Last month I wrote about United rebooking a passenger for the wrong year. They landed in Frankfurt and were denied boarding for the flight they thought they were supposed to take, because United had put them on that same flight in June 2018 instead of July 2017.
In that case United’s computers were down. The agent hand wrote the changed itinerary, and didn’t note the new (wrong) month. And the passenger couldn’t bring it up with United’s app or website. They could have called, though hold times for a mere Silver were long. That’s a tough spot to be in, to check the agent’s work. You always need to check the agent’s work.
Reader Vlad just shared an award booking nightmare that left him stranded in Europe for a week. He says it’s because he failed to notice an agent’s mistake when he made a booking through Air France KLM by phone.
In April he booked travel from Rinas International Airport in Albania to Rome to Boston and on to Indianapolis, flying Alitalia and Delta.
- Travel was for himself
- The miles were in his own account. His account name was correct. The credit card was in his own name.
- While the agent confirmed his name, the ticket was issued as LAST NAME LAST NAME rather than FIRST NAME LAST NAME
- And so he was denied boarding when he arrived at the Alitalia ticket counter in Albania.
Alitalia said there was nothing they could do, it was Air France’s ticket. Air France doesn’t serve the airport. Their phone agents told him to talk to the US, since the ticket was issued in the US, but it was the middle of the night and their offices were closed.
Finally he got someone from Air France KLM Flying Blue to try to help him. They couldn’t change the name on the ticket for another airline, so they cancelled the ticket and redeposited the miles but seats for his trip didn’t go back into award inventory. The agent couldn’t get him a flight home.
He was stranded in Albania, and Flying Blue didn’t see any inventory out of the airport for 3 weeks. So he ultimately:
- Booked himself an award with United miles flying on Austrian
- But that award was out of Skopje
- And didn’t depart for a week
- He took a bus to get there
I feel terrible for what Vlad went through and wish he’d emailed me earlier about what happened, I’d have to loved to at least tried to help him get a better trip home. Now he’s just wondering about whether he might get some compensation from Flying Blue for the mistake.
He wanted to share his story as a cautionary tale for readers to check their tickets right away.
And even if the agent gets things right initially Schedule changes can screw up a reservation. Partner award tickets can go out of sync. Always remember to ‘garden’ your travel reservations. For instance aircraft swaps might cause you to downgrade cabins, or to lose seat assignments. Or schedule changes may require a ticket to be reissued.
When you do call to fix things,
- Never be snarky
- Never try to educate an agent
- Never tell the agent they’re unhelpful
- Never tell the agent you’re going to find someone else to do what they’re unwilling to do.
Don’t challenge their authority — because an agent can document your record.
Ultimately I want to be in charge of my own destiny though. One of the things I love about miles is the option value of last seat availability awards. (Alitalia, an American Express transfer partner, doesn’t offer true last seat availability but they do have extra miles awards for greater availability.)
I don’t generally fly on them, and when I’ve booked them they’ve usually just been a backup that I wound up cancelling. But it’s great to have miles to be able to get on a flight most anywhere I go, to get out if necessary, to have a worst case scenario backup plan without being out of pocket thousands of dollars.