I decided to use my accumulated United airlines miles to take a trip to Asia sometime this year. Little did I know that I would embark on a phone odyssey that basically wasted at least two hours of the life of a reservations agent. My plan was very simple: use enough miles for a business class ticket to Phuket, Thailand, with a stopover in Hong Kong. The reservation went without a hitch, using All Nippon Airlines and Thai Airways to Phuket and returning back using Thai Airways non-stop flight from Bangkok to Los Angeles. So, I had the reservation on hold overnight and decided to ticket it today. Ok, everything was fine.
The problem started when I called the individual airlines for seat assignments. The Thai Airways reservation lady stated that I did not have a ticket for the Bangkok – Los Angeles flight. “There is nothing I can do Sir, you have to talk to United,” she said. So, I called United to explain the situation. The United reservation agent was at a loss as to why that was occurring. On her computer system, it showed available seats for the flight but Thai Airways kept rejecting the request. So, after an eternity of dealing with supervisors and help desks, she rebooked the flight and advised me to check later with Thai Airways again.
A few hours later, I called Thai Airways. Again, nothing changed. I wasn’t in that flight. Again, “there is nothing I can do Sir, you have to talk to United.” So, back to United I go. This time, the reservation agent at United basically gave up and decided to find me a different flight. After going through all the various scenarios (at one point, being sent to Seoul Korea at 2AM on economy class), we settle on flying on a different date and returning instead with the Singapore girl (or boy). I’ll meet her in Hong Kong. Well, hopefully, since I have two other dates with Thai gals before her. Better check with Thai Airways again tomorrow to see if my Phuket – Hong Kong flights are actually in their system.
I know that this is a minor annoyance compared with some of the horror airline stories that abound over the Web. I have been quite lucky. My memory just brings me two prior events: being stranded in Mexico City because my connecting Mexicana flight did not exist, and being stranded in Copenhagen because of engine problems (at least SAS provided a free hotel room and liquor for the dinner). Maybe you can share your airline adventures?
[UPDATE 09/09: A couple of changes has happened since I booked my award ticket. I decided to change the date for one of the flights. First, let me say that United’s reservation agents have been quite helpful the couple of times that I needed to contact them. Second, on a Star Alliance ticket, in order not to incur additional fees, you must continue on the same flight number when you change your date (that is, you cannot use other flights even if the destination is the same, otherwise you will incur a fee if you chose a different flight number). Third, seat availability change over time (in my case, my change of date meant that business class seats were not available when I made the change, but they became available when I inquired about them a few weeks later). I wish that Star Alliance award business class tickets would allow stand-by if economy is only available for a certain flight segment. But the way it is now, the only way to find out is to keep calling periodically after your business award ticket has been issued.