|Washington State’s West Coast|
I thought I would share my experience in booking flights on American Airlines using my British Airways miles in case it could help a fellow Frugal Travel Guy reader.
I decided to book flights to Seattle next August for myself, my daughter, and my two granddaughters. I had never booked that far in advance but I wanted to use the majority of my British Airways miles before the new changes are implemented in November. I had heard that this can be a difficult experience and had notes with suggestions from those who had gone before me. But I was not at all prepared for the agony to follow.
I could never have imagined what it would take to book those flights: several hours online, four hours on the phone with British Airways (BA), and six phone calls talking to as many agents. Misinformation, mixed messages, two disconnections (we had nearly finished booking the reservation each time) … “not finding that flight number”…”no flights available”…”only two seats left on that flight”…”only seats left are in first class”…”let me try one more thing,” And I was on hold for 15 to 30 minutes more times than I can remember. Finally: “Yup, there are four seats available on the flight you want.” (All of these comments, by the way, were from different agents about the exact same flight!)
Backing up a little: I first tried booking the flights online but, despite plenty of availability on American Airline’s website, I could only get two options for each leg on BA’s site with either very early morning or very late night flights. Either option would have meant two very cranky, sleep-deprived kids and two miserable adults. I tried several times over several days and more than half of the time I only got a drop-down menu with a few departure cities, none of which were my home airport. I had read recommendations from others to call BA, complain that their site is broken, and, if you push hard enough, they will waive the fee. Not so for me. I asked several agents, and I did press the issue, but they all said that BA does not do that any more — no exceptions. I resigned myself to the idea that I was going to have to pay the fee and decided I would use my Capital One card and get reimbursed for it.
I’m finally feeling really good about getting flights at times we can live with, and we’re finally almost done with the booking process, when the agent says, “your total will be $482.68.” Me: “What?!” He tells me the taxes and fees are $95.67 each, plus there’s a $100 booking fee! I told him tax and fees on AA’s website are $10 each. He insists that he’s right and there’s nothing he can do about it. Then he has the gall to ask if I still want to book the flights. Me: “You Have Got To Be Kidding!”
So I hung up, went to BA’s site, did a pseudo-booking and taxes were $10 each -_ same as American. I called again, just happened to get the same guy (odds of that are slim), and I told him BA’s taxes are also $10 each and that there’s no way the taxes come to $95.67 each! He stuck to his story, so I asked for a supervisor. Then he says, “Just give me a few more minutes and let me see what I can find.” On hold again — but guess what? He came back and said, “The total for taxes and fees comes to $120.” I couldn’t believe it! So I asked him why he had said they were a total of $482.68 when now they’re only $120. He said, “The internal system was charging you a fee that you shouldn’t have been charged.”
If I hadn’t been so darned persistent, I would have been way overcharged! What I think happened is that I was first being charged taxes and fees at the European rate. That gives me an idea of what they might be starting in November when B.A. implements its changes. Boy, am I glad I used my miles now!
P.S. Rick, I meant to include this tip: When calling British Airways, be sure to press “O” at the prompts to talk to a live person. Do not press any options!
First Year Fee Waived: 50,000 Points Transferable to Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Continental and British Airways