A US Airways agent that actually left me speechless…

Through my award booking service I spend a fair amount of time on the phone with airlines. And by “fair amount of time” I mean roughly half my life. I’ve heard it all, from Timetravel Tammy to Tailwind Tanisha to “No Can Do” Nancy to Mesaba Maria. Well, at least I thought I heard it all till last night.

I was calling US Airways to ticket an award reservation, and after giving the agent the record locator she said she needed to put me on hold so she could “go look at a map and make sure the routing was legal.” While other airlines have computers that price awards, US Airways has… well, apparently maps, which is actually progress for them, since that’s the first I’ve heard of them.

Now I should’ve known it was going to get good. After all, the greatest question ever asked on the Miss America pageant involved America and maps. And if there’s one thing Miss South Carolina proved, it’s that the problem with the US education system isn’t a lack of maps.

So she goes and “looks at a map” for about five minutes and then comes back and tells me the routing isn’t legal.

Me: “I’m sorry, why is the routing not legal?”
Agent: “Well because you’re backtracking and that’s not allowed.”
Me: “Which part of this specifically is backtracking?”
Agent: “Well on the flight from Taipei to New York you’re first flying North and then South, that’s backtracking.”

I… I… I… I… didn’t know what to say. I really didn’t. I suppose to this agent any flight with a polar route would be backtracking.

Comments

  1. To mess with her, you should have said “What? This is a direct non stop. It goes straight from TPE to JFK, why would they turn the plane midair from going N to S?”

  2. Get her name and send her a compass. You should have told her that it is very common for planes once they are in 5th gear the pilot may slam into the brakes in midair and put the plane in rear so it can backtrack.

  3. You’d be a viral hit if you had a recording of that. There are apps to record those on Android and iOS and Skype does it as well.

  4. ‘She continued: “I had a supervisor confirm that the flight lands on the 2nd and we’ve notated the record to reflect that.”

    It took a third call before I found an agent willing to permit time travel.

    It is Friday the 13th…’

    Lucky, Check your calendar…

  5. @Hayden,
    depending on the state of the call center the call center person may need to know…but technically they are recording you and tell you that so you may not need to tell them back. I’m not a lawyer, but recording phone calls has always been something I’ve avoided unless I’m willing to tell the parties first.

  6. Lucky – how do you get US (or any) agents to let you ticket awards for another person? I keep getting told that I have to have the party with the points / account on the phone to do it so they can authorize.

  7. @ mw — I’d suggest just pretending you’re them. Otherwise in my experience if you can verify account information they’re happy to issue the ticket.

  8. @mw:

    “Hello, my name is mw, and I’d like to use my points for an award ticket from TPE to the North Pole and from there to New York.”

    Works even if you’re not mw, as long as you have the FF number. Except on US Airways, of course, where backtracking is not allowed.

  9. lucky,

    Any idea why this is priced at 100k rather than 90k in C?

    ORD-NRT-ICN (6 nights)
    ICN-PEK-ZRH-BRU (7 nights)
    BRU-ORD

    The only thing I can think about is I’m staying slightly longer in Asia than Europe. I tried multiple times with the same answer because they said I’m stopping over in Europe, so a higher mileage is deducted.

  10. @ jay — Some agents price awards based on the cost of the most expensive region you’re transiting. So that agent interprets the rules as saying that if you transit Europe (which is 100,000 miles in business class) you’d pay that rate. Of course other agents interpret it differently, so if you call back you should be able to get an agent to price it at 90,000 miles.

  11. I recently booked a ticket for a good friend and his wife with US Airways from LAX to Sydney and Auckland in business nonstop (110K per sweet spot) I called back 4 times tweaking the flights after I got the LAX-SYD nonstop set up. I did get questioned about what the relationship was and I simply said I am giving a gift to my best friend and his wife for their anniversary [true except for the repayment of United miles for my Europe trip via UR point transfer]. I have booked many AA flights and others for au pairs as well and never had a problem [once there was a scare about the flier needing the credit card, but it did not materialize and I had sent the credit card to her just in case.]

  12. I had a US AIR agent actually tell me once: “I dont know how to answer your question..My training was done properly”.
    YOU THINK?!

  13. As someone who makes a living exploiting codeshare award tickets on behalf of other people without an accredited travel agency you sure have a lot of disdain for the industry.

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