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Disappointing customer service. Unusual situation?

Disappointing customer service. Unusual situation?

Old Feb 24, 10, 1:09 am
  #1  
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Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 384
Disappointing customer service. Unusual situation?

I've received pretty disappointing customer service for the first time ever, and I'm wondering if it was because I got a couple of reps or if it due to some totally bizarre system glitch. I'm hoping someone can shed some light on the situation for me. I'm including a lot of details... probably more than necessary, but I'm hoping to avoid future trouble so I'm being verbose.

I got upgraded to MVP just about a week and a half before I purchased a ticket for a flight that I flew a couple of days later. I tried to request an MVP upgrade but the website didn't give me the opportunity. I called the MVP phone line and the person I talked to said that I probably couldn't request the upgrade because I'd so recently been promoted to MVP. I then asked if the person could put in the upgrade request on my behalf, they said they could.

I didn't notice any status change the next day, so I called in to see if my upgrade request was going to get processed. The rep this time said there was no indication that anyone had put in an upgrade attempt, and that the reservation was screwed up, probably due to some sort of processing problem that Alaska had with MVPs the week before last (I can't give you all the details, they didn't make much sense to me). This rep said that the only way she could do it was by just giving me the F upgrade, which wasn't a problem because we were inside of 48 hours and there was space available.

On the return trip I figured I had to go through the same song and dance. I called inside of 48 hours and the person said the reservation didn't show MVP, even though my account showed I was, there was space available and she could upgrade me to first class. She asked me if I wanted 3F or 1F, I request 3F, and she said it was done. The next day (I think it was a bit more than 24 hours before takeoff) I went to check out my itinerary to check the flight number for my final segment, and I saw I was still in coach. I called in and the person I spoke to said there was no record of an upgrade attempt, that he couldn't upgrade me, but that he could see that I was on the automatic upgrade list, so my name would be processed. He said there was still space available and the flight was relatively empty, so my chances looked pretty good.

I called one more time on the morning before my flight to see what was going on. The final customer service representative said that no, I wasn't on the automatic upgrade list, and that the only way to get an upgrade was to try to check in on line (which I couldn't do because I didn't have a computer available to me there) or ask for an upgrade at the gate. By the time I got to the gate the final F seat had been filled.

While I'm a little bummed I missed the upgrade, what most bothers me is that I got the wrong story from 3 of the CS people I talked to. If the first person that I'd spoken to had just simply said, "The only way you can get an upgrade is at check-in or at the gate" that would have been fine with me. Instead I got told twice that I was on the upgrade list and indeed I was not, and once that I'd been upgraded when I really hadn't been. To me this is incredibly irksome, I now feel like every time somoene at the MVP desk tells me something I have to call back and check with a different person to see if it's true.

Can anyone tell me why it would be that I'd keep getting the wrong story from the MVP desk? Could have simply been because my reservation was messed up somehow? Are there two different upgrade lists that customer service folks can see? Did I do something wrong in any of this? I know that reservations that you make before you achieve MVP status don't necessarily have the new status reflected, but I thought that any ticket purchased 1.5 weeks after my new status was reflected on the website wouldn't have caused me any trouble.

Let me end by saying that I've had nothing but fantastic experiences with people at the MVP and MVP Gold desks in the past, and really all of Alaska's employees. That's one of the reasons I choose to fly Alaska. I guess that's why I'm disappointed this time around.
doog is offline  
Old Feb 24, 10, 1:43 am
  #2  
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yes when different call takers say different things that does get very annoying. That being said, it can become quite an annoying and irksome process of trying to upgrade with a newly attained status with previously booked reservations involved. There seems to be a week or two latency between the mileage plan system, the sabre system, and the reservations system. I could be wrong but I guess its possible that the one CSA upgraded you and one of the other computer systems spit it out somehow as invalid? My experiences with this was where twice I was an MVP that recently had reattained gold. In those cases CSAs were able to override my reservations to make it look like I had bought a mvp upgradeable fare or something when I called at 72hours. I did have to call at 72 though. They had no way to over ride the waitlist to show me as a gold instead of being on the list as an MVP. The best workaround I can figure to avoid these situations is to not book until your status is confirmed in all systems or if you must book that far ahead leave the mileage plan number blank if you know you will gain status before the trip and then once status is gained in all systems enter your MP number, or if you do have booked already wait until it clears in all systems call the CSA have them delete the MP number and reenter it
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Old Feb 24, 10, 1:47 am
  #3  
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Congrats on making MVP doog, I hope you find your future experiences a little more coordinated than this venture.

Although I can't fully explain everything that the AS agents told you, I can give it a shot and perhaps assuage some of your concerns. First of all, not all of AS's back end is encapsulated in one concise system. After you cross a mileage threshold, it can take a couple of weeks for your new status to percolate through the various systems.

Second of all, most elites only cross into a mileage threshold once or perhaps twice, which means that AS agents only deal with those in a transition state very very infrequently. I would be very generous with the agents who made attempts to help you, as I can think of more than one airline whose agents would probably scoff, rudely claim "it can't be done", and hang up. In my experience, AS agents really do care about helping you out and will make every effort to do right by their elites.

Lastly, as missy has pointed out in the past, when you earn status in one year, it's really for the following calendar year. The extra benefits you get until December of the current year are really just gravy.

My experience was similar to yours - upon earning MVP and subsequently Gold, I was very anxious to start taking advantage of the benefits, most especially upgrades. While I found it got off to a bit of a rocky start (particularly with reservations made before my status change), once you are fully settled, it all works out to be pretty awesome.

The best thing you can do now is to keep an eye on your existing reservations. Request your upgrades online, and if at T-48 hours you haven't been upgraded AND there is U space, then call up and ask to be manually processed. If the agent isn't able to help you, or you don't see the change reflected in your itinerary within minutes, just try again. Once you get to T-24 hours, the flight is under airport control, so there's little the phone agents can do.

Enjoy your new status!
baliktad is offline  
Old Feb 24, 10, 1:54 am
  #4  
 
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Status takes a while to process ... It takes a good two weeks to take effect, but once you have it (assuming you maintain it) you wont have to worry about that any more. True, it is annoying that any ticket you booked at a previous status level retains that status, but i wouldn't call this bad customer service.

I had a similar issue, but my tickets were booked far enough in advance that i was able to get the upgrade anyway. Sorry to hear about the lost opportunity, but here's to hopes you'll get upgraded on your next flight
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Old Feb 24, 10, 10:48 am
  #5  
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Originally Posted by maokh View Post
Status takes a while to process ... It takes a good two weeks to take effect, but once you have it (assuming you maintain it) you wont have to worry about that any more. True, it is annoying that any ticket you booked at a previous status level retains that status, but i wouldn't call this bad customer service.

I had a similar issue, but my tickets were booked far enough in advance that i was able to get the upgrade anyway. Sorry to hear about the lost opportunity, but here's to hopes you'll get upgraded on your next flight
It's not that I mind the missed upgrade, it's more that I don't like that I was told things that apparently weren't true. I can't imagine why the folks at the MVP desk would tell me I was on the upgrade list when I wasn't, or that they upgraded me to first class when they didn't. I feel like they were telling me what they thought I wanted to hear rather than just giving it to me straight, you know?
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Old Feb 24, 10, 2:38 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by doog View Post
It's not that I mind the missed upgrade, it's more that I don't like that I was told things that apparently weren't true. I can't imagine why the folks at the MVP desk would tell me I was on the upgrade list when I wasn't, or that they upgraded me to first class when they didn't. I feel like they were telling me what they thought I wanted to hear rather than just giving it to me straight, you know?
It could be that they did add you to a waitlist that was not carried over, or physically upgraded and were bumped out (since one of the two systems was not up to date)... so as far as the agents knew, they were able to help, but were undermined by the sabre system... </speculation>

Its an interesting time - the 2-3 weeks after one obtains status...
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Old Feb 25, 10, 8:06 am
  #7  
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Originally Posted by beckoa View Post
Its an interesting time - the 2-3 weeks after one obtains status...
Why must it be this way? I work with a very large database of customer information daily, and most changes populate immediately. Those that don't are subject to at most a one-hour delay (one system downloads into the other once an hour).
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Old Feb 25, 10, 10:36 am
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Originally Posted by jackal View Post
Why must it be this way? I work with a very large database of customer information daily, and most changes populate immediately. Those that don't are subject to at most a one-hour delay (one system downloads into the other once an hour).
It doesn't HAVE to be this way. However, the airline reservations systems were built decades ago before the addition of frequent flyer programs, upgrades, etc. A reservation system has to be up 24/7 to process passenger reservations -- and I must say that SABRE does an excellent job overall.

Other airline systems such as frequent flyer tracking can be done as a SABRE add-on or in another system. In either case, the data is downloaded at most once a day and, then, the frequent flyer system must have time to process it.

Your customer database has probably been designed sometime since the late-90's. You're very fortunate to have real-time customer information. Unfortunately, the airlines systems are a bit more complicated, hamstrung by decades-old technology that continues to work almost flawlessly.
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Old Feb 25, 10, 10:56 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by formeraa View Post
It doesn't HAVE to be this way. However, the airline reservations systems were built decades ago before the addition of frequent flyer programs, upgrades, etc. A reservation system has to be up 24/7 to process passenger reservations -- and I must say that SABRE does an excellent job overall.

Other airline systems such as frequent flyer tracking can be done as a SABRE add-on or in another system. In either case, the data is downloaded at most once a day and, then, the frequent flyer system must have time to process it.

Your customer database has probably been designed sometime since the late-90's. You're very fortunate to have real-time customer information. Unfortunately, the airlines systems are a bit more complicated, hamstrung by decades-old technology that continues to work almost flawlessly.
That's why I was confused when Delta appeared to move backwards by adopting NW's loyalty program system rather than the one designed as part of the real-time "Delta Nervous System," in which everything communicated with everything else in real-time.

http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Proje...as-Last-Stand/ (bottom of page)
http://www.computerworld.com/s/artic...Nervous_System
http://www.tibco.com/multimedia/ss-delta_tcm8-754.pdf
http://www.cwhonors.org/search/his_4a_detail.asp?id=409
(etc.--see http://www.google.com/search?q=delta+nervous+system)

I suppose if something isn't completely broken, it's not worth fixing, but on the other hand, Delta proved it's possible to successfully migrate to modern technology (and reap many benefits in doing so). [And even then, DNS runs on legacy hardware--DNS 2.0 is supposed to move to modern hardware.]

Yes, our database is newer and runs on modern server-farm hardware instead of mainframes.
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