I love miles and points because they significantly improve your travel. Now for the first time this week I found miles to be the most frustrating currency to use and at the same time why I am in love with them.
Basically I *just* remembered on Saturday that I don’t have any plans for New Year’s and since I’m 19 and am in America currently, I can’t really ‘do’ anything. So instead of watching TV the whole night I decided it would be fun to fly somewhere and maybe meet up with my friends. So I chatted with a friend I have in Mexico and he told me he’d love for me to come for a couple of days and celebrate with his family. So of course the first question that went into my head was how the hell am I going to get there as soon as possible.
Firstly I looked at using Alaska miles and their partners to fly from Seattle to Mexico. Nothing. Nada. There was no availability between the 25th of December and the 16th of January so clearly that wasn’t going to work. I then turned to oneworld and searched on AA for award space. Nada. Nothing. Everything was booked at the saver levels and there was no way I’d spend 60k+ miles one-way. After that failed, I turned to SkyTeam and searched on AeroMexico (their call centre is quite interesting) and again there was nothing available.
Then the last resort is of course the Star Alliance. I value all of my Star Alliance miles extremely high and if possible, I try to use other mileage currencies before redeeming with Star Alliance. So I looked on United and Aeroplan and found tons of availability on United on both websites which theoretically should mean that all Star Alliance partners can book that award space. Wrong.
The first programme I tried to redeem with was Avianca LifeMiles they had about two flights on one day and one flight on another day and nothing else (in economy). LifeMiles requires 17.5k miles for one-way economy travel between US and Mexico and I only had 15k and then I was going to buy the additional miles but in the end a one-way economy award would cost 17.5k + $130 USD so that clearly wasn’t worth it.
I value my Aeroplan miles high and I wasn’t going to use those… the next option was Aegean. I had some miles in my Aegean account that I credited a long time ago to them to get easy Star Alliance Gold status a couple of years ago (before they changed their T&C’s this year it was just 20k miles for Star Gold). I figured using those 20k miles would be super cool and I called them and inquired about space.
I was told nothing was available on my preferred day and the next day there was one flight in economy that left early morning. I told them about the space I see online and they said it is not available for booking with them. Odd. If Aeroplan, United, and Lufthansa all confirm (by phone) there is award space on a UNITED flight… then why can’t Aegean see it? Why can’t it be booked with them? Since this was rather odd, I told the agent to check segment by segment and sure enough he could see availability in ‘I’ class on the flights… but there was a problem..
He told me the flights would have to be booked separately since he can only see them when he is searching for them separately and not when searching from origin to destination. Odd. I asked him if he could put both flights into one itinerary but he said no.. Again.. odd. This would require more miles since the flights would be booked separately and I didn’t want to do that.. hell… I didn’t even have that many miles in my Aegean account! So I decided to book the economy flight for 12.5k miles and ~40 EUR.
Then this morning a flight that was leaving tonight was available on both United and Aeroplan and I decided to call Aegean again and inquire. Nope. Not available. I asked the agent to look up both flights separately and sure enough he found the space. I asked if he could put both flights onto one itinerary and he said there wasn’t a problem doing that. Awesome!…. then he tells me there is an error because one of the flights is in Economy and the other in Business (the economy flight is a small United plane with no premium cabin). I tell him that is fine but he says he cannot mix Business and Economy on one award! F#@K!!! Seriously?!? So I hang up.. again.
I decided to call one more time and try my luck to switch from the Economy flight I booked to the Business flight that was available the same day. I repeated the whole process and this time there were no issues at all and the agent told me it would be 21k miles + ~50 EUR for both flights. Great! So then I told him to cancel the other itinerary so that my miles come back and he can book this one (since I didn’t have that many in my account). He informs me we do not have enough time because if he cancels the flights the miles won’t come back right away and the flight I want to book leaves the same day in a couple of hours.
At this point I was about to give up and I asked if there was anything he could do and he asks me what my phone number is and says he will try his best to cancel the old flights, credit the miles back right away, and then book the new flights and that he will call me when this is done. 30 minutes pass and I get a call from a Greek phone number! He tells me everything is all right, the miles are back and he needs a credit card number for the ~50 EUR. I give him the number of one of my credit cards and he tries twice… rejected! Ugh! He tries one more time and *finally* everything works and the ticket gets issued.
Now I had less than six hours before my flight to: pack, buy some gifts for my friend’s family and make it to the airport.
I’ve never booked a flight with a same day departure that was flying from the US to Mexico and that was booked through a Greek airline. I can’t believe that I had literally a couple of hours before my flight and so many things that I had to get done.
The bottom line is if you know that the agents are saying something isn’t possible but you know that it is… just call them again and again until you get the answer you want. I had to call at least five times before I got the flight itinerary I wanted and before an agent told me what I was trying to do was allowed.
Seriously: I LOVE miles but sometimes it is just so frustrating to use them… especially if you are trying to fly the same day… but it is also a good thing to use miles to find space on the same day because airlines begin to open up the unsold space and awards are then bookable.
So literally I am about to take-off… just a couple of hours after my flight was booked and ticketed… in Greece. My parents literally thought I was crazy and that I wouldn’t make it… in the end I was able to spend some time in the United Club and sit comfortably in front of the airplane.