aa.com won't let me buy the fare displayed...any suggestions?

 
Old Mar 3, 09, 1:16 pm
  #1  
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aa.com won't let me buy the fare displayed...any suggestions?

I have been trying to book a multi-city flight from San to Asia. The website displays a price, but when I try to book it, I get a message saying the flight is no longer available.

This is different from the situation that occurs occasionally where the seat displayed gets purchased by someone else before you have a chance to book it. I know it is different situation because the flights always appear each time I check the fare (it does not reappear at a higher price).

I have spoken to numerous people at Exp Desk, aa.com, even customer relations. I have gotten numerous explanations but no solutions. The flight shows up in their system at roughly double the cost.

I want to purchase the flight at the cost on aa.com. Unfortunately, nobody has been willing to allow me to do this (although I get the feeling that several of the representatives that I talked to really wanted to, but their hands were tied).

Any suggestions?
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Old Mar 3, 09, 1:24 pm
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I had a similar experience for an international itinerary. When I called AA, turns out the fare bucket that you see online does not have any seats left. Somehow the online systems are not updated, but the check picks it up when trying to book it.

Try looking on Orbitz or other travel sites which may show you the same flights and the same fare that you can buy.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 1:25 pm
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I've seen this before- even to the point where the flights will continue to show up at the reduced price, and still not be bookable. This usually means that it really is gone...but some parts of the system have not properly updated. So, it shows as available in the initial searches, but really isn't there. At least that's been the case in my similar experiences.

Cheers.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 2:11 pm
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You won't get anywhere with AA.

Complain to the DOT: it has enforcement authority over airfare advertisement and unfair and deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition. http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/problems.htm

Make sure you're brief yet include all details needed to replicate the issue. As brp suggested, it's not a technical issue but one where AA chooses not to keep multiple databases in sync to save $$.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 2:21 pm
  #5  
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Originally Posted by hillrider View Post
As brp suggested, it's not a technical issue but one where AA chooses not to keep multiple databases in sync to save $$.
Sorry, no, I did not say that. This is, IMO, purely a technical issue based upon antiquated systems and minimal support. I don't believe for a minute that this is any "deception" issue at all. Just poor programming.

Cheers.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 2:43 pm
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Originally Posted by hillrider View Post
Make sure you're brief yet include all details needed to replicate the issue. As brp suggested, it's not a technical issue but one where AA chooses not to keep multiple databases in sync to save $$.
Here how it works when you go to search/book on aa.com

You go to AA.com's web servers and search -> search request sent over to ITA software's systems (this used to be Orbitz's servers) -> ITA is _supposed_ to do availability checks against the search results in order to filter out things that are sold out -> results returned to the user.

You go to confirm price and -> request sent to Orbitz's servers to verify pricing with Sabre -> return price to user

You go to book -> request sent to orbitz servers to book through sabre -> request goes to sabre to make reservation -> YES/NO sent back to user.

There maybe a few handoffs that I am missing, but that is a general overview of how things work. (and yes you really do go through Orbitz managed servers when you do stuff on aa.com. Also when you use the Kiosks.)

So you can see, there are a lot of hand off points involved with different databases owned by different people. If you have the technical solution to keep everything in sync in real-time, I am sure you could start a company to serve the travel industry. People would beat down your door.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 3:09 pm
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Call web services. They can tell you if it's an aa.com problem or if the inventory's just not there.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 3:25 pm
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I have been told by aa.com support to log out and then log in again. Then the unavailable flights stop showing up.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 4:44 pm
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if this doesn't work toss your (browser's) cookies
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Old Mar 3, 09, 5:46 pm
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Originally Posted by brp View Post
Sorry, no, I did not say that. This is, IMO, purely a technical issue based upon antiquated systems and minimal support. I don't believe for a minute that this is any "deception" issue at all. Just poor programming.
We're sort-of saying the same thing (and I never said or implied that deception was intended). The way two databases are kept in sync is set through architecture and programming and this determines the amount of CPU and bandwidth necessary -- the more real time they are, the higher the $$.

There are plenty of duplicated databases that are replicated with a latency of milliseconds, AA's aren't.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 5:50 pm
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Originally Posted by mfdii View Post
If you have the technical solution to keep everything in sync in real-time, I am sure you could start a company to serve the travel industry. People would beat down your door.
There are PLENTY of such solutions, but they increase costs -- and few in the airline industry seem to value customer experience and customer satisfaction enough to pay for them.

However, I'm willing to bet that WN, B6 and VX don't suffer from this "glitch" (could be wrong, but these are airlines who value customer experience and may not go for a non-real-time architecture)
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Old Mar 3, 09, 6:03 pm
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Originally Posted by hillrider View Post
We're sort-of saying the same thing (and I never said or implied that deception was intended). The way two databases are kept in sync is set through architecture and programming and this determines the amount of CPU and bandwidth necessary -- the more real time they are, the higher the $$.

There are plenty of duplicated databases that are replicated with a latency of milliseconds, AA's aren't.
To give a bit of context to the computational complexity we're talking about here....

It's not actually a database that provides flight availability information, however. Availability is calculated on demand for each request made of the system. This is because inventory levels can change by the second, and the decision to make seats available is based on the yield management curves that the analysts have set for the flight (which can also change just as frequently).

When flight searches are made on AA.com or any major OTA, up to tens of thousands of schedules (flight options) can be generated and the algorithms need to know what the availability looks like for each of them. Since that's an on-demand piece of information, it's expensive to ask the airlines to churn out thousands of availability responses for each flight search made.

Plus, the airlines don't like it when you do that.

Also the on-demand and highly variable nature of this response means that replication or any kind of push-based notification is extremely impractical, and even still may not guarantee the synchronization of the answers (remember this is a calculation). And I haven't even touched on the fact that the answer for one customer (agency) could be different from another (Point of Sale Controls), or that the answer for a flight could be different depending on whether you were terminating or connecting in the destination airport (Journey Controls), or even that my own system may be down for the instant you made your request, so I'm going to give you my "fallback" answer (N/AVS Data). You can see that this complexity starts to grow considerably.

The only practical solution is to somehow create an intermediary system in that can try to answer on behalf of the airlines. Typically this is quite simply a cache.

However, the second that you do this, your data diverges.

Now, there are some companies that have gotten quite clever at these intermediary systems, but it never removes the possibility that this information will inherently not match up exactly with the answer that the airline gives directly when you request the seat.

And still, even after all of these years, the final arbiter of the price is the segment sell message that is made when you try to book and price the itinerary. And that failure point when that seat is no longer available, is what you see when the price jumps or you that flight no longer shows available after you select it from the results.

Anyway....just thought I'd jump in with some background.

Carry on.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 6:50 pm
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Originally Posted by vrbaba View Post
I had a similar experience for an international itinerary. When I called AA, turns out the fare bucket that you see online does not have any seats left. Somehow the online systems are not updated, but the check picks it up when trying to book it.

Try looking on Orbitz or other travel sites which may show you the same flights and the same fare that you can buy.
Thanks for the Orbitz tip. I found the same itinerary for several hundred bucks less than AA. I'm considering buying the ticket through AA.com and trying the low price guarantee. Although I can anticipate a long and protracted struggle to get my money back from AA.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 7:20 pm
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I have had this happen numerous times when booking multi-city fares. A few of those times, I have been able to book the fare by being persistent. However, 9.9 times out of 10 you'll get shut down when you call.
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Old Mar 3, 09, 7:41 pm
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Originally Posted by hillrider View Post
There are PLENTY of such solutions, but they increase costs -- and few in the airline industry seem to value customer experience and customer satisfaction enough to pay for them.

However, I'm willing to bet that WN, B6 and VX don't suffer from this "glitch" (could be wrong, but these are airlines who value customer experience and may not go for a non-real-time architecture)

Great.. now try to book travel for Thanksgiving at southwest.com.
What? It doesn't work?

Ok, try getting a seat assignment for next Saturday, and put in an upgrade request for June
Now, try booking a ticket to Europe on Southwest or any other carrier at southwest.com.
Check out the entertainment options for your next cross country flight.
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