Sometimes people can just be downright vindictive. I admittedly have a tendency to crave revenge, though I pray I will never turn out like the United Airlines reservations supervisor I dealt with earlier this week.
One of my best clients was scheduled to fly home from Beijing to Washington via Frankfurt in Air China first class connecting to United first class. While first class is first class, as a discerning traveler he naturally preferred Lufthansa and I told him not to worry: Lufthansa first class would eventually open and he could fly on the A380 and 747-8 in first class on the way home (just like Brad did).
The space did open as expected, and as a 1K member he would not have been accessed a fee to make these changes. First, a bit more on his itinerary. It was a trip to Beijing with a stopover in Dublin on the outbound. This client likes to maximize his miles so his routing was complex–23 hours in Doha and 23 hours in Bangkok after the stopover in Dublin on the way to Beijing. But that is a perfectly permissible routing and flying back via Frankfurt with an overnight there so that he could enjoy the 747-8 in first class from Frankfurt to Dulles the following day was also a perfectly valid routing.
I got through to a res. agent in Salt Lake City who put the changes in the reservation, but had trouble re-issuing the ticket because the BKK-PEK segment had not dropped off yet. She put me on hold and came five minutes later telling me the proposed return was not valid because I could not have another stopover in Frankfurt. I explained to her that a 22 hour connection is merely a layover, not a stopover, but she said she was merely relaying the words of her supervisor. I asked to speak to the supervisor.
I could tell the SLC Supervisor would be trouble. He simply did not know the rules and insisted that the stopover was not permitted. It wasn’t worth arguing–or so I thought–so I just said thanks and hung the phone up. I called right back, got another guy in SLC who made the change, but had the same problem with the previous BKK-PEK segment still on the record. The system accepted the change, indicated it would be an even exchange, but simply could not re-issue the ticket. Thanks SHARES!
Back on hold I went and it turned out he got in touch with the SAME SUPERVISOR. Oh boy–now the fireworks start.
The supervisor comes on and angrily states:
Supervisor: Sir, I already told you this wasn’t valid.
Me: Sir, you are wrong–this is a perfectly valid routing.
Supervisor (cutting me off): No it is not! You had a stop in Dublin and a stop in Beijing. You should not even have had two. (sic) You cannot have another stop.
Me: First off, you can have two stops–stopover and destination–on an award. Second, the overnight in Frankfurt is not another stop. It is simply a long layover.
Supervisor: No! It is a stopover. You must go back to Washington the same day. You cannot make this change.
Me: You must be kidding me. Why don’t you look up how a stopover is defined and how a layover is defined on an international itinerary. We are not talking about a domestic flight.
Supervisor: I won’t because I already know the answer. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Me: You haven’t helped with me anything. What a shame you do not even know your own rules. *click*
Now I was angry–angry at the way this supervisor talked to me, the way he did not know his rules, and angry that this simple change was turning into a complex ordeal. But I wasn’t done yet…not even close.
I called back and reached the Houston call center (why can’t I get my legacy UA call centers…?). I explained to the agent what I was trying to do and she put the flights and said this will cost you 70K miles and $145 in additional taxes. Huh? Did the guy in SLC sabotage the reservation?
Then she noticed the note the supervisor had written on the reservation and read it to me–
“Passenger has been instructed that he cannot fly from Beijing to Frankfurt to Washington with an overnight in Frankfurt on this ticket. This change is impermissible. Passenger was rude and argumentative.” She quickly changed her tune and said she could not touch the reservation. I asked to speak to a supervisor again.
This supervisor could not have been more different than the first one. Our conversation went like this:
Me: Before we get started, do you know what I am trying to accomplish?
Supervisor: Yes sir, I do.
Me: And do you agree a layover can be up to 24 hours on an international itinerary?
Supervisor: Absolutely. You are correct sir and the last supervisor was wrong. I am so sorry, and we sure do value you as a 1K member. I’ll add a note myself stating that the change you want is permitted and we’ll then sort out your itinerary for you.
But whatever that first supervisor had done to the itinerary, it really complicated the matter, because it took over an hour on hold for the agent to get the flights in and the ticket reissued. The new ticket showed no tax or mileage amount (which always displays at the bottom of a United award ticket) so I can only imagine what they had to do to get this issued. As I mentioned, I suspect foul play because the first two agents had indicated it was a relatively easy change and the computer quickly accepted it.
The point of this post is much more than an attack on this absolutely horrible SLC supervisor. It is an indictment on us all to not to get too sure of ourselves. Sometimes we all make a mistake and when faced with the truth we can either accept it and apologize or dig our heels in deeper and make the matter worse, like the SLC supervisor. Don’t be that person…