Mrs. Selfish and I purchased our business class the tickets for the European leg of our trip back in March 2012 for the very reasonable price of $128.27 + 100,000 miles each. The plan was to fly from Washington Dulles, to Vienna with a 6 week stop-over in England. For our return flight we were going to leave from Lisbon, returning to Dulles by way of Madrid.

Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

While in England last August I received an email from United that our Madrid flight to Dulles had been canceled. Their new routing ended up adding an extra layover through Newark and tacking on an extra 5 hours of travel time.

I immediately jumped on United.com to find a shorter alternative, and within 20 minutes found a better route via Frankfurt using United’s partner, Lutfhansa. Not only was the layover time a breezy 50 minutes, but we’d be able to try out Lufthansa’s new business class seats, which been receiving a lot of praise in the travel hacking scene.

Lufthansa’s sexy new business class!

I called United, and within half an hour the new tickets had been booked and seats had been confirmed via the helpful United rep. Mrs. Selfish and I were flying home on Lufthansa in style!

Or so I thought.

Flash forward a few months. After arriving in Lisbon, I decided to check and make sure our flights were still good – a quick check on United.com confirmed that all of our tickets had been booked. Unfortunately, while my seats were showing up correctly on Lufthansa.com, Mrs. Selfish’s were mysteriously absent.

I called Lufthansa and after a 40 minute hold was informed that although Mrs. Selfish had tickets on our flight home, she did not have seats. The Lufthansa rep told me that United had somehow messed up the booking process, and if we showed up at the Lisbon airport, Mrs. Selfish would have problems boarding the plane.

I called United back, and after a 30 minute hold was informed that there were no more business class seats on the plane from Frankfurt. They’d have to re-route us through Brussels. Even worse, our 50 minute layover had changed into a 5 hour layover – not my idea of a good time.

While calmly explaining our situation, I jumped on United.com and discovered that while the Frankfurt flight no longer had any business class seats, it still had plenty of First Class seats available! Immediately, I switched tactics:

Me: The Brussels flight isn’t going to work for us, however I noticed flight LH418 still has some First Class seats availabile. Would it be possible to upgrade Mrs. Selfish and I to First Class?

United: Let me check and see what we can do for you, sir.

[Puts me on hold for another 20 minutes]

United: Sir, I checked and those seats are available. However, it will cost you another 17,500 miles per person.

Me: I understand, however I’m asking you to upgrade us as a courtesy to my wife and I. We booked these seats back in August and were told by your company that we were good to go. I’ve already spent 3 hours on the phone today trying to straighten this situation out, and am not sure why we’re being penalized with a worse flight because of an error on United’s part. Now is there anything you can do to help us out?

United: Let me check.

[Puts me on hold for another 10 minutes]

United: Sir, I’m happy to inform you that we’d like to offer you a courtesy upgrade to First Class.

Success! With a little bit of effort, and lot of phone time we managed to go from getting kicked off of our flight to upgraded to First Class!

Crazily, there were only 2 other people in first class!

Perhaps even crazier than the luxurious amounts of room in the cabin (the ceilings must have been vaulted) was the food. I counted no less than 5 courses, including an amuse-bouche and a caviar platter.

First Class 12

After dinner it was time for a nap! Fortunately, Lufthansa performed a full turn down service.

First Class 15

After the nap we awoke refreshed, and ready to head back to the States! It was then that we got hit with even more food!

Unfortunately, we only had 20 minutes to check out Lufthansa’s flagship 1st class lounge in Frankfurt, which looked truly luxurious. It was just enough time to grab a warm pretzel and a drink!

All and all the flight was absolutely amazing, and we cannot speak highly enough about Lufthansa’s new first class service. After having almost missed our flight, Mrs. Selfish and I were extremely lucky to have United upgrade us to first class – it truly was a lemons from lemonade experience.

Here’s some tips on how you can do the same:

What to do when the Airline Reschedules your Flight

If an airline reschedules your flight, there is always an opportunity at the end of a potential setback:

1. First, check to see what your options are before calling your airline, making sure to write down flight numbers and times.

2. Call your airline and calmly explain the situation. In our case, the airline completely messed up MONTHS in advance and it was clear to both parties that they were responsible for fixing the problem.

3. Suggest a way they can fix the situation using the solution you found. The less work they have to do, the better off you’ll both be. If the rep pushes back, state your case – while you understand it’s not personally their fault, it is the airline’s fault and it is costing you, the customer, something (whether it be time, hours wasted on the phone, or a stressful vacation).

4. If all else fails, hang up and call again. Sometimes a representative can’t help you – whether they’re having a bad day, don’t have the clearance, or simply don’t know how. Remain corteous, thank them for their time, then call back and try again. Some one else might be able to address the issue better.