This morning I awoke to an email from United Airlines, telling me that the reservations we made a few months ago, after many days of effort, were now being changed. As I noted in an earlier column, my wife and I, who live in San Diego, worked for days to research and reserve flights from the West coast to Tokyo with my grandson. We wanted to fly out of SFO, where he resides, but the flights were $1000 pp more compared to leaving from Los Angeles. So we arranged for all of us to meet in LA the night before we were to depart.
But United’s emai informed us they rebooked us on new flights: a short flight from LAX to SFO, connecting to a flight from SFO to Tokyo with just a two hour layover. The return itinerary was Tokyo to Denver and Denver to LAX. They never offered us another option such as a flight on the many other ailrines that fly nonstop from LAX to Tokyo.
Of course, they had no idea that LA was merely a meeting point to get the lower fares, and we didn’t need to leave from there. Their computers don’t have much intelligence and likely just tried to keep us on United flights, even though it added to our inconvenience by changing nonstops into two flights each way.
While it’s probably not practical to call us, this is an area where artifical intelligence might have done a better job had they factored in our home addresses and our previous efforts to fly out of San Francisco. I’ve experienced a number of trips in recent months where the airline made changes unilaterally and they were never the best options for us, such as booking us on flights the next day.
Fortunately we were able to get through to a helpful customer service agent and find a better alternative: We’d make our own way to San Francisco and fly on the SFO to Narita flight we originally considered.
And why the change? She explained that our flight between LAX and Tokyo was being eliminated. In a search of airline news I learned that United is replacing their LAX to Narita flight with a new LAX to Haneda flight a few weeks before our departure date. That Haneda flight would have been a better option, but was never offered.
The good news is we are now flying on our original preferred SFO to Tokyo route, which was a lucky break, but certainly not what we had planned.