The Best Award Booking Customer Service I’ve Ever Had When a Flight Got Cancelled

I have to be in Singapore soon and set up some award tickets at least as backups. I’m still not sure how I want to go and come back. I figured I wanted a ‘worst case scenario’ locked in, and that I can improve from there as award space opens up (hopefully) closer to departure.

  • Outbound: Houston – Seoul – Singapore in Korean Air first class using 95,000 Korean miles and $34.29.
  • Return: Singapore – Hong Kong – Boston on Cathay Pacific (business to Hong Kong, first to Boston) using 110,000 American AAdvantage miles and $70.36.

Now, I’m likely departing from and returning to my home in Austin but this was the best I could do to start although I considered Austin – Los Angeles (United economy) – Beijing (Air China First) – Singapore (Singapore Business) on the outbound.

I decided I was happy with a Houston departure. I could catch an early United flight or even drive a rental car one way. Unfortunately Korean Air has cancelled Houston service. They auto-rebooked me to fly Dallas – Seoul – Singapore. The next day. (Their Dallas flight isn’t daily.) That wasn’t going to work for me.

So I called up Korean and I told them I couldn’t leave the next day, what could they do for me? I knew there was award space out of several other cities but most of the flights would have forced me to depart about 12 hours earlier and lose a night at home. Chicago – Seoul – Singapore was available, however.

In the meantime a first class seat opened on Cathay Pacific out of New York JFK — that too would have meant leaving home earlier which I didn’t really want to do. Although I’d get to use American’s Flagship Dining again.

To my surprise, the Korean Air agent said

  1. “let’s look at what else is available out of Houston” and I thought she didn’t quite understand that Korean wasn’t going to be flying from Houston at all, it wasn’t just my flight that was cancelled.

  2. “would you be ok with two connections to get to Singapore?” I knew then that she was looking at alternatives, but assumed she’d offer me something on Delta and Delta doesn’t have a first class.

I said, “well would you mind looking out of Austin that would be even more convenient?”

And she suggested American Airlines to Chicago connecting to the Korean Air space I had found myself. She placed me on a brief hold and ticketed the new itinerary that has Korean paying for an American Airlines first class seat to Chicago.

It’s Not Korean’s 747-8 Suites But It’ll Do For Transportation

I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such good customer service over the phone with an airline. There was never any pushback. There wasn’t any checking with a supervisor. Nothing had to be queued for a callback.

When schedules change or flights cancel it can be an opportunity to get an airline to open up award space that’s better than what you had. I knew for instance with a recent Cathay Pacific ticketing problem that if it wasn’t sorted I’d get American to open up first class on one of its own Hong Kong flights.

Here though I wound up better off than I originally was because I wouldn’t even need to get myself to Houston, my flight out of my home airport was now included. So I can cancel that Cathay Pacific award on the outbound, and start thinking about how I actually want to fly home.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I was *nearly* the same boat. On a confusing back-n-forth call, the agents accidentally released my CX space without confirming the JL one …. and I saw on my account that while they’re still resolving it, they’ve created a temp reservation involving AA metal via LAX.

  2. Wow it is nice. You do a great job.
    I highly appreciate your hard work for creating this post that is very useful.
    Thanks a bunch for sharing.
    Have a super fabulous day.

  3. Actually this happens frequently. When booked in First (TPAC and TATL), and something goes wrong, these are the passengers accommodated first. I was booked on the 2nd Cathay flight from Chicago. When it was canceled, I was told that I could pick whatever routing I wanted. Even if seats were not available, Cathay would obtain them. The only thing that worked, coming from a small city in the Midwest, was the Cathay day flight. Which forced us to overnight in Hong Kong. Cathay paid for the hotel. Which people tell me is unheard of Cathay doing this.

  4. Wish I could say I’ve had the same luck – Was booked on Delta business from JFK to SVO (Moscow) for next August using Flying Blue Miles- Delta just announced they were suspending all Moscow service -Flying blue will not book me on the non-stop Aeroflot flight even though I see availability in Experflyer and Deltas own web site – They tell me its unavailable – They want me to fly on AF with a stopover in France – AF flys an A380 with their older non-flat business class to NY I’m not happy and cant seem to find an alternative

  5. A great post, Gary.

    I lucked out on the upcoming trip from London to New York (in J) to Los Angeles (in Y) when the London flight was canceled and after a little pushback, the agent let me on the direct flight in J from London-LAX.

    The fact that this was an American and has been my only positive experience with the airline in the last couple years, makes it even more remarkable.

  6. Gary I’ve had similar good service with Korean Air. I had to change the date of my First Class NRT ICN JFK flights but KE could only confirm Business Class on the ICN JFK portion and waitlisted in First. I mentioned to the lounge staff at the FC lounge when I got to ICN that I was still hoping the waitlist would clear even though the flight was only two hours off. She said, Upgrade? First isn’t full, shouldn’t be a problem, let me check. She then walked me over to the Transfer Desk where they initially told me I didn’t have enough miles to upgrade to F from J! When they realized I had a First ticket and was waitlisted they spent the next 20 minutes making sure the space opened up for me. Really impressed.

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