When disaster struck Japan, I waivered over whether to take my planned trip to Tokyo next week. Despite dire warnings of radiation contamination, empty shelves at grocery stores, and rolling blackouts, I determined that media reports were overblown (to some extent they were and continue to be) and planned to take my trip as scheduled.
Two things changed my mind. First, the trip to Japan was not a solo trip, but a trip with my uncle. He called me a few nights ago and essentially demanded that I either postpone or cancel the trip. I still wasn’t convinced, but after conversations with some of my Japanese co-workers over the last couple days, I ultimately decided now was not the right time to go. Even if I could aid in some small way in the relief effort, I would most likely just be getting in the way during this trying time in Japan.
Once I determined I would not be traveling to Japan next week, the more daunting task of calling United and attempting to change the travel dates loomed. I had a bad feeling that United would not allow me to change the dates of travel with out a re-fare. While Continental’s website clearly states that no change fee or difference in fare will be collected as long as travel commences by 10 May, one month after the final date of the travel waiver, United’s website simply stated that change fees will waived. There was no mention of a fare re-calculation, which seemed like a good indication to me that UA would want to charge the difference.
Sure enough, I reached a very pleasant and competent agent in Michigan who was able to assemble my BOS-LAX-HNL-GUM-NRT-HNL-LAX-GUM itinerary for the first week of May, but said I would have to pay the difference in fare. I chuckled that her computer took about 45 seconds to re-price my complex itinerary. I should add, by the way, that my uncle chose the routing through Honolulu and Guam, not me—he said he wanted to get out in stretch on the way over. Suits me for the extra miles…
So the new fare came back at over $4,500. It was time to put on the charm. As I mentioned, the agent was quite nice and when she saw the huge difference in fare and I made clear I had no intention of paying it, she offered to transfer me to a supervisor. Instead, I said, “I’d be more than happy to talk to a supervisor, but how about if you advocate on my behalf instead?” She chuckled and agreed. I waited on hold for about 20 minutes. Finally, she came back with excitement in her voice and stated that the difference in fare would be waived and she had almost finalized the tickets for re-issue. After reading me the revised itinerary, she fired it off to my e-mail address and sent it to whatever office will complete the ticketing.
This agent was such a pleasure to work with I had to ask her name and have already sent a note to UA praising her.
Now that my trip to Japan is off, the question remained: should I still fly home this weekend? While European employee vacation allowances tend to be more generous than the USA (I receive 28 work days off this year, not including holidays), I do not want to squander all my vacation now, so I’ll just be going home for a few days (including a flight with UA’s Captain Denny Flanagan on Saturday) then returning to Frankfurt on Tuesday. That actually works out better for my schedule, since I am in the middle of a substantial project right now.
By the time you read this, I’ll be on my Frankfurt-Chicago flight. I coughed up $130 extra on the outbound for a W-class fare, but sitting at my computer now eight hours before the flight, I am still waitlisted. Although the flight is still F2C4, I went downstairs to see my friend at the United ticket counter this morning and she told me my chances did not look good today. Hopefully there will be some no-shows…
United really made my day by allowing me to change my ticket to Japan. It’s moments like this that help to demonstrate why I remain loyal to UA. It will be good to be home for a few days.