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That ominous email from your airline

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 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 per person 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 cancelled our reservations and booked us on new flights: a short flight from LAX to SFO, connecting to a flight from SFO to Tokyo with just a 2 hour layover. The return flight was Tokyo to Denver and Denver to LAX. They did not offer us another option such as flying on one of 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, even though it added to our inconvenience, turning nonstops into 2 flights each way. While it’s probably not practical to call us first, 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.

Fortunately we were able to get through to a knowledgeable agent and find a better alternative. She explained that our flights between LAX and Tokyo were being eliminated. I later did a search of airline news and found an item saying that United will replace their LAX to Narita flight with a new LAX to Haneda flight a few weeks before our departure date. The Haneda flight would have been a much better option than what they offered.

The good news is we were able to book flights from SFO to Tokyo and back on the original flights we had tried to book, but were much more expensive.