Educating United agents about their policies

Old Mar 14, 12, 5:43 am
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Educating United agents about their policies

This is not meant to be a rant. Instead, I hope it provides a set of constructive comments to UA Insider and others UA people about the set of policies that some agents need to learn/reinforce.

I have been flying quite a bit since March 3 and it's clear that there's a long way to go for some agents. Hopefully this will help!

1) Regional Premier Upgrades work on HNL-IAH/DEN/EWR flights. This happened to me on three different events since March 3. In all of them, agents refused to apply RPU to my reservation, even when the website clearly states that they work on these flights and even after consulting with their supervisor! After 3 phone calls Today, I was able to convince one agent to apply it.

2) Same day change work for any flight within 24 hours, even the day before! Phone agent didn't want to to SDC to the day before departure, even when original fare class was opened! I was finally able to do it after calling two times.

3) System Wide Upgrades did not disappeared, instead they were renamed to Global Premier Upgrades This happened to me at IAD last weekend (during IRROP). Gate agent swore to me that United decided to eliminate GPU or any other instrument for upgrade besides UDU. I was shocked!

4) GPU work for any qualifying fare class, even BULK During IRROP at IAD, I was on the upgrade list using a GPU. I had a BULK ticket from expedia (hotel+flight on V fare). Due to some IRROP, I was removed from the list within 24 hrs. Phone agent tried to add me to the list for a different flight, but declined to do it because my ticket was BULK! I was shocked.

5) Please teach gate agents and Club agents on how to (re-)apply GPU to reservation during IRROP. I had IRROP and was unable to be added to the upgrade list (applying GPU), even after spending 3 hours on the phone, with club and gate agents.

Any others?

Last edited by 1KHI; Mar 18, 12 at 11:42 pm
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Old Mar 18, 12, 11:40 pm
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Thanks 1KHI! I think it's a great idea to list the set of issues UA employees are struggling with.

Here's one I was shocked to death:

5) Reinforce agents how to add to customers to standby list for connecting flight. Happened to me Today at JFK United club. Flying JFK-LAX-SAN. Agent was unable to put me on standby list for earlier connecting flight LAX-SAN. She tried typing SDC, etc and nothing (of course SDC didn't apply since fare class was not open, thus getting an error).
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Old Mar 18, 12, 11:45 pm
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Old Mar 19, 12, 12:00 am
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Had a guy and his wife on separate PNR's today that had misconnected. They were on standby and he requested that his wife be elevated to be #2 on the standby list just under him. (He had gold status, she had silver, if I recall correctly and had about 4 people in between them on the list.) He kept talking about "million miler this, million miler that" and wouldn't leave the podium, even though it was an express gate, and I was working 4 flights with a line that would never end (but was never long.) (by the way, while he was lobbying, a 1k knocked him down from #1 to #2)

I explained that one of the good things about CO's system is the transparency. I cannot manipulate the list, it is, what it is, as opposed to people not trusting UA with temrs like "shenanigins". 30 min later, he came back to me with a piece of paper that had the Shares entry to "bypass" (skip over a name) on the standby list, saying "a supervisor told him to tell me to use this." When I refused him, he then went to the CO success team member at our gate and she almost laughed at him. I eventually was replaced to go home, but before I left, he tried to get a 3rd agent to do it.

ROFL, 1st of all, the supervisors where I work haven't been trained on Shares, and 2nd, if they had somehow wanted me to violate UA policy by skipping other elites, do you think they would have written down the command and gave it to a passenger to take back to me 10 gates away, or do you think they would have called my phone?

Oh the education I am getting on Shares never ceases to amaze me.

They both got on, but we sure did NOT bypass or skip any other people to do it.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 12:12 am
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Originally Posted by fastair View Post
Had a guy and his wife on separate PNR's today that had misconnected. They were on standby and he requested that his wife be elevated to be #2 on the standby list just under him. (He had gold status, she had silver, if I recall correctly and had about 4 people in between them on the list.) He kept talking about "million miler this, million miler that"
But you understand his point, right? As 1MM, his wife (assuming he nominated her) should be same level as him. So both Gold. That was promised as of March 3, then mid March. That was what he was trying to change. He was not trying to skirt the rules, but just wanted them to be enforced as promised.

Oh, and MAN I don't envy your job these days! Please try to keep a sense of humor about all of this. Otherwise, you will go crazy!
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Old Mar 19, 12, 12:49 am
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Originally Posted by blueman2 View Post
But you understand his point, right? As 1MM, his wife (assuming he nominated her) should be same level as him. So both Gold. That was promised as of March 3, then mid March. That was what he was trying to change. He was not trying to skirt the rules, but just wanted them to be enforced as promised.

Oh, and MAN I don't envy your job these days! Please try to keep a sense of humor about all of this. Otherwise, you will go crazy!
To be honest, no I don't. I see what you are saying, but I have NOT been trained on the ins and outs of what benefits a person can nominate someone else to get and when it would become effective. My "judgement" isn't to do what an individual tries to persuade me to do when it lowers someone else's chance of getting on the flight by bypassing them completely, it is to follow the logic built into the system. She is not gold now, and as such, for me to bypass other golds would be even more unfair to them, especially when their name is on the list on a wide screen tv over my head above hers. Last flight of the night. Do you think that I would have gotten out of there alive if in full view of these other people (and they had to be aware of the situation as he would not leave the center of attention) I caved into his logic instead of the published logic and it stranded them for a day?

Could you imagine the calls of "Shenanigans!" if they (in the same boat, misconnected gold flyers) saw a man keep pushing and pushing in front of us for 30 min, then suddenly get have him and a lower person on the list disappear from the list, then board, while the other golds were sitting still hopeing to get on?


As for sense of humor, when I get frustrated, I tell the people it is OK for them to laugh at me. Then we are laughing together, as I am laughing at myself all day long.

While some attempts to train me from the customers are benign at worst or beneficial at best, this was clearly not the case here. I choose to get my training from the source (UA), as if it comes down to it, I am covered if trained improperly. If I get "ghetto" trained on the calle by the customers instead of my employer, I have no defence if what they teach is improper, or improperly applied "But manager, a customer told me this is what I am supposed to do..." isn't going to hold much weight. If I did what every customer told me to do, noone would ever pay for an upgrade, change fee, or even their tickets.

I am betting he might even be a FT member, and if he reads this, I am glad they both got on, the right way (even if he thinks the 3rd agent fell for the scheme, he didn't he had already cleared the people in between you two.) But a word of advise. At a busy gate, state your case, then leave the service area once replied to. Every misconnected customer has problems that should be addressed, and blocking them from the podium/hovering over them instead of giving them their privacy is in bad form. The squeeky wheel does not get the grease when that wheel prevents the rest of the cart from working. There are stanchions set up and a queue for a reason. Those getting worked on stand in front of the podium, those loitering/waiting to clear standby have plenty of space away from the service area to do it. And if you have nominated her and she is due your benefits soon, I hope that goes smoothly without furthur delay, but we at the airport know nothing of these MP interactions. We go by what the HDQ programers have programmed, at the direction of the MP people, and whatever status is currently in UA's system is what we use becuase it is 100% automated (I can't tell the computer that a silver is a gold, or my friend is a GS when he is really a NRSA, and I am glad that I can't. It is far simpler to work with the system than against it.)

Last edited by fastair; Mar 19, 12 at 1:23 am
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Old Mar 19, 12, 2:35 pm
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Originally Posted by fastair View Post
To be honest, no I don't. I see what you are saying, but I have NOT been trained on the ins and outs of what benefits a person can nominate someone else to get and when it would become effective. My "judgement" isn't to do what an individual tries to persuade me to do when it lowers someone else's chance of getting on the flight by bypassing them completely, it is to follow the logic built into the system. She is not gold now, and as such, for me to bypass other golds would be even more unfair to them, especially when their name is on the list on a wide screen tv over my head above hers. Last flight of the night. Do you think that I would have gotten out of there alive if in full view of these other people (and they had to be aware of the situation as he would not leave the center of attention) I caved into his logic instead of the published logic and it stranded them for a day?

Could you imagine the calls of "Shenanigans!" if they (in the same boat, misconnected gold flyers) saw a man keep pushing and pushing in front of us for 30 min, then suddenly get have him and a lower person on the list disappear from the list, then board, while the other golds were sitting still hopeing to get on?


As for sense of humor, when I get frustrated, I tell the people it is OK for them to laugh at me. Then we are laughing together, as I am laughing at myself all day long.

While some attempts to train me from the customers are benign at worst or beneficial at best, this was clearly not the case here. I choose to get my training from the source (UA), as if it comes down to it, I am covered if trained improperly. If I get "ghetto" trained on the calle by the customers instead of my employer, I have no defence if what they teach is improper, or improperly applied "But manager, a customer told me this is what I am supposed to do..." isn't going to hold much weight. If I did what every customer told me to do, noone would ever pay for an upgrade, change fee, or even their tickets.

I am betting he might even be a FT member, and if he reads this, I am glad they both got on, the right way (even if he thinks the 3rd agent fell for the scheme, he didn't he had already cleared the people in between you two.) But a word of advise. At a busy gate, state your case, then leave the service area once replied to. Every misconnected customer has problems that should be addressed, and blocking them from the podium/hovering over them instead of giving them their privacy is in bad form. The squeeky wheel does not get the grease when that wheel prevents the rest of the cart from working. There are stanchions set up and a queue for a reason. Those getting worked on stand in front of the podium, those loitering/waiting to clear standby have plenty of space away from the service area to do it. And if you have nominated her and she is due your benefits soon, I hope that goes smoothly without furthur delay, but we at the airport know nothing of these MP interactions. We go by what the HDQ programers have programmed, at the direction of the MP people, and whatever status is currently in UA's system is what we use becuase it is 100% automated (I can't tell the computer that a silver is a gold, or my friend is a GS when he is really a NRSA, and I am glad that I can't. It is far simpler to work with the system than against it.)

Well stated. I've asked for an explanation on the ins and outs of the post 3/3 UG process and am still waiting. The only training I remember receiving on post 3/3 MP is the names of the 4 levels and and who boards when.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 3:06 pm
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Originally Posted by fastair View Post
My "judgement" isn't to do what an individual tries to persuade me to do when it lowers someone else's chance of getting on the flight by bypassing them completely, it is to follow the logic built into the system.
I'm afraid I have to respectfully disagree here. Relying on "the computer says no" leads to bad customer experiences.

On the rare occasions when I travel with my partner I want UA to go the extra mile to make it smooth, even if it means manual fixes, overrides and bending the rules. I know you guys do well on an averaged out basis and can cope with the occasional screw up, but one bad experience for her means you just messed up half her flying for the year and that makes her unhappy, and by extension it makes me very upset with UA.

Agents should be trained well enough that they can identify a place where the process has broken down (e.g. a MM nomination hasn't been done in time by UA) and override the system to make things work as they are supposed to, rather than how they are programmed to.

Were I the gate agent (in an ideal world) I would have asked for some reasonable proof of marriage such as ID in the same name at the same address. If that checked out, I would have overridden the system because I know the MM nomination process is currently b*rked.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 3:25 pm
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Originally Posted by rruaco View Post
I'm afraid I have to respectfully disagree here. Relying on "the computer says no" leads to bad customer experiences.

On the rare occasions when I travel with my partner I want UA to go the extra mile to make it smooth, even if it means manual fixes, overrides and bending the rules. I know you guys do well on an averaged out basis and can cope with the occasional screw up, but one bad experience for her means you just messed up half her flying for the year and that makes her unhappy, and by extension it makes me very upset with UA.

Agents should be trained well enough that they can identify a place where the process has broken down (e.g. a MM nomination hasn't been done in time by UA) and override the system to make things work as they are supposed to, rather than how they are programmed to.

Were I the gate agent (in an ideal world) I would have asked for some reasonable proof of marriage such as ID in the same name at the same address. If that checked out, I would have overridden the system because I know the MM nomination process is currently b*rked.
The truth is, however, that things will be much fairer for everyone if the agents follow the rules. It's not their fault that the management couldn't get MM benefits sorted in time. How would you feel if you were a gold who didn't make it home to your partner because this guy bs'ed an agent to cut in line?

If he was really concerned about being separated, he could have offered to let the two people between them skip ahead so he and his wife were in sequential order lower down on the list.

Last edited by mallodi; Mar 19, 12 at 3:26 pm Reason: Punctuation
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Old Mar 19, 12, 3:56 pm
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Originally Posted by rruaco View Post
I'm afraid I have to respectfully disagree here. Relying on "the computer says no" leads to bad customer experiences.

Agents should be trained well enough that they can identify a place where the process has broken down (e.g. a MM nomination hasn't been done in time by UA) and override the system to make things work as they are supposed to, rather than how they are programmed to.
Agents should be well trained, but they're not. And it's not their fault that their not. So what do you do? Wing it? Make it up as you go along? Or go by what rudimentary basics you HAVE been trained on, or what you can identify in the system as the procedure?


Originally Posted by rruaco View Post
Were I the gate agent (in an ideal world) I would have asked for some reasonable proof of marriage such as ID in the same name at the same address. If that checked out, I would have overridden the system because I know the MM nomination process is currently b*rked.
You assume that these agents even know about the intricacies of everything, including MM nomination processes et al. Most of the PMUA agents are struggling just to get to grips with SHARES let alone all the ins and outs of the program - much of which is not being disseminated to the front line rank and file, or is being lost in the shuffle. A lot of the PMUA agents have had little more than a day or two of rudimentary training on the bare bones.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 4:08 pm
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Yep! Just had to try to argue with an agent last night that I could upgrade HNL-IAH with a RPU (since there is no freaking upgrade link on my reservation!). Couldn't convince her; will have to hang up and try to get someone new with a clue!

Maybe someone could forward the OPs original message to all the call centers?
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Old Mar 19, 12, 4:09 pm
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Originally Posted by rruaco View Post
Were I the gate agent (in an ideal world) I would have asked for some reasonable proof of marriage such as ID in the same name at the same address. If that checked out, I would have overridden the system because I know the MM nomination process is currently b*rked.
Per UA policy, this benefit is not available yet for those who made mm this year (early April per the website). Should a gate agent create their own policy? This sure looks like a slippery slope to me.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 4:10 pm
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Why is the HNL policy so confusing for every agent? The site says its permitted in plain english- and
The W fare or higher is not required for it. I had the same problem even ex-SFO. Why can't agents be told the correct info on this recurring mistake?
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Old Mar 19, 12, 10:05 pm
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Originally Posted by rruaco View Post
I'm afraid I have to respectfully disagree here. Relying on "the computer says no" leads to bad customer experiences.

On the rare occasions when I travel with my partner I want UA to go the extra mile to make it smooth, even if it means manual fixes, overrides and bending the rules. I know you guys do well on an averaged out basis and can cope with the occasional screw up, but one bad experience for her means you just messed up half her flying for the year and that makes her unhappy, and by extension it makes me very upset with UA.

Agents should be trained well enough that they can identify a place where the process has broken down (e.g. a MM nomination hasn't been done in time by UA) and override the system to make things work as they are supposed to, rather than how they are programmed to.

Were I the gate agent (in an ideal world) I would have asked for some reasonable proof of marriage such as ID in the same name at the same address. If that checked out, I would have overridden the system because I know the MM nomination process is currently b*rked.
I'm alright with your disagreement. This is a forum and I enjoy the differeing viewpoints. The way I see it, I honestly know zero about your nominations. I haven't read that thread as it isn't somthing I know anything about and it doesn't interest me to read about it on my "off" time.

But from what I hear people saying, there is a non-airport granted benefit that UA offers thru HQ/MP that allows people of different status levels to nominate another (does it have to be spouse, or can it be anyone?) for certain other status levels. This is a nomination, as you all say, not a granting. The granting is done by UA, not at the airport gate, but thru either HDQ or MP. Whatever process in place UA has to fulfill the nominations is never going to be tought to me at the gate. The fact is, for whatever reason, be it improper paperwork, cutover glitches at HQ, a person who doesn't qualify, or whatever, that spouse does NOT have the status. Without the status, one cannot expect the benefits of that staus.

I don't want to sound like I don't think what is right should not be done, but what is right is not up to me to decide. The best I can do is to follow the rules, especially in an area that I am not qualified to make the decision, and allow those that are qualified to determine the exceptions. What would you say if a Premier told me that he is actually global service and that he has an upbublished benefit that he gets to drink open containers of his own alcohol on board (I know, it is a crazy example, but it serves to illustrate my point.) Without me hearing different from the people that determine it (the FAA and UA) I am going to follow the established procedure and not do what the passenger tells me, even if by some crazy fluke, such a new policy existed.

One would like the airport gate agent to be omnipotent and know every aspect of the 85,000 UA employees jobs, and be authorized to do them, but in reality, that is just not possible. Until a senior officer or the BoD comes out and tells me to do whatever I think is best, regardless of the known rules, or even unknown rules, I am going to do the best I can within those known and published rules, and make exceptions that I am authorized to make, and not assume that I can do whatever "feels right".

I choose to live in a world of laws and rules, a world of order. I know the world is not always black and white, and that order is against nature's grand scheme where everything eventually falls apart. I have tools and policies where I can make exceptions, and there are places where I cannot. For areas that are not covered under the "ok to make an exception" I am going to assume that it falls into the other category.

In the end though, it boils down to a simple fact. The person knew his wife had not been of gold status. He said it should be coming in the next few weeks. Therfore, regardless of anything else, it would be foolish of me to give her the benefits of a status she does not have, above those that do already have that status.
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Old Mar 20, 12, 5:34 am
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Originally Posted by JNelson113 View Post
Yep! Just had to try to argue with an agent last night that I could upgrade HNL-IAH with a RPU (since there is no freaking upgrade link on my reservation!). Couldn't convince her; will have to hang up and try to get someone new with a clue!

Maybe someone could forward the OPs original message to all the call centers?
The surprising part is that even supervisors at the Honolulu call center don't know about it!


Originally Posted by demkr View Post
Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9B176 Safari/7534.48.3)

Why is the HNL policy so confusing for every agent? The site says its permitted in plain english- and
The W fare or higher is not required for it. I had the same problem even ex-SFO. Why can't agents be told the correct info on this recurring mistake?
Totally agree.
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