Earlier this year, I decided to bail on United’s frequent flyer program. I was switching to another Star Alliance airline but wanted to keep all my perks.
If I've legitimately earned my status, I would like to keep using the benefits until they run out. I didn't status match like many of my friends so I had to find a workaround until I could reach status on my new frequent flyer program. Through the use of the check-in trick, it wasn’t too hard to keep my benefits in the system. But United has now changed their system to close this loophole. Oddly, I flew like this about six weeks ago and it was still working fine back then.
The check-in trick has been known to lock in most perks; by the time you’ve checked in, you’re already sailing your way toward the gate and onto the plane. In other words, it’s a bit too late for someone to stop you and make you the pay the baggage fee in accordance with your newfound non-status. But it’s often why I wait until the very last minute before I make the change. (There’s a similar concept here with checking in baggage at the gate.)
But this time, I went up to the gate agent to do my usual bit. Strangely, she wasn’t unable to get in and change the reservation. This forced me to call United where, to be honest, things began to get a little tense. The phone agent insisted that I would lose my seat and that I would be locked into my new frequent flyer for the entire reservation. This meant I would get zero status benefits for the rest of the trip. So I hung up and called again, where I got another agent who made the change with limited fuss.
I boarded with my original group—all the gate agents have been super nice about letting me keep my original benefits the entire year—and then that was when something weird happened. My scanned boarding pass revealed that the system kicked me out of my current seat to a normal economy seat after changing the number. Though the agents just reassigned me my original seat on the spot, these new developments seems like a huge hassle… especially when I have at least 10 more United flights for the rest of the year. It seems I’ve been booted to the back of the bus.
Or I can just fork over the Economy Plus seating fee. But frankly, it upsets me when I’ve legitimately earned my status from the previous year. The only thing it’s done is cement my decision to leave.
Because I didn’t check a bag, I’m not sure how it would affect the free bag allowance but I’m guessing there’s limited recourse after the bag is headed toward the airplane’s cargo. I was also on United’s p.s. SFO-JFK flight so upgrades were a moot point. There was one thing the first phone agent seemed to be wrong about, however. I was actually able to change my frequent flyer number back to my United status after I flew the first leg of the flight through the website.
I’m honestly not sure if I will still bother going through with the hassle of trying to snag my United perks for the rest of the year, except for the cross-country, five-hour flights. The best bet for retaining perks still has to be through the gate agent, who I’ve often found are the most easygoing people despite their relatively demanding job. Unfortunately, United, we’re still getting a divorce.