KLM Flying Dutchman - Strange case of vanishing upgrades..
Jun 3, 04, 3:56 am
I am one of the free PEs from the Elite Matching promotion that Steve Fenton truly detests. I have stopped travelling on business so my leisure travel varies between 25-50k miles. I and my better half are going to Madrid in the first half of July. We could have flown AA (both Golds) with MRTC across the pond to LON and then transferred to IB/BA on the connecting flight to MAD. However, memories of Steve Fenton's angst overcame common sense and forced my :o conscience to give KLM a try.
I called the PE helpdesk to ask for availability of upgrades. I was told an "easy yes" on two dates in my travel window. I would have to take another day off; worth an upgrade I thought. The agent required the ticket number to confirm the upgrade though, but could not book the tickets for me ( @:-) strange isnt it; why let a revenue opportunity slip buy?)
So I decided to call the KLM reservation desk in Holland. However they said they have nothing but business class available on those flights! That should have rung a bell but I thought that it was something wrong, since the online booking engines were showing SFO-AMS-MAD available on all the days I was looking for. So I want ahead and booked my tickets on nwa.com at an acceptable price of $1220 pp.
After an hour on the phone with the NWA folks, I got our ticket numbers. I called back the PE Helpdesk to be told that there are no upgrades available. This was happening between 11:00PM and 1:00AM Pacific Time; not the peak booking period in the US. So something changed suddenly because of which there were no upgrades available for us!
The question I have is that how can upgrade and even seat availability change so drastically? How can nwa.com sell us tickets ( Q/M class at $1220 each) when KLM reservations does not have any seats available?
And finally should I play the call every day game or just forget about it? :confused:
Jun 3, 04, 5:34 am
Welcome to KLM :D
Jun 3, 04, 6:31 am
Just call again, and again, and again until you get the right answer. The last 3 upgrades I've done with FD miles were 'not available' at first (despite booking engines showing wide open) yet miraculously when I tried a week or so later I got them :confused: .
Jun 3, 04, 7:39 am
The difference between KLM FD and China Airlines for example.
Yesterday I called the London office to tell them I had not been credited with my miles for a trip 2 weeks ago on May X from Taipei to Amsterdam.
Read and weep:
"Can you give me your name sir"
"Do you have the ticket number handy, its not a problem if you dont"
"Ticket # XXXXXXXXXXXXXX
"Ah yes I found it, can you confirm your FF #"
"Yes its XXXXXXXXXXXXXX
"OK those miles are now on your account."
This lady then went on to advise me on a number of issues and I felt happy to spend my money with them to book another flight for two weeks time knowing the upgrades were all easy to confirm and sorted out.
OK so CI is not the size of KLM but thats not important, the fact is that this lady was doing her job and to me it felt really nice. IF this conversation had happened with FD and I posted that here, I am sure a van would pull up outside and a couple of big guys would bundle me up in a straight jacket and haul me off down to the local looney bin
It looks like the underlying problem here is the difference between KLM inventory and NWA inventory.
Even though the flight is operated by KLM there are separate inventory levels and different upgrade availability/procedures depending on whether the ticket has been issued by KLM or NWA.
When you called KLM reservations they quoted upgrade and fare availability based on you purchasing a KLM ticket (and not a NWA ticket).
- In the KLM system there were no Y tickets available for purchase but there were upgrade seats available if you already had a Y ticket.
- In the NWA system there were Y tickets available for purchase but no upgrade seats available
Unfortunately you've been stuck right in the middle.
In general is is *much* easier to upgrade a KLM issued ticket with KLM miles that an NWA issued ticket with KLM miles.
KLM seems to operate an on/off waitlist for upgrades on NWA tickets so it might be worth ringing the elite helpdesk to ask if they can add you.
This is purely anacedotal but about a year ago I wanted to upgrade a NWA issued ticket on a KLM operated IAD-AMS flight and the agent made of point of digging aroung for the KLM record locator (instead of the NWA locator) since this made the upgrade "much easier". YMMV!
Apart from that - as others have said - ring back often!
Jun 3, 04, 10:12 am
A quick search revealed the truth about KLM upgrades. So I decided it was worth it to spend the night with the FD helpdesk.
The agent I got next was nice and said that he will try his best to get us an upgrade on the return AMS-SFO leg :D . We go through the procedure of being put on hold, giving my FD number a few times. He then asks me for my ticket number. He then comes back and saying that the ticket number I have are NW ticket numbers and he needs KLM ticket numbers! He says that I should call me travel agent and get them. I asked him to put a note and he says he will but call back soon. ^
It is well into the middle of the night and the folks on the East Coast had started going to work now. NW answered the phone within a few minutes. They said that I have only one ticket number but they can give me the KLM PNR.
I call back the KLM helpdesk again and got a third agent. I gave him all the information and he said he will be able to do it ^ ; he was able to get my record from the KLM PNR. However he still asked me for my ticket numbers. After a few minutes of asking for the same information for a few times he comes back saying that no, nothing available. I am surprised since 10 minutes ago, I was almost there! But he says nothing available :( .
So close, but so far.
How can the inventory management systems of KLM/NW be so far off that one airlines has nothing but C and the other had Q/M fares! And this was for the entire weekend.
Also since the only way to book a US originating flight on KLM is to go to the KLM-USA, which leads you to nwa.com, how can one get a KLM ticket number on a flight from the US online? :(
The FD agents were all very polite to talk to. None of the van waiting outside business so far, Steve.
Jul 13, 04, 4:15 pm
We came back from Spain yesterday after spending 9 wonderful days.
We did not get an upgrade on the SFO-AMS sector. The flight was full (Friday July 2). However one of us was op-upgraded while boarding to the Euro-Select (AMS-MAD) on July 3. I did wonder why they upgraded one of us but not both since coach was oversold and they had empty seats in the Euro-Select!
After boarding the plane, and seeing what Euro-Select was all about, I did not worry too much. Luckily our seats were right behind each other. I do wonder why people would pay 10,000 miles to upgrade to Euro-Select for intra-Europe flights.
We were able to get upgrades on the AMS-SFO leg yesterday when I called on Friday from Spain ^ . The flight was comfortable, the food OK, and the service effecient.
I did witness a Crown Room agent who should not have been in the customer service business; luckily her wrath was not directed against me but against the lady with three kids in front of us who did not have flight coupons attached to her boarding pass (since she had an E-Ticket ;) )
The SFO-AMS legs are on the new 777 and the IFE system is great since it is truly on demand and has a large collection of movies/music etc.
They did mess up my wife's vegetarian meal; but she carries her own food these days since her meals are invariably messed up on all carriers.
All in all, it was a good experience, if you are willing to tolerate some of the extremes of behavior of the KLM staff and the uncertainty associated with the the KLM FD Upgrade policy.