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How to call in and book an award booking? Advice?

How to call in and book an award booking? Advice?

Old Apr 12, 19, 8:04 am
  #1  
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How to call in and book an award booking? Advice?

Sorry for the newbie question. I have looked around Flyertalk and haven't really seen a good explanation on how to best call in and make an award booking. If there is a post I have missed please let me know.

I see a lot of different award flights online for where I want to go with several different airlines (I have Amex and Chase points to transfer). But for business class the online offerings aren't great. Super long itineraries and/or mixed class bookings. It has been suggested here that the online offerings may not be accurate on what is actually available and by calling in I can do better.

My question here is how can I best call in. There are slam dunk straight flights I would like to be on. Should I ask for awards on those flights, even though I can't find any online award bookings on those flights for any date? The airline that seems to have the best redemption value is part of Star Alliance. I have gone to the Star Alliance site, is this a good way to see flights that are partners for potential flights/legs?

When I call should I have list of possible routes with flight numbers ready? Or do they make recommendations? Will they help you even though you have 0 miles? Do they ever make mistakes and say there is availability when there isn't? When are you comfortable enough to transfer miles? The program I am looking at transfers instantly, can you transfer while on the phone? Anything I am missing?

Again, if there is a place on flyertalk that talks about this process please let me know. Thank you for your time.
matrim33 is offline  
Old Apr 12, 19, 11:18 am
  #2  
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I donít have any answers but I commend you on the clarity of your questions

Welcome to flyer talk Ė youíve obviously done your homework and researched a lot on your own to your questions are very clear and concise.I hope those with more knowledge of these plans can help you and again welcome!
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Old Apr 13, 19, 10:50 pm
  #3  
 
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While calling in sometimes provides more options than whatís online, thatís generally not true with Star Alliance. What shows on United.com is pretty exhaustive. The main exception is Singapore J/F since Singapore only allows their own miles to be used for that. It would help if you share the airline and route you want to book.

To answer some of your high level questions:
On the topic of providing specific flights vs origin and destination, I do the latter unless I already know there is availability on specific flights I want to book. You can always call multiple times and try both ways if one fails. The best strategy probably depends on the mileage program. For example, with United MileagePlus, just provide origin and destination. With Alaska MileagePlan, I find better success providing specific flights. In the end, it doesnít make a difference if you have a good agent, as theyíll know how to manipulate their system to find whatever is available. But you donít know if you have a good agent

Iíve never heard of any issues getting an agent to provide availability and pricing when you have a 0 balance. If youíre questioned about it, just say you have (Chase/Amex) points to transfer once you confirm there are flights you can redeem for.

Yes, for programs that transfer instantly, definitely wait until the phone agent confirms availability. Then transfer while on the phone and book without needing to call back. Iíve never heard of a phone agent confirming availability thatís not really there, but never say never. At some point thereís an unavoidable risk of transferring points. You just have to minimize that risk, which it sounds like youíre doing.

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Old Apr 14, 19, 8:38 am
  #4  
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Welcome to FT, Matrim33.

Yes, the agent can help you search for an award, OR you can find one online and phone in. Both methods are commonplace and will work. I find that it's far easier if you do your homework and actually have flights in mind and can call the agent with the fight numbers of the route that works best for you. That does not mean, however, that the agent will find award availability on flights that aren't showing award availability online. Sometimes the agent can see things or suggest routes that you didn't find, but it can also go the opposite way-- sometimes "phantom availability" shows up online, but it's actually not there to be booked. You see it, but neither you or the agent can actually book it. That issue shows up more in some programs than others.

As another aside, sometimes there will be a fee if you use and agent to book your award, such as on AA. The workaround there is to have the agent put the flights on hold, and then book them yourself online. AA offers a free 5 day hold, most other airlines do not.
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Old Apr 14, 19, 11:18 am
  #5  
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Originally Posted by StartinSanDiego View Post
As another aside, sometimes there will be a fee if you use and agent to book your award, such as on AA. The workaround there is to have the agent put the flights on hold, and then book them yourself online. AA offers a free 5 day hold, most other airlines do not.
My understanding is that this will not work. If an itinerary is bookable on line at the correct price, having an AA agent place the itinerary on hold will trigger the telephone-booking fee even if you purchase the held award on line. The exception would be if aa.com misprices an itinerary as two separate awards, and an agent then reprices it correctly; in that particular situation, there should be no telephone-booking fee charged when you go ahead and purchase the (now correctly priced) held itinerary on line.
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Has your experience been different?
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Old Apr 15, 19, 8:43 am
  #6  
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Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
My understanding is that this will not work. If an itinerary is bookable on line at the correct price, having an AA agent place the itinerary on hold will trigger the telephone-booking fee even if you purchase the held award on line. The exception would be if aa.com misprices an itinerary as two separate awards, and an agent then reprices it correctly; in that particular situation, there should be no telephone-booking fee charged when you go ahead and purchase the (now correctly priced) held itinerary on line.
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Has your experience been different?
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Yes it has, but perhaps it is because our calls are only when the itinerary can't be booked online. We have never incurred a phone fee for award reservations that were put on hold by an agent and booked by us after the call was terminated. However, if it can be booked online, then we book it. If it can't, we call. We call regularly (every couple of months or so) regarding complex itineraries that we'd like to combine into one reservation, or segments that can't be booked online, or segments that were put on hold one by one as they were released across time/date zones, and then need to be combined. We also call if we find segments on, say BA, and they aren't showing on AA.

This is all more ambitious than our novice OP is likely to tackle, and thus the OP should perhaps, indeed, expect a phone fee for the agent's help.
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Old Apr 15, 19, 11:33 am
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I always to my research online ahead of time and have all of the needed info ready for agent (flight #'s, FF #, CC, passport, etc). If you need to transfer points to the airline FF account always check the transfer time. Some are instantaneous and some take additional time.
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Old Apr 16, 19, 4:52 pm
  #8  
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Very good answers here. For what it's worth, I always search online first. If I don't have enough miles in a given airline account to book online, I'll then call to confirm availability before transferring Chase, Amex or Citi points into my airline account. When doing this, I will give the customer service rep the specific times/cities or flight numbers, to help expedite her/his search.

I also find that occasionally, if I haven't found what I'm looking for or am wondering if a better option is available, the CSR finds something that I couldn't fine online. This is not typical, but it does happen.

Finally, if you reach an agent who doesn't seem helpful, sounds rushed or ignorant, or otherwise gives you information that you have any reason to doubt, the common knowledge here at Flyertalk is to politely end the call and try again - i.e., HUCA (hang up and call again).
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Old Apr 19, 19, 7:35 am
  #9  
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Sorry to post and disappear. We just moved to a new city and it was more work than I thought getting settled.

Thank you all for the great advice. I have made a few calls with this information and the CSRs have taught me a lot as well. I am trying to take a trip to Australia at the end of June. Here's some tidbits:

British Air & ANA: Could not get through, was on hold forever.

Air Canada: Got through right away both times I called. First CSR was very helpful telling me how everything works. She was able to find business bookings quickly over a month between N. America and Australia. The problem was there were very few direct flights (she found 1), apparently these bookings get eaten up a year in advance. Working with her and playing online makes it appear that Aeroplane's site has everything listed already. She was unable to give me something I couldn't find myself on their site.

United: Similar to Air Canada. Helpful, but not getting me any flights I couldn't get online. I was able to learn that the leg I want most has a lot of award availability and I can wait for a short leg to pop up before booking. If I book now there will be a 7h layover in LAX. I may book the flight anyway to lock in the main leg and hope to change the first leg later.

Your advice coupled with the CSR help and the act of doing all of this has made me much more confident searching out and booking flights. Through this I was able to find 3 direct flights to Eastern Australia from Vancouver which are very rare. I booked one of them! The other 2 I was going to suggest here have already been snatched up. Everything changes quickly.

Lastly. I reached out to an award booking site that helps you find flights. I was able to email back and forth a bit with them about my itinerary. Their cost was $300 if I wanted them to take over. After doing all this I would say they are not worth it for me. I thought they would have some tricks that would get me on the best flights, but they're playing by the same rules. I'm sure they are experienced and creative, but after giving them the details of what I had found it didn't look like they could do any better.
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Old Apr 22, 19, 6:43 pm
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Sounds like it's working out. Congratulations!

Two additional bits of advice:

1. If you haven't done this already, you might want to confirm that your reservation is ticketed. Making a reservation and ticketing it is not the same thing.
2. If the flight is far in the future, you should just check it online or over the phone every month or two to make sure everything is still in order. It probably will be, but occasionally a schedule change or some other change can mess up a ticket.
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