Expedite Fee "Racket"

 
Old Apr 4, 04, 11:04 pm
  #1  
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Expedite Fee "Racket"

Just returned from a LAX-LHR round trip. Ticket was purchased on Jan 8, 04, for a March 27 departure. All award seats were spoken for ( all one of them at the time), so I waitlisted for a mileage upgrade.

The return leg was cleared for upgrade in early March, but the outbound wasn't.

I call the morning of the flight....check for any seats free, and am told that F and J were totally sold out. I check seat charts, and actually go through the motions to see if any J seats were available for sale...and two unsold seats show up.

I get to the airport....and the checkin agent again tells me there are no seats available. I ask that if the seat(s) free up, will I be in line for the upgrade. He answers " No"....because you don't have a certificate number, and the gate won't have the free time to call for one, I won't be considered.

I go through security...and go to the Admirals Club....I again check seat availabilty from AA.com from there, and find the same 2 seats available. I go to the senior Services person there ( a very caring woman), and explain my predicament. She sighed ...." this happens all the time". She explains the catch 22....with no paper certificates, there's no chance of clearing a seat at the last moment. Thus they will fly a plan with empty J seats, and leave waitlisted people in Y, no matter. She did suggest a solutions, however, which involved my taking a chance, and possibly spending $175 if it didn't work out.

Here's the racket: She calls the Exec Plat desk ( I'm only Plat), and asked for a same day upgrade certificate and withdrawal of miles. This costs me $75. She then asked for me to be put on the list when a seat opens, and thus I get on the queue for a J seat.

The hitch is that if a seat doesn't clear ( or it clears and someone esle somehow gets ahead of me in prioirty), I then have to pay $100 to redeposit the miles.

While I'm peeved at the possiblity of paying $175 for nothing, I wasn't willing to sit in Y if I didn't have to. [a similar thing happened in January, and the flight left with 4 empty J seats]

About an hour later, I got a page, telling me that the upgrade had cleared....and that I was only out the $75 for same day processing ( despite my having been waitlisted since early January).

This is a total scam.....and while you can succeed if you play by these kind of rules, this is the deliberate or inadvertant result of the elimination of paper upgrade certificates.

I will be writing to the Executive office......and I think all of us who rely on Mileage upgrades should write and ask for a change in prodcedures.
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Old Apr 4, 04, 11:44 pm
  #2  
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The expedite fee is a racket in this day and age where most of the ticketing and upgrades are electronic.

With this in mind, EXPs who plan to upgrade more than 8 one-way trips should note that saving VIPXX upgrades for later in the year and using mileage award upgrades when available may make sense for just such situations.
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Old Apr 5, 04, 2:11 am
  #3  
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Originally Posted by Jim90068
Here's the racket: She calls the Exec Plat desk ( I'm only Plat), and asked for a same day upgrade certificate and withdrawal of miles. This costs me $75. She then asked for me to be put on the list when a seat opens, and thus I get on the queue for a J seat.

The hitch is that if a seat doesn't clear ( or it clears and someone esle somehow gets ahead of me in prioirty), I then have to pay $100 to redeposit the miles.

While I'm peeved at the possiblity of paying $175 for nothing, I wasn't willing to sit in Y if I didn't have to. [a similar thing happened in January, and the flight left with 4 empty J seats]

About an hour later, I got a page, telling me that the upgrade had cleared....and that I was only out the $75 for same day processing ( despite my having been waitlisted since early January).

This is a total scam.....and while you can succeed if you play by these kind of rules, this is the deliberate or inadvertant result of the elimination of paper upgrade certificates.

I will be writing to the Executive office......and I think all of us who rely on Mileage upgrades should write and ask for a change in prodcedures.
The agent at LAX is mistaken and gave you bad information.

The only way you could have paid $175 is if you cleared the upgrade and then refused it, thus generating 2 separate transactions.

AA no longer allows the redemption of an upgrade award without immediate use. So you can't redeem a 25k upgrade award and simply hold the electronic certificate number, waiting to apply it to a future flight. The award must be redeemed and applied to a flight in the same transaction. If you didn't clear the upgrade, no fees are charged because the award was never claimed.

If you did clear the upgrade, the system debits your account with 25k miles and charges you $75.

Assuming you were struck with a bout of insanity at this time and refused the upgrade, the system would then charge you $100 to redeposit. That's the only scenario in which you could pay $175.
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Old Apr 5, 04, 7:32 am
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Lightbulb The system's not great but....

So the important missing piece is that the upgrade would have been free, if it had been requested 21 days prior to the flight. If it doesn't clear, AA won't take the miles out of the account, and if it does clear, you requested before the deadline.
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Old Apr 5, 04, 7:36 am
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No one fully understands AA system...

Originally Posted by Plato90s
The agent at LAX is mistaken and gave you bad information.

The only way you could have paid $175 is if you cleared the upgrade and then refused it, thus generating 2 separate transactions.

AA no longer allows the redemption of an upgrade award without immediate use. So you can't redeem a 25k upgrade award and simply hold the electronic certificate number, waiting to apply it to a future flight. The award must be redeemed and applied to a flight in the same transaction. If you didn't clear the upgrade, no fees are charged because the award was never claimed.
You are incorrect in the conclusion but what you are saying is not inconsistent with what LAX agent said and the OP did! You are correct in the assertion "without immediate use". However, generating an electronic certificate number and attaching it to a PNR is indeed considered "immediate use" by the system. This attachment to the PNR happens in every transaction of miles upgrades and it doesn't care if you have cleared at that point or not. When you actually get an upgrade, the person upgrading just needs to note the certificate number in the PNR before giving you the upgrade. When it clears outside gate control, the above two steps happens simultaneously, of course.

The problem is that you cannot have a free-floating electronic upgrade number outside of the PNR nor can it be transfered from one PNR to another as it is considered "already used". Hence the redeposit fee if you don't clear.

I had a post on this in the archives but I can't find the archives in this new board. I was in this poster's situation all of last year as a PLT and figured out how to finesse the system to get this upgrade at the last minute and pay the $75 only when I could get the upgrade (as the poster noted above, you can avoid this $75 fee in theory these days by claiming that you had been waitlisted prior to 21 days but the desk can refuse to give you the certificate saying you have not cleared even though they can so it is best not to argue at this point).

The exact procedure depends on the airport, the competence of the gate agent, right timing to get to the gate between when they are able to release the seats and the seats go away to VIPOWs and requires a cell phone while you may be dashing between the gate and the AC. I was even able to trump VIP upgrades with this process at times.

As to it being a scam, with AA it is a good thing to remember the following:

Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity (or bad IT) alone.

and of course,

If you cannot fight it, join it.

Last edited by venk; Apr 5, 04 at 7:42 am
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Old Apr 5, 04, 8:13 am
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Thanks Venk, you have it correct.

As far as the prior comment about a request 21 days ahead, I made the request 70 days ahead. That argumment doesn't work, once they have dropped you request off the system on the day of your flight.

Indeed, the CSR handling this for me at the Admirals Club at LAX was the most knowledgable person I have spoken to at LAX concerning this, and she laid out the costs up front. Pay the $75 to get a cert number only good for the day and have your miles deducted....and if the seat clears, you pay only $75. If it doesn't clear, you're out $175.00 ( $75 to deduct the miles for a cert. number and $100 to resposit the miles).

Zenk, I know you'd discussed thus before...but the apparent lack of a working search capability on this ##@!! new system wouldn't allow my to bring forward your string.
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Old Apr 5, 04, 8:17 am
  #7  
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Plato90s and venk are both right (!), IMO. A recent series of flights pretty much worked that way. Upgrades requested some time in advance, but DFW-ZRH was oversold, so I flew in 13G and no money changed hands. ZRH-DFW, a connecting Mumbai pax didn't make it, the Gate Angel secured my upgraded seat, cost $75.

Incompetence or a lack of interest could have brought about other possibilities, such as an attempt to assess me $175. But I think persistence with AA in clearing that could have reversed the fee. (I wish I could say incompetence or disinterest are not serious possibilities, but with the variety of human beings and today's airline morale climate, they certainly are.)

non ilegitimi carborundum
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Old Apr 5, 04, 9:13 am
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The situation here is a little different

Originally Posted by JDiver
Plato90s and venk are both right (!), IMO. A recent series of flights pretty much worked that way. Upgrades requested some time in advance, but DFW-ZRH was oversold, so I flew in 13G and no money changed hands. ZRH-DFW, a connecting Mumbai pax didn't make it, the Gate Angel secured my upgraded seat, cost $75.
It is about when the certificate number for the miles upgrade gets generated and attached to your PNR. That is when you pay $75 (unless you have been on the waiting list for 21 days and still are). Now, if you never clear, then that number never gets generated (your first case). If that number is generated and you are subsequently upgraded then you are charged the $75 (your second case).

But there is a small time window in many flights where, there are no seats to upgrade released and it will be too close to the flight when released for the agent to go through the electronic number generation by calling AAdvantage. Most gate agents will not want to bother even if they can (and many gate agents do not have a clue as to how to do this). This is the situation where you can ask to get an upgrade certificate number attached to the PNR ahead of the seats being released even though an upgrade is not guaranteed at the time.

As the OP noted it is a gamble at that point because if you don't clear, you have to return the "used" certificate back for which they charge you $100.

So the method that worked for me several times was to hang around the gate at the point where they are willing to release the seats and they have one for you. Tell them that you have a certificate number but there seems to be a problem since they cannot find it in the PNR, ask them to hold the upgrade seat while you just verify with the desk, call the desk who is more than willing to allocate you one for $75 and then get the gate agent to upgrade it. Often, the gate agent is too busy or not familiar with the system to tolerate the above so that is when you suggest that you will get the AC staff to do it for you if they will hold the seat (most gate agents will agree to just get you off their back!). That is when you run to the AC calling the PLT desk on your cell phone on the way and getting the certificate released by the time you get to the AC. That is why the procedure differs from airport to airport. I had the ORD routine down pat. In some airports, you can ask the AC staff to call the gate to let them know when a seat is released so they can do the above for you while you are sipping a cold one in the AC rather than doing the gate-AC shuffle.

If you do a transatlantic run as often as I did last year, it becomes almost automatic!

Last edited by venk; Apr 5, 04 at 9:16 am
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Old Apr 5, 04, 9:26 am
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venk, Thanks for the specific advice - a good tactic to use in the US, especially using a cell phone. Overseas, that might be tricky...

In Zurich, it all happened thanks to the good graces of an efficient and friendly "Gate Angel", who did her job in spite of a full flight, and my willingness to wait until the a/c was fully boarded so she could do the rest of the job.

Keep flying...
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