OK, maybe the title oversells it a bit. This is a story of AA ticketing rules, the EXP desk and last minute ticket changes. It is not important in any way. The story I propose to tell, is, however, that of an interesting evening, and, I submit, a tale worth telling because: - I really am not sure if any of the actors in our drama behaved badly but I suspect someone did - I further suspect that someone was me - But it may have been the EXP desk - Or possibly the gate agent - I honestly don’t know entirely why things work at American; Milepoint knows all and may be able to explain it to me Allow me to set the stage for our drama. There are two evening AA flights from YYZ to ORD. One at 6:25 and one at 7:45. Now, and hour and 20 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but if I make the earlier flight I can see my son before he goes to bed. If I take the later one I’ll miss him. No, the world will not end if I take the later flight, but I travel a lot and so seeing the little man is important to me. Establishing motive, here. I called mid-afternoon and was told by the ever-efficient EXP desk that there were 5 seats on the 6:25PM flight. I had booked AAirpass last minute, so, as I understand it, the equivalent of a full Y fare. For those unfamiliar with AAirpass, economy pulls from Y inventory and is always changeable for no fee at any time. Since there were 5 seats, and perhaps because of some subconscious premonition of my impending inability to negotiate Toronto traffic, I did not change my ticket. Our tale begins in earnest, as do so many tragic dramas, with said bad Toronto traffic. I had managed to get on a highway going the wrong way, led astray by the not-in-this-case-particularly-aptly-named Neverlost system in my Hertz rental car (sidebar: my experiment cheating on Avis? Not so successful). After much quarreling between me and Miss Neverlost it became clear that I was going to be cutting it close for the earlier of two evening flights home. So I still did not change my ticket. For once, though, YYZ was not a mess. Breezed through passport control and security and actually made it to the gate by 6:00pm. The gate was very full and the agents were clearly harried. Given the proximity of the two flights they were putting people on the waiting list but also saying “we’re fully booked – all seats are taken.” I made my way to the front of the line. As I pulled my ticket out and started to ask about getting on the flight the gate agent cut me off with her ‘fully booked’ speech. Me: Do you have any seats to sell? Agent: We’re booked 50 out of 50 – every seat is filled. Me: But can you sell me a ticket – there may be no-shows. Agent: No. So this was when I did something maybe bad. I called the EXP desk. Me: Hi, are there any seats on the 6:25pm departure? EXP Agent/Imp: I see three seats to sell. I can’t assign you a seat, you’ll get that at the gate. Me: Full disclosure, the gate agent is saying she is full and can’t sell me a ticket. EXP Agent/Imp: She would say that, wouldn’t she? [mischievious giggle] Me: Umm… EXP Agent/Imp: It’s done. You’re on the flight. At this point I had a little “what have I done?” moment. I sheepishly returned t the counter, where they were at this point boarding. Me: Umm, the EXP desk said they were able to clear me. Agent: EXP desk can’t clear standbys. Me: Umm, they actually changed my ticket. I’m confirmed on this flight. At this point, the agent went apoplectic. She started making calls, glaring at me while describing the injustice of what the EXP desk had done. Done to her personally, at least as she described it. And she left me with the distinct impression that she thought I had done something illicit. Agent: Now I’m going to have to pay you to get off the flight. Me: Huh? Now, the ending is a bit anticlimactic, but it perhaps holds the key to all my questions. You see, in the end there WAS a no-show and so there was a seat for me. So in the end, perhaps the EXP desk was correct. They are allowed to oversell flights for a reason and my experience proved why. But still - - a few thoughts and questions: - I didn’t know you could change/buy tickets so close to flight-time - Did the gate agent lie to me, or, more charitably, ignore AA rules to make her life easier? - Did the EXP desk behave badly when they knew that the gate agent had told me she didn’t want any more seats sold? - Did I act unethically, given the fact that I knew the gate agent didn’t want to sell any more seats on the flight? - And what of the power of the gate agent? The EXP desk? Is the old adage that gate agents are all-powerful bunk? A postscript: I did, in fact, make it home in time to put the little man to sleep. But there was a very dirty diaper waiting for me – so if you think I behaved badly, there was a little bit of karmic retribution.