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Things that go bump in the night

United’s new hand carry policy – Hand carrying paying passengers off the plane.

Normally we give a “Feed them to the Lions” verdict after we have carefully weighed up the evidence of a situation brought to our attention but in this case, we are declaring it upfront with United and their involuntary bumping policy or as they call it, “involuntary boarding denial”.

Involuntary boarding’, my imperial arse.

This Sunday evening a Doctor was dragged off a Louisville plane after not enough passengers had volunteered to accept their offer of a few hundred dollars, hotel and guaranteed flight the next day. (3 pm ! – what use is that if you work). The Doctor was selected to be involuntary boarded by United and after he refused, security was called in to remove him. Someone took a video of the bloodied Doctor and it has gone around the interwebs. The Doctor apparently needed to be in Louisville to attend patients.

United are saying the flight was was oversold.  The devil in the detail is that the seats were needed for their employees to make a “downline connection” as they call it which really means, flight crew for the day after.  Oversold my arse. Continue reading..

A voluntary Upgrade to a No grade

When I checked in to United Flight to Munich, the machine asked me if I wanted to change seats. I took a look, knowing that this would give me visibility on how full the flight was.

I booked my flight a week ago and I’d selected the  rear rows which were empty for going  forward a few rows so I was confident of getting space. I looked now and saw the rows were pretty much full but there empty rows but only in Premier Economy.

Not wanting to sit next to anybody so I could spread out and sleep, I caved and forked out for an upgrade to a seat in an empty 2 seat row just in front of the exit/ wing seats . The twin seats in rows 21 and 22 behind me were similarly free as well as middle row/isle seats. I was checking in within 90 minutes on an International fight so I felt pretty good about getting a two seats for an overnight 10 hour flight.

As I boarded, I then found ALL the Premier Economy 2 seats filled and isle seats filled and there was a 8 year old kid in the seat next to me. His sister was in the adjacent middle isle seat and I recognized the two kids as they and mom, had checked in prior to me in the line. They therefore, had their tickets way before mine so obviously had not bought that seat upgrade.

Son of a bitch I said to myself : I’d spent money for nothing and United had upgraded quite a few passengers to fill these seats.

It turned out somewhat ok in that I asked the sister if she wanted to sit with her brother – she did- so I got an middle isle seat with nobody in between but I will not pay for this again just to try the free row lottery. The longer foot room was not my care about. Not only that but when I went to the toilets towards the end of the plane, the rows weren’t as full as original seating diagram suggested. I could have had a 2 seat option to myself if I had done nothing.

Beware the ides of the isle seat upgrades.

Skiplagged 1 : Utd 0 (Own goal)

Update on Skiplagged's 'godfundme' page

Update on Skiplagged’s ‘godfundme’ page

Roam got an email update recently from Skiplagged regarding their lawsuit where United was suing them.

The update is a bit meek in saying it was a ‘technical’ dismissal but CNN gives more beef. Basically the judge looked at it and said he had no jurisdiction over the case since the defendant neither lives in not does he do business in Chicago.

Ouch. That is not a good start.

By the way, United: you have invoked the wrath of the Streisand effect – Not many people were aware of ‘hidden fares’ until YOU brought it up.

You should fire your legal team and the idjiot manager who decided this was a good idea.


See previous post:  SCAMCHESTER UNITED: UNITED SUES WEBSITE THAT SHOWS “HIDDEN CITY” FARES

Something is rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark : sub-$100 UAL 1st class transatlantic tickets are voided.

So all those who rushed out to book First class ticket on United from Europe to US for less than $100 are finding out that United have cancelled every single one of them.

Not surprisingly the jilted ticket holders are upset and ranting away on the interweb.

The background to the story is that someone identified a glitch on the United site where a currency conversion error (Krona to USD) resulted in tickets being severely underpriced on the Danish UAL site. The tickets would only work if flying from Europe to US not the other way around.

Many people are outraged and taking their fury to the streets twitter with howls of how they are never going to fly United again, how their plans are ruined etc. Others are claiming they will sue or how they are complaining to the DOT.

Let’s see how that will end up especially as the site required you to state your location as Denmark. If so, then the laws of the country of where the ticket was purchased may be the prevalent laws not US.

Either way – US or Denmark or EU law – normal contract laws allows cancellation in this case of a gross mistake such in this currency feed off by a magnitude or so.

However, the sticky point to normal contract law is a DoT law, 49 CFR 41712 § 399.88(a)

§ 399.88 Prohibition on post-purchase price increase.
(a) It is an unfair and deceptive practice within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. 41712 for any seller of scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States, or of a tour (i.e., a combination of air transportation and ground or cruise accommodations), or tour component (e.g., a hotel stay) that includes scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States, to increase the price of that air transportation, tour or tour component to a consumer, including but not limited to an increase in the price of the seat, an increase in the price for the carriage of passenger baggage, or an increase in an applicable fuel surcharge, after the air transportation has been purchased by the consumer, except in the case of an increase in a government-imposed tax or fee. A purchase is deemed to have occurred when the full amount agreed upon has been paid by the consumer.

This law was aimed at misleading or deceptive adverts but some argue it applies here. The question now will be if cancelling the ticket is the same as raising prices.

If you read this DOT pdf, you see this.

8. Does the prohibition on post-purchase price increases in section 399.88(a) apply in the situation where a carrier mistakenly offers an airfare due to a computer problem or human error and a consumer purchases the ticket at that fare before the carrier is able to fix the mistake?

Section 399.88(a) states that it is an unfair and deceptive practice for any seller of scheduled air transportation within, to, or from the United States, or of a tour or tour component that includes scheduled air transportation within, to, or from the United States, to increase the price of that air transportation to a consumer after the air transportation has been purchased by the consumer, except in the case of a government-imposed tax or fee and only if the passenger is advised of a possible increase before purchasing a ticket. A purchase occurs when the full amount agreed upon has been paid by the consumer. Therefore, if a consumer purchases a fare and that consumer receives confirmation (such as a confirmation email and/or the purchase appears on their credit card statement or online account summary) of their purchase, then the seller of air transportation cannot increase the price of that air transportation to that consumer, even when the fare is a “mistake.” A contract of carriage provision that reserves the right to cancel such ticketed purchases or reserves the right to raise the fare cannot legalize the practice described above. The Enforcement Office would consider any contract of carriage provision that attempts to relieve a carrier of the prohibition against post-purchase price increase to be an unfair and deceptive practice in violation of 49 U.S.C. § 41712.

Last time something big like this happened was when airlines mis-priced first class tickets originating in Burma due to Kyat floating. Most airlines then were Asian where the eventual ruling seemed to be that an US bound flight had to do more than touch the US but stay there for greater than one day.

AS for the politics of it all, will the DoT force a major US company to commit a financial hit – that likely benefits non US voters – over a clear mistake that would be otherwise be allowed to be cancelled by normal commercial law? I would be surprised to see US Government championing a situation where even the source for this tip- a post on flyertalk.com – informed everyone that it was mistaken: Everyone who booked knew the price was erroneous as you would unlikely discover this by mistake.

While we understand protecting the consumers is important, forcing companies out of business over an honest mistake is just wrong.

What will be interesting now is even if the DoT pursues them, will UAL just accepts the fine as the cheapest option? Afterall, it will be paid to Govt not the consumer and then some negotiated fine.

So for the people who rushed in to buy the tickets, what will you say if United instead of giving refund, gives a credit to apply to a new flight with an appropriate change fee. Especially if the credit is in Danish Krona.

Check mate. If it is too good to be true, it probably is: Caveat Emptor:

Trajan.

Orbitzuary : Orbitz is having a sale – itself !

The Booking Dead

Orbitz: The Walking Booking Dead


ORBIT
noun
  • the curved path, usually elliptical, described by a planet, satellite,spaceship, etc., around a celestial body, as the sun.
  • the sphere of power or influence, as of a nation or person: a small nation in the Russian orbit.

verb (used with object)

  • to move or travel around in an orbital or elliptical path: The earth orbits the sun once every 365.25 days.

verb (used without object)

  • to go or travel in an orbit.

 ORBITZ
noun
1.An  online travel agent, small player without the benefit of economies, up for sale by vulture venture capitalists looking for  gullible suckers, uhm “Someone from the outside looking for a a foothold in the industry”.

Bloomberg is reporting that Orbitz.com is up for sale. Maybe we have missed something, but we haven’t found a reason to ever use Orbitz.com. We’ve looked around their site before and didn’t see any differentiator over other travel booking sites.
What is more, Orbitz is the weasel company who joined a law suit with United vs skiplagged.com of which Roads-2-Roam donated to Skiplagged’s legal fund.
As you can imagine, we are not fans of Orbitz.com.
1/20/15 : update on skiplagged.com legal fund: it has now raised $70.5k. Target was $60k

Scamchester United: United sues website that shows “hidden city” fares

skiplagged.com legal defence fund against being sued by United and Orbitz

skiplagged legal defense fund against  United and Orbitz

Skiplagged.com is a site that takes advantage of airline pricing loophole by showing “hidden city” fares. In many cases, an airline offers cheaper fare if connecting through a hub city. Going direct to that city would result in higher airfare. The idea here is that the passenger pretends to want to go to the second city but hops off the plane at the connecting city. This only works in the ticket is a one way ticket and if the passenger is flying without checked in luggage.

The airlines say this is against their ticket rules and if caught, you could forfeit your frequent flier miles.

This sounds like a very niche situation – How many people fly one way ?- but I suppose, it could be stretched by booking two one way tickets.

The airlines know this goes on but tolerate it. However, that was before skiplagged.com.

Last week, United and Orbitz announced a lawsuit to stop sending United ticket buyers to Orbitz.com to buy the “hidden city” tickets. In addition, they are seeking $75,000 in damages and lawyer fees. From Bloomberg Businessweek:

“This practice violates our fare rules, and we are taking action to stop it to help protect the vast majority of customers who buy legitimate tickets,” United spokeswoman Christen David said on Tuesday. The airline also says such passengers can cause delays as gate agents try to determine where a person expected on a flight may be. Passenger count also affects a flight’s total weight calculation, which can delay the plane’s departure.”

Except that this action may not lead to the result that United & their lackey expect. There is little sympathy to these old style airlines and their pricing policies.

Aktarer Zaman the founder of skiplagged.com, went public and set up a gofundme for legal expenses. As of 1/1/2015, over $48k has been raised. One donor gave $666 with a comment “Send them to hell, please” .

I also looks as if United action inadvertently gave more publicity to the website. “Update: Dec 30, Skiplagged is facing significantly higher than normal traffic. Please try again later if you encounter any issues–you will be amazed. Thanks”.

We just donated $25 to their legal fund – Go skiplagged!!

Thumbs up : United and Intercontinental Boston

R2R thumbs up

Earlier this week, a friend of Roam was checking onto a United plane to go to Boston. He was traveling with his wife for  long awaited vacation.

Just before boarding, he got a call that told him that his mother in law was being rushed to hospital.

He explained it to United and due to the medical emergency, they fully credit both airfares. Similarly, so did their Hotel Intercontinental Boston.

No fuss, no drama. Good on you United and Intercontinental: A Roads-2-Roam thumbs up.

It is refreshing to hear about good customer service.


The Intercontinental Boston has a positive recommendation from Roads-2-Roam where Augustus stayed there in early June 2014. They allowed an early (l pm) check in.

The best thing about it was the fantastic views looking back over Boston. Highly memorable. So much so, we slept with the curtains open to take in the view.

The water taxi from the Hotel, is another recommendation. See our photographs.

The nightime view of Boston harbor from Boston Intercontintal Hotel.

The nighttime view of Boston harbor from Boston Intercontinental Hotel.

 

Photo of Boston taken from the River Taxi from Intercontinental Hotel

Photo of Boston taken from the River Taxi from Intercontinental Hotel

United we fall, divided we stand : Auto response to a complaint

United: Trying to serve you right

United: Trying to serve you right

Dahlings, Reddit is again making news as the source for news.

The other week, it was the source for rather upset wife posting a spreadsheet compiled by her husband, documenting why they have not being doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel. Not only that, but he showed a cold streak in him by emailing it to her before she went on business trip. She also shows some bad form by pasting it on Reddit. Maybe they are meant for each other.

Recently posted by Reddit user “Lyndy” is a letter from United is a classic in customer (don’t) care if indeed the letter is true – see the image.

When asked for a comment, an unamed United spokesperson sent us a text saying “Whatever. Bite me you (SPECIFIC PROFANITY) ” .

Ciao for now, Cleo.