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One Airline Ticketing Trick

Posted by Randy LeGrant | Jul 3, 2014 11:06:00 AM

When Bad Things Happen With Your Airline It Is Random Not Personal

BA FlightI’m traveling in Europe for a month visiting our overseas partner offices and meeting and talking to many of our participants in Europe who are on our programs. That’s mostly tutors, teachers and camp counselors. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve taken a full month away from the office to talk to visit our participants and programs and I’m excited to learn as much as I can.

Because I work in our office in Connecticut, of course I had to fly here. Normally this would have never made it to the top of the “Blog This Now” list. But when British Airways canceled my reservation and didn’t tell me until I went online to check in … I thought I might write about the experience. We do get a lot of “emergency” phone calls when flights are missed or canceled. I thought it might might make even a small difference if our participants knew those are random incidents and can happen to anyone. But turning that really bad experience into something good is all in how you approach the problem.

No airline is out to get you.

They are out to over price you, but they are not picking on you when they cancel your flight, lose your luggage or make you late. If you approach the challenge knowing even the most experienced travelers in the world get bumped off a flight every now and then … you will keep the stress levels down.

Did You Reserve Your Flight With An Agency, An Online Company Or The Airline?

I ask, because it makes a huge difference. The first thing British Airways said to me when I called them was, “You didn’t make your reservation with us, sir. You made it through American Express Travel. You’ll have to talk to them. Your reservation is canceled and the flight is full. Call American Express.”

Totally up to you, but 95% of the time I will reserve with the airline directly. The little I save with Travelocity or Kayak pales when I need to negotiate with the airline directly (like at the airport at 5:00 a.m.) and then I don’t need to step out of line, call the agency hotline, talk to them, have them call the airline, then the agency calls me back an hour or more later, and then I still end up talking to the airline. After the flight has departed, of course.

Direct. No matter the airline, deal with them if you want to minimize issues after you purchase.

Do You Have Travel Delay Coverage?

If you are traveling on a GeoVisions program, yes you do. Always check to see if you have travel delay. If a flight delay means you have to overnight or buy a big meal when you thought you might be served on the flight … insurance to cover you in the delay could save you a lot of money.

My Entire Reservation Was canceled

This is rare. Last week I checked in to BA online and when I did I saw a message saying I could not check in and that I needed to call the airline directly.

I called British Airways and through a random glitch, my name was still in the computer at BA, but my seat had been given away and although I was showing to hold an open ticket … BA said they could not allow me on the plane because the my reservation had been canceled by American Express Travel, where I originally made my reservation. I had made the reservation 60-days out, had never received an email or call from Amex … so I suspected it was an internal error that BA refused to confirm. AND they refused to talk to me, since Amex had made the original reservation.

So, 9:00 p.m. I called American Express Travel. They tried for hours (literally) to find someone at BA after 9:00 p.m. eastern on a Thursday night who could help. I memorized the music on hold. And I was on hold for 30-45 minutes at a time not knowing what was going on.

Much later, American Express Travel found a supervisor (it pays to be able to ask an agent: “Could you please connect me with a supervisor?” I did on my original call but was reminded that only American Express Travel could help.

The supervisor was able, after hours of work, to find a seat for me. The thing was, they gave me Row 23, Seat J. I was thrilled. I would be going to Europe on time after all.

I logged back in, checked in and printed my boarding pass. Row 19, Seat G. Um. I wrote down 23 J.

I called BA back again. After 15 minutes they confirmed I was indeed on the flight and in Row 23, Seat J. I asked them why I had printed out 19 G and they had no real reason for me.  "Show up at the airport and hope for the best."

Lesson Learned - You Can benefit

Had I made my reservation on BA back 60-days before now, I’d have been off the phone in 30-minutes with the right seating assignment that matched my boarding pass.

Instead, I drove 2-hours to NYC with the idea I was 23 J, had a pass printed for 19 G and worried for hours.

And as it turns out? They switched out the aircraft. On the flight I actually used, I was 19 G. The computer was right all along.

I hope these few lessons and ideas are helpful to you. Remember … these things happen to everyone. They’re random and not at all personal. And if you can remain calm and patient you will get more of what you need. Getting up in someone’s grill who’s trying to help will only get you a step backward. You are trying to fly forward. In this case, booking directly with the airline would have saved hours of sitting on hold.

If you have stories that could help others here, please do leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.

Written by Randy LeGrant

Randy is the Executive Director of the GeoVisions Foundation. He has spent the last 44 years managing organizations that send people abroad on cultural and educational exchanges.

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