Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Giving AA Another Try

No, I'm not talking about Alcoholics Anonymous, although I may have to eventually give them a try if I receive any more crap from American Airlines. Earlier this year I thoroughly documented my "correspondence" with AA "Customer Service Agents" over sharing my $700 seat with a 500 lb man on a flight to Chicago. They didn't want to give me jack, but eventually offered me a low-ball offer of a $200 voucher, which I reluctantly accepted. I really didn't want to fly American again, ever, but since I have over 50,000 frequent flier miles and a $200 voucher, I guess we'll be using them at least one more time.

Well, it's time for the family to head back to Illinois once again, so I grabbed my low-ball voucher and surfed over to to see what they had to offer. It didn't take me long to find some reasonable fares for $278. With two free flights and the voucher, this meant I would pay roughly $400. Not too shabby! So I reserved the flights,
cashed in my miles, redeemed my voucher, and paid for the balance without a hitch, right? Oh, you have so much to learn about American Airlines.

First, there's no way to combine payment methods online. You either reserve all of your tickets using miles or you reserve them using plastic. There is no in-between. Second, you can't redeem vouchers online either. You have to call and talk to a "Customer Service Agent" to do that. Oh great, I thought, I'm sure I have a very large asterisk next to my name when they pull my account up on their database. This should be fun. So I put the tickets on hold under using frequent flier miles, which basically said that I needed to purchase 47,000 more miles to complete the transaction. I took a deep breath and dialed the 800 number to talk to a ticketing agent. After ten minutes of maneuvering through the menu options, I finally connected with a living, barely breathing human being.

"You wanna do what?" she gasped.

"I want to reserve two of these tickets using my miles, redeem a $200 voucher, and purchase the balance. I tried to do this online, but your website doesn't allow it." I explained.

"Of course it doesn't allow it," she squawked. "Those are two COMPLETELY DIFFERENT types of transactions." You'd have thought I was asking her to book me a flight to Uranus, which was where this conversation was quickly headed. I wanted to tell her that the process probably wasn't all that complicated if American Airlines would just get off their lazy a...but then I remembered that asterisk by my name, so I bit my tongue.

She asked me to hold for a moment, and I heard her pounding away on her keyboard. "OK, I've reserved two tickets using your miles under your current record locater, and I created a new locater for the remaining two tickets where the balance is $878."


"I just saw those tickets online for $278," I objected. "With fees and taxes they came to $309."

"I'm sorry, sir, these are the fares that come up on my screen."

I called up the fares page on my computer screen, and, sure as Shinola, the fares had gone up in the fifteen minutes it took for me to talk to a ticketing agent. CONSPIRACY! There MUST be an asterisk next to my name! I thought about it for a moment, then told her that I wasn't ready to reserve the tickets. I had seen tickets available for around $400, and I wasn't about to give that up. She told me that my current tickets would be on hold for 24 hours. I thanked her and hung up. And after spending another couple of hours surfing, I couldn't find anything close to the original fares.

The next day I decided to risk it and start from scratch. I also decided not to log into the AA website while researching fares just in case there WAS an asterisk by my name. And, wouldn't you know it, there were my original fares for $278. BINGO! I moved to reserve them as fast as my fingers could type, this time under the regular reservations page so those bastards couldn't change the fare on me. When I got to the "Hold/Reserve" page, I realized that I had only reserved two seats. Rat Farts! So I started over, reserving two adult and two child seats, and when the fares page came up, the flight rates, again, had increased to $389. RAT FARTS!!

Then I wondered if the amount of tickets had anything to do with the price. It shouldn't, but I decided to check anyway. Two tickets...$278 apiece. Four tickets...$389 apiece. What the hell? I put the two tickets on hold, opened another tab in my browser, found seats on the same flights using my miles, and put those tickets on hold. Four tickets for a final out-of-pocket expense of $416. EAT THAT, AMERICAN AIRLINES! I triumphantly dialed the 800 ticketing number, no longer caring about the asterisk next to my name, and closed the deal.

They'll probably have the last laugh, though. This time they'll book a 600 pounder to sit next to me. I say 'Cause this time I'll be ready.

The Backstory:
I Am Not A Happy Camper
A REALLY Unhappy Camper
American Airlines...Doing What They Do Best...Irritate Customers
Could the End Be Near?
American Airlines...The Final Chapter

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