Despite booking award tickets all day every day, here’s something that might surprise you — I don’t remember the last time I was hung up on by an airline agent. It’s probably for one of two reasons. I suspect the main reason is because I’m always nice (but firm) with airline agents. You’re not going to get anywhere if you’re rude, and they always have the power to note your record if they don’t like you. Second, I suspect it also has to do with the fact that I avoid confrontations with phone agents. That’s the beauty of being able to politely hang up and call again.
Well for the first time in forever I got hung up on today, and it was a British Airways Executive Club agent that did it to me.
I have a policy of always going online to verify that the reservation is correct before letting the agent hang up, since I’d rather have any problems dealt with right then and there. Unfortunately in this case the agent ended the call before I had the opportunity to ask him to wait as I check the reservation online.
I figured it was no big deal, since 99% of the time reservations are correct. Well, this reservation was part of the 1%, as it was booked for the wrong date. The flight numbers and times were exactly correct, but the dates were off. It was supposed to be for the 5th of the month, but instead was booked for the 15th of the month. So I got back on the phone and got an agent that was willing to correct the error. He put me on hold for about 20 minutes to make the correction, and then came back to say that it was fixed. He commented on how they were waiving the fee as a “one time exception” because it was their error, but if I wanted to make any other changes there would be a change fee involved. Before letting him go I asked him to hold so I could just quickly pull up the reservation online.
He reluctantly waited, and I realized that he had booked a different flight from Hong Kong to Taipei (this was an award ticket from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Taipei). This wouldn’t usually be a big deal, but in this instance the passenger was traveling with a relative that was booked on the original flights using American miles. I pointed the error out to the agent, and he started by claiming that the flights were actually the same ones, but the times only changed slightly.
That wasn’t the case. Cathay Pacific operates an insane number of flights between Hong Kong and Taipei — at least one an hour — and both flights in question showed four business class award seats. When I pointed this out to the agent, he responded by saying that the later flight wasn’t available. I mentioned that the website showed four business class seats available, and he responded explaining that the website can sometimes lag in terms of availability.
In theory that’s possible, though I then nicely asked to be transferred to a supervisor. He snippily responded that supervisors don’t talk to customers at British Airways. Wow, that’s a great approach to take. Usually I would have politely hung up at this point, but given that it was a fix to a previous mistake, it would have been tougher to find an agent willing to fix a previous agent’s mistake after fixing a previous agent’s mistake.
So I decided to ask him the question where I knew he’d be caught in a lie. I asked him what other flights he saw available that day between Hong Kong and Taipei in business class. He claimed the one they were booked on was the only one with availability. I said “that’s strange, because the British Airways website shows four business class award seats on the 4:45PM, 5:35PM, 6:20PM, 6:55PM, 7:30PM, 8:00PM, 9:20PM, and 10:45PM, just to name a few. You really don’t see space on any of those flights?”