Call Center Chronicles: “Sir, they must be predicting pretty strong winds”

My “day job,” if you will, is booking award tickets for people. As cliche as it sounds, part of what I love about what I do is that no two days are the same. And by that I mean I have a different run in with incompetency at the airlines almost every day… often several times a day.

I do what I can to share tips and experiences from award bookings, though I don’t often enough write about some of the more entertaining interactions I have with airline call centers. Blogging is great therapy for venting about clueless agents, like the Delta SkyMiles agents I’ve written far too much about.

Anyway, I’ve been inspired to start a new series of posts entitled “Call Center Chronicles.” It’ll be great therapy, and maybe it’ll give some of you a laugh (or at least allow you to shake your heads a bit). While conventional wisdom is to hang up and call again if you get a clueless agent, sometimes it’s just too fun to play along a bit.

Here’s my first post in the series.

Earlier in the week I called US Airways to put an award ticket on hold for a client from Chicago to Copenhagen via Frankfurt.

The agent was incredibly professional and fast, and as usual once the phone call was done I went to US Airways’ website to make sure the agent held the ticket correctly.

As it turned out she accidentally booked Frankfurt to Copenhagen the same day she booked Chicago to Frankfurt. So the routing looked like this (with the dates changed, of course):

07/01 United 940 Chicago to Frankfurt departing at 6:34PM and arriving at 9:55AM (+1 day)
07/01 Lufthansa 824 Frankfurt to Copenhagen departing at 11:20AM and arriving at 12:40PM

That wasn’t an issue since the ticket was on hold and I figured a quick call to US Airways would fix the mistake, since it was just an oversight.

The agent answers the phone and I explain the situation to her (that the Frankfurt to Copenhagen flight was accidentally booked for the wrong date and should be booked for July 2). The conversation then went something like this:

Agent: “Oh, did you want a stopover in Frankfurt?”

Me: “No, the itinerary should continue straight on to Copenhagen after the 1hr25min layover.”

Agent: “Sir, that’s how it is right now.”

Me: “Ma’am, presently the flight from Chicago to Frankfurt leaves on July 1 and gets to Frankfurt the morning of July 2. The agent earlier accidentally booked the Frankfurt to Copenhagen segment for July 1 as well, which is before the United flight lands from Frankfurt.”

Agent: “No sir, that flight lands in Frankfurt the same day.”

Me: “The flight from Chicago to Frankfurt is actually an overnight flight and lands the following morning, July 2.”

Agent: “No sir, the flight takes off at 6:34PM and lands at 9:55AM the same day.”

Me: “The time change between Chicago and Frankfurt is seven hours forward, and the flight is about eight hours. How could it take off before it lands?”

Agent: “They must be predicting pretty strong winds.”

(At this point I have to try hard to not laugh)

Me: “That’s strange, because the United flight from Chicago to Frankfurt two hours earlier gets in the following morning.”

Agent: “They must be using different plane types then. Some fly faster than others.”

(Of course, because United must use some planes that fly forwards and some that fly backwards!)

Me: “Could you please just check with a supervisor to make sure that the flight times are correct?”

And of course sure enough she comes back a couple of minutes later realizing her mistake. But her justification was worse than her other two blunders:

Agent: “I’m sorry, I was confused. I was under the impression that the Frankfurt to Copenhagen flight was the overnight one.”

I guess she thought they were connecting in Kentucky…

Comments

  1. Do call center people do any training with regards to time zones? For frequent fliers, or even businessmen who have to deal with other time zones, this is a pretty simple task, but I have found many that are surprised that time zones exist at all!

  2. LMAOROTF! This is great therapy. Loved the reply about “strong wind” and “some planes fly faster than others”. Yes, this is a great idea for the blog. Keep it UP!

  3. @AKTCHI – Lucky enjoys the masochism. He really does. I’m a fan of his when we see how he does things the hard way or other dumb things. Like walking down the external stairs of a hotel after locking himself out. Or getting completely lost in Paris for what should have been a 10 minute walk.

    @Lucky – compile these gems and give yourself a new revenue stream in the form of a book we can all read at 35,000 feet.

  4. Lucky, I’ve had a Chairman’s Preferred supervisor tell me that I couldn’t layover in CDG because it “isn’t a US Airways International Gateway”. I simply said, “forget Paris” and hung up.

    JRL

  5. You must save these stories for a book. It would definitely be published, unless that CSR eventually gets a job at publishing house.

  6. The thing that constantly surprises me is when I am trying to apply common sense to something (aka 25 minutes between flights is NOT enough time to change terminals in LHR) and they always say “well, the computer says it is”.
    *headdesk

  7. I once booked a trip from BOS-YYZ-PVG-CTU for three adults and one infant. The flight was scheduled to arrive in PVG +1 day. I booked BOS-YYZ-PVG online myself on CO.com. Then I called to add PVG-CTU. The agent accidently put the previous day. The system was smart enough not to allow that. The agent passed this to his boss then to his boss’ boss. They first told me that it was a reward trip so that PVG-CTU was not allowed. After 10 minutes argue, their conclusion was that the infant messed up the PVG-CTU segment because AirChina did not sell infant ticket. At that time, I freshed CO.com and noticed the mistake. However, they refused to change even if they agreed the date was wrong. I hang up and called back. They even put notes in my reservation. Other agents were not willing to change after reading the stupid notes. I had to cancel the reservation, wait for the miles to be re-deposit, and rebook the whole thing.

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