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What Makes an Airline Go Out of Their Way to Help

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I had reservations with several airlines for different trips. I'm finding that more and more the original itinerary resembles very little the final itinerary. It's almost like they just want your reservation with a reasonable connection and then when it's too late for you to make other arrangements the changes (usually for the worst) start to take place.

Most likely it's that we each have different ideas of what's better. They want flights to go thru hubs so that they have more chance of being filled. I want a better schedule with less plane changes.

What can we do about it?

I'm finding that while Delta is among the worst for making changes (by worst I mean the percentage of my flights that have been changed to a worse connection) they seem to be among the best in trying to please you after the change (I can't believe I may have complimented them).

Every time they've made a change I called them and managed to get a connection that was better than what they gave me. Since this usually takes place several months after my original ticket purchase, and what I would like to do may have changed (add a day or two, subtract a day or two, get an earlier flight, get a later flight, etc) they go out of their way to accomodate me with a change that may even have a higher price tag (at no extra charge).

I have a reservation with American to Marseille for June 2012 (hence the thread is posted here) (originally ticketed in Oct, 2011). Several days ago I decided to call and get seat assignments. There was an automated message informing me that my outbound flight had been cancelled. I received no call or email from them. Nothing.

When I spoke with a ticket agent she appeared to be friendly but firm that her job was to try and help me get a replacement (after all she could always refund my ticket and wash her hands of it) and pleasing me was not part of the conversation.

What can I do?

I mentioned that there was a better flight on their schedule and she insisted that "I didn't understand and there was no availability (no air miles seats) on that flight".

I found that as soon as I mentioned that with her solution I was losing half a day of my trip, she suddenly went to "level 2" and offered to move my flight a day earlier (but still with the undesirable flights). What was wrong with the new flights? I had an eight hour layover that while I would have gone into the city for several hours, I knew my wife wouldn't be comfortable doing that.

In the end I decided to add a day to the end of the trip (this date wasn't originally available using air miles).

Still not being satisfied with that flight with the long layover, I called again a day later. I asked the ticket agent when they knew my flight had been cancelled. He told me Jan 21, 2012. This was March 20, 2012!!!!

I told him that had they informed me of the problem on Jan 21 I might have been able to make other arrangements. But now it was too late. This must have hit a chord (or maybe I had a more accomodating ticket agent). He went to "level 3".

He told me the second flight had two air miles seats available and he had reserved them for me (I now had one of the first flight and two of the second flight - maybe I was in a Chinese restaurant). He was going to put in a manual request (it appears that most requests and responses are automated) for the better first flight but it might take 3-4 days.

The next day checked my reservation and I had been given the better flight.

The end result was that originally I was to arrive in Marseille at 1PM. After the first change we would have arrived at 6:25PM. With the second change we arrive at 11:30AM. And we have an extra day at the end.

What am I learning from this? What seems to get some action is the strength of my case.

1) I'm losing half a day with your solution (not a bad argument but not that strong).
2) If you had told me when you knew that there was a problem (2 months earlier) I might have been able to make other arrangements (this apears to be quite strong).

Or maybe some ticket agents want to help and go out of their way more than others.

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