STAND YOUR GROUND WITH INCOMPETENT AGENTS - BOOKED IN BUSINESS, OFFERED TO FLY UNITED ECONOMY WITHOUT ANY TYPE OF REFUND, ENDED UP FLYING BUSINESS on SWISS
What happened to me this morning trying to fly out of Lisbon is a great example of how many incompetent agents you may run into and that you should be well informed and politely stand your ground - both when booking the tickets and during your journey.
Today I arrived to the airport unusually early to give myself enough time for the VAT refunds. As I was getting out of my Uber I saw a new email which just arrived from ANA Airlines - your flight from Warsaw to NYC was canceled, contact ANA. As the US call center was closed I ended up speaking with the agents in Japan. The first one assured me I was rebooked on a direct Air France flight and I should go to the Polish airlines desk to get my new ticket. I told the agent that I was pretty sure Polish airlines did not have any presence in Lisbon and Air France could not have a direct flight to NYC only Delta, United and TAP do. Why would a French airline operate a direct flight from Portugal to USA? How could they rebook my award flight to a totally different airline alliance? But the agent was not willing to listen and had no common sense so I politely ended the call and just in case walked to the AF desk which was a minute away. They told me that the Delta desk would open in couple of hours and I'm not on any of the AF flights to Paris and of course they did not operate any direct flights.
I called back and spoke with another agent who again assured me I was on the AF flight. This time I asked for the flight number and quickly looked it up - it was indeed a Delta operated codeshare. I told the agent to give me the new issued ticket number and make sure I was in business class. After 30mins on hold the agent told me it was an economy revenue ticket reservation, not an award reservation since they are not partners with AF and therefore reservation could not be processed on a reward ticket so they were unable to issue it. This made much more sense. I gave the agent a list of flights I saw on the board - Berlin, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Hamburg. I could connect through any of these cities. United and ANA availability differs and there is no way to check ANA availability online for same day flights since they simply don't book them so I had to rely on the agent on really trying hard to check all the options. I also told him that United and TAP had direct flights....
After another 10mins on hold agent told me I could fly to Frankfurt in 28 hours and connect there, all in Lufthansa business. This didn't work for me, as I had to return to work on Monday morning and I asked the agent to check with the supervisor what could be done to get me to NYC on time. Yet again on hold.... and they magically found me a direct flight in United economy departing in 9 hours. I had no choice so I asked how many miles and what kind of tax refund I was going to get.
Agent did not sound apologetic and as a robot told me that according to their policy I was going to get none, since they offered me to fly business class next day. When I was booking my flights I saw the availability on this same flight but didn't want to fly United even though the taxes would be considerably less. Flying economy now having paid the same didn't sound like a great option so I told the agent I was paying a fortune in roaming to be put on hold over and over and what they came up with was not a fair resolution and I needed the supervisor to figure out what they could really do... After some more time on hold I was asked for a callback number.
Finally the same agent called me to inform that the supervisor approved a refund of 16.5k miles refund and asked for the authorization to book me on United in economy class. I told him if there was really no business which would get me into NYC area before Monday morning he could go ahead but it seemed strange that with so many flights there was not a seat anywhere. Suddenly the agent told me his supervisor actually saw business class availability to Newark from Zurich on Swiss but they assumed I could not make the first leg to Zurich since the flight was departing in less than 1 hour.
I asked to issue the ticket asap, but the agent told me to go to TAP information desk first to see if they thought I could still make the flight. I went straight into the check-in area instead where I was told the boarding was closed. TAP ground agents were very understanding and after putting some codes and overrides were ready to check me in, except that they could not find my new ticket. ANA agent on the phone had hard time finding the new ticket number but TAP agents called yet another person to help, found the reservation and issued me a boarding pass 15 mins before the flight was supposed to board.