A Thank You To @TAMAirlines

the middleman (or woman) (or company)

by and large i book my tickets directly with the operating airline, trying to avoid third-parties and codeshares, but there comes a time when, due to price or itinerary complexity, i book using an online agent. [i can count on one hand (maybe even three fingers) the number of times i’ve used a brick and mortar travel agent for personal travel in the last 15 years.] what i like about booking directly with an airline is that i feel like i have more direct control over my reservation since the middle man is cut out, and especially with the large online agencies, there are fewer chances for things to get lost in the mix and fewer levels of incompetence (well, that might be too strong of a word) to deal with.

the flights

i booked a ridiculously cheap fare to South America on Priceline back in late November. (again, this is how i’m traveling in 2013, all cheap or free flights, wherever my penny-pinching pockets and miles will take me.)

LAX-LIM-GRU-SCL [couple nights in santiago] SCL-GIG [couple nights in rio] GIG-GRU-ORD-LAX. i paid slightly more than the super cheap fare, a total price of $409.36, so i would be on United GRU-ORD so i can at least earn some miles.

of course, schedules change, but you would think that in this day and age, systems would talk and things would just get taken care of.

but of course not.

the story according to the airline

in my (some may call paranoid) checking of my itinerary on the TAM and LAN (which operates some of the flights) websites, i noticed that i had two flights listed for SCL-GIG — one in the afternoon (JJ 8220) and one at night (JJ8216, the one i was originally booked on). i called TAM and the agent said i was on 8220, but upon further digging, discovered that i was moved off of 8216 due to a schedule change (note that both flights do seem to be bookable still on the LAN website…). i would need to call Priceline to have them reissue my ticket. (i’m actually OK with being on the earlier flight since it will coincide better with that of a friend who i’m meeting there.)

the story according to priceline

long story short: “we have not been informed of this change. call again at the end of the week and if we haven’t been informed by then, we’ll call TAM.” odd, no? however, there was another schedule change (iirc my GIG-GRU moved by 12 minutes or so) requiring a reissue, yet they would not reissue the ticket on the spot, telling me that the ticket would automatically be reissued five days before departure. HOW SCARY. maybe it’s just me, but i do not trust that. maybe machines are more reliable than humans, but i’ve had humans forget to reissue a ticket or do it incorrectly (once leaving me at the Madrid airport without a ticket home, luckily resolved after a very pricey long-distance cell phone call), so i’m not ready to trust an automated process.

@TAMAirlines to the rescue

not content to wait three days, i turned to Twitter. and so went my first time getting help from an airline on social media. YAY! (and obrigado!)

yes, more helpful than a phone agent. i don’t know how well social media outlets (even Twitter) will be of use in an emergency, mostly because my primary airline, United, has historically been pretty crappy in terms of customer engagement and support on Twitter, and i hope i won’t ever need to test that out, but it’s good to know you can indeed get results!

for the record, Priceline is still showing the old itinerary, as is American (i’m flying them ORD-LAX). United and LAN (and, of course, TAM) are showing the updated flight.

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