Award from US to Kuala Lumpur and back, business class. Set up the reservation, agent gets ready to price. And contra Continental where the computers do everything, US Airways agents do a whole lot more fill in the blanks.
Very helpful agent asks me about Kuala Lumpur, “that’s in North Asia, right?”
Of course, business class to North Asia is 90,000 miles and to South Asia is 120,000 miles.
Sadly, I am an honest man. Or at least I’m willing to own up to my geography.
Still, I have to wonder (and I often wonder) whether US Airways made a really big mistake when they tried to save money by switching off of Sabre to SHARES.
I flew them the weekend of the systems cutover, certainly I knew better but I had a great desire to be a part of the experience. And an experience it was — online check-in was dead, the kiosks were dead, and there was a multi-hours long line for human check-in because the agents simply weren’t familiar with the system yet and were overwhelmed with everyone who would normally self-checkin needing live assistance (and wihtout concommitant ramp up in airline personnel to help).
Even the first class check-in line was 45 minutes long. I tipped the skycaps $5 to check me in, even though I had no luggage. They knew how to issue boarding passes!
From that day forward – and early on they weren’t even able to sell paid tickets on partners – they must have lost money as a result of the decision.
Now, I actually like working with US Airways agents. They’re slow doing everything manually but I don’t remember the last time I spoke to an overseas call center (actually I do, pretty sure it was November). And though the agents don’t know much about geography or world cities and have to figure out things manually or wait on interminable holds when they have to involve their rate desk, I much prefer to deal with empowered humans — and with humans you can always call back and try again rather than just getting the same answer from a human.
With Continental if the computer says something, it’s true. Even when it’s wrong.
So long live US Airways, live agents, and outdated technology.