Am I thick or is United Airlines Mileage Plus awards program complete bullshit?

Dear United Mileage Plus program customer service rep,

I just learned something very disturbing while investigating why I’m unable to book a hotel with my MileagePlus award miles.

Every month I receive an email newsletter with info about how many miles I have, when they expire, and how I can possibly use them – for hotels, cars, etc.

United Airlines MileagePlus bullshit awards program

When I tried booking a hotel with the miles through your MileagePlus section of the website, I kept getting an error where after trying to check out I get looped back to the search page. I tried three different browsers until I finally realized there was an error text:

“You are not eligible to use miles for Hotel and Car Awards at this time. You may be eligible for other options such as newspapers, magazines, dining, and air awards. Please visit our <a href=”http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/mileageplus/awards/default.aspx” title=”MileagePlus Use Miles page” target=”_blank”>Use Miles</a> web page for more information.”*

*By the way, work on your browser layouts and compatibility; that error message shouldn’t be off to the right at the bottom of the page. Ever.

I called Mileage Plus reps who transferred me to web support – it turns out I need some kind of special specific credit card in order to use my MileagPlus points for this booking?!

For years I get these newsletters and promo emails, and I spent hours researching the website and NOWHERE is it indicated I cannot use the miles without some additional criteria involved. I just see links to book hotels and cars.

By the way, knowing this info, I STILL cannot locate further details about what is required to be ‘eligible’ to use my earned awards.

I’m an email marketer/website content writer myself, and this is absolutely unacceptable. I spent years flying United accruing these points, weeks researching through your site in order to choose the hotel destination for my family, and now I find out at the last minute they are worthless – I can purchase ‘newspapers, magazines, dining’? Really? With 45,000 points?

This is the second time I’ve complained to United about something and I don’t expect a helpful response this time either, though I’d love to be proven wrong.

Unicorns, leprechauns, EL AL customer-friendly UX, & other mythical creatures

ELAL Israel Airlines For months, I’ve been trying/failing/procrastinating/trying again/failing again/sighing/punching walls in disbelief/trying again to log in to my EL AL Matmid Frequent Flyer account and handle some points issues. I’ve tried online, I’ve called, I’ve tweeted, my travel agent has tried for me, but nothing helped, and yet on every log in attempt, I’ve gotten an assortment of unclear red error messages, sighed, and moved on.

Apparently, it turns out, despite the depths of my wild imagination, I’m just not creative enough to have figured this one out on my own.

I tried calling again today. After 15 minutes of Hold jingle and Hold lady telling me to Hold, I finally got through to a nice phone rep, and told her my issue. She entered my details and responded that the account looked great. “I’ll send you your password via SMS,” said she, and I merrily hung up and went back to the computer.

It didn’t work.

I called back. Another 15 minute-hold brought me to another lovely rep, who again accessed my account.

“Looks great!” she said.

“I wish I could see,” I said.

“Oh, dear -” she said, in an I’m so sorry you’re kinda clueless voice, “you’re forgetting to enter a number on your account ID; that’s why it doesn’t recognize  it online.”

“What? A number? I’ve entered what it says on all my emails, notifications, etc…”

“You’re missing the mispar bikoret. There’s a 1 at the end.”

0_0

Oooooooooooh. A ONE at the end. Of course! Please hold while I feed my pet unicorn the tears of a hypochondriac dragon, bred on the lush farms of 16th century Icelandic garden gnomes.

A ONE at the end! You know, I had searched every coat pocket, and still couldn’t locate it.

Dear family and friends and readers abroad, allow me to introduce you to the elusive, surreal, magical creature, the mispar bikoret. I don’t even know how to properly translate it into English, and after polling, am still unsure between ‘verification number’ ‘CRC’ ‘prefix’ ‘security number’ and of course, ‘unicorn.’

In Israel, it shows up here and there. Most commonly, it’s on your teudat zehut (though it’s 99% of the time written out as part of a complete nine-digit sequence; I’ve never not had to include it…).

It might be any digit on the numeral palette, but let me tell you now that if you’re missing it from your EL AL frequent flyer account ID, it will put you through absolute airline frustration for MONTHS.

For how was I to know my account number even contained one, when my log in errors and email messages never included it or its necessity in the sequence?

Example 1: Signing in with the right password.

Example 2: Signing in with the right password, and then clicking Forgot Password.

Example 3: The member number written out at the bottom of an ELAL email; I promise that under the blur are six digits, missing the final one.

 

 

 

While it’s true the EL AL website won’t win any design awards post-1996, I do think it’s possible to get a passing grade in usability even if the design isn’t appealing. The website is a major UI/UX fail. It should not have taken a high-functioning internet literate person like myself this long to figure out the login problem.

Another failing grade for accessibility: It’s wonderful to have multiple (and updated!) Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, but what’s the good in social media investment if there is no flood of two-way conversation? Or even a functional  EMAIL ADDRESS for contacting customer support with quick questions?

[When I have been able to email EL AL, I’d get an auto-reply that they’d get back to you within ten business days. Ten? Really? Still using AOL dial up?]

I would like to say though, that I did actively choose EL AL over Delta and United for two reasons, despite the fact that Delta was cheaper, and United was the same exact price. Confidence in their security is one, and the second – I appreciate the way the EL AL staff, from start to finish, handles parents traveling with children. They are the only airline I’ve been on that really gets it. Truly ‘your home away from home.’ Despite some glaring service setbacks, it’s heimish. And as we know, United failed at that the last time I flew with them.

I’m a no-frills kind of gal, so lacking certain perks (or, manners) doesn’t phase me. But I travel alone with kids enough to require the security in knowing I’ll have supportive flight attendants.

So I actively choose EL AL.

Is it too much to ask for a pleasant customer experience before the flight as well?