I have made a fair amount of award bookings with US Airways (not nearly as many as others) and always approach the phone call to them with a mixture of feelings – at what point during the call am I going to be told it won’t work, at what point during the call will I learn something new about geography, will it work first time? These are just some of the questions that go through my mind.
First of all, the only reason someone would actually call US Airways to make an award booking is because you cannot book partner awards on their website. As a result, you are forced to call in and it is always a challenging/fun time. Ben from One Mile at a Time has written countless stories of dealing with their booking agents on award reservations and some of them are cause for head-shaking.
In my case, I had one ticket I was booking for South Africa and was on hold as they looked up which part of Africa South Africa was located in – I kid you not! After they came back, they tried to tell me it would be 80,000 miles for the ticket. I had to correct them that it was only 70,000 miles. They insisted it was 80,000 miles. At this point, the best thing to do is to hang up and call back, but I did not want to waste my time with computers – better to do it with a human :). I told her where to look on their website for the information and she replied with “Oh, it used to be 80,000 – they must have just changed it.” Yeah, that was it. 🙂
Recently, I was booking a flight for my mother-in-law to come for a visit. I went ahead and checked on United for the flights and then called in to book it with US Airways. When the very nice rep got on the phone, she asked for the departure and arrival airports and dates. In about 15 seconds, she said, “I’m sorry, there is no award availability on those dates.” I asked her if she could check the individual flights as I already found the award ticket on United. She said that each carrier receives different award availability and that what United shows is not available to US Airways – really!? First time I have heard that! I said that has never been the case before, but she said it is now because they are in a transitional stage for a merger with American Airlines and as a result they are not able to book awards with United because United is not a part of the Skyteam alliance. Ok, quick breakdown why that is ridiculous – first of all, the merger is on hold and the transitional phase would not affect award bookings – you can either make them or you can’t. Second, she was right that United is not a part of the Skyteam alliance – but neither is US Airways or American Airlines! Skyteam is the alliance that Delta is a member of! I politely asked her if I could just give her a couple of flight numbers to have her look. She said, “FINE, go ahead.” I started to give her the flight numbers and she said, “Oh, these must have just become available! They are all here!” Imagine that! Anyway, after about 30 minutes, I had the ticket booked.
Here are some important things to take from this:
1) Prepare for some time on the phone when making award bookings with US Airways
2) Search ahead of time on United (the easiest way) for your award flights and have the flight numbers in front of you
Note: The reps really do not like you feeding them flight numbers, so be polite about it and do not be pushy
3) If you find you are getting nowhere with the rep on the phone, politely thank them for their help and tell them you will finalize your plans and call back later.
4) Make sure you know the amount of miles required because some destinations differ from United’s requirements and the rep may not be aware
This would probably have made a good place to put my US Airways affiliate link, but I won’t 🙂