Readers: if you are getting bored of posts like this, just leave a comment below, but I cannot get enough of the US Airways call center when it comes to booking a complex international award tickets. Here’s how my last call went:
Sue: US Airways Preferred Desk, this is Sue.
Me: Hi, can you help me with a new award booking?
Sue: I sure hope so!
Me: This is a rather complex booking to Cape Town and back from the Seychelles. I think it would be best if we go flight by flight to construct the itinerary.
Sue: That sounds fine. What is the first flight?
Me: Atlanta to Frankfurt on July 19th
Sue: Hmm, I don’t see it. Is that a US Airways flight?
Me: No, I wish you guys flew from Atlanta to Frankfurt, but your partner Lufthansa does. I am looking for one I-class seat on flight 445, LH445.
Sue: Thanks. Sure enough! There it is. I’ll grab it in the I Class. What’s next?
Me: Frankfurt to Prague, also on Lufthansa.
Sue: Prague, that sounds like fog! Hold on here, one moment here…They shoulda given us some geography training here. As you might tell, I have no idea where you are going! I shoulda listened back in school!
Me: That’s okay.
Sue: Where’s your destination go be? Europe?
Me: Cape Town in South Africa
Sue: Oh yeah, you mentioned that already. See I told you I wasn’t very good at this. Where’s South Africa?
Me: It is at the tip of Africa.
Sue: Africa huh? That’s a big country I hear.
Me: It’s a continent actually—there are over 50 countries there.
Sue: Where’s your destination again? CPT. Oh yeah, you told me that already. One second and we’ll finish up what we’re doing.
Me: But the outbound isn’t complete yet. What flight did you book to Prague?
Sue: To fog? Can you give me that code?
Me: Papa – Romeo – Golf. We’re looking at LH1394 to Prague leaving at 10:10a
Sue: Just hold yer horses…Here it is just as bright as day. Okay, we’ve got to get this baby held.
Me: Are you afraid the reservation will time out?
Sue: Yup. What’s the passengers’ name? And Dividend Miles number?
Sue: Oh no, I lost everything. Shoot! What did I press? We’re going to have to start all over again. I’m so, so sorry.
[we rebuilt the itinerary]
Sue: Okay, now note down this confirmation number. We’re going to work off it.
[PNR provided along with the quip “8s and Zs used to look the same to me until I got my new glasses.”]
Me: Great. Next is a flight from Prague to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines.
Sue: Istanbul. Is that IST?
Me: Right. Good job! Istanbul, Turkey.
Sue: See, I am learning!
Me: We’re looking for TK1768 from Prague to Istanbul at 12:05p.
Sue: I don’t see it. Is that on LH?
Me: No, no—now we are on Turkish Airlines, TK for short.
Sue: I got it! There’s the flight, just like you said. I love a man who knows what he wants, when he knows where he is going.
Me (laughing): I’m glad you like that.
Sue: It’s like a challenge to me, a jigsaw puzzle around the fire. I’ve learned so much from you. I just learned that Prague is in Czechoslovakia [sic] and Istanbul is Turkey! See, I just love people like you. Now what?
Me: Now we’ll go down to CapeTown on Turkish, TK flight 40.
Sue: It’s TK right, Turkish?
Sue: See, you didn’t even know you were a teacher?!
Me: You get non-rev benefits right? Have you been to Europe before?
Sue: Nah. I’m a new hire. No chance to travel transatlantic.
Me: Did you find the flight? It’s a direct flight that makes a stop in Johannesburg, but hopefully it comes up in your system.
Sue: Yes it does! Oh my goodness. Wow. I’ve gotta get my book out and make a note of this.
Me: We’ll we’ve got the outbound now. Have you ended the record?
Sue: Yes sir! Everything is saved.
Me: Great. The return will be from the Seychelles: the code is Sierra – Echo – Zulu
Sue: Where is that?
Me: That’s a little country north of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
Sue: North of where?
Me: Madagascar. That’s another country in Africa.
Sue: You must be gettin’ exasperated with me by now.
Me: Not at all. So from SEZ we will be going to Alpha – Delta – Delta, Addis Ababa.
Sue: That’s a funny name.
Me: It is the capital of Ethiopia. We’re looking for Ethiopian Airlines, that is ET flight 878 on July 29th in I – Class.
Sue: You are so good. You are very good! I’ve got it.
Me: Next is from ADD to Frankfurt, Germany also on July 29th, LH flight 599 in business class.
Sue: There is, just as plain as day, just as you said. This is so interesting. So interesting. I can’t even tell you how, how great this is for me.
Me: Next is…
Sue: Oh nuts! I lost it. I’m sorry. Was was that flight again?
Sue: Lufthansa! Lufthansa! One day I’ll learn this and you’ll say Thank the LORD, she finally done it! Thank the Lord, Thank the Lord, Thank the Lord!
Me: Just in time for the new system once your merger with American Airlines is complete!
Sue: That’s right. Hmm, I can’t get this flight to stick.
Me: Are you able to end the reservation?
Sue: Yes, I can’t end it. I’ve tried. Sir, I’m so sorry. Hold on. Lordy, Lordy!
[she put me on hold for five minutes]
Sue: Hold on sir. You’ve just been absolutely precious. I was talking to a fellow worker. Keep working at it, she said. I hate this….There it is. Okay.
Me: You’ve got the space?
Sue: Now I do. What’s next?
Me: Just one more flight, Frankfurt to Atlanta on July 30th on L…
Sue: Lufthansa right?
Me: Right. LH444.
Sue: Oh bless you, you’re so sweet! Yes, there it is. Oh bless you darling. You’re so good to me!
Me: I’m so happy we were able to build the record!
Sue: It’s a challenge here, because you’re not working with any of our airlines. I’ve got to put the name and address here one flight at a time then end it then retrieve it, then add the next address.
Me: I see. Well, I think we are good to go. Are all the flights showing HK?
Sue: God bless you, you know this lingo better than I do. Yes, everything is HKed and you can make any kinda change you want in the next 72 hours.
Me: Thank you Sue.
Sue: This was such a fun call. Thank for calling!
Me: The pleasure was mine.
* * *
I have started to transcribe these conversations as they progress, to ensure that I report them properly to you and more importantly, to make sure I do not forget any hilarity. The incompetence is breathtaking, but it is a kind of good-natured incompetence that does not bother me nearly as much as the sort of close-minded ineptitude displayed by so many Delta agents. A half-hour I will never get back, but humorous nonetheless.