Poorly Trained Phone Agents Can Cost You Time and Money

by on March 11, 2011 · 2 comments

in Delta, Points Guy Pointers, Travel Industry

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Airline phone agents are the bane of my existence. As part of my award booking services, I call the airlines every day, so I’ve had the unique opportunity of speaking to hundreds of phone reps. While a few are truly gems who are fast and know the rules, many are clueless and their mistakes can cost you time and money.

Case in point: I have a trip coming up this summer that I booked with Delta miles, but it includes segments on Air France. As a Diamond Medallion, I can make unlimited changes to the trip for free as long as there is award space. When changing carriers or getting rid of segments, the amount of taxes can change, which I totally accept. However, I called to switch to an Air France flight earlier in the day in the same class of service and the clueless rep told me I owed $20 more in taxes. This was bizarre because I had done the same thing a day earlier and it was an even exchange – nothing due.

When I pressed him on it, he was adamant that I owed the fee and they “must have raised the fuel surcharges overnight- they generally do that on Tuesdays.” I knew this was wrong, but I didn’t want to lose the seat since there was only 1 left. However, my gut told me to resort to the tried and true method of calling back and getting a smarter rep.

I thanked him for his expert help, but told him I was going to pass. I called right back and got a chipper rep who made the change in 30 seconds at an even exchange – nothing due. I saved myself $20 just for having a gut feeling that the rep was wrong. How many people would have paid the $20 not knowing any better?

The moral of the story is that we are at the mercy of chronically under-trained and misinformed phone representatives and you need to know when to give in or when to call their bluff (and hang up and call again). My advice is to do the latter when your gut tells you the rep doesn’t know what they are talking about!

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  • mark

    I had an incredibly frustrating experience with @DeltaAssist recently. They insisted that I owed $0.15 in taxes for a change I wanted to make. I know they were wrong since I replicated the booking on which showed I owed nothing. (But, I needed to make the change for two people and didn’t want to risk booking one seat and then losing the second seat. So, I wanted a Delta agent to do the change.) Since I owed $0.15 per ticket, @DeltaAssist wouldn’t make the change since they can’t handle credit card numbers. After going back and forth and back and forth, I finally was going to make the change online…but, by then I lost the second seat and couldn’t confirm anything. It is very frustrating dealing with agents, yes. I was ready to scream at the utter incompetence of @DeltaAssist.

  • mjohnson

    Hi, I’ve been reading the blog for a few months now and today’s post reminded me that I should thank you for this tip specifically. It was incredibly useful when I was trying to get back to NYC after Irene. I knew what I wanted to do and was hoping to find an agent who could work some magic (we had a flight for CUN->ATL->LGA, managed to get to ATL, but then couldn’t get into NYC for about 5 days). I wanted to get routed to LGA through CHS where we could stay with family and avoid paying for a hotel. I spoke with 4 agents who each gave me a different version of “what was possible” before I got someone who could make it happen. After hearing my request, she just did it. She didn’t give me any of the, oh you can’t do that … So, I told her I loved her and she just laughed saying something like, “I’m just doing my job.”

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