Another day at the office for me…

I’ve redeemed somewhere around 100,000,000 miles (mostly for my clients), and I can truly say that no two bookings are the same, especially when dealing with US Airways and Delta. The incompetence of their agents used to drive me nuts, but now I kind of look forward to dealing with their call centers, because they usually provide me with my daily laugh.

I’ve had two great interactions with US Airways’ finest call center agents over the past few days, and I just have to share them.

In Friday I put a ticket on hold with US Airways for a client to fly from New York to Dubai via Zurich. Let me map that out for you guys using Great Circle Mapper:

I don’t think routings get more direct than that. Heck, if I flew the nonstop from New York to Dubai I’m fairly certain I could wave to my relatives in Zurich and they’d see me. But the US Airways agent that was placing this itinerary on hold for me was convinced that the routing was backtracking. When I asked her why, she informed me that my geography must be off, because Zurich is completely out of the way. Rather than argue I let her go talk to her “support desk” for 20 minutes (I suspect 8th grade geography students are manning the desk), at which point she says the routing is fine and that she was in fact “confused about where Zurich is.” I lost sleep that night trying to figure out what region she could possibly think Zurich was in.

Which brings me to today’s agent. I called back regarding the same ticket, and the agent starts reading the itinerary to me: “I have you traveling from Dubai, Saudi Arabia to Zurich, Germany, on…”

Though easily my favorite part of calling US Airways is their hold music. While other airlines advertise their credit cards or car rental partners, US Airways advertises 1-800-PetMeds. Those call center agents need to lay off the Kibbles ‘n Bits…

Filed Under: Awards
  1. I needed a lunch time laugh.

    You pay in peanuts you get monkeys, but in US Airways case you pay in Kibbles ‘n bits you get ?

  2. Use them to your advantage. I recently sold a “supervisor” aluminum siding with the promise that it came from one of their “747” jumbo jets that crashed during WWII in Frankfort, KY…

  3. I had an even simpler request for a Delta agent a couple days ago.

    I had to change a San Jose – Rome R/T to an open jaw departing out of AMS and arriving at San Francisco. The agent had to be convinced to just reprice it as I asked. That change would be allowed because SFO and SJC are co-terminals….sigh.

    Learning co-terminals and basic fair rules was week one of training class. I should know, I used to work reservations there.

  4. @James, I’ve never heard of “co-terminals.” Any chance you can give us a couple of examples of real co-terminals in order to educate us? This way we might even know more than the Delta agent you spoke to.


  5. @lucky, thanks so much. Read the wiki and it’s very interesting. I had no idea! A couple of those airport pairs could work for us in the future so this is great information.

  6. “US Airways advertises 1-800-PetMeds.”

    They also advertise that you can book your trip at

    So why didn’t you just do THAT, Lucky? šŸ™‚

    Oh, wait, their website is even less functional than their agents…

  7. Sadly, this is the state of geography in our country.
    For those who want a quick highlight of the survey by National Geographic – 2/3 of Americans between 18-23 can’t find Iraq on a map of the world, and 50% can’t find New York on a map of the US!
    These are obviously not the folks following these threads.

  8. Dave, very sad survey results, but am not shocked. There are still a number of Americans that either don’t think Hawaii is part of the U.S. or aren’t sure.

  9. I have convinced numerous Delta Agents that SYD & MEL are co-terminals and are actually in the same city. So Yes, you can use this to your advantage

  10. There is, or used to be, a magazine in New Mexico whose last page was always an example of a business that thought NM was not part of the US. An example might be, “we can only sell that in the US”, or “You have to talk to the international desk to fly there”.

    My favorite was from National Geographic saying that international rates applied to a NG subscription order.

  11. How dumb are these call agents???? They need to take a geography course along with their regular training. Errrr, stupid person not knowing Switzerland and the UAE (probably doesn’t know what the UAE stands for).

  12. well, as the supervisor is not really a supervisor but just an escalation agent who started frontline and learned from his mistakes, your agent have some good chance to move forward

  13. I called BMI to redeem some miles last year for an intra-Africa ticket that included stops in South Africa, Zambia, and Namibia. That was a disaster. Zambia is not on BMI’s award charts at all, despite several neighboring countries being on the charts. The agent on the phone had to use Google to figure out where Zambia was, then get a supervisor to get an opinion on how to price the award ticket. After about 45 minutes we all had agreement on which of their award zones Livingstone, Zambia fell into, and he finally started looking up the flight on South African Airways that knew was available and desired to book.

  14. This isn’t quite as attrocious as the abovementioned lack of geographic knowledge, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Continental agent trying to book an award ticket from the US to PVG on LX, obviously through ZRH. At first, he told me LX isn’t part of *A. After I referenced the *A website, he then said LX doesn’t serve ZRH. Oh boy. Needless to say I thanked him, hung up, and tried again a little later.

  15. I had an Alaska Air Elite desk person offer to book me to London. The only problem was I was trying to book a trip to Sydney. She told me that since Sydney was pretty close to London, I could just take a train from Heathrow. After realizing she was confusing Sweden and Sydney, I just gave up on this agent!

  16. ….then there are the world maps that fail to include the North and South islands of New Zealand. A sore spot among the Kiwis….

  17. I want to go to Czech Republic…sorry sir, I already checked for Republic and we dont fly there.

  18. Funny, I had a similar experience with a UA agent (gasp!). I was calling up about a Qatar award and started with, “I know Qatar isn’t in the Star Alliance, but I understand that you have an out-of-alliance partnership with them. I’d like to make a booking on…. going from… to….” The response I got? After about five minutes of hold time while he “verifies” things, he comes back and says, “I’m sorry sir. It seems as though Qatar Airways is no longer in the Star Alliance.” Uggg… How do these people keep their jobs?!?!

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