Little White Lies I Tell When Booking Award Tickets

I’m a liar.  I tell customer service agents the same lie, every time I call to make an award booking.  But I do it for their benefit, to make them feel at ease.  What’s more it saves them time, which I imagine helps their performance ratings.  So I feel like I’m doing it for a good reason.  But I’m still a liar.

Here’s what I’m talking about: before I ever call an airline to try to book an award, I do my research.  I figure out what exact award seats should be available, I find the seats and precise routing that I want.  And then I call to ask for those seats.

But that makes agents a bit uncomfortable, for one of several reasons.

(1) You know more infomration than they do.  It’s their job, it’s what they do all day, it’s unsettling to have a customer telling them how to do their business.

(2) They’re afraid you’re asking them to do something wrong.  What you want may not be readily apparent on their screen.  Some agents believe they’re only supposed to enter an origin and destination city and book what the computer offers them.  The computers, though, aren’t very good (or tather their programming usually isn’t) and plenty of available options won’t come up on their own.  You need to get the agent to work segment-by-segment, and feel comfortable doing so.

(3) It’s too complicated, or they are skeptical.  How could you possibly know what’s available?  It’s not worth explaining that you used the All Nippon Airways website to find Star Alliance seats, that you used the Qantas (or BA or…) website to find oneworld seats.  The agents may respond, “Well that doesn’t mean the seats are available, each airline gives different award seats to different programs.”  Which — in 95% of cases — just isn’t true.

So what do I tell them?  I explain that “I was on the phone a little bit earlier and an agent did some great work for me, she found some seats with award availability.  I do have the specific flights that worked, I just didn’t reserve them yet because I needed to check with my wife/neighbor/dog first.”

There you have it.  A little lie.  I checked availability myself, but I tell them the information I have came from one of their colleagues.  They can beleive it, and they can believe it’s ok for them to search for the same seats.  After all, they have social proof.

Makes the calls go a bit more smoothly. But I do feel a little dirty.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Wow, thanks Gary. I could’ve used this when booking an award ticket to India recently. I didn’t know how to get the segments I wanted and (after 30 minutes on the phone) settled for flying American Airlines and British Airways. Here’s to hoping their business classes are OK. 🙂

  2. I would not call this an lie exactly, considering you have all the information, you are more a colleague to the (Indian) call centre guys than a customer 🙂

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