The Compensation Clinic makes a stop at American Airlines this week where yours truly had a bad experience with getting an award ticket reissued properly while already at the airport in Tokyo.
This can sometimes create problems such as in this case. Theoretically you can book AAdvantage awards up until the check-in deadline for the flight you wish to travel on but getting this ticket to be issued is a totally different matter.
In my case I had a ticket from Narita to Bangkok after flying over from Vancouver (all on Japan Airlines). When arriving and checking in at the Lounge I learned that JAL swapped their aircraft against a very old Boeing 777 with a Business Class that was about 20 years old. I was dead tired and unable to sleep at all on the flight from Vancouver to Tokyo and planned to get a few hours rest on the 7 hour journey to Bangkok. Not on these old seats however.
The staff said that there would be another flight leaving from Tokyo-Haneda and it even had the brand new Business Class Suites (Flat Bed). I called American Airlines to change my flights, the Haneda flight had award availability as well so that wasn’t a problem at all. I pointed out that the departure would be in 3 hours and that the ticket would need to be re-issued immediately while I was making my way over to Haneda. I didn’t mind the extra trip on the limousine bus and paying the 3,100 Yen for it. After all I was excited about testing JAL’s new Business Suite as well.
Arriving in Haneda about 90 minutes after my call to American, the check-in staff noticed that ticket still hasn’t been reissued. I had to call AA again and the wifi connection was really bad so that I had to use my cellphone. The first agent said ‘it’s in line waiting to be issued which is an automatic process’ to which I replied that if I was to wait for their automated process their flight would leave without me. Then I talked to a supervisor who herself had to talk to the ticketing department. Finally after 37 Minutes on the phone it was done. Utterly ridiculous! Why make it so complicated?
The flight was great and I slept a full 6 hours on the new product. There isn’t much to say about the service as it was an overnight flight.
A few days after arriving at home I sent a complaint to American remarking the bad experience and also claiming for my phone expenses to be reimbursed.
Here is their reply:
Thank you for contacting Customer Relations. We welcome the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
I’m sorry for any confusion over your reservations. I am glad, however, that we were still able to accommodate you on a flight. I realize, however, it was an additional inconvenience to contact us internationally. Given the tremendous volume of reservations, the incidence of such situations is small. Still, I know you were inconvenienced and again, I’m truly sorry.
The input you provided to us is critical to our success. It gives us the chance to pinpoint where we need to improve and it seems as if we need some improvement in the area of customer service. Our airport agents should make every effort to efficiently and accurately assist our customers with their travel plans and we apologize that we didn’t do so on this occasion. I’ve sent a copy of your email to the Managing Director at the airport and our Manager of Reservations. You can be sure that your comments will be used to better our procedures.
A paper voucher in the amount of $100.00 USD was mailed to you. The voucher is valid for 12 months from the date of issue. Additionally, our records indicate a Customer Service bonus of 5,000 miles was authorized by reservations which has now posted to your account. …
My address on file is overseas and I really don’t know why American still uses paper vouchers other than them hoping that most of these vouchers will go unused due to the effort involved to redeem those.
I did end up redeeming my voucher which was again a horrible experience as it involved sending it in by mail and the ticket still not being issued until about a week before departure (I sent it in 2 months prior from Singapore).
You really have to babysit every single award reservation placed with American AAdvantage, especially if partner airlines are involved. All of their tickets go through a ‘quality control’ meaning someone will physically look at these tickets to weed out any routing that is not allowed and other suspicious activity. Tickets that are booked online encounter less problems.
Whenever I book award tickets with AAdvantage (usually on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines) the ticketing status changes to ‘On Request’ and remains that way for multiple days unless I chase it and push their ticketing department to finally take care of it.
There is nothing that would prevent AA from issuing these tickets instantly such as US Airways used to do it and pretty much any other airline as well. If you plan on making a short notice booking remember this and monitor the status of your reservation!