This past week I took a jaunt across the country and back, just for kicks (SEE: Sometimes You Just Need a Crazy Award Travel Adventure). The goal was to book and enjoy United’s Polaris seat and their 757 premium service product for the dirt-cheap price of 25,000 miles round-trip. I was curious to know how easy it is to book these flights using Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles. Verdict: plenty easy.

Everything went seamlessly. Well…except for the flight delays. How typically United. But they weren’t a big deal to me. The forecasted delays in Newark even gave me the option of changing my flight, which I was happy about. What caught me off guard was one rather unexpected outcome.

Changing Flights in the United Club

Just before I entered the United Club in Terminal C of Newark Liberty Airport, I’d received a text from United warning me of potential travel disruption. Thunderstorms would be hitting Newark. After already arriving late due to mechanical delays on our inbound flight, I certainly didn’t want to arrive super late back in San Francisco. The United Club has a handful of service desks, so I thought I would see if I could be moved to an earlier flight. Can’t hurt to ask.

I’d already checked the various options. Unfortunately, seats on United’s new 787-10 that currently flies between its two hubs were all full. There was a 777 departure at 4:10 PM and a single seat left on a 757 departure at 5:00 PM. Given that I’d just flown United’s Polaris seat across the country, I was actually eyeing the 757 premium service flight. This is what I had booked for my original flight.

When I asked to change flights, I was hit with a flurry of questions. Are you an elite? No (well, yes, but I don’t know why I said no!). Do you have a flight cancellation? No. I can’t remember all the others, but I feel like she asked me five different things. It didn’t seem like she wanted to help. But when I handed over my phone with the test from United, things began to change.

I asked about the 5:00 PM departure. She seemed confused why I’d want that one when there were a couple seats on the 4:00 PM, but hey, I stuck to my guns. However, the seat in question was not available as an I-class (business saver) award fare. I expected this to be an issue, but she simply said “let’s see what the next higher class of service is”. A minute later, I had a boarding pass in hand.

Change of Flight, Change of Fare Class

The agent had booked me into the ZN fare class, which is a standard award class available to general MileagePlus members. MileagePlus Explorer cardholders have access to additional award space with code JN.  It didn’t make any difference to me what the fare code was. I was just happy to snag a seat.

So I was quite surprised when just over 1,600 award miles hit my account a day after the trip. I also earned PQMs, but no PQDs. I was under the impression that ZN fares were not eligible for earning miles, since it is a standard award class, but I guess that was not the correct understanding. I’m sure someone who flies United far more often and has a much more intimate knowledge of their fare codes can tell me why.

Conclusion

I had not expected to receive any miles from this trip, so this was a pleasant surprise. Add in the $125 voucher received from United for the delay on our outbound flight to EWR, and I came away from my day not only having enjoyed flying two United premium products for cheap, but also with a something in my pocket.

Has anyone else ever experienced a flight change altering their booking class?