Do You Know More Than The Airline and Hotel Representatives?

People that are really interested in the miles and points part of travel often know quite a bit about it and we like to share that knowledge with others – even when it sounds a little overwhelming. I mean, try talking to a family member about the various airline currencies and award charts and sweet spots and watch their eyes just glaze over and find a reason to go to the bathroom or something. 🙂 I have friends that still wonder how I am elite in foreign airline programs and why I would want to do that. 🙂

Do You Know More Than The Reps?

That same knowledge (and obsession) can also make us more informed than the airline and hotel employees that we may interact with in our travels. I recently was speaking with some management level people at an airline and they were trying to sell me on the virtues of their airline. I began to ask them some questions about a particular portion of the program that I was wanting clarified and they were surprised that I even knew about it (something that most of us would know). I kept asking questions and the answers I was getting were very wrong. I politely corrected them and they were again surprised that I actually knew more about their own frequent flyer program than they did.

That can also happen when on the phone with reps to book some kind of an award. Some of the misinformation is something that the average member of their program would not know but some of the errors are downright embarrassing. Things like having cities in the completely wrong countries (or even continents) is not outside the range of what I have dealt with. While sometimes funny, it can also be irritating. In those situations, I politely thank them for their help and tell them that I will try later – and call back later on to get someone else.

Situations like that just demonstrate how good it is to be well-informed when you venture out in the miles and points world. There were many times that I would have been charged a lot higher rate in miles or points if I did not know the rules on the particular subject. I know there are many travelers that do end up overpaying because they are not aware of the rules for the various programs. I am not saying that you even need to know all of the minute details of a program – knowing the award categories and destination breakdowns can be a huge jump in the right direction. Also knowing the award ticketing rules can be a help – I have had a certain airline quote me a hold time on an award of 10 days! That was way longer than allowed and if I had not know that was incorrect, I could have called back in 10 days to find that my award had been dropped.

What You Can Do

  • Before you call, figure out as much about the situation as you possibly can, especially if you do not have elite status. Airlines and hotels will often put their better, more informed agents on lines that are exclusive for elite customers which means you may have a better chance of getting someone that does not know all about the program if you are not elite.
  • Check your dates – many times an airline will change a particular rule on something but your ticket will still be under the old rules if it was booked before the change. That means that the agent may be going off of the new rule, but that most likely does not apply to you since you booked under the old rules.
  • If it is an alliance or partner award issue, find the webpage on the airline’s website that tells you that they are partners. Often, I will get an airline rep who will not let me book an award (that can only be booked over the phone) because they insist they are not partners. One such example is booking an award with AA miles on Etihad Airways. They are not in the same alliance, but they are participating airlines for the sake of redeeming and earning miles. Knowing the website and giving them the information directly from that can help to work out the situation.
  • Be polite. While it would be nice to expect that the agents know more than you do, remember that we are really in a different category of frequent flyers. 🙂 I have traveled with Delta Diamond customers who fly 300,000+ miles a year and am amazed at how much they do not know about their chose frequent flyer program! Many airline reps are used to dealing with requests from them, not the more intricate queries that we might bring. Also, airline changes, even big ones, are often not taught to all the reps in the same time that we learn about it. For example, the entrance of US Airways into the oneworld alliance was known and anticipated by all of us, but I was still finding US Airway reps that thought they were still in the Star Alliance (and even encountered one who thought they were in the Skyteam Alliance!). We are looking forward to such changes and ready to pounce – many reps are still trying to get up to speed on new systems and rules.
  • Finally, realize that many reps are just going off of what the computer tells them. If the computer says no, they are telling you no. But, there are times that the computer is wrong or that it is not making allowance for something that is in the rules. In those situations, it is best to elevate it to a manager to ask for more information on the subject.

Have you found that you know more than some representatives? What are your tips for dealing with those situations?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.