What a Hassle!

Once upon a time, there was an airline passenger that was planning fly away to a beautiful and far away land.  Once there, that passenger was going to hold her husband’s hand and they would both frolic and play in the ocean surf.  The birds would be singing.  The fish would be leaping.  The dogs would be smiling.  The natives would be friendly.   Even the earthquakes and volcanoes would be quiet.  All was well until reality reared it’s ugly head…

I didn’t think there would be another entry until I left, but something unbelievable came up.   I mentioned it in my previous post…

Five days ago, I was looking through our airline reservations.  Checking for update departure times (common and usually no problem).  Suddenly, some red print caught my eye.  On Praxy’s e-ticket receipt was a cancellation of her early morning flight from Lewiston to Seattle (it happens).  But, some idiot rebooked her on the next available flight out of Lewiston.  Which left at 6:50pm and arrived in Seattle at 8:00pm.  The problem?  Her flight to Seoul Korea was scheduled to leave at 1:00pm.  So, unless she had access to the starship Enterprise, she was going to miss her flight to Korea.    How could a professional airline employee with ANY sense miss that?

Five days.  Five FREAKING days to get this solved.  It should have taken five minutes.  Readers, read and learn.  Then chuckle at my plight.  We’ve all been here in one way or another by a business, insurance company, or government office.  It was now my turn.  Welcome to the world of airline bureaucracy.

Monday morning I called my travel agent and pointed the problem out to her.  She said basically, no problem, I can handle this.  As well she should be able.   No problem as far as I was concerned.  I’m paying her to take care of stuff like this.  She said she would call me back.  I looked into it a bit and found a nice flight from Spokane to Seattle at 9:30am on November 3rd.  A drive to Spokane was no big deal and so I sent her an email suggesting this course of action.  Not as convenient as Lewiston, but it would work for us and was a good compromise.

Tuesday, no word.  By evening I was getting a little concerned, but she may have taken the day off.  Checking the itinerary online, no change.  Hmmm.

Wednesday, I get home from work and there is an agitated message on my phone.  “Please call me, there is a serious problem”.  OK, I called.  I will condense 20 minutes of conversation into a synopsis.  Alaska Air was refusing to reissue the ticket, saying that Asiana needed to reissue it because the ticket was on their ticket stock.   Asiana was saying they wouldn’t reissue the ticket because they no longer had a fare agreement with Alaska Airline.   My poor agent was bounced back and forth 4 times before she gave up and called me, having spent a couple of hours on the phone.  She suggested I call both of them, perhaps the customer could break the deadlock.  I got the same runaround as well, so I called my agent back.  She gave me a number of the Asiana sales people in Seattle.

Egad.  I called them and got a mealy mouthed company parrot that would do nothing for me and went on a long, rambling, boring speech quoting Asiana policy (it’s called “saving face”) and why he couldn’t do anything for me.  He said that Asiana no longer had a ticketing agreement with Alaska Airlines (Untrue, total bullshit.  To his credit, two other Asiana reservations agents repeated this.) and he refused to do anything.  His best suggestion?  Cancel that reservation and rebook everything.  After 10 minutes of this lecture, I politely got away before I had to chew my arm out of the trap that was my cell phone.

Sigh…Great.  Asiana has a $250 rebooking fee.  Then I would have to purchase a NEW ticket costing somewhere around $2500 plus another $350 on Alaska.  Totally unacceptable.  I wrote a complaint letter to Asiana on that one.  I had purchased the ticket in May.  And, I DON’T CARE ABOUT A TICKETING AGREEMENT OR DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN THE TWO AIRLINES.  THAT IS THEIR PROBLEM, NOT MINE.  I AM THE CUSTOMER, AND I WAS WRONGED.  Got that, Asiana?

So now I’m six phone calls in and nowhere.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night.  Grrrrr!  This reminded me of two house cats.  Sitting on a porch.  A foot apart.   Staring at each other.  Hating each other.  Neither one moving, every once in a while, a growl.  Because, they really don’t want to risk a fight and get hurt.  But, if one turns its back to retreat, the other cat may bite it on the butt.  So…they stare each other down.   A foot apart.  Hoping the other will make the first move.

Thursday morning, at work, I talked to a friend that works with me about this outrageous conundrum.  He is a former United Airlines passenger service agent and an expert on airline policy.  He got irritated almost immediately and suggested a (successful, as it turned out) course of action.  Contact Alaska Airlines customer service and force them to fix it.  Don’t take no for an answer.  After all, this was Alaska Airline’s fault, not Asiana.  We both agreed that we would have never, EVER, treated a passenger like this.  This kind of a situation would have never made it away from the from front counter at Cascade Airways in Pullman, Washington.  I wouldn’t tolerate it, and I would have backed my agents against our general office if they had to do something dicey to accommodate a passenger.

So, a call to customer service.  In a situation like this, you must remain calm and polite.  No matter how upset you are.  Because, they can always hang up on you if you get unreasonable.  I can’t understate how important this is.  First person I got was, of course, a regular agent.  First thing I told her was “I hope you’ve got a few minutes, this is going to take a while”.  I had her pull up the reservation and I explained the situation.  She studied it, then put me on hold and talked to two supervisors.   Got back on and told me the supervisors had said that Asiana and/or my travel agent had to fix it.  I hit the roof but remained calm.   I started hitting her with airline jargon so she knew I was on to this trick.

First thing.  The cancelation was Alaska’s fault, not Asiana’s.  Alaska needed to fix it.  Two, this is like a denied boarding.  A denied boarding is ALWAYS compensated with a free ticket.   I wanted a free ticket from Spokane to Seattle for my inconvenience.  Three, I DID NOT need to purchase another ticket, I had a legal one in my record.  Four, I was NOT going to involve either my travel agent or Asiana.  Enough was enough.  Alaska Airline had to fix this.  It was Alaska Airline’s fault.  END OF ARGUMENT.  As she kept repeating the supervisor’s spiel, my voice was rising in frustration and anger.    After 60 seconds, I finally I broke it off.  My next words were spoken gently and politely and brought complete silence.  “Give me the phone number of your headquarters.  Time to call them.”

A quick “Please hold, I’ll talk to my supervisor, again” and I was indeed back on hold.  For 10 minutes.  Suddenly, the line went to a dial tone.   OMG!

A person that was sitting next to me turned and looked at me in horror.  I told that person, “I am angry, but I don’t think that was intentional.  It happens.  But I’m a tiger when something like this happens and Alaska Airlines is not going to get off that easy.  I’m now on a mission and will see this to the end!”   A quick call back and an explanation to a reservation agent that was never involved.  She was very cooperative after looking at the (now lengthy) call record in my file and got me through to a supervisor.

“Alaska reservations, this is Xxxxx”   As soon as I heard this supervisor’s voice, I knew my problems were over.   I was sold by the end of the word “reservations”.  Calm, cool and collected, she knew exactly what to do and who was in charge.  In two minutes, she did what all the others couldn’t do in five days.  Rebooked, reissued the ticket, sent me an email, and explained a few procedures that I would have to follow in Spokane due to the extraordinary circumstances that had occurred.

Success!  Finally done.  But the best came about 15 minutes later.  The phone rang and I got the first reservations agent calling me back (how in the heck did she find the phone number?), telling me it was being taken care ofShe apologized for being disconnected, told me it was an accident that also locked her out of her computer, and wanted me to know that she had NOT given up and and had continued to pursue a resolution in my behalf while I was off the phone in limbo.  She talked again to the supervisors and they had all decided that they would (finally) fix the reservation.

What a considerate thing to do!  Almost unheard of any more.  Even though she didn’t have the authority, she saw it clear through to the end.   Then called me to let me know.

Now THAT is customer service.  I told her that the supervisor had indeed taken care of it.  And thanked her profusely.

Both those last agents went the extra mile and will get a well deserved letter of thanks from me.  I will also call my travel agent tomorrow and tell her how this was resolved, for her future reference.  I certainly hope she never has to deal with something like this again.

As for Asiana.  I will continue to fly on them, but my trust is badly shaken.  By a salesperson in Seattle.

And they lived happily ever after.  The end


About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
This entry was posted in 2013, back to the Philppines. Bookmark the permalink.

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