I received a reader email yesterday from someone trying to ticket an award reservation with American from Los Angeles to New York to Hong Kong to Bangkok, which should cost 67,500 miles in first class. However, an agent insisted this would require two award tickets (one from Los Angeles to New York and one from New York to Bangkok), and the supervisor that the issue was escalated to agreed. Calling back yielded the same result… twice.
First of all, I should clarify that this routing is allowed. As discussed here, American lets you exceed the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) for a city pair by 25%. Cathay Pacific’s maximum permitted mileage plus 25% for Los Angeles to Bangkok is 12,383 miles, while Los Angeles to New York to Hong Kong to Bangkok is 11,596 miles.
So the routing checks out fine. The fact is that not all agents know the rules, and even not all supervisors are familiar with the rules. So the person placed the ticket on hold, which was more or less his death sentence in this case. While we like to play the “hang up and call again” game, this only works well when you don’t have a reservation yet.
Nowadays agents almost always add notes to the record of a reservation every single time you call, so every agent that subsequently sees the reservation will see those notes. So in the case of this person, the first supervisor probably notated the record saying something along the lines of “passenger informed routing not legal and must use two awards.”
And call it peer pressure or something else, but once a record is notated it’s almost impossible to get a subsequent agent to overrule that, regardless of how wrong they are. Despite having booked hundreds and hundreds of award tickets, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve convinced an agent to overrule something that was previously notated in the record.
So what do you do in this case? Unfortunately the only real option is to cancel the hold on the reservation and start from scratch with a “clean” record. Hopefully the award space goes back into inventory, though it’s no guarantee.
Call back and hopefully you’ll have better luck with the next agent. And also keep in mind that a reservation isn’t confirmed until it’s ticketed. So just because you’re able to place a ticket on hold doesn’t mean they can’t change the cost or claim it’s not legal when you call back to ticket. So for “complicated” award tickets I always suggest ticketing right away to avoid a clueless agent you may get on a subsequent phone call.
Lastly, anecdotally I should note that I find American, British Airways, and United agents to most frequently notate records, while Delta and US Airways agents don’t do so quite as often (though still do sometimes).