The ongoing saga of perfecting my award trip to China continues.
A couple weeks, if you recall, I received a telephone call from United about a schedule change on my brother’s identical award trip. His segments in Lufthansa First had been cancelled. United blamed Lufthansa and Lufthansa blamed United. Bottom line: I was unable to get him back in first class on our Frankfurt-Chicago flight in January.
I could have re-routed our return flights through New York, Houston, or Detroit so we both could be in first class, but I’ve got him in business class on the same FRA-ORD flight for now–it may teach the kid brother some humility (that’s another story). Although I know I am taking a gamble, I am confident that LH will release at least one more seat in first before our departure so he will probably get his seat back eventually. If he doesn’t, at least he’ll still be able to use the First Class Terminal at Frankfurt with me and Lufty’s business class seat is not bad on day flights. I ran this by him and he seemed indifferent, so I’m not going to sweat getting him the first class seat.
Another problem arose on Thursday. After landing in San Juan I had a four hours before my flight to Antigua on American Eagle. I checked into the AA Admiral’s Club and as I do almost every day, pulled up the award reservations on my laptop. To my dismay, a schedule change message appeared.
I scanned the itinerary an noticed that there had been equipment change on my Bangkok (BKK)- Shanghai (PVG) flight, from a three-cabin A345 to a two-cabin 772. Upon checking award inventory, I saw that all three TG flights to Shanghai would be two-cabin only.
Bangkok-Beijing (PEK) is still served by a three-cabin 747, so I called United to see if could fly from BKK-PEK-PVG instead of directly from BKK-PVG. I knew this might present a problem because Beijing is further from BKK than Shanghai, but I was hopeful that United’s international call center would sort it out.
Boy was I wrong.
I was connected to the Philippines and explained the situation to agent. She was inept and told me that Thai doesn’t fly from BKK to PEK. I told her to check again. She put me on hold for about ten minutes, then came back on and said she still couldn’t find anything. I again gave her the flight number and departure time, and she hung up on me! Believe me when I say I was not being rude–I was not even being particularly demanding, I just was not taking "no" for an answer.
I called back and was connected to the Philippines again. This time, the agent found the Thai flight I wanted, but told me there was no availability on it. I figured StarNet blocking might be at play, so I didn’t press her and asked her to check on my brother’s Lufthansa problem. She told me that she saw no record of him ever being confirmed in first class. I told her the last agent I spoke with did and I have the e-mail confirmation. She continued to insist that he was never in first class and that she couldn’t do anything. I said goodbye and we ended the call.
One more call to the ICC. This time, the woman–again at the MNL call center–said there is absolutely no way I could route from BKK to PVG via PEK. She refused to even consider the option and said that I could not change my flights.
Enough was enough. I rang the 1K line and was connected to a pleasant woman in Dearborn, MI. I explained to her my predicament and she said that she would be happy to change the flights for me. But there was a problem: no connecting flights from Beijing to Shanghai were available.
Knowing that I would have had to find my way from PVG to PEK during my trip to China, I gingerly suggested to the agent that I didn’t have to fly from PEK to PVG–that I would find my way there. She knew that I already had a stopover so an open jaw was technically against the rules, but put me on hold for a moment to confer with her supervisor (thinking I was doing her a favor by dumping a segment).
About 10 minutes later, she came back and told me I could do the open jaw as long as I did not mind finding my way to Shanghai for my return trip. I accepted her offer and she made the changes on my itinerary and on my brother’s, though it took over 30 minutes.
Mission accomplished! Now I don’t have to buy a r/t ticket to PVG: I can buy a o/w ticket instead.
I also learned a lesson: it’s time for me to re-evaluate the Manilla ICC. They really let me down and I will no longer be enthusiastically recommending them as I have done in the past.
The whole ordeal took two hours–all so I can use the highly acclaimed Thai Airways First Class Lounge in BKK, but it was worth it.
Here’s what my award looks like now: