Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Air Ticket Mess

My wife and I have been in Chennai, India since early July. We are here to attend two weddings.

Every winter we leave our Chicago base to go to India for four months. More often than not, we use frequent flyer miles to book our tickets.

On Monday August 17, 2015 about 3 P M India time I contacted the American Airlines award travel ticketing section. I used the Skype system to call. It was 1 30 AM in America on Monday. The wait time is short when it is late night or early morning in the US.

After I had given the preliminary information, I got connected to an agent within a minute. I spoke to a patient and friendly lady agent. You need 135,000 miles for a round trip business ticket. I and my wife had enough miles in our respective accounts.

The agent was able to find two business (round trip) seats with Qatar Airways, a partner in the One World group that American heads. I gave the agent my frequent flyer number. She confirmed the (number of ) miles in my account. She made the booking and gave me a reference (what is called a record locator) number.

We moved on to my wife's ticket. I gave the agent my wife's frequent flyer number. She confirmed that there enough miles in my wife's account. She made the reservation and gave a record locator number.

I gave her my (Citi MasterCard) number. The cost (phone booking charges and taxes and fees) were charged. The agent assured me that the process was complete and that I would receive confirmation for the two bookings by email.

Twelve hours later, there was a confirmation for my wife's ticket. No confirmation for me.

I checked my frequent flyer account. A 135,000-mile deduction had been made.

There was no deduction from my wife's account.

Something had gone wrong.

I waited for 24 hours. I called  3 30 AM Tuesday US time. I got through to an agent quickly. I explained the situation. The agent responded. "Sir, you did not have enough miles in your account for two tickets."

Another attempt was made. I said that a deduction had been made in my account and my wife's ticket had been issued. I had not been ticketed and that no miles had been taken from my wife's account.

Finally, the agent seemed to grasp the problem. Then there was this statement from the agent. "Sir, I now see what has happened. I need the credit card information but it must be your wife's card."

My wife has a Citi card but we did not have it in our possession. I pleaded with the agent to look at the number of times we have travelled together. She was adamant. "Sir, I cannot help you unless I have (my wife's) credit card information."

The conversation ended.

We contacted our daughter who had my wife's credit card. We obtained the details.

My wife called American. This is where luck came in. We are blessed. The lady agent did not take more a minute to understand our predicament. "There is a simple solution," she told my wife.

"I will take the miles from your account and issue a ticket for your husband and let me have the credit card information. I see the last four digits of the card," she said.

The agent mentioned the last four digits in the card and asked to confirm the validity date (until when) and the three-digit security code on the back of the card. Not a word that the card had to be my wife's. The exercise was over.

Yes, there's a security concern when using credit cards. In our case, there was overwhelming evidence everything was proper. The agent, playing hardball, made it difficult. From the first exchange, she appeared impatient.

The lesson is that no two agents ( people) are the same. You need to be lucky. We got lucky.

After all, we are going to travel together. We have been American passengers for a number of years. It was nothing but luck that brought an exasperating experience to a delightful end.

All this while hoping and praying that the Skype connection will not get disconnected.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading. This has happened too many times to me.