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Operational upgrades from a gate agent's perspective

Operational upgrades from a gate agent's perspective

 
Old Sep 27, 06, 1:15 am
  #61  
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Red face

Originally Posted by Mike Jacoubowsky
OK, I'll ask because nobody else has the guts to.

Does the Gate Agent see whatever notations are made in our records? As in, notations that somebody may have been less-than-nice to a CSR at some point etc? And if so, what sort of things might be found in those records? And how seriously are they taken by the GA?

In a former life, my wife used to work for a famous-name drugstore (now defunct/merged) and discovered the pharmacists had a customer logbook that had a space for entries that consisted of a number of asterisks. They were called "aggravation fees." Certain types of behaviour merited a certain number of asterisks, each one resulting in an extra $.50 on the prescription. One * was the penalty for strumming your fingers on the counter while waiting, and things went up from there.

Obviously UA wouldn't have anything like that going on, most certainly not in any sort of electronic system that could be held accountable. But just wondering if there is something that might warn you that somebody might not be taken as genuine if they claim that such-and-such is the first time it's ever happened to them etc.
Yes, something like that. The gate agent has access to that and sometimes adds their own comments to records. The comments can be both good and bad or something in between. And yes, it would include times when a passenger was out of line with a CSR. Many custmers are unreasonable and it's worth documenting their record in case they pull the same crap with the next CSR. You can often catch the person in a lie.

Another type of scenario: If we had, for example, a buzzed/semi-drunk passenger attempt to board the IAD-FRA flight and the flight attendant noticed him upon boaridng (gate agents are focusing on other things and don't often notice drunks). When we got called by the FA about a drunk/rowdy person I'd have to get into it but usually what transpires is the psgr and the agent and pilot had a private conversation on the jetyway, often to include a supervisor. Generally the captain asks the passenger if he/she promises to tone down his rowdy behavior and accept that he was not to be served any of the free alchohol on the flight. If the captain is satified with the guy, captain lets the guy board with no further trouble presumed. However, I as the gate agent would go make notes into the drunk passenger's reservation. Those comments stay with him as long as it takes to complete the iteinerary. Then it's over and he may be a sober angel next time he is in town with a new and different itrinerary. But it's not as though every trangression gets recorded for you whole history as a customer--your MileagePlus number--your loyalty digits is what would normally be tracked for years and nothing else as far as I know.

Reservation notes about the passenger can address a wide variety of things and it often notes thanks as simple as . . . the sales agent did explain ticket rules to customer and customer said he understood, etc.

If I didn't get everything, ask me tomorrow I need to go to sleep.

Originally Posted by bobes
thanks for the great post and PM reminder...

very interesting read.... in the specific example that you've noted, a 1P on the upgrade waitlist (willing to spend miles, certs, etc...) will be trumped by a 1K who would've been quite content with his E+ seat. Am I reading that correctly?
LOL, I try to share my experience and all some of u guys want is firm rules on who trumps who! Oh well, it's a competitive world we live in.

I believe the example I cited was that only 1Ks were on the waiting list (2 ws it?) were willing to pay their miles to get to C, but since they were holding enough status to get it free anyway, why would I take their miles when the next guy down on the list is getting freebies. That's silly. That's what I was saying--why collect miles from a pair of 1Ks on the list when all the 1Ks that day were going to get it for free anyway?

Time for sleep guys.
I'll get on with the questions tomorrow.

Last edited by iluv2fly; Oct 7, 09 at 1:02 am Reason: merge
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Old Sep 27, 06, 2:57 am
  #62  
 
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Jason, don't get me wrong. I appreciate all the time and effort you put in to share your experience. I used 1K and 1P but I should've said UGS and 1K from your example. You mentioned that the UGS would get the opup first before checking for any 1Ks (or 1Ps and 2Ps for that matter) on the waitlist. I was just trying to use the same logic.



Originally Posted by DullesJason
LOL, I try to share my experience and all some of u guys want is firm rules on who trumps who! Oh well, it's a competitive world we live in.

I believe the example I cited was thah the only 1Ks on the waiting list (2 ws it?) were willing to pay their miles to get to C, but since they were holding enough status to get it free anyway, why would I take their miles when the next guy down on the list is getting freebies. That's silly. That's what I was saying--why collect miles from a pair of 1Ks on the list when all the 1Ks that day were going to get it for free anyway?

Time for sleep guys.
I'll get on with the questions tomorrow.
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Old Sep 27, 06, 3:09 am
  #63  
 
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Thanks for you great post DullesJason! There is another thing you didn't mention that I am curious about. For example on a UA-flight IAD-MUC, do you differentiate between those booked with UA-code and those booked on the LH codeshare in terms of operational upgrades?
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Old Sep 27, 06, 3:33 am
  #64  
 
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There are exceptions to everything I suppose. Yesterday I was was on a FRA-IAD flight, a 777. I used an SWU to upgrade to C. There was a woman traveling with a man, she in C he in F. She seemed to be a not frequent traveler (don't ask me how, I could just tell). As soon as she boarded she found an FA and asked to be moved to F. She apperared rather desperate to move. They said it wouldn't be possible. She kept at it though, in a seemingly nice way. At the last moment, they pulled her into F and another passegenger took her seat. I would bet there were others in C who should have been upgraded before her.
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Old Sep 27, 06, 4:09 am
  #65  
 
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Your post DullesJason makes me appreciate the importance of GAs in my flying experiences even more.

A few days ago I was sitting at Peet's Coffee right next to Gate 86 in SFO waiting for my flight to DEN and it was really quite fascinating (I suppose a sure sign of being a FTer) to observe a gate agent in action.

The GA arrived and began processing the crew members. She signed-in every FA as she handed them individual keys. She logged in to the computer station and acknowledged the customers anxious for their seating assignments or possible upgrades. She proceeded then to make an announcement highlighting the status of the flight and the boarding time. She continued to process the customers requests, as her fingers tapped the keyboard incessantly. She paused only to obtain new boarding passes which the machine diligently produced. She got interrupted numerous times by several phone calls, yet she continued processing and anwering customers' questions, as she began calling passengers by their last names. I didn't perceive if the flight was oversold or not, as I made my way to the aircraft when F and C class passengers were invited to board, but I overheard her saying there were 50+ names on the standby list on this 777 morning flight.

Nevertheless, as I combine this curious, rather normal day for a GA with DullesJason's excellent descriptions of the processes and often complicated balancing acts during an oversell or other messy situations, one realizes even more the real importance of GAs. Indeed, op-ups, are amazing!(What can I say?). I had been lucky enough to receive a couple of these in the past and it truly is one of the best ways to make an elite feel appreciated. I will never forget my op-ups and it's nice to know that my status really means something. Still, in addition to the valuable information regarding the 'dance' of op-ups provided here, I will surely hope for that next one with far more appreciaition towards GAs as they tap those keyboards with authority and aim to push back that aircraft on time.

Thank you DullesJason ^
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Old Sep 27, 06, 4:33 am
  #66  
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Originally Posted by Gnopps
Thanks for you great post DullesJason! There is another thing you didn't mention that I am curious about. For example on a UA-flight IAD-MUC, do you differentiate between those booked with UA-code and those booked on the LH codeshare in terms of operational upgrades?
No, the code used to book the flight is irrelevant. Status and fare paid are what is relevant. I'd never have denied an op-up to the next 1K in line simply because he bought this UA ticket for UA metal as an LH code share, for example.

Originally Posted by bobes
Jason, don't get me wrong. I appreciate all the time and effort you put in to share your experience. I used 1K and 1P but I should've said UGS and 1K from your example. You mentioned that the UGS would get the opup first before checking for any 1Ks (or 1Ps and 2Ps for that matter) on the waitlist. I was just trying to use the same logic.
I was too tired and loopy to recognize the analogy.

In my flight example, the 2 on the UG list were 1Ks and I needed to do more op-ups than I had total 1Ks & GSs in economy. That's why I didn't charge them miles--they were going to get an op-up anyway.

You correlation to the 1K free vs. 1P willing to pay is a totally different different scenario and not one that I initially addressed at all. I guess I didn't adress a lot of things but 4,300 words was a lot to start!

To answer your question about who trumps who though, first, we tried to give out as few free upgrades as necessary. I personally made an exception to that as explained above when choosing not to charge people who would get it anyway--all the 1Ks.

Under your different scenario, when there are 1Ps on the upgrade list willing to use miles/certs--and would *not* be eligible for an op-up because they are too far down the status list, then I'd process through those normally as paid upgrades since they wouldn't have a shot at a freebie. You get the people who are willing to pay first--except those who are willing to pay and would be eligible for op-up based on status and fare paid.

In short, you process paying upgrades first, except when a customer willing to pay is eligible for free op-up.

Hope this clears it up.

Last edited by iluv2fly; Oct 7, 09 at 1:03 am Reason: merge
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Old Sep 27, 06, 5:01 am
  #67  
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Originally Posted by jef7
A few days ago I was sitting at Peet's Coffee right next to Gate 86 in SFO waiting for my flight to DEN and it was really quite fascinating (I suppose a sure sign of being a FTer) to observe a gate agent in action.


Nevertheless, as I combine this curious, rather normal day for a GA with DullesJason's excellent descriptions of the processes and often complicated balancing acts during an oversell or other messy situations, one realizes even more the real importance of GAs. Indeed, op-ups, are amazing!(What can I say?).... I will surely hope for that next one with far more appreciaition towards GAs as they tap those keyboards with authority and aim to push back that aircraft on time.
This compares interestingly with the BR (EVA Air) G/A I saw a few weeks ago at TPE who was sleeping at a big desk (not even a podium) with only moments to go before boarding a sold-out 744 on its way to HKG. Only now do I realize this may have something to do with our late departure from TPE... too bad it didn't have anything to do with the severe turbulence or the frightened flight attendants on the way to HKG...

and... to stay on-topic

Originally Posted by jef7
Thank you DullesJason ^
^!
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Old Sep 27, 06, 5:04 am
  #68  
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Originally Posted by WindFlyer
Thanks for your very informative post ^


I wish more agents thought like you on this... few things annoy me more than having UA waitlist my upgrade for months, only to clear at the gate (with certs taken), and then see op-ups are handed out...
Yeah that would make me see red too, if I could confirm the op-ups are lower status than me. It isn't fair in the least.
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Old Sep 27, 06, 5:13 am
  #69  
 
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Thanks for sharing your experiences - great post and great thread!

1. Does "Million Mile" status show to the gate agent? If so, does it help the 1K or 1P get the operational upgrade?

2. I fly to LHR 3-5 times per year. A number of times on the return flight out of LHR - when coach has not been nearly full - I have been upgraded from C to F (and it has been filled up by up upgrades), even though I am on a cheap coach fare and used an SWU to upgrade to NC - thus getting a double upgrade (this happened last Saturday), and many times - which coach has not been nearly full - passengers in coach (including me) have been upgraded to C (and it has been filled up by op upgrades). Am I just lucky, or is there a different policy out of LHR, whether or not coach will be completely full?

3. A comment - having no checked baggage, being willing to be a voluntary bump, and staying close to the desk during boarding has snagged me "thanks" and a number of op upgrades (without asking), whether coach ended up being completely full or not.

Thanks again for sharing your insight and experience.
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Old Sep 27, 06, 5:35 am
  #70  
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Originally Posted by BrisbanePE
Excellent post! ^

But I too am curious about non-solo travellers. If I travel with a none status person does that mean they get to ride my coat-tails on the OpUp, or do I/we get passed over for a solo traveller?
No coattails for your friends but you shouldn't be bypassed. You'll just have to decide if you want to split up and sit apart during the flight.
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Old Sep 27, 06, 5:46 am
  #71  
 
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Hi. Thanks for the wonderful post. One more question: I've been told a couple of times that I couldn't be upgraded because I had ordered a special meal. Is there policy related to that?
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Old Sep 27, 06, 5:46 am
  #72  
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Originally Posted by iapetus
DullesJason, I must concur with everyone else; that was a most excellent post! (Can y'all tell that I'm currently watching "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure"?)

I understand the whole point about "the speech" in a fashion analagous to standard strategy behind blackjack. You know from the start that you're going to lose. It becomes a question of narrowing the odds as best you can. And, I think your story about the guy flying from IAD-MUC illustrates this point. Sure, his request, however obvious or polite or what have you, didn't get him the op-up. But, because y'all had spoken, you knew who he was. He was in the right place at the right time (which I think most of us understand is the best strategy for an op-up, outside of the standard UA op-up determination methods). So, he increased his chances for an op-up. Sure, this usually won't work, but it's about swinging the odds your way on those rare occasions when it might. I think that's the rationale.
You're dead-on. Narrowing the odds is all you can do, but you never want to look like that's your ultimate motive because it turns the gate agent off. The best and most efficient way to narrow your odds is to attain the highest status you can! Now keep in mind I went with the guy from IAD-MUC for convenience, but there were many others I could have gone to--I chose him not because I knew him, but I knew "who" he was--he had some status *and* conveience. Note that this rare example of maximizing your odds required not only my knowledge of him, but also his ample status.

That being said, I have never come anywhere near using "the speech" or trying to wheedle an op-up out of a GA. I just don't have the guts (maybe you'd call it self-respect, DullesJason) to do it. I recall getting an op-up on a ORD-LAX flight; I'd like to think it was because I was polite to a GA who was dealing with an insane boarding area during irr ops and I was quick and responsive (she'd had to call my name once earlier). Maybe not, but being polite can't hurt.

I'm also curious about the check-in op-up! I received two of those from HP recently (different policies, I know) and also wondered how that worked.
You got the ORD-LAX op-up because of your status. But you're right, being polite doesn't hurt. And when it comes down to, for example, which 1K do give the aisle to in C and which to give the middle, the gate agent is going to give the aisle to the one who has been curteous and respectful.

See other posts for how gate agents do op-ups upon check-in.

Last edited by DullesJason; Sep 27, 06 at 8:11 am
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Old Sep 27, 06, 6:48 am
  #73  
 
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Originally Posted by ncc1701v
Hi. Thanks for the wonderful post. One more question: I've been told a couple of times that I couldn't be upgraded because I had ordered a special meal. Is there policy related to that?
This was my experience ord-lhr earlier this year. I called UA and had that removed from my PNR and got the op up on the return. No guarantee that this was the reason I wasn't op-upped, but many were on that flight.
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Old Sep 27, 06, 6:58 am
  #74  
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Originally Posted by ozweepay
Wow... great post. FTers are generally geeks who love details like this, so I'm sure you'll be an instant hero!

I have a couple of questions:

1) Non-revs. If a non-rev is in F or C and you are in the situation you described in your first post, how does that affect the picture? Will you pull them back from F (say) to put a UGS on a C fare into F?
There were a lot of situations in the first post. Can you be more specific? Generally though, we don't do seat assignments to non-revs until we have taken care of all revenue customers and know where they will all sit.
2) What if you do your dance perfectly, get everyone on board, and then the flight takes a delay (wx, mx, whatever), and some of the misconnects start to show up? I've seen non-revs pulled from a flight 30 mins after scheduled departure so that late connecting pax (UA to UA) could have their paid seats in C.
This sucks--when planned misconnects show up only because of an unanticipated weather delay. If the aircaft door is closed, obviously it's a done deal. If the door is open, obviously we pull SAs for confirmed customers who had intially been "offloaded" since we thought they'd misconnect.
3) What do you do if you must choose a 1K from Y to bump to C and they are both on the same fare basis? Then you look at the clothes, right?

But seriously... what's the tiebreaker if it's a complete tie? Alphabetical? Random?
LOL, good question, but the answer is no. Time of check-in is the 3rd tier of determining factor. Before the software reaches that 3rd trier, however, it may also read total fare within the same booking code (discounted gov Y vs. full retail Y, etc.), but the order is normally: status, booking code, time of check-in. 4th tier for same time of check-in is Ozweepay always wins. ^
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Old Sep 27, 06, 7:07 am
  #75  
 
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Great post DullesJason.

One question I have is the current role of the seat desk/load planners in Op Ups. My first op-up was as the no-status companion of a 1P on IAD-LHR (same PNR) back in 1999 -- we had been op-upgraded before we checked in in BOS. More recently, I tend to get op-upgraded many hours before departure of the 777 SEA-DEN (for those noting "pick the right flight" this is one of them if you want to be op-up'd a lot as a 1P/1K - I've been upgraded at least 1/2 the time on this one). Is this the seat desk/load planners trying to get a handle on things, or is this more just the gate agent working ahead as you asked.

(Also curious if the rules have changed, since you're now noting you'd split a same-PNR group instead of op-upping no-status companions).

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