only 6597 LAXCHI 1745 CHILON 3953 LONWAW 899 TOTAL 6597

But that is NOT the issue. Most United fares have ROUTING RESTRICTIONS. Some UA fares have no routing restriction and only MPM needs to be validated. But many cheaper UA fares have actual routes that must be valid. For example LAX-WAW One-way Business Class Published Fare Code C2E require Route 406 while Fare Basis Code JX1 allows basically any route for as long it complies with MPM.

The route 406 RESTRICTION is quite voluminous so I only display the pertinent route here that allows for ORD and LON: FROM-TO: LAX-AC/LH/UA-ATL/BOS/CHI/CLE/EWR/NYC/PHL/WAS/YHZ/YMQ/YOW/YTO -AMS/BCN/BER/BHX/BRU/CPH/DUB/DUS/EDI/FRA/GVA/HAM/LIS/LON/MAD/MAN/MIL/MUC/PAR/ROM/ZRH -UA/BD/LH/LX/OS/SN-AMS/BCN/BER/BRU/CPH/DUS/FRA/GVA/HAM/LON/MAD/MIL/MUC/PAR/ROM/STO/VIE/ZRH -UA/LO-WAW*

If you use a GDS, you cannot get a valid C2E fare to autoprice using UA-LAX-ORD-LHR-UA/LO-WAW. I think it does not like the LON-WAW segment and is requiring a LON-xxx-WAW where xxx is your typical Star Alliance hub city.

I also think the One Way SaverPass (50K miles) is using the same routing restriction rule above. While the 125K miles One Way Easy Pass is not (meaning it is just MPM and has no other routing restriction).

Maybe the United Call Center Agents in India are simply [manually] OVERRIDING the routing restriction rules while those in the USA are not.

Have you considered the possibility that the 50k miles award to Europe do have routing restrictions?

#10
Tony May 14, 2012 at 09:10 am

Hi Matthew, I reread you article again just to make sure I was not misunderstanding it. I got a bit confused on which segments were booked on Business or Economy. Now I see your point - if you could have booked the whole trip on Business (Restricted) then you should only pay 50K miles. I agree.

I redid a LAX-ORD-LHR-WAW Business Restricted one-way (FBC C2E) on United. I have to correct my earlier statement - that route is Valid, but I just had to price the itinerary with an Fare Basis Code (C2E) override.

But one thing caught my eye. UA codeshare (UA6846) LHR-WAW never seems to have business class seats available no matter how far ahead I go. That said, it forces you to book on Y class (not business) for that segment.

But the LAX-ORD I could take First (F), Business (Z) or Economy (Y), and the ORD-LHR in Business (C), but the LHR-WAW only Econ (Y) for the fare to be valid.

So now that it's clear the route is valid for a business restricted fare, then the only issue here is getting the correct class on the UA codeshare (LHR-WAW) and someone manually pricing the itinerary. Note, if you book a LO coded flight (instead of a UA codeshare) business class segment for LHR-WAW, it would not price as CE2.

Your article was very interesting that was why it caught my attention. So I tried to redo it (using published fare rules instead of award mileage). Thanks.

@Tony: Thanks for your comments!

In the sense of award ticketing (based on my earlier post linked to above), I don't think UA even considers published routing anymore, only the MPM regardless of how odd the routing is or how many connections--I've booked quite a few doozies that we much more complicated than the trip above and certainly not published routings.

The legacy Continental system may be a little different--I haven't figured out yet, but you will get options all the time on the united.com award search that exceed the MPM (like say South America to South Africa via Europe) and I can only assume that somehow SHARES does also factor in published routings.

In this case, though, as you point out, even the routing should have been fine.

#12
RR August 9, 2012 at 04:49 pm

I just had two phone calls with the India call center in the last two days. Polite yes, but communication is quite difficult. Seriously.

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