SIGGRAPH 2013 – United Economy Plus Orange County (SNA) to Denver (DEN)


With the conference week behind me, and a crazy quick trip to Disneyland, it was time to head home. I originally had flights back through San Francisco (to earn more elite-qualification miles for the year), but I would have arrived back home after 9pm, so once I was within the United 24-hour free change window, I decided to try to book at earlier flight. Little did I know what trouble that would cause…

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8. SIGGRAPH 2013: United Economy Denver to Houston

To change the flight, I used the United iPhone app, which is actually pretty nice. Unfortunately, it requires a constant Internet connection to function, caching nothing locally, and reseting to the first screen any time it is switched to the background, which makes it unusable any time I don’t have a reliable connection (like on an airplane, or in a foreign country). Luckily, this time I was able to change the flights to go through Denver instead of San Francisco and arrive about 3 hours earlier. In addition, the flight from Denver to Houston would be on a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner!

Later, using the United web site, I found that the direct flight leaving at 7:45am was available, but would cost $31 more for an S fare. I thought about it and decided to go for it, even though it would mean giving up my seat on the 787 from Denver. I tried to make the change in the web browser, but it kept failing right at the end when it was attempting to make the change and charge my card. I checked through the phone, and the iPhone app wouldn’t even show me that flight. By this time it was after 12:00am midnight, and I decided to just keep the Denver flight and go to bed, as the thought of spending all night on the phone trying to make the change, after spending 12 hours at Disneyland was just too much.

IMG 3203
Starbucks at SNA Orange County

When I arrived at the airport the next morning, I already had the electronic boarding passes on my phone (or so I thought), but I still like to have the printed paper tickets whenever possible. I had some time anyway, so I went to the kiosks to print a ticket. It was good that I did, because when I inserted my United card to bring up the reservation, it said there was a problem with my itinerary, and please see an agent. When the agent looked into it, she said that my ticket had been canceled, and asked if I had changed my flight recently. I said yes, and showed her my boarding pass on my phone. She then called someone at United reservations who looked into it.

It would have been simple enough to re-issue the ticket, but unfortunately due to a flight cancellation earlier in the morning, the flight to Denver was already completely full and oversold (as was the continuing flight from Denver to Houston), with a long list of standbys. The person on the phone wanted her to just book me on the night flight, but she stood firm, saying that it was not my fault that United had canceled my ticket, and that I should be allowed to get back on the flights. After about 15 stressful minutes they were able to work it out, she was able to clear me as a (cleared) standby, and she printed me two boarding passes for the flights.

Relieved, I started to walk off, but then realized that the new boarding passes she printed did not have my PreCheck status listed on them. I considered just dealing with it, but the agent and her supervisor were still at the counter, so I went back up and asked them about it. Luckily, it was an easy fix, which is good to know for future reference as well. The passes that the agent’s machines print do not have the PreCheck info, so will never print that status on the cardboard tickets. All you need to do is hold the barcode of your boarding pass under the kiosk scanner, and go through the prompts to reprint your boarding passes. This time, the PreCheck status was clearly marked on the white paper tickets. Discarding the cardboard ones, I headed for the PreCheck security line. Unfortunately, the single PreCheck security queue is at the opposite end of the Orange Country Airport, so it was a bit of a walk, but my gate was at that end, and not having to remove any clothes or items from my bags is worth it anyway…

As usual, the PreCheck line was completely empty. The agents all jumped up and got ready when they saw me. I just tossed my two bags on the belt and stepped through. I chatted with them for a bit, as I have come to do since they always look so bored when they work the PreCheck queues, as so few people are using them yet. I’m certain that will change now that they are selling PreCheck separate from Global Entry to anyone now.

IMG 3204Fancy Chairs at the United Club in Denver

Once on the plane, it was pretty uneventful. I arrived in Denver on time, located the United Lounge for a rest, then headed to the gate for my last flight home and first flight on a United 787.

Have you had the airport checkin experience from hell? Post below!

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