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I am in the middle of trying to book a flight for 2 passengers to Europe for this summer.  While I am notoriously bad at actually getting around to actually booking trips (analysis paralysis, anyone?), I’m trying to be better.united-airplane

So, even though there are like 5000 different options for how I could get there ($65 flights from the USA to Edinburgh!), I’ve narrowed it down to using United miles to book 2 roundtrip tickets in business class.  Assuming I stick to UA metal, this should be 230,000 United miles roundtrip, and also allow a United excursionist perk to open-jaw and visit 2 European cities on this trip before returning home

But United’s website is … the worst

No, I mean LITERALLY the worst.  It’s so awful.  I think the thing that I hate the most is that even though they provide a helpful “award calendar”, which in theory could help you figure out which dates had economy or premium availability.
united-award-calendar

But in practice, it’s completely useless as it has no bearing to ACTUAL availability.  Above you see the calendar for August for a CLE-EDI search.  But here’s availability for August 8th (which supposedly has only Economy availability).

united-availability-one-way

There are 4 routes – 1 connecting through ORD and 1 connecting through EWR, on 2 separate BRU-EDI connections.

But the actual route that I’m trying to book is CLE-EDI, EDI-DUB, DUB-CLE, so if I throw that down into either a roundtrip or a Multi-City search, here’s what I get

united-no-multi-city-availability

No business class saver availability on any flight.

Calling United

So I called up United.

  • Positive – I got connected with a person super fast with no problems
  • Negative – they were not helpful

The first person I talked to said that there would be a $25 booking fee.  I suggested that I thought the booking fee would be waived since the award was not bookable on the website.  He said that it was because “I was having problems on the website”, and suggested he transfer me to Web Support

Then I told him – “actually the problem is that United.com sucks” before allowing him to transfer me to web support

Web Support was not helpful either, and actually suggested that “United has different availability whether you book a one-way, roundtrip or multi-city”.  He did the same searches I did online and found no availability (natch), so I thanked him for his time and hung up

Is this a thing?

This was the first I’d ever heard of this, so I was wondering if anyone else had ever run into this.  Sure, I know United’s award availability is awful, but I’m used to a ticket either being available or not, not sometimes available and sometimes not.  I know too that people have run into problems with the recent United website changes where you can’t “stitch together” bookings over the phone, but this doesn’t seem to be the same thing

I can certainly HUCA, and at a worst case, I can just book the award as 2 one-ways and pay cash for a cheap Ryanair ticket (looks like it’s about $28 one-way)

But I was curious if anyone else with more award booking experience had ever run into this excuse or not?  Leave your data points in the comments!

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