On the phone, at least. I said earlier I’ve booked about 40,000 miles in the last few days, half paid and half award travel. I’ve been putting it off because invariably something goes wrong and I have to call in to fix things, or just align multiple reservations. Basic housekeeping and stuff like that builds up the more you travel. What impressed me is that despite some long hold times, the people I spoke to and the service they provided went above and beyond, especially at United Airlines — which has had some trouble lately. Here are just a couple examples:
United Reservations Agent Takes Charge
I was able to book two award trips with stopovers through United’s online booking engine in about five minutes. I had to call back once to change an itinerary and drop a leg, which never got reticketed and repriced because the computer mis-interpreted it as a one-way flight with a stopover (not allowed). So I called in a second time to get the miles I was due, and the agent quickly conferenced in a second person to split the flights and get it done faster while also apologizing for the sloppy way the change was handled. Hey, I wasn’t complaining! Regardless of who’s fault it was, I appreciated that United took ownership of the problem to get it resolved ASAP.
Customer Care Calls to Apologize
I tweeted about a similar encounter I had with United’s flight attendants and the Customer Care department. On an award flight from Seattle to San Francisco last month, the audio was inoperative on the left side of the plane. The lead flight attendant came on the P.A. to apologize for the problem and proceded to pass out Customer Care certificates to everyone. For a such a short flight, I was amazed because United has had a reputation for being stingy with compensation recently. It wasn’t even something I would normally complain about.
The problem was the flight attendant never filled out the certificate with a claim number, so I couldn’t access the website to see my offer (usually a choice between miles, a coupon, or credit toward a future flight). I think my form went to some generic complaint department. Maybe I’m an over-entitled elite, but I’m not used to waiting this long when a company volunteers compensation.
After waiting a few weeks I wrote an email to 1KVoice asking what I should do. I’m used to prompt replies within a day or so, but I got a phone call just 10 minutes later! You have to admit that’s impressive. The agent asked a few questions to clarify what happened, explained that the flight attendants might need more training on how to use the new certificates, and then gave me my choice of three offers over the phone. She specifically asked me not to share what I got since the offers are tailored to each customer and situation, but let’s say it was more than I expected. She again apologized profusely and thanked me for being a loyal customer.
Hyatt Extends Expiring Free Nights
Megan had two free nights from her Hyatt Visa credit card, which were due to expire at the end of June. This wasn’t a problem before when we expected to take a short vacation to Tokyo around the time United started service on the 787 from Denver, but the likelihood of that flight operating as originally scheduled is obviously low given recent events. She does have a rare day off over Independence Day weekend, so we decided to head back to Maui after she finished her licensing exams in June. (Did you know architects get no days off between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day? Shocking, I know.)
The Gold Passport desk very graciously agreed to extend the certificates by an additional month, and then I had to call in to get them to honored at the Hyatt Regency Maui over a holiday weekend. But it all got squared away. I even used some of those leftover HawaiianMiles I talked about yesterday to book nonstop flights. Car rentals seem surprisingly expensive at $60 a day, even from Costco, but Hawaiian will also let you redeem 10,000 miles for each $50 car rental gift certificate. We’ll have a long weekend in paradise to relax before attacking the last month of wedding preparation.
Chase Continues to Make Things Easy
Finally, we had to make a call to Chase to expand Megan’s credit line on her British Airways Visa, which was approved with very low $2,000 limit. It isn’t that Megan isn’t creditworthy, but Chase grants customers one overall limit and reviews that number each time you apply for a card. Once you have a card, you can move your available credit between cards very easily.
We wanted to increase that credit line so we could use it for wedding expenses, and all it took was three minutes on the phone. One minute to reach a person (this wasn’t the amazing Sapphire Preferred desk that answers on the first ring), one minute to explain the request, and one minute to get it done. Whatever kind of people and computer systems Chase has, I wish all companies would copy them. It’s a bank, for heaven’s sake, and yet they always know exactly how to give you what you want as quickly as possible.