AA EXP Desk Comments on sCO Ability to Handle IRROPs; sCO Agent Not Amused.

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by J.Edward, Jun 18, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. J.Edward
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    J.Edward Silver Member

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    Background: Flying the return of a paid full-F ticket (as in changeable/refundable) on ANC > SFO > EWR > MIA when the inbound 738 out of ORD to ANC, scheduled to turn to the SFO flight, took a MX delay.

    Close to original boarding time the GA working the flight made the following announcement, "...we've got a MX delay but it should be wrapped up quickly and everyone should make their connections, therefore I will *not* be rebooking people."

    He then proceeded into the jetway and closed the door behind him leaving the counter unmanned and did not emerge except about 30m later to announce a further delay before again going back into the jetway and quickly shutting the door behind him.

    (I am not sure why he needed to be in the jetway vis-a-vis the gate to help customers.)

    At first, due to a long connecting at SFO I was not too worried about an IRROP, however 30m turned into 1hr, and with no firm update 1hr 30m past departure, I decided to start exploring options.

    While ExpertFlyer showed a paucity of seats out of ANC, and no F options on UA, I was luckily able to locate AS/AA flights departing in about an hour and a half to LAX (arriving ~11:50pm) to connect to an AA flight at 6:00am the following morning - both with F and a decent amount of Y - so I called into res to start the process of sending the ticket over as the GA remained sequestered in the jetway.

    While the IAH-based phone agent seemed genuinely eager to help, company policy and/or his supervisor effectively tied his hands; he did offer a connection via IAH, however it was economy only (as F was sold out) and informed me his supervisor stated no OAL’s unless the delay was more than two hours.

    I did comment how such a policy seemed counter intuitive as here was a customer proactively trying to dodge a problem the airline created (MX) but the referenced two hour policy effectively required the passenger to actually experience the misconnect before taking action.

    Moreover, I also commented on the scarcity of seats (of which the IAH-based phone agent confirmed), the pending departure of the AS flight (by this time we had about 1h 20m before its scheduled departure) and how delaying for another 30m (until the 2hour mark) might limit the options currently open.

    Again the IAH-based phone agent agreed with me, and while I sensed he genuinely desired to help me, his hands remained tied and said there was nothing he could do until the delay reached the two hour mark.

    Unsatisfied with the response, and seeing as how the GA remained inaccessible in the jetway, I made my way to the check-in counter and again asked a sCO agent to be put on the AS/AA flights.

    After going through the usual evasions (e.g. you’re flight’s not delayed [yes, it is]; well it’s a weather issues [no, it’s not], the GA will rebook you [no, he won’t], there are no other seats [yes, there are], you should call res [already done that]) the sCO agent quires her computer and informs me the only option she has is economy IAH connection that her telephone colleague mentioned earlier…and that’s when the fun started:

    The conversation went something along these lines:

    sCO: There’s no space on anyone else out of ANC; it’s the weekend and we’re in the middle of cruise season so everyone is full.

    J.Edward: Hmmm, I see. Well is there any way we could check specific flights if I gave you the information?

    sCO: Sure, but they’re full.

    J.Edward: Gotcha – can you take a look at the AS flight later today to LAX?

    sCO: <type, type, type> Hmmmm, yes, I think they have seats.

    J.Edward: Great, now can you look at this AA flight LAX > MIA the following morning?

    sCO: <type, type, pause, type, pause, type> Mr. Edward, they show seats in the system but I cannot sell them because I don’t know if they’re available and I don’t have the number to call AA to---

    J.Edward: No worries, I’ve got the number :) Here – I’ll give them a ring and put them on speaker.

    sCO: Uhh, wait, I don’t think…

    AA EXP: High J.Edward, and welcome back! Can I help you with your –

    <pushes 0>

    AA EXP: Okay, I’ll pass you information along to the next available agent

    sCO: uuhh, I don’t think AA reservations will know –-

    AA EXP: Good evening J.Edward, how can I help?

    J.Edward: Hello, I’m calling to see if you guys have space to take a ticket from Continental for the early morning LAX > MIA flight tomorrow.

    AA EXP: The one at 6am?

    J.Edward: Yes Ma’am.

    AA EXP: Oh yes, there are plenty of seats on that flight.

    J.Edward: Good to hear, the reason I ask is I want to make sure there’s inventory as CO needed to verify space before sending a---

    AA EXP: There’s plenty of seats, but CO won’t do it.

    J.Edward: ?

    AA EXP: Yes, CO never sends tickets over…

    sCO Agent: :rolleyes:

    AA EXP: …and when they do, they often don’t do it right…

    sCO Agent: :rolleyes::rolleyes:

    AA EXP: Yes sir, Mr. Edward, it’s a bit of a process with them…

    sCO Agent: :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

    AA EXP: ...and we often times have to call back to CO to ask them to reissue the ticket correctly...

    sCO Agent: :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

    AA EXP: …but I can certainly confirm there’s space on the early morning MIA flight if CO decides to send you over…if you think CO is willing to do it.

    sCO Agent: :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes: (and signals she’s good on selling in the sector.)

    J.Edward: Um, yes, I think we’re good. Thanks for all your help; let me let you go and we’ll try to get this worked out with CO.

    AA EXP: Good luck Mr. Edward, and thanks for calling American. We value your business.​

    So as you can probably imagine, the sCO agent was less than amused after our conversation with the EXP desk but sells in the flights and then proceeds to call the help desk to get it reissued.

    (As an aside since I was going from three flights to two flights, the 3 flight coupons needed to be redone to two coupons and then linked with the two new flights – a process called re-issuing for all you readers following along at home.

    In itself the transaction should not be that hard, especially on the sUA side when all one had to do was select what remaining flight coupon(s) needed to be used to support travel on the new sector(s) in FastAir.

    But even still, all that should be required in SHARES – as I poorly understand it – is a 2:1 coupon exchange to turn the three outstanding coupons into two, and then the actually reissuing of the eTicket to ensure it two eticket coupons matched the corresponding flights in the PNR – one eticket coupon for the AS ANC-LAX sector and one eticket coupon for the LAX-MIA sector.)

    However the sCO agent needed to call the help desk to reissue the ticket as she lacked the skills to reissue the ticket herself. And while she did get through relatively quickly, the help desk itself took about 15-20m to reissue the eTicket.

    But in the end the ticket was reissued, in coach, I was advised to contact customer care after I returned to request a pro-rated refund (for the downgrade from F > Y, despite there being F seats open on the flights) and I was able to check in with AS/AA.

    So all that said here are my questions regarding this:

    • On the advice of the sCO agent, and the employee help desk, I still need to call into “WeCare” to request a partial refund (can anyone provide any guidance as to what is generally accepted for F > Y invol downgrades?) for my ticket as my paid F ticket was turned into an economy one, despite the fact F space existed on the AS/AA flights.
      .
    • Due to tight availability of lodging at LAX, I went ahead and secured a room at my expense upon being reconfirmed and am unsure as to who, in all fairness, is responsible for this expense (I can see arguments for either side and was curious to hear what others thought.)
      .
    • I was disappointed by the ANC > SFO GA’s behavior as appeared to be deliberately avoiding customers. Of course I may be mistaken (he might have been a double GA/MX and was working hard to fix the plane) but his immediate dismal to help seems a bit out of line “customer service” role. Now if he had said something along the lines of, “…at this time connections look good so for now let’s hold off on rebooking, but we’ll keep an eye on them and if things start to get tight we’ll figure something out”, while reaming at the podium is far more customer friendly then basically saying “no” and then disappearing.
      .
    • I expect *any* agent of the company to be able to manipulate a ticket with common sense in a competent manner. To that end, I expect employees be given the tools/resources/access to information to do their job and help their customers, something I do not feel UA has done in a meaningful and effective manner.
      .
    • The current systems (as in IT systems, customer polices, employee fear of audits/reprisals) employed by UA seems to do all but directly discourage making it easy for customers or employees to handle irregular situations and only through a combination of what I have learned on FT/MP, doing my homework to see what flights were available, the EXP desk calling out CO, and dumb luck was I able to overcome the "UA inertia" find a partial resolution to the situation.
      .
    • I expect that UA's polices are made for their employees and customers, neither we nor the employees are made for the policy. Gordon Bethune burned the rule book two decades ago for a reason which has largely been lost on the current UA management.
      .
    Bottom line: the frontline needs better tools to do their job and UA management needs to once again symbolically rip up the employee manual and refocus on their main reason for existing: to take care of the customer.
     
  2. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    I heard about your ordeal through a secondhand source so I sympathize and it does suck when things like this happen. The official policy is 2 hour delay before they will push you to other *A partners or OAL on UA.
     
  3. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here. . .
     
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  4. EWR764
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    EWR764 Silver Member

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    Excellent post. I think these two points crystallize the situation quite well.

    For all the overblown rhetoric about "empowering employees and customers" and "giving people the tools they need to do their jobs", this company will always (as in, without exception) err on the side of handcuffing employees in the name of revenue integrity. It is a complete about-face from the height of Bethune-era CO, though in fairness the "no waivers, no favors" zeitgeist began on his watch circa 2003.

    The results are unpleasant irregular ops experiences for customers, employees who are unwilling to go out of their way to do right by the customer for fear of management reprisal and common sense solutions yielding to illogical policy.
     
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  5. Black Cloud
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    Black Cloud Gold Member

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    Why didn't you just refund and rebook?
     
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  6. colpuck
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    colpuck Gold Member

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    Knowing J.Ed the way I do, Sheena made herself known on the CO/UA ticket.
     
  7. Hartmann
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    Hartmann Gold Member

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    Exactly my question.

    What's strange is that the OP is willing to overnight in L.A. but not in SFO (if he missed the connection)?
     
  8. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Sorry to hear of your travails. Sounds like you used information to your advantage, always the sign of a knowledgeable pax.

    I have two questions for you and some thoughts on next steps.

    1) Are you sure you were on a full F fare? UA sells plenty of changeable economy fares with auto-upgrades to first. I've had them with h-up and y-up designators. While they get you seated in f on the scheduled flight, and are changeable/refundable, they are not "paid f". I've been on the wrong side of this trade once or twice in irops situations. The different in fare between an upgrade fare and a paid f fare could be significant. Frankly, unless you are connecting from an international flight (doesn't sound like you were), I suspect you may have been on an economy upgrade fare. Check your ticket receipt carefully. Please let us know what the "fare basis" is.

    2) Why didn't you simply ask for a refund and buy a new ticket on AA?

    My suggestion would be to write a physical letter and mail it in. This is not an email matter, or a call matter. A well articulated, detailed letter will get you a far better result than any email or call.

    You should devote a bit of the letter to the actions of the gate agent. He couldn't have been doing anything but hanging out in the jetway. That simply is unprofessional behavior. You should include his/her name if you have it.

    You should also be specific in your ask. Do you want money, miles, something else? Be reasonable in your ask...but don't be shy, either.

    Below is a link to a letter I wrote in to Delta last year. I was stranded overnight due to weather....and ultimately got them to cover my extra night at the Four Seasons, round trip private ground transportation (both paid in the form of a check, not dubious Delta Dollars)....and 19,000 miles to boot! Whereas many in our online travel circles would dismiss any chance of expense reimbursement due to weather - and certainly not at the Four Seasons - it is indeed possible to get decent compensation out of carriers. While my circumstance and yours vary, perhaps mine could serve as representative of a letter that gets results for you. Several UA agents "botched" the handling of your situation....which is similar to my DCA saga.

    http://www.sitinfirst.com/2012/05/successful-complaint-letter-regarding-a-weather-delay/

    I've been torn on one aspect of this...it is a bit unusual to put in a demand, and get more than you demand....I've been wondering if I asked for too little from Delta. Upon some reflection, I remain content that my ask was the right one. I wasn't demanding excess compensation...but highlighted my long term value as a customer...and the balanced nature of my letter, plus my customer value, combined to have them offer me more than I asked for.

    Good luck with your situation....please let us know what plays out.
     
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  9. J.Edward
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    J.Edward Silver Member

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    Good question - at the time the IRROP was occurring my thought process along the lines of using the existing ticket; UA accepted the obligation to transport me ANC > MIA on that day/time and so my first thought was to work with them to find a resolution.

    Refunding/rebooking strikes me as a matter of last resort, and at the time, I felt this step was not necessary as UA did eventually get the ticket sent over.

    Nothing strange about it - I was worried about the SFO connection (and in the end it would have been missed) and the morning flights were full the next day (Monday) in F from SFO <connection> MIA, hence the selection of LAX as they at the time had confirmable F inventory

    Yes, 100% sure. Fare basis is F on the original eTicket. (Also the mileage posted as a full F fare as well.)

    Well said.

    My take was the phone CSR, and even the sCO ticket agent who helped me, wanted to try and find a resolution - it's just that their hands seemed tied both directly (the 2hr policy) as well as indirectly (the 15m+ call to the help desk to get it reissued once the OAL sectors were sold in.)
     
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  10. JetsettingEric
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    JetsettingEric Silver Member

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    Great post. Very unfortunate that you had to experience this ordeal. But if people don't realize these problems are reoccurring, they won't take their business elsewhere. Unless it hurts UA in revenue, they're not going to change their policies. Moving a full F fare is a great way to send a message.
     
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  11. Renard
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    Renard Silver Member

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    I'd love to say this surprises me but the days of things surprising me ended a few months ago.
    But this is confusing... How can the gate agent behave the way he did and have no concern for possible reprisals? While at the same time we have so many at United who seem to be afraid to breathe without consulting a supervisor?
     
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  12. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    They must think they're so special since they're further away from the Lower 48 it ain't.
     
  13. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    This is a thorough and impressive post. Despite its lengthy content, I never got lost or distracted. From a guy who can get distracted by almost any shiny object, that's a compliment.

    My thoughts while reading this were many. From a "How would I react in this situation" perspective, I would almost never be on a full fare paid F ticket. Although I usually pay for front cabin seats these days, they are always the discounted version. My fury would have started and ended at the gate where the agent was purposefully evasive. The options at your disposal would not have existed for me, so I would have simply been at UA's mercy. Not good.

    I also wouldn't have known to check all the things you knew to check, so even if I were in a full fare paid F position, I would still be somewhat at their mercy (although I would have known that I could refund and rebook).

    The thing that concerns me most is the lack of options. Although AA was very responsive in this case, they were in an easy position. Many open seats. An unhappy customer from a competitor. A need to lure new passengers due to their financial situation. I lived in Dallas all my life until 2007, so I have plenty of experience with needing AA's assistance. My experiences finally led me to jump ship in 2009, and as bad as UA is right now, my memories of AA are even worse.

    DL was my favorite when they had a mini-hub at DFW, but I have not flown many flights with them since their departure from there. From what I read here and elsewhere, their service has declined along with the rest. Every US flight I have been on has been unimpressive in terms of comfort and condition, even though I have only been in their F cabin. Their predecessor (America Worst as I called them) literally ruined many westbound trips for me, so I wrote them off more than 15 years ago.

    So where does one go to get real FF appreciation and service these days? I surely have no good options now living in Costa Rica. I fly to the U.S.A. frequently and then fly around to different cities as my customers' require. This means that I need an airline that goes everywhere if I want to keep my elite status and accumulate useful miles.

    It seems best to stay put until one airline takes (and keeps) the lead in customer service. I am a strong believer in using my wallet as my vote, and it pains me to be spending so much with UA for such rotten service and total absence of appreciation. At the same time, when it comes my "relationship" with an airline, it's all about me. They are a company, not a spouse. While loyalty should be a two way street, they are proving that in practice it is not.
     
  14. PhlyingRPh
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    PhlyingRPh Silver Member

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    I just love that the AA phone agent was slapping the sCO agent's ass all over the place without even knowing it... excellent!
     
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  15. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Wow. Your one-way fare, before taxes and fees, was $2,622.59?

    I buy a lot of last minute, changeable, premium cabin tickets...but even then, when going domestic, I usually end up on a fare basis other than plain old "F."

    UA-ANCMIA.JPG

    You would get the class-of-service bonus for economy-booked-into-first upgrade fares as well.
     

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  16. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    Maybe he's one of those people who just don't give a damn. Maybe he had a bad day/week/month and just snapped. Maybe he's got someone protecting him. Maybe he's only days or weeks away from leaving the job for another reason and figures he won't get in trouble. There could be any number of reasons, and while what happened to the OP is unacceptable, I'd be wary of making assumptions about the cause of the GA's behavior based off of one incident. Unless the OP has had previous interactions with the same GA, there's really no way to know.
     
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  17. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    Great post. This was much, much worse, pre system integration. Esp when you had half a ticket on PMUA and the other half on PMCO.
     
  18. TravelerRob
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    TravelerRob Silver Member

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    I guess what I don't understand is why getting on AS/AA was so important via LAX if you wound up in coach anyway!?? Why didn't the OP take the IAH connection that was offered by UA when he called?

    UA should never have offlined to AS/AA if IAH was available and the OP was winding up in the same cabin of service as he did on AS/AA. I just don't get it but maybe I missed something.

    -RM
     
  19. J.Edward
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    J.Edward Silver Member

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    At the time I was aiming for F and the AS/AA connection was the only option I found with confirmable F space that got me into MIA roughly the same time as my original arrival time.

    When the sCO agent's support desk was finishing up I again asked the sCO agent again to verify they sent the ticket over in F at which point the service desk said they did not and advised me to write into customer care for a partial refund.

    By this time it was ~1hr before departure for the LAX and I decided to cut my losses and just go with what I had.

    That option did not have confirmable F space.
     
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  20. Scott Schmidt

    Scott Schmidt Silver Member

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    A couple comments... I have seen this kind of behavior quite a bit since the merger--hiding in the jetway--both from PMUA and PMCO agents. It is troubling and should be reported.

    Second, the PMUA philosophy was "get them to their destination." If a 30 minute delay would break a connection, they would work to rebook. Requiring a two hour delay, especially when flights are so full these days, seems like it will cost them penny pinchers more in the end...

    To wit, I was flying LAX-ORD-AMS-VIE-DXB in January and a snowstorm hit ORD. They said that they could not rebook me through IAD, IAH or EWR to AMS since those were PMCO planes (pre-3/3)... Nor would they put me on LAX-IAD-DXB, since weather only impacted the first two segments. Sure enough, I got to AMS and missed my connection, and they had to re-book me, full-fare OW on KLM.
     
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  21. ssullivan
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    ssullivan Gold Member

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    My only comment on this is that the policy quoted was not "two hour delay to rebook." It was "two hour delay to rebook on another airline." That's huge difference. The philosophy of both airlines before the merger was "get them to their destination." It remains so, although, admittedly, PMUA appears to have been aggressive with rebooking to another airline than PMCO was. That said, the very, very few times where another airline could get me there substantially faster, CO generally was agreeable to that option – at times offering it without me even suggesting it.

    As for hiding in the jetway, I've not witnessed such at any of the airports I frequent.
     
  22. TravelerRob
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    TravelerRob Silver Member

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    Yes, and neither did the AS/AA option so why not take the IAH flights? If I were UA I would have forced you through IAH since you were still confirmed in coach on the new itin. If they had confirmed you in F on AS/AA I'd understand. Sorry if I'm being dense but I just don't get why UA caved here.

    Glad you still made it.

    -RM
     
  23. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    There was F space available on the AS/AA flight, but UA screwed up the ticket. OP explains above that it was too late to try to fix it when that information became known. He thought he was getting the F seat that he paid for by going through LAX. ANC to IAH in coach is a long trip. I, too, wouldn't have voluntarily taken that even if I knew that LAX (bad enough) was going to be in coach.
     
  24. Scott Schmidt

    Scott Schmidt Silver Member

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    I've seen PMUA agents hide at SFO (upgrade list was long and C was full) and PMCO agents hide in Houston (3.75 hour mechanical)...
     
  25. sfogate
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    sfogate Gold Member

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    LOL.....It is and always has been a known issue rebooking anyone over to AA. I have reported this many times that even booking directly with AA reservations same day departure and sending the customer over to the AA counter with a new correctly reissued ticket will and has been rejected many times. AA does not play well with others, no matter what we do.
     
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