I'm not sure what to make of my experience with United today. I've given them a good review on this blog before, but today made me remember why I hate dealing with them.

The story starts last night when I sleepily booked two tickets to Chicago from San Francisco for later this month. This morning when I woke up I realized that I used my girlfriend's nickname on the ticket instead of her proper legal name. No problem, I thought, I'll just call up and have them change the first name on the ticket.

That's when the fun began. After I spent fifteen minutes navigating the robot phone system to get to a (hard to understand, off-shored) person, I was told that I couldn't change the name on a ticket without a $100 change fee.

A $100 change fee.

To change a first name.

I wasn't aware that this is what the change fee was for. I can understand charging me if I want to change to a different flight, but why would they try to charge me $100 to change the first name of the person on the flight. The only explanation I could come up with is that they were intentionally trying to irritate me.

So i did the only sensible thing. I hung up and called back under the assumption that the first person was crazy. (But not before checking on gethuman.com before calling back to figure out how to avoid the robot phone system.)

This rep informed of the same thing that the last rep did, but luckily, I had another out. The customer service rep on the phone informed me that since I had purchased the ticket within the last 24 hours, the ticket could be canceled with a full refund and rebooked. That made sense, so I told her to go ahead and do that.

Unfortunately, due to the magical airline ticket pricing system that we all know and love, the price of the exact same flight had increased by $96 since 12 hours before. And there was a $15 fee for booking over the phone.


So I had two choices, change the name and pay a $100 change fee, or cancel the ticket and pay the $96 + $15 difference.

Obviously, neither of these options appealed to me to change a first name.

So the first tact I took was to try to get them to waive the change fee. This has worked for me before on a number of airlines (Continental, Frontier, etc) and I figured it wouldn't be a big deal, since this wasn't really a big change to the ticket.

After being put on hold for 5 minutes, I was informed that that couldn't be done.

I would love to personally thank the supervisor who made that decision.

Eventually what I ended up doing was to have the original ticket refunded and book in a different time that was only $15 more expensive then the original flight that I booked.

So far this cost me $15 and an hour of my time.

To change a first name.

And I ended up with a less convenient flight.


The final slap in the face came just now, when I checked back on United's site. It seems that the pricing fairies have set the price of the flight that I wanted back down to the price of the flight that I booked today.

Thanks, United. I'm done flying your friendly skies.