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United insisted we fly to our connection city but our final destination was closed

United insisted we fly to our connection city but our final destination was closed

Old Aug 22, 22, 7:17 pm
  #1  
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United insisted we fly to our connection city but our final destination was closed

I had an interesting experience on United Airlines during the winter leaving Mexico. I still think about it and wonder what the average sophisticated traveler would do. Here is the story: (Yes, it happened years ago but we think of this often and want to be more informed to make a better decision next time this happens

We were in Mexico in January 2016 and read on the news that a gigantic blizzard had hit the East Coast of the United States. We had a flight scheduled from Mexico to Washington Dulles, via Houston Intercontinental. All flights from Houston to East Coast USA Cities, including IAD (Washington Dulles), were canceled for up to three days. We had no interest in flying to Houston Texas (our connection city) and sitting at an airport hotel for days waiting for Washington Dulles to reopen. But the folks at United Airlines insisted we leave Mexico and at least go as far as Houston and wait it out. If we refused they would cancel our airplane tickets.

So we followed their order and took the flight to Houston and were forced to sit in a very expensive airport hotel for four days before we could get a new flight to Washington Dulles. (Dulles has 30 inches of snow)

There was no access to the United App and we were only talking to the Mexican United Staff. The weather waiver only applied to people flying to the east coast cities, my flight was to Houston. (My final decision was to IAD)

If money was an issue what would a seasoned Flyertalk person do in this situation?

Last edited by Narrow Seat; Aug 23, 22 at 4:47 am Reason: More Informatiion
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Old Aug 22, 22, 7:25 pm
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When did this happen? If there is weather going on, United will usually post a travel waiver of sorts here: Important notices. Scroll down a bit and you'll see a section about Travel waivers and updates, and in that section, weather related events will be posted. Each one will have a rebooking period listed. I would think that if you ask to rebook and mention the travel waiver, there should be no pushback from an agent. If there is, hang up and call again.

By money is an issue, I'm assuming that you mean that you would rather have stayed in Mexico for 4 more days?
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Old Aug 22, 22, 7:40 pm
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Rebook for later flight even if it cost more with change fees (which at times are waved). Probably cheaper to hang in Mexico (an more fun) than some cheesy airport hotel next to IAH.
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Old Aug 22, 22, 7:43 pm
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And you are posting this ... 8 months later? Years? 30 inches at IAD?

Hard to tell what one would do without knowing the exact situation, timing and options (such as waivers etc.)
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Old Aug 22, 22, 7:55 pm
  #5  
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Originally Posted by Narrow Seat View Post
If money was an issue what would a seasoned Flyertalk person do in this situation?
I would have started by using the UA app, which probably would have allowed me to change my flight. Otherwise, I would have called the airline and asked to be changed to another date. The trick is figuring out which date, of course.

If your connecting flight had already been cancelled, your itinerary should have been in irregular-operations mode. And, as others have stated, generally UA will issue a waiver to allow fare differences to be ignored even if your connecting flight had not already been cancelled.

Of course, I wouldn't have wanted to wait for several days while IAD got its act together. I'd have been keeping an eye on the weather to see which alternate airports might be open and see how bad the roads were really. And, if I were at IAH, I'd have rented a car and found a less-expensive hotel.

Whatever you may have been told, UA wasn't going to cancel your ticket for refusing to fly to Houston when IAD was closed.
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Old Aug 22, 22, 9:00 pm
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Originally Posted by cfischer View Post
And you are posting this ... 8 months later? Years? 30 inches at IAD?
)
I dont remember if it was January 2016 or January 2017, but I spent 2 days in NYC snowed in because Dulles and National were both closed due to a massive storm. Even Amtrak was shut down.
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Old Aug 22, 22, 10:33 pm
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If money is an issue, I wouldn't have stayed at an airport hotel, but, instead have used the opportunity for a mini-vacation in Houston. Given that you knew you were going to be delayed some number of days, you could even have driven to Austin and stayed there. Having been to both cities, I'd rather find things to do in Austin for a few days rather than Houston, but others might have different opinions. I'm reasonably certain that with a little effort and knowledge, it wouldn't have been too hard to find a less expensive hotel some distance away from IAH in any case. It just takes initiative and a little creativity.

The agent who threatened to cancel your tickets was in the wrong. Perhaps what they were trying to communicate is that if you don't change your flight before departure, it automatically gets cancelled if you aren't on the plane. There is an important threshold at the time of departure: once that passes, if you aren't on board and haven't taken any steps to change the flight, the remainder of your ticket is cancelled. Once that happens, you are out of luck. But it sounds like in your circumstances, they should have offered to let you stay in Mexico for an additional few days. Perhaps there were visa issues? Perhaps there wasn't enough time to book alternative passage before departure? Perhaps the agent was overwhelmed by the number of delayed passengers?

One thing to keep in mind is that as an individual traveler, we actually have a tremendous amount of control. Airlines often present themselves as being authoritarian and providing the only option during irregular operations, but the truth is that many options exist and you can request alternatives that will be accommodated. My favorite example of this is that if you get delayed overnight somewhere, the airlines will typically try to put you on the very first flight out in the morning, assuming that you want to get to your destination as soon as possible. Me, I like being well-rested, and the airline doesn't care if I'm on the 5 AM flight or the 9 AM flight the morning after a delay, as long as there are seats available on both, so I'll request the later flight and will have a far better and far more productive day than if I'd been on the first flight out. Same idea applies when an airline puts you up in a hotel. There may be multiple options and, bearing in mind that you should balance out what they will give you for free or reduced rate against how much you value your happiness, you might want to step out on your own. In your case, being delayed at IAH, I would definitely not have stayed at an airport hotel; they are expensive and often not so good. Depending on how late it was, I might have stayed there one night in order to gather some information, figure out the lay of the land, and find a better option the next day.

If this happens again, post here on Flyertalk as soon as you can, in the middle of the flight, even. Maybe someone can help you make the situation a little better.
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Old Aug 22, 22, 11:40 pm
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Originally Posted by halls120 View Post
I dont remember if it was January 2016 or January 2017, but I spent 2 days in NYC snowed in because Dulles and National were both closed due to a massive storm. Even Amtrak was shut down.
It was 2016. I was in the same situation as the OP - no way I was going to make it back, could have either stayed where I was or overnighted at a connection point. I had three days' advance warning of the storm to make alternate arrangements before my original flight.

Pretty sure that's the most recent snowstorm in that area of the size the OP is describing - 6.5 years ago is kind of late to complain.
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Old Aug 23, 22, 12:18 am
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Originally Posted by Narrow Seat View Post
...
If money was an issue what would a seasoned Flyertalk person do in this situation?
Come to FT sooner

If you think the advice you are being given is bad or not addressing your situation, get another agent -- if at the airport, call

If on a multiday stay, look for a less expensive hotel.

While true on weather delays, UA might not owe you lodging, your credit card may have trip interruption coverage. Separate trip insurance would have provided even before protection

As another poster mentioned, turn it into an unexpected adventure
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Old Aug 23, 22, 1:40 am
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Originally Posted by halls120 View Post
I dont remember if it was January 2016 or January 2017, but I spent 2 days in NYC snowed in because Dulles and National were both closed due to a massive storm. Even Amtrak was shut down.
Originally Posted by cfischer View Post
And you are posting this ... 8 months later? Years? 30 inches at IAD?
January 22-24, 2016: snowstorm Jonas turned into a blizzard. By the time it was over, northern Virginia suburbs around IAD had a whopping 3 feet of snow, with the total at IAD just a few inches less. It took a couple days to dig out from that.

Neither UA nor IADs fault; the NoVA region just got pummeled by Mother Nature.
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Old Aug 23, 22, 3:49 am
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Originally Posted by Narrow Seat View Post
I had an interesting experience on United Airlines during the winter leaving Mexico. I still think about it and wonder what the average sophisticated traveler would do. Here is the story:

We were in Mexico and read on the news that a gigantic blizzard had hit the East Coast of the United States. We had a flight scheduled from Mexico to Washington Dulles, via Houston Intercontinental. All flights from Houston to East Coast USA Cities, including IAD (Washington Dulles), were canceled for up to three days. We had no interest in flying to Houston Texas (our connection city) and sitting at an airport hotel for days waiting for Washington Dulles to reopen. But the folks at United Airlines insisted we leave Mexico and at least go as far as Houston and wait it out. If we refused they would cancel our airplane tickets.

So we followed their order and took the flight to Houston and were forced to sit in a very expensive airport hotel for four days before we could get a new flight to Washington Dulles. (Dulles has 30 inches of snow)

If money was an issue what would a seasoned Flyertalk person do in this situation?
Honestly, if money were an issue I likely wouldn't have been in Mexico in the first place. But that being said, I'd probably try and rebook the whole trip back and hang out in the vacation spot until I was able to fly fully home.
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Old Aug 23, 22, 7:31 am
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Originally Posted by jpezaris View Post
If money is an issue, I wouldn't have stayed at an airport hotel, but, instead have used the opportunity for a mini-vacation in Houston. Given that you knew you were going to be delayed some number of days, you could even have driven to Austin and stayed there. Having been to both cities, I'd rather find things to do in Austin for a few days rather than Houston, but others might have different opinions. I'm reasonably certain that with a little effort and knowledge, it wouldn't have been too hard to find a less expensive hotel some distance away from IAH in any case. It just takes initiative and a little creativity.

The agent who threatened to cancel your tickets was in the wrong. Perhaps what they were trying to communicate is that if you don't change your flight before departure, it automatically gets cancelled if you aren't on the plane. There is an important threshold at the time of departure: once that passes, if you aren't on board and haven't taken any steps to change the flight, the remainder of your ticket is cancelled. Once that happens, you are out of luck. But it sounds like in your circumstances, they should have offered to let you stay in Mexico for an additional few days. Perhaps there were visa issues? Perhaps there wasn't enough time to book alternative passage before departure? Perhaps the agent was overwhelmed by the number of delayed passengers?

One thing to keep in mind is that as an individual traveler, we actually have a tremendous amount of control. Airlines often present themselves as being authoritarian and providing the only option during irregular operations, but the truth is that many options exist and you can request alternatives that will be accommodated. My favorite example of this is that if you get delayed overnight somewhere, the airlines will typically try to put you on the very first flight out in the morning, assuming that you want to get to your destination as soon as possible. Me, I like being well-rested, and the airline doesn't care if I'm on the 5 AM flight or the 9 AM flight the morning after a delay, as long as there are seats available on both, so I'll request the later flight and will have a far better and far more productive day than if I'd been on the first flight out. Same idea applies when an airline puts you up in a hotel. There may be multiple options and, bearing in mind that you should balance out what they will give you for free or reduced rate against how much you value your happiness, you might want to step out on your own. In your case, being delayed at IAH, I would definitely not have stayed at an airport hotel; they are expensive and often not so good. Depending on how late it was, I might have stayed there one night in order to gather some information, figure out the lay of the land, and find a better option the next day.

If this happens again, post here on Flyertalk as soon as you can, in the middle of the flight, even. Maybe someone can help you make the situation a little better.
Based on my personal experience, airport personnel are generally not familiar with waivers that are in place. I had a case were I wanted to change the departure from LGA to JFK, and they wanted to add-collect to the current fare instead of applying the waiver. I probably could have called and ask a phone agent to make the change, but it was too close to the departure time for my scheduled flight.
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Old Aug 23, 22, 8:52 am
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Originally Posted by Narrow Seat View Post
I had an interesting experience on United Airlines during the winter leaving Mexico. I still think about it and wonder what the average sophisticated traveler would do. Here is the story: (Yes, it happened years ago but we think of this often and want to be more informed to make a better decision next time this happens

We were in Mexico in January 2016 and read on the news that a gigantic blizzard had hit the East Coast of the United States. We had a flight scheduled from Mexico to Washington Dulles, via Houston Intercontinental. All flights from Houston to East Coast USA Cities, including IAD (Washington Dulles), were canceled for up to three days. We had no interest in flying to Houston Texas (our connection city) and sitting at an airport hotel for days waiting for Washington Dulles to reopen. But the folks at United Airlines insisted we leave Mexico and at least go as far as Houston and wait it out. If we refused they would cancel our airplane tickets.

So we followed their order and took the flight to Houston and were forced to sit in a very expensive airport hotel for four days before we could get a new flight to Washington Dulles. (Dulles has 30 inches of snow)

There was no access to the United App and we were only talking to the Mexican United Staff. The weather waiver only applied to people flying to the east coast cities, my flight was to Houston. (My final decision was to IAD)

If money was an issue what would a seasoned Flyertalk person do in this situation?
Were you talking to agents at the airport or agents on the phone? Some of this could have been language, if you were not going to take your flight to Houston they could (even should) cancel your reservation, but not your tickets. I have been in this situation before, and if a travel waiver is in place you don't have to travel to the first connection point. But you really only have two choices, take your chances and go or ask to be rebooked under the waiver guidelines. As it is a weather related cancelation, it is unlikely United will give you any consideration like a hotel or food vouchers unless you have high status with them.

When I am in that situation I take as many flights as I can, I figure it will be fast the way to get to wherever I am going. Once years ago it resulted me spending the night in LHR though.
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Old Aug 23, 22, 9:00 am
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I'm wondering if the cancellations on flights to the affected east coast cities had resulted in so many displaced passengers that all flights were overbooked out of Mexico for a number of days. If the OP stayed in Mexico, he wouldn't have been able to get out. By getting to IAH, he was able to continue home as soon as the east coast opened up. The agent may have been saying that they wouldn't be able to reaccommodate the OP out of Mexico because there was no availability.
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Old Aug 23, 22, 9:25 am
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Yup, I would have been online or on the app trying to make my changes (which nowadays might include the messaging option - I did that recently for the first time and it worked fine). And if I did have to call, if told I have to go to IAH and stay there, I would have hung up and called again. Not everything can be done online, but I just don't trust agents who say things on the phone that don't sound right.

The idea of going to Austin for a few days if you had to fly to Houston was also a great idea.
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