Public service announcement: make sure you’re muted when talking smack about an airline agent

In the hundreds of millions of miles worth of award tickets I’ve booked, and what probably cumulatively adds up to a year I’ve spent on the phone with airline agents, I’m surprised this has never previously (knowingly) happened. I’d like to think if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my dealings with the airlines it’s to be really, really patient. So it’s rare that I show any sort of emotion or anger when on the phone with the airlines, because I’ve heard and seen it all (though sometimes agents still manage to surprise me).

Yesterday I was on the phone with an especially matronly airline agent. Not only did she have the charm of a DMV worker, but she was about as efficient as American’s pilots were last September.

I was asking her to do something quite simple. She huffed. She puffed. She cut me off and told me what I wanted wasn’t possible. She talked down to me. She basically made me feel guilty for even calling. Usually I’d hang up and call again, but she was so invested in making up every possible rule that I just had to play along.

She probably spent about five minutes typing without saying a word, so I was explaining to a friend what was going on and how she was quite possibly the worst phone agent I’ve ever had (I may have used some more explicit words than that). I could’ve sworn my phone was on mute. Apparently it wasn’t, or at least that’s what her saying “bye sir” and then hanging up suggests to me. Oops.

Okay, I can’t say I blame her for hanging up on me, though at the same time I can’t blame myself for saying what I said… just that she heard me. šŸ˜‰

And that’s my public service announcement of the day…

Filed Under: Advice, Awards
  1. I tend to like to cut customer facing staff some slacks. They have to deal with a lot of problems and complaints, and it’s no fault of their own.

    Though I can’t stand incompentent ones. I had a call once where the lady kept putting me on hold (without telling me she was doing it), so all I hear on my side after I answered a question was a ‘click’. It was so irritating (she did it at least 7 times) and after trying to get her to even understand a relatively basic situation, she still didn’t get it.

    I loathe to do it because I think it’s rude to do, but I hung up on her. I had to do it because I think I may start yelling at her. Luckily, the next call I got someone who’s pretty sharp and helped me along.

  2. i bet it was a Delta agent and she told you it’s impossible to get a domestic award for 25k miles.

  3. I had a CSR a couple of years who couldn’t find my reservation in what seemed like forever. I recited the confirmation code using the International Phonetic Alphabet, which turned out the be source of the problem. She assumed that “Quebec” started with a “K”…

  4. Airline call centers need to experiment with customer Skype sessions. I have great facial expressions while on the phone and it could really help me get my point across, non-phonetically.


  5. US airways, I bet. Lucky does not spend time on the phone with DL at all. He uses their world class web site for his DL bookings.

  6. 2 Saturdays ago I spent 4 hours (no exaggeration) with a United rep trying to get an award ticket booked. SAN to DPS with a stopover in BKK – I had every leg ready for her with airline name and flt #s, yet it took every minute of 4 hours!

  7. I had an AA agent fall asleep while on the phone with me-twice. I heard her typing for a while, she didnt put me on hold for some reason. Then the typing stopped. Then a few minutes later I hear heavier breathing. I spoke loudly into phone asking if she found the flight combo I needed, she said not yet, and then asked me for all the details again. So I gave it all again-and the same thing, typing, no more typing, heavy breathing. I yell ‘hello?’ and she says ‘American Airlines how may I help you?’ I hung up finally. Almost felt bad for her, but c’mon!!! Twice in one call?

  8. These agent stories are super funny. I am actually going to write a post soon titled “Zen and the Art of Booking Awards on United” that covers this exact issue.

  9. Sure you had “the mute button on”. That seems like the best smack down. The accidental evisceration of a nasty agent while talking to a friend.

  10. It happens. Just make sure it doesn’t happen when you’re on with a client or your boss. =D

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