I want to share our long and interesting experiences with air china (CA) canceling our US air reward flights segment (tpe-pvg).
Last year we managed to book 2 biz class (I class) reward trip with US airways miles, departing this july 2012. It was mostly to experience the business class on SQ C A380 fra-jfk.
Our return trip was
Tpe-pvg CA C (air china)
Pvg-fra LH C
FRA- JFK SQ C A380 (stop)
JFK-YYZ-YEG AC C (destination)
In the middle of the trip, typhoon saola was coming to taipei and was predicted to be a cat 2-3 hurricane. The eye of the storm was predicted to be near Taipei on Thursday morning 6am august 2 2012.
Our flight with air china to shanghai CA tpe-pvg was leaving on Wednesday night ag 1 at 5:30 pm. It was only around 2 pm on Wednesday that air china had canceled our flight from TPE-PVG. It was one of the only flights that was canceled, most of the other flights that day was still operational.
1. We called air china reservations desk in china: (first call)
first agent: what is your PNR?
Male Agent: cannot find it. What is your name, flights number and ticket number?
Agent: it is not air china ticket number. It start with 999.
me: it is the international ticket number. Please try it in your system
Agent: i cannot find it, we need that air china ticket number with 999xxx
Us: ? ok. thank you.
2. 2nd call to air china reservations:
A different Female Agent: what is your PNR?
Agent: cannot find it. What is the eticket?
me: ? air china canceled my confirmed flight at 5pm. Can you put us on a different flight to catch our connections in shanghai?
Agent: ok i found your tickets. You are going to shanghai connecting to Frankfurt and then connect to New York. Please wait, I need to speak to a supervisor as your ticket is SPECIAL.
Agent: (after being on hold): Sir, you have to call the Taipei office as we cannot help you here. This is the china office. Taipei phone number is xxxxxx.
3. We called the Taipei air china phone number provided by the agent: wrong number. Nothing. Nobody.
4. 3rd call to air china:
Me: our eticket number is 037xxxx
Agent: it is not air china number. It start with 999
Me: we called earlier and the other ca agent saw it. Please try again with the same international eticket number 037xxxx
Agent: you called and spoke to me earlier didn’t you? I cannot help you as it is not an air china ticket number
(somehow we ended up with the same first male agent on the first call !! )
Me : can i speak to a supervisor?
Agent: sir my supervisor does not speak English, only mandarin.
Me: ok put him on.
Agent: do you speak mandarin sir?
Me: i can arrange that. Please put a supervisor on.
Agent: (speaking mandarin, possibly swearing, then said): sir i don’t believe you can speak mandarin.
Me: i can get someone to speak mandarin to your supervisor. Please put him on.
Agent: no sir, i think you are lying as you do not speak mandarin and i have told you my supervisor can only speak mandarin, then he hang up!
(wow! an English call center and no English supervisor??)
We called usaiways and us airways confirmed that air china have the duty to reroute passengers in the event of irregularities (cancelation) to their destination either on their plane or on another carrier at the first available flight, as we are “protected” to our destination on the same fare class and similar routing.
I then went on united site to see reward availability. There were tpe-nrt C class AND 2 first class nrt-fra LH a380, and then fra-den LH F, den-yeg UA Y available, leaving just a few days after. We then put the seats on hold and bought some mileageplus miles. We couldn’t get it ticketed right away as we had to wait for the miles purchase to go through (48h). (PLAN B)
5. 4th and 5th call to air china, while having 2 concierges from the lounge from the Hyatt Taipei hotel to speak mandarin directly to the agents.
CA air china Agents cannot help.
(concierge hotel staff then called the airport, spoke directly to air china staff and learned all passengers on that 5:30pm canceled flight was being rebooked and leaving right away with another carrier on the 5:15pm Taiwan china air (CI).)
We then rushed to the airport in the rain. Went to air china desk and was asked: “business class or economy?” (trick #1: can’t the agent see it in their system? ). We replied: “business class. The tickets were on business class.”
We were then given CI (china air, a different carrier) business boarding pass, checked our bags, went through customs, security then headed for the gate.
At boarding time at the gate, we were boarding first but CI agent stopped us when the boarding pass says data error. CI agent then told us: “there is a problem with your tickets fares payment. You cannot board and have to wait here. Your bags will be removed”. No further explanations were provided.
We were then escorted back through security, got our bags scanned for possible duty free, then got escorted through customs and back to the air china counter outside at departures level.
Air china (CA) supervisor: you cannot board on that plane as your ticket was a special ticket. It is a reward ticket from usairways. You have to call usair to ask them to reroute you.
Me: we already called us air. Us air confirmed that It is the duty of the carrier that canceled the flights to reroute passengers to their destination, not us airways. We are star gold, and according to the staralliance rules, air china, the carrier that canceled my flights have the duty to reroute me to the first available flights in the same fare class and similar routing, either on their own aircraft, another star alliance air, or on another carrier. You should not have pulled us from the gate at last minute, as we needed to make the LH and SQ connections. Canceling the CI tickets and pulling from the gate is going to cost me and air china much more.
CA: this is an airport counter, not a ticketing department, we do not have the power and cannot help you. Here is the phone number for air china reservation (trick #2)
Me: we have already called that number many times, even having our hotel concierges staff speaking mandarin and having CA agent hang up on us. The air china agents did not want to help, that is why we are here at the airport.
CA: you know your tickets are special right? It is a reward tickets on points
Me: It is a confirmed and ticketed ticket. It does not matter if i paid 2 dollars, 2k or 20K, or with points, my tickets are paid, ticketed and confirmed, and i am already in the middle of my trip.
CA: you have to call air china Taipei reservation office. This is an airport counter. We cannot issue or change tickets. This is the Taipei number (trick #3)
Me: we have already called that Taipei number. Nothing. That is why we are at the airport. We both know that you have the power to contact your ticketing department directly and change my tickets. Star alliance rules are clear: the carrier that canceled my tickets have to reroute me on the next available flight, to my destination and in the same fare class.
CA: i have never heard of that rule. Have you called usairways to ask them to reroute?
Me: yes. Do you want to call them directly to verify?
CA: yes. (then phone usairways)
Me: so?? What did usairways said?
CA: you need to call usairways to reroute. (trick #4)
Me: really? Can you stay here while I call usairways on speaker?
CA: ok. (called us air, the us air agent confirmed on speaker that it is air china (CA) that have to put the passengers on the next flight, and if no flights are available, CA have to buy a full fare tickets on another carrier. As a passenger, i am “protected” to my destination on the same fare class and routing)
CA: i have never heard of that rule. (then proceed to call usairways again, asking to speak to a supervisor. The usairways supervisor then confirmed what was said before.)
Me: (I pulled the employees manual from the star alliance website, pointing on my ipad to page 137 irregularities): this is from the staralliance site. Please read. It clearly said here that air china has to reroute me to my destination on the same fare class OR higher, with similar routing, and as star alliance gold we have priority to the first available flight, either on staralliance or on another carrier.
CA: i have not heard of it before. Let me check with my superiors.
CA: OK we can put you on tomorrow flight, air china tpe-pvg. And here are the phone numbers for SQ and LH reservations offices. You have to call them directly for the rest of the routing. (trick #5)
Me: what? You know very well what sq and lh are going to say, air china cancel my flight, pulled me from the reroute CI (china airline) flight today, so air china reservation ticketing have to directly ask SQ and LH for a seat, not me the passenger.
and pvg is not my destination.
CA: we have other passengers in the same situation, and lots of star alliance gold. They all have to call them directly tomorrow. You do not see anyone here now (trick #6) (there is no other passengers at the counter, is is because air china have put them on earlier china airlines flights duh!)
ME: no. We all know that you have the power to contact your ticketing department and change it directly.
CA: all of our china ticketing department are closed now (7PM). We cannot help you here. You have to call the CA ticketing reservation tomorrow. (trick # 7)
Me: Ok, your china office may be closed, but you can call your other worldwide offices in usa or europe. They are still open. Here are their numbers : (pointing to the star alliance manual and air china website)
CA: (talk extensively on the phone, then came back and said): we can only reroute you tomorrow on CA flight to PVG then with LH to FRA. You have to call SQ directly. (trick #8)
Me: what? FRA is not my destination. Air china has to reroute me to my destination (talking about the star alliance rules again)
CA: (talk again on the phone and said ): tpe-pvg-fra tomorrow is final as we can only see FRA in your air china pnr (showing me the exact same PNR that i have previously said to CA agents before on the phone) (trick #9)
ME: no, this is my routing (pointing to my ipad usairways ticket). And if you use the 14 digits 037 etickets numbers in your system, you can see ALL my routings.
CA: we can only bring you to FRA and it is final. There is nothing more we can do. (trick # 10)
ME: ok. So you are telling me that air china will not follow the international agreements iata and star alliance rules and will leave me stranded in FRA?
CA: yes. We can only route you to FRA.
Me: Ok. No problem. I need to be in JFK and YEG on time and will pay for a separate first class tickets if necessary (PLAN B with LH F a380 and LH F 747 new F). But i need air china to give me something in writing what happened, and that air china will not bring me to my destination and will only drop me at FRA. I will talk to star alliance and air china later.
CA: please wait.
CA: we contacted our VIP office in Beijing and we can put you on a different carrier with sky team, china airline CI flight tomorrow, allowing you to arrive the same time as before on your usair tickets, on the similar business class cabin.
(wow, suddenly there is an “VIP office” that is still open in china, contrarily to what was said before that all china office ticketing are closed and that the airport counters have no powers)
After 2-3 hours of arguing at the airport counter, We ended up taking the CI china airlines flights, as the united mileage plus bookings were not confirmed yet. China airline is totally different from china air. The lounge at TPE is very nice, with a noodle bar. The FA on the flights were attentive but not intrusive, they do not seemed to have an attitude and were proactive in the service.
Only downside was the seat, it was a business recliner and not a lie flat seat from TPE-JFK for 17 hours flight...
About PLAN B, for around$2500 and to experience LH F on A380 again, and FRA FCT, and 2nd LH F flight to DEN would be really nice and may be worth it. The united points actually were deposited on Friday and we could have ticketed the LH F on time... oh well...
We ended up missing out on the SQ business class on the A380, and we had to pay twice for taxi, and another hotel night . Plus lost time and lost slept. Is there anything else that we should have asked from air china?