Purchased 2 business class seats for my parents to fly from Nairobi to New York via Zurich on 10/3/15 for flights on 5/28/16 at a cost of $6,000. Flights were booked on Expedia. The United flights were operated by Swiss Air.
Called to confirm 4 weeks before approx. 5/6/16 and was informed by United that the reservation is confirmed from Zurich to New York but there is no record of a flight from Nairobi to New York.
My wife and I proceeded with day and night calls to Expedia and United Airlines to figure out what's going on. We essentially figured out that the flight from Nairobi to Zurich on 5/28/16 was cancelled but United just removed that part of the flight from our reservation, but in doing so invalidated the entire ticket.
So essentially here we were, out $6,000, but no confirmed tickets.
What really needed to happen was that the flights needed to be rebooked for when there were flights and the tickets needed to be reissued.
The weird part of the story is that I was convinced United couldn't possibly treat business class passengers so badly so focused my attention on Expedia, especially since numerous united airlines service personnel told us that Expedia is the issue and needs to reissue the tickets.
After a 2 hour call with Expedia I ended up with the following note from one their supervisors (Ivan):
"As we see in this record the control was taken by United but they are not taking responsibility, we've spoken to the Executive account Desk and they refused to help us. The airline said that the E-ticket is invalid, of course it was because the control was taken over the airline and they cannot find the new tickets they made... When we asked them the explanation of why this was an invalid e-ticket, the airline Executive account didn't find what to say and simply said that Expedia needs to work on this. Therefore, United has changed your ticket and has control over it but they are refusing to provide or assist. We are more than sorry for this inconvenient and we are not hesitating to help you but there's no way that Expedia can re-issue again your tickets as the control is no longer ours. So, we encourage you to keep pushing the airline and exhaust your resources with the airline as they are the only ones capable of reissuing and find your tickets."
After we had really given up trying to get help from United I decided to go in physically to an office they apparently have in Penn Station in New York (I work in New York). Mind you this is not even a formal ticketing office but a lady there (I think last name Larenas) proceeded to spend almost 3 hours on the phone to solve the mystery of the missing ticket.
She basically figured out that United had created a new ticket # and that the reservation was now under a Swiss Air confirmation number. After an insane number of calls she managed to get the ticket reissued.
At the end of the day it was very poor performance from United Airlines on Business Class tickets for elderly passengers. Who pays for all the time and canceled work schedules to sort something like this out? United Airlines basically just left us hanging with no solution. We almost canceled my parents' trip as we were stumped as to what to do next and had started conversations with a lawyer to sue for the $6,000 plus damages.
As a result I have warned friends, family and my employer about booking any international business travel with United Airlines.