What does the rate desk do?

Old Feb 19, 17, 8:42 pm
  #1  
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What does the rate desk do?

I'm sure many here are frequently in one of the following situations:
  1. You call to change an itinerary that already has a confirmed upgrade, and the rate desk has to manually calculate and store the fare so that the upgraded segment isn't changed to a revenue booking code.
  2. You call to change a complicated itinerary that the automatic pricing engine isn't capable of pricing (or prices without optimal fare break points).

After a few rounds of both of the above, and especially a few failed attempts at the latter, I've started to wonder: what, exactly, does the rate desk do while we're on hold? Do they actually look up fare basis codes and write pricing lines by hand? I have a great appreciation for the complexities of airfare pricing and fare rules, but in cases of non-trivial itineraries with many segments on many airlines, if the reservations agent just conferenced me into the call with the rates agent and let me read the exact fare construction that ITA spits out, we'd save everyone a lot of time. I've never had that happen though.

Thanks!
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Old Feb 19, 17, 8:45 pm
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As far as I'm concerned, they do magic. All my business trips booked via travel agency never price correctly with changes, including SDC, so it always has to go to rate desk. The same applies actually when making changes with the travel agency, they have to go to their rate desk to make changes since they don't price correctly in their systems either.

I'd be curious to know as well what they actually do!
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Old Feb 19, 17, 8:54 pm
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Originally Posted by thesun View Post
As far as I'm concerned, they do magic.
Likewise They always seem to be involved to get something worked out when I call...
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Old Feb 19, 17, 9:42 pm
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Originally Posted by pushmyredbutton View Post
Likewise They always seem to be involved to get something worked out when I call...
Agree, and it always leaves me thinking after the agent returns from hold after the rate desk fixed everything......."Why can't they just train everybody to the level of the rate desk?" Are there some kind of State secrets involved that others shouldn't know about?
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Old Feb 19, 17, 10:05 pm
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Originally Posted by 1k-all-the-way View Post
Agree, and it always leaves me thinking after the agent returns from hold after the rate desk fixed everything......."Why can't they just train everybody to the level of the rate desk?" Are there some kind of State secrets involved that others shouldn't know about?
It would be an enormous undertaking to train each CSR to the level required by those at the rate desk for very little benefit considering 99.9% of itineraries will auto price just fine.

IME, their speciality is interpreting fare and routing rules and the "magic" that they are able to perform seems to be the authority to override the system and manually price a complex itinerary when the computer can't.

I refuse to book W or higher when R=0 on intl flights, so it's not uncommon for them to get involved as I scramble to upfare if and when R gets released, especially on the return portion of a RT which always seems to require a manual re-price.

Last edited by WakeTurbulence; Feb 19, 17 at 10:11 pm
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Old Feb 19, 17, 10:35 pm
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Originally Posted by WakeTurbulence View Post
I refuse to book W or higher when R=0 on intl flights, so it's not uncommon for them to get involved as I scramble to upfare if and when R gets released
The only time the rate desk gets involved for me is the same situation. When doing a GGBUYUP to W when R becomes available.
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Old Feb 19, 17, 10:36 pm
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Originally Posted by WakeTurbulence View Post
IME, their speciality is interpreting fare and routing rules and the "magic" that they are able to perform seems to be the authority to override the system and manually price a complex itinerary when the computer can't.
This. They have the authority to interpret fare rules and override the computer if it isn't doing what they think is sensible. A line CSR can't force apply a fare component if it fails to auto-price.
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Old Feb 19, 17, 11:29 pm
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Are these higher paid agents? Is it the same career track or a completely different job?
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Old Feb 20, 17, 12:18 am
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Originally Posted by aindfan View Post
Do they actually look up fare basis codes and write pricing lines by hand? ... if the reservations agent just conferenced me into the call with the rates agent and let me read the exact fare construction that ITA spits out, we'd save everyone a lot of time.
Fares change often. A changed itinerary sometimes won't auto-price if the stored fare no longer exists in the current tariffs. Although regular reservations agents can get historical fare info with your fare basis code, they are not trained to manually construct a new fare that is a combination of an old fare with a new one -- plus any penalty as well as adjustments of various taxes. Also, TA-booked PNRs often do not have the fares stored, let alone any notation of the fare basis codes. There are also contracted (unpublished) fares that regular agents are not privy to access. All these instances (plus others that I know that I'm not aware of) require the help of the rate desk.

Different airlines have their own requirements for agents to qualify for the rate desk position. Usually they involve several years' experience as phone res agents, and passing some sort of competency test. It's a pretty complicated job, and costly to train everyone given that most changes can be handled automatically without it.
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Old Feb 20, 17, 12:28 am
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Originally Posted by 1k-all-the-way View Post
Agree, and it always leaves me thinking after the agent returns from hold after the rate desk fixed everything......."Why can't they just train everybody to the level of the rate desk?" Are there some kind of State secrets involved that others shouldn't know about?
The rate desk appears to be a separate, more experienced, more authority, more knowledgeable desk at the call center. While it would be out of place to expect all agents to know rate rules processes, it would be out of place to expect that the top tier FFP customers should always get a more experienced and empowered agent to more efficiently resolve problems. Sadly, the UA execs don't see it this way and continue to staff the Premier access call center lines with average knowledge agents.
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Old Feb 20, 17, 1:27 am
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Originally Posted by WR Cage View Post
Sadly, the UA execs don't see it this way and continue to staff the Premier access call center lines with average knowledge agents.
The silver lining to this is that sometimes the lack of knowledge from the agents can work in the frequent flier's favor.
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Old Feb 20, 17, 7:14 am
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Originally Posted by JHake10 View Post
The only time the rate desk gets involved for me is the same situation. When doing a GGBUYUP to W when R becomes available.
Used to have them involved all the time when changing complex award itineraries. Of course those days are now basically over.

I suspect the changes to MP routing rules have much reduced the burden on the rate desk.
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Old Feb 20, 17, 7:26 am
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Echoing everyone else have been saying: Rate desk absolutely rocks. They are not your typical reservation agent, who probably spend majority of their time making simple roundtrip reservations or assigning seats. Rather, they deal with complex transaction, such as multi-city, multi-airline, or changes to PNR that's more than mundane. The agents there actively review the situation and make sure the best fare is applied.

Being that they are a part of the back office function, it's unrealistic to have top-tier members have direct contact with them. However, a smart GS/1K agent would send over the complex reservation over to the rate desk immediately as opposed to just say "The Computer Says NO".
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Old Feb 20, 17, 9:09 am
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A more fundamental question if I may ask --

Why is a rate desk necessary? Is it because the codeshares, upgrades, fare classes, etc. have become almost too complicated and cannot be avoided? Is this why we can never fix / refund / change an itinerary online by ourselves and need to get UA's agents involved?

Compare/contrast this with some other low cost carriers, who simply do not create such complex fare systems (or have codeshares I suppose), and probably don't have to have such extensive rate desks? Is this a mandatory part of being a large international airline?
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Old Feb 20, 17, 12:16 pm
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Originally Posted by TA View Post
Compare/contrast this with some other low cost carriers, who simply do not create such complex fare systems (or have codeshares I suppose), and probably don't have to have such extensive rate desks? Is this a mandatory part of being a large international airline?
International tariffs tend to be dramatically more complicated than domestic ones (I guess nothing inherent, just a stronger desire to segment the market). A lot of the extra features of a legacy carrier add a lot of complexity to the fare charts as well. If you're only selling domestic tickets with one-way fare components and have zero interline ticketing agreements then your constructions are going to be a lot simpler. Ditto for having revenue-based award redemptions instead of region-based with complicated stopover and "free segment" rules.
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