My good deed for the month

Yesterday was an interesting day of flying. Due to strong headwinds I ended up misconnecting at LAX, and got rebooked on a 6PM LAX to SFO flight. It was showing as booked out, so I was hoping for a bump. Unfortunately the flight kept getting pushed back, first to 7PM, and then to nearly 8PM. Of course they only broke the news to us in ten minute increments, in typical gate agent fashion.

There was an Italian passenger, flying LAX-SFO-MUC-NAP on an award ticket, waiting for the gate agent. He had a strong accent and some trouble speaking English, but was worried that he would misconnect at SFO, since his SFO-MUC flight left at 9:15PM and we were scheduled into SFO at 9PM (and I thought that was an optimistic arrival time). The gate agent sort of blew him off, while all of the other passengers were trying to help him. Unfortunately most of the passengers were just as clueless as he was (“Oh, you’ll make it fine, it’s a three minute walk once you get to SFO”), so I stepped in and tried to help. There was a nonstop Lufthansa LAX-MUC flight at 9PM, and that seemed like the only alternative, since misconnecting in SFO was inevitable, and he would end up having to pay for a hotel and arrive home 24 hours late at the very earliest.

I went with him to the customer service desk, and explained the issue to the agent. While she was competent, she wasn’t really willing to go above and beyond. Someone had rebooked him on the nonstop Lufthansa LAX-MUC flight (apparently at check-in as a backup), but the ticket wasn’t reissued and Lufthansa was refusing to accept it, since it was a mileage award ticket and the “X” bucket wasn’t available. The guy only made the situation worse by panicking and constantly asking the agent questions, which only annoyed the agent, especially since he asked me to handle the situation since I had a better grasp of what was going in. It cracked me up when he even said “You can rebooked me in business class too, that would be fine.” Hah!

Long story short the agent said that Lufthansa wasn’t willing to accept the ticket unless the “X” bucket was available, and it wasn’t, so she basically said “tough luck,” and that he should fly to SFO and deal with the agents there (after having misconnected). First I tried to reason with her and explained that I understood she was doing her best, but that misconnecting was inevitable and ultimately United and Lufthansa were codeshare and alliance partners, so there had to be a better solution. She ultimately gave up, so I tried to get her to escalate it to a higher authority, but flight time was quickly approaching and I could see she didn’t really want to. We went back to the gate to try to deal with the agent there, since the agent that was there in the meantime seemed helpful enough.

Long story short, after spending about an hour trying to rebook him, we were finally successful. This agent went above and beyond, and called just about every supervisor she could find to make this work, at least after she received a bit of encouragement. He wished me a Merry Christmas, hugged me, and ran off to TBIT.

It’s always nice to help out another passenger, especially when agents are clearly blowing them off. This is especially easy for the agents to do when someone doesn’t speak the language well or isn’t exactly “in the know,” and I’m happy it worked out in the end. The lesson I learned is that logic can ultimately prevail; you just need the right agents to help out.

As luck would have it, the airline karma Gods smiled down upon me later that night. Stay tuned…..

Filed Under: Mileage Runs, United
  1. Way to go!

    Not to gloat, but just to share, I had a similar experience in PHL some years ago, translating between a French family traveling with an elderly person, just bumped off their flight and having spent the night at the airport, and an apathetic, rude, US Airways agent. A fun experience, and they got on their flight in the end.

  2. Good job, Lucky! The episode shows why many airlines probably rank up there with used car dealers and cellphone carriers as the most despised companies.

  3. Good job Ben, way to stick up for someone who isn’t as informed as you. That’s definitely something we need more of these days.

    And sorry you didn’t make it to SAN, sounds like you’d have been there right about when I was leaving to SFO

  4. ptacha, unfortunately I didn’t have one on me. I explained to the agent that I was extremely impressed by her service and appreciated her going above and beyond, and said that I while I didn’t have a GTEM on me, I’d definitely be sending an email to customer service to compliment her excellent service. I got her full name, and an email has been sent. 🙂

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