Many things can go wrong after you make a reservation. You don’t want them to go wrong for you, and you want to be able to fix them proactively when they do. Don’t get caught off-balance.
Just yesterday American Airlines posted this advisory for travel agents about making double booking mistakes.
American loves issuing debit memos to travel agents. Point is, though, ticketing problems happen.
- You may never really have a confirmed reservation in the first place. A third party hotel booking site may not have properly communicated with the hotel you’re staying at, or a problem especially common to United an award ticket may never have been issued in the first place.
- Schedules change. Sometimes it’s a modest change but even 15 minutes could change when you’d want to leave for the airport.
- Schedule changes can ruin connections. You can’t always count on being automatically rebooked to the next-best flight combination. Sometimes your reservation will have an impossible connection, other times you’ll be rebooked to something entirely undesirable.
- Upgrade requests can disappear as a result of schedule changes, or maybe you’re in first class but get moved to a flight with no first class cabin or one that’s full. It may be the best you can do, but a modest change that works for you could keep you in the desired cabin.
- A ticket might need to be reissued. It’s a pain to turn up at the airport to find that your ticket is not in sync with your reservation. That can take time to sort out, time you may not have at the airport.
- A schedule change may cause the whole thing to cancel, or another problem might. United is especially bad at not passing ticket numbers through to partners properly on award tickets, the partner doesn’t see you ticketed and you no longer have an award reservation. This doesn’t happen every time of course but it happens surprisingly often, United does know about the problem but it continues. When you can get a sufficiently empowered supervisor on the phone they’re generally pretty good about opening up space on their own flights to re-accommodate but that’s less than desirable, takes time, and isn’t something you want to try to figure out at the airport.
It really amazes me how frequently problems creep up. And how helpless many travel providers seem to be at least initially when you contact them. I am more or less a professional when it comes to travel and my reservations get screwed up, not all the time but not infrequently either and I often wonder how the inexperienced traveler can possible handle getting from A to B with all of the roadblocks thrown up in front of them.
Virtually every problem is fixable if it’s discovered in advance. The key is to make sure you know the status of things before they become too difficult to fix.
- Always look over your confirmation, make sure the flight or hotel information matches what you expect and the travel dates do as well and also class of service or room type.
- Confirm, check, and double check anything that doesn’t match, with more than one agent. If everyone says you’re fine you probably are. If anyone is unsure you likely have a problem.
- Check on your reservations frequently, if you book really far in advance then it’s worth pulling it up at least monthly to see if anything is different. That gives you plenty of time to fix things like misconnections or flights that disappear from your reservations.
- Especially in the case of international award travel with airline partners, since that’s where most of the problems I encounter are, check with each operating airline that they see your reservation and they see the ticket number. Get seat assignments. Any time there is a schedule change call again to make sure they still see the reservation and ticket number and that your seats are still intact. Don’t trust the website of the airline whose miles you used.
- Whenever possible, check in online far in advance. Having a problem checking in doesn’t necessarily signal a problem, but it signals it’s worth checking to see whether there’s a problem (and also a flag that you may wind up having to get to the airport super early to sort through any problems that cannot be verified and corrected in advance).
- You can join the 40,000+ people who see these deals and analysis every day — sign up to receive posts by email (just one e-mail per day) or subscribe to the RSS feed. It’s free. You can also follow me on Twitter for the latest deals. Don’t miss out!