Posted by: Tommy | October 5, 2010

Flying around the world Part II, or Difficulties with American Airlines, Part II

Sorry there haven’t been very many posts lately.  The stuff we are doing these days is not very interesting (except for our trip to New Orleans for my mom’s birthday) but it is all stuff that has to get done.  In our last post, Anna wrote about an interesting experience involving having no tickets for our flight to Russia.  That all got worked out in the end, and was fine, if a little scary.

Yesterday, we continued our quest to find upgraded seats, trying to fly business instead of coach.  We had been told that usually those seats open up 2 days before, so Monday was supposed to be the day.  And lo and behold, Anna called American and they could upgrade us to business.  This was thanks to the brand new (yesterday was the first day that the law changed) lifting of restrictions on flying British Airways using Advantage miles across the Atlantic.  The agent get halfway through the process and then lets us know that the taxes will be $120 per person, instead of $40 that we had already paid.  $80 more for business class isn’t a bad deal, so we tell him to proceed.  After 30 more minutes on hold, he comes back on the phone to tell us that we are all set, he’s unbooked us from our flight and rebooked us in business class on the British Air flight leaving the same day.  And now we owe $440 in tax.   What?

$440 is a lot more than $240.  He tells us that he had forgotten about the London surcharge that you have to pay flying British Air in or out of London.   Oh.  Well, we don’t want to pay $440, so we told him to put us back on the original flight.  He was audibly annoyed by this (which is understandable, but he’s the one giving out bad information).  He puts us back on hold and comes on about 10 minutes later.  With seat assignments.  That are in the middle of the 5 person row.  The plane we are on has a 2-5-2 configuration and, since we booked in June, we’ve had seats on the aisle-window row, by ourselves, the whole time.  Even when we didn’t have tickets for 2 months, we had seats reserved aisle-window.  Clearly, that is much better on a 9 hour flight.  But there’s nothing he can do – he says.  Is this because he’s annoyed that he spent an hour on the phone to no avail?  You can be the judge of that.

We decided to call back last night and try and get a competent agent.  We don’t usually call at night, but they are open 24 hours a day, so we gave it a shot.  Apparently they fill the night desk with warm bodies.  We’ve had good operators and bad operators and a lot of regular phone operators when we’ve been calling American every three days for the last 3 months, but we’ve never had someone who was rude.  Unacceptably rude.  In general, I am very polite to people working a phone bank.  I find that you generally are able to get what you want if you are nice and polite, explain why you think you should get X and if they have it in their power to make it happen, they will.  But not this woman.  I wish I had written her name down so I could write to American to complain.  She informed me that, yes – he had made a mistake.   But this was the first day booking British Airways, so that was to be expected. (There is no training provided about this massive, much-publicized law change for the only people that it affects?).  And I’m penalized for his mistake why?  Yes- there are still window-aisle seats available on the plane.  But those are reserved for higher-priority customers.  I feel like we, who have been jerked around by American Airlines several times in the last few months, were given bad information and gave up our really good seats, should be a high-priority customer.  Apparently the night desk woman disagrees.  She thinks we should be happy to have a seat at all.  Very frustrating and not at all what I need to be spending my time doing the day before we leave.  Thanks for letting me vent.


  1. So sorry about your plane woes-middle seats for a long flight is a real bummer! Hope the flight will be much smoother and that you have a fabulous year. I’ll look forward to all your emails. Did you find a renter?
    Be safe.

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