I’m done trying to book tickets to Port-au-Prince, Tahiti!

After fatal computer errors and confusion between Auckland and Oakland last week I really shouldn’t be surprised.

Last night my delight came from Delta, as I tried to book an award ticket on Air Tahiti Nui:

Me: “Hi, I’d like to book a ticket between Los Angeles and Tahiti — airport code papa papa tango — on your airline partner Air Tahiti Nui. I have the flight number and date that should be available if that helps.”
Agent: “Which airport in Tahiti were you looking at flying into? Port-au-Prince?”
Me: “No, into Papeete. The code is P-P-T, papa papa tango.”
Agent: “I don’t see any space to there, but I see space on our Delta flight to Port-au-Prince connecting in New York. That would price out at…”
Me: “Sorry if I wasn’t clear, I’m talking about Tahiti and not Haiti.”
Agent: “Oh… can you spell that for me?”
Me: “Yes, the city name is P-A-P-E-E-T-E, and the airport code is papa papa tango.”
Agent: “Oh, I see the space to Puh-peet [let’s not even talk about the pronunciation of that] but it’s not confirming. Let me check with a supervisor why that might be.”
*On hold for a few minutes*
Agent: “Thanks for your patience, I finally figured out why it’s not confirming. That airline isn’t one of our partners!”

F. M. L.

Filed Under: Awards, Delta
  1. LMAO!

    do you guys think they hire mentally challenged persons on purpose? this way no one is ever able to redeem their miles… pretty clever.

  2. @Lantean – Easy on the DL folks, I was once apart of that airline (for the better part of a half a decade). It’s not their fault to a point, as most of these folks are fairly new and with a lack of any tangible training, which was stripped from the new hires around 2008.

  3. @Zach

    ok, i understand that but how hard is it to spell PPT? can’t be much more difficult than spelling ABC, can it? šŸ˜‰

  4. I just don’t get it my friend. You publicly humiliate these people instead of just “going with it” and taking a scenic flight to Haiti…
    Sad… very sad… šŸ˜€

  5. You would be surprised. Most of the readers know the phonetic alphabet, but some of the folks who work over the phones may not. Now, the system that we used when I was there was very antiquated. Most of the time, it could only process and understand only one variable, two if you were lucky (not the blogger!). Even then, if it worked, you were extremely lucky.

    For us at the airport, if someone approached us to purchase a miles ticket it wouldn’t tell us how much the mileage ticket was, only when the receipt printed out would it show the mileage deducted.

    I found that most of the time, myself and the majority of my colleagues would be a lot more willing to take care of situations like this at the airport than most of the phone agents. You have to remember that the folks helping you may not be versed in everything, but are tasked to do so. So one phone call may be helping a once a year flyer book tickets, to answering a DM line call, to looking at a skymiles ticket. Most of the time (if not all of the time) we were a lot more flexible at the counter/gate than those who worked over the phone.

    As a Red Coat, that was the number one complaint towards phone agents/res. “Why couldn’t they do that over the phone?” Truth be told, my best guess is that they have to be a lot more rigid than us at the airport. Why? Mainly because 9/10 at my airport, there were times when it was just two of us and three 757s that were delayed due to weather in ATL. That’s 2 vs 550 people. And sometimes I was by myself. You have to be really good about knowing airline partners and city codes for those traveling internationally, because (and I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise) a lot of times, there were tickets that I couldn’t reissue and had to call our help desk. And more times than not, help desk didn’t help at all, so I would be hanging up and calling back.

    But I blame a lot of differentiation between agents solely on DL’s lack of training. But that’s a different story for a different time.

    @Lucky–sorry for hijacking your thread!

  6. @Gary–I must be extremely lucky as I have had nothing but good luck with them over the last year and a half.

  7. I’ve been in a heated argument about whether Panama City is in Mexico, which wasn’t even relevant to the conversation.

  8. @ Zach — Wish it were an isolated incident, but when it comes to Delta phone agents I find that 90% of them don’t know how to book Alitalia or Air Tahiti Nui awards (though maybe the Alitalia issue is better since they show up online now).

  9. I don’t understand this.. Firstly, if i worked in a reservations centre doing work like this i would make it my business to know who the partner airlines are. Surely it would be as simple as printing out a list of partner airlines.

    Secondly.. Does the airline not care about the customer service. Like is it a ploy to piss of people trying to redeem points in the hope they either give up or book something else thats easier? Or do they just not care?

    It just seams simple to me. Employee’s should be fluent in whatever profession they are in, be it booking flights or fixing cars. You wouldn’t put up with taking your car to a mechanic to get the tyres changed, and have him say sorry did you mean change the exhaust system? Then when you call him on it, he turns around and says oh i just checked with the head mechanic.. tyre’s aren’t changeable!

  10. @Lucky- I have no problem admitting that. I was embarrassed when I worked there. But it goes back to the training issue. It annoyed me to no end and still does. That’s why I matched over to MPVG and did a challenge match on AA to PLT. Never a whole lot of issues with those two!

  11. 95% of them don’t know how to book awards on China Southern, China Eastern, or Vietnam Airlines. They’re completely clueless. It is beyond painful to book anything intra-Asia. Thank god at least Korean Air is now available online.

  12. This is hilarious. Sorry for your troubles but I can’t help but laugh at their stupidity. It’s sad.

  13. If you’ve ever worked in, supported, even designed a call center, you’ll know that managing one is no easy task. Particularly in very high volume centers, you tend to have pretty high turnover. This means a lot of new employees, to Zach’s point. With a lot of new folks means a lot of training investment.

    Some companies do better with training than others. Even if someone has experience as a CSR, the soft skills might translate to a new environment, but the hard skills may not. For instance, the systems (phone, CRM, knowledge base, case mgmt, etc.) may be (very) different. The core content is different. Even within the same industry, the language can be very different.

    Leading organizations spend a lot of time (we’re talking weeks) and money training new hires in the content, systems, culture, and expectations before they ever get on a live call. Even then, they are often shadowed or have “listeners” or calls recorded for quality more frequently as new hires. Individual and team stats/metrics are looked at very closely and addressed if they fail to meet expectations (average time to answer, average call times, first call resolution, number of escalations, etc.). CSRs have call scripts and escalation paths, and the more proficient ones are better able to solve problems within the proper scope rather than just read a script.

    Like I said, some organizations are better at this than others.

  14. another reason i prefer UA miles over all the others. Their online award booking is excellent for both UA and Star Alliance. I am actually able to use my UA miles frequently and easily, something i highly value. And on the rare occasion i need to phone them, i find their agents to be very helpful.

  15. What center do you call? When I call through the medallion line, I usually get an agent who knows what they’re doing …

  16. The AF space is really hard to get on that route. But the Air Tahiti to/from Austrailia is fairly open on a regular basis.

  17. I had a good outcome from my calls to Delta when looking for award tickets to Europe few years ago (they were able to find the space on their partners such Aeroflot and OK without hesistation). But recently I had a nightmare with them.

    I was looking to book 3 J award tickets to Australia in December, so I started looking when schedule had opened. When it happened, there were plenty of availability on their partner VA and I had no problem to secure (place on hold) 3 tickets US (east coast) – SYD. But before redeeming miles, I decided to include China Southern in my travel on one way instead of VA. Since China Southern space is not bookable online, I had to call. And after DL agent touched the reservation, he did a lot of mistakes (incorrect pricing, etc). When I realized that he ruined everthing, I asked him to reverse all changes and keep the ticket onhold (I was hoping to call back and hope for better agent). But DL agent told me that they don’t keep tickets onhold anymore and it must be ticketed now or canceled. I choose the latter (hoping that space will return to award inventory). But I was wrong – space on VA never came back and now month later there are no even 2 seats on any flights to Australia from US. I am so mad at Delta and was even thinking to write DL e-mail to point out how incompetent their agents are. They must have a responsibility for their actions.

  18. Hey Zach – It almost sounds like one could expect better results for booking an exotic DL partner award if you went out to the airport (during a non-busy time) and ask a DL agent there to book your award…is that a realistic strategy? I’m not that far from the local airport (SEA) and there is a DL counter there. To book a trip to Tahiti (something I’m probably only going to do once), would a visit to the airport be a good investment of my time? Thanks for any insight you can offer on the best strategy.

  19. If you know it’s available and delta.com and the agents over the phone aren’t playing ball, absolutely. Not a whole lot of the newer folks are well versed in booking award tickets, so you may end up with an agent who may look clueless.

    As I said above, I could book and sell an award ticket, but I couldn’t see the price of miles until the receipt printed. Kind of assbackwards if you as me, but that’s how our system worked. Granted it has been a few years since I worked there, so things could be a bit different now (but I doubt it!).

    However, that being said, once you see the options you want and the miles available, capture a screenshot of it and print it off so it is available for the agent to see. And if it helps, make sure you take a screen shot of the system failing.

    If all else fails, especially if you are a medallion member, bring this attention to a Red Coat or Performance Leader. These folks will probably be your best bet when it comes to your success at the airport. This also includes a good point for escalation internally.

    If it’s a good investment, is a matter of opinion. You are going to be more likely to have success standing in front of someone than talking to someone over the phone. But, in all honesty, this is still something that one should never come to expect.

  20. Air Tahiti Nui from Narita availability is always good. Then their is Air France to NoumƩa then Air Calin to PPT all flat seats in business.

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