I’ve booked hundreds of awards for people through my award consulting service, and I can count on one hand the number of times that tickets weren’t issued correctly and follow up was required.
I do this near full time, so I think I’ve seen just about every possible scenario of award tickets go wrong, and fortunately I almost always catch them as soon as they’re ticketed.
I must have had a bad week (not that it was really my fault, but instead I just had bad luck), because I had two award tickets that required a bit of extra work, and there’s a lesson to be learned in both scenarios.
The first lesson is to always reconfirm your reservation with the airlines operating the flights you’re booked on. I had booked a client on an itinerary including multiple airlines, with two segments on Asiana. It was a US Airways ticket and everything issued as expected, or so I thought.
While it’s somewhat archaic (since it’s unnecessary 99.9% of the time), I always double check with the operating airlines to ensure everything looks correct on their end. If a client is flying an airline that has an online booking management tool, I’ll use that. However, many airlines, like Asiana, don’t let you view itineraries online unless you booked directly through Asiana.
So for this particular client I called to reconfirm the itinerary, as I always do, and it seems that for once it was actually for good reason — the agent saw the first segment for travel on Asiana, but not the second. I gave the agent the ticket number to make sure they didn’t see it connected to that either, and they didn’t.
I called US Airways and immediately requested a supervisor, and they said everything looked fine on their end and there was nothing they could do. I put them on hold and conferenced in Asiana, and the conversation that ensued was quite comical. US Airways said he was booked on the flight, while Asiana said he wasn’t. US Airways even took the segment out, added it back again, and reissued the ticket, which didn’t help. So they weren’t able to do anything, though fortunately airlines have alliance liaisons that deal with exactly these types of issues. The following day the issue was resolved and both airlines saw the booking correctly. The US Airways supervisor said “I’ve been working in the industry for 27 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this before.” While I haven’t been working in the industry quite that long, I’ve never seen anything like it either.
The second lesson is to always make sure you have a ticket number. In other words, make sure your ticket is actually issued and not just confirmed. This would generally go in the “no $&^%, Sherlock” category, but you’d be surprised.
Case in point, I had a client that was booking a complicated Star Alliance award ticket through Continental less than 36 hours before departure. I held the reservation, made sure the fare quote was in there, etc. He wanted to call to ticket the actual reservation (since you need to give your account PIN and credit card information), so he did that. While most airlines (Delta, United, US Airways, etc.) instantly ticket reservations, Continental doesn’t do instant ticketing. While it usually takes only an hour or so to ticket, it can often take up to a day if it’s a complicated ticket. Nonetheless, in the interim, the ticket shows as being “confirmed” on the booking page. And to any rational human being confirmed means, well… confirmed.
I reconfirmed the reservation with the actual operating airlines, and everything looked fine with them. Continental is usually pretty good about ticketing, so I didn’t check to make sure the actual ticket was issued (I do that when I am the one that issues the ticket, though when the client issued the ticket I didn’t).
Well, the following day I get a call from the client, who is stuck at the airport because Continental never issued his ticket. I called up Continental, though the agent didn’t understand the urgency of the situation, since the flight was in 90 minutes. He gave me some BS excuse along the lines of “oh, it’s because this isn’t a valid routing.” I reminded him that there was a fare quote in the reservation and explained to him why it was a legal routing. After being on hold for another 20 minutes he agreed with me.
Then he said it was because the client provided the wrong credit card information. I just asked him to fix the problem, though he first wanted to investigate the issue, frustratingly enough. As it turns out after the ticket was confirmed, Swiss didn’t confirm two of the segments on the itinerary. Instead of calling the passenger to advise him of this, they just didn’t issue the ticket. Fortunately everything worked out in the end.
But if you’re booking an award ticket, those two things are key. A lot of people suggest having the airline’s record locator, though a ticket number is much more valuable. You can have a record locator without having a ticketed reservation, while you can’t have a ticket number without having a ticketed reservation.