Sometimes it amazes me that the public at large can successfully travel from one city to another without getting stymied by airline bureaucracies and ineptitude.
Modern flight is truly miraculous. Modern airline technology, customer service, and business processes often are not.
I run into frustrating situations with airlines all the time, and I do this all the time and – presumably – I even sort of know what I’m doing. Most people don’t.
Delta agents don’t know who their partners are. American doesn’t publish its award redemption rules. United tickets on partners re-issue and cancel. United ticketing issues are especially problematic. For instance,
- How to Make Sure You Really Have a Ticket When You Redeem Your Miles
- When You Purchase a United Award Ticket That Doesn’t Mean You Actually Have a Ticket
- United Award Tickets on Asiana Sometimes Cancel Themselves
The New York Times carries a story about a New Mexico monk who traveled to Malawi to visit his sick mother. His $2500 ticket was purchased with the monastery credit card.
When the monk learned he would need to stay longer, the monastery called United to change his reservation. United claimed the ticket was never paid for. Even though they allowed outbound travel.
United indicated though that a credit was available from the return portion of the ticket. But the airline wouldn’t allow it to be used, because it was suspected to be a fraudulent charge.
So United suggested that the head of the monastery drive three hours to the Albuquerque airport to sort things out in person at the ticketing desk there.
After escalating, a United supervisor promised to re-issue the ticket, but the new e-ticket confirmation never came. Because the ticket wasn’t reissued.
The monk called back.
My monastic life is about staying peaceful in all circumstances. I failed during this call. .. I said to her something like: ‘Thank you for speaking. God bless you. I will pray for you. But you have not been helpful.’
The monastery posted the story to their website, and someone forwarded it to a United executive who had the ticket reinstated.
United had claimed that the monastery’s credit card cancelled the ticket, which turns out to be false. The New York Times gets United to comment, and the airline blames it on a third party they’ve hired to detect fraud.
No doubt a credit card in a name other than a passenger used for travel to Africa fits a profile, although uually this sort of fraudulent ticket originates in Africa. Nonetheless cancelling a ticket after the outbound has been flown, and not telling the customer, is a very strange way to approach the issue.