Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mileage-Plus! Credit Card: Good Idea Doesn't Pan Out

I'm about 6-2, so whenever I fly, I'm a bit uncomfortable with the lack
of leg room. So, since I'm travelling alone this summer, in order to
have enough mileage to upgrade to a more roomy seat for my trip back
overseas, several weeks back I decided to apply for the Chase United
Mileage-Plus Visa card (Hey-- they throw in 20,000 or so free mileage
just for joining). If that's not enough, United also throws in a free
coupon for an upgrade for one domestic flight and allows me to earn
additional mileage with each dollar spent on the card. Just in time for
my trip to General Council tomorrow! Great idea right? Just wait a year
and cancel the card before the annual fee kicks in...

Unfortunately, after receiving the certificate this past week, when I
called customer service about the desired Orlando upgrade (because the
website wouldn't process it), I was informed that both of my flights
were "one cabin flights" (i.e. not upgradeable). Interestingly enough
though, when I went online again to print out my boarding pass right
after the phone call, it nevertheless gave the option to to upgrade for
4 additional inches of leg room for only $29. So I guess either the web
page has a error, or they just don't want to let passengers use their
mileage for a free upgrade on this flight when they can make a few extra
dollars on paying customers who want to upgrade by spending cash.

Oh well, no big deal. After all, the big reason I got the card was for
the international flight, right? So since the web page wouldn't process
this upgrade either, I called international reservations (neither time
did the web page tell me why my request couldn't be processed).
Unfortunately, I discovered that the mileage upgrade for overseas
flights is only good for the "H" economy booking class and up. The
travel agency I used procured cheaper tickets on
the lower economy "V" booking class. Aarghhh. Stymied by the system
twice when I thought I was being so clever!

The Chase/United Mileage-Plus! idea didn't work out for me like I had
hoped since I probably won't be flying much for a while after I get back
to the field, but it might be something for some of you to keep in mind.
Unfortunately, I only made these two discoveries after having invested
several hours reading all the fine print, applying for the credit card,
and making today's follow-up phone calls. In the midst of this I was
routed twice by the state-of-the-art voice recognition customer service
computer program over to the domestic department even though I specified
"international" clearly both times (Domestic reservations are, by the
way, outsourced to the Phillipines, while the person I spoke with in
international reservations sounded American). Oh well....