One acronym that travel hackers throw around a lot is HUCA – Hang Up, Call Again. In my pre-travel-hacking life, I hated making phone calls, and I humbly accepted the first answer that was provided to me, without much pushback. Since my involvement in the travel community, I’ve learned about the power of HUCA, and have been successful many times. I still hate making phone calls (why can’t everything be done by live chat/twitter these days?), so that hasn’t changed, but I guess I’m willing to do it if means I can [eventually] hang up with a smile on my face, wanting to dance around the room like Snoopy. That was today.
I had originally booked some flights for a December cruise out of FLL using the US Airways companion passes. Back when I booked (in May), you could only use those on US Airways metal on flights operated by US Airways, even though we all knew the merger was happening. As we all know, US Airways does not have very many flights in general, and especially not out of SFO. It was like pulling teeth trying to find a completely-US Airways (not operated by AA for any leg), but I made it happen, even though there were cheaper flights. To make matters more complicated, our group had 4 people so I had to book my husband on a separate record locator number and pay full price for him.
Fast forward a few months, and one of my companions is moving to Boston (sad face!). As much as we would love to spend more time with her, it makes zero sense for her to fly BOS-SFO-CLT-MIA-MIA-CLT-SFO-BOS. That sounds like something a travel hacker would do as a mileage run. But she’s not, and that would be torture.
In July, I received the emails that all US Airways reservations were being merged into AA’s system, and that also caused a slight schedule change of 10-30 minutes on all of our flights. In addition, now that US Airways companion passes can only be used on AA, it opens up a whole new world of possible flights out of SFO that were unavailable to us just a few months ago. Out of curiosity, I checked Google Flights and quickly found new flights that were way better on AA. I thought about calling to ask if they would change it to AA flights as a courtesy, just because I was not allowed to book AA flights previously. But I procrastinated because I hate making phone calls. 😛
A few days ago, I read Upgrd.com’s blog post: How to Make the Most of an Airline Schedule Change, where Matthew discusses your rights for the schedule changes of 3 major carriers, AA, Delta, and United.
I was really encouraged when I saw this clause:
IF A CANCELLATION OR A CHANGE IN EITHER AIR
OR TOUR ITINERARY IS INITIATED EITHER BY AA
OR IT’S TOUR OPERATORS WHICH IS UNACCEPTABLE
TO THE PASSENGER, THE PASSENGER WILL HAVE THE
OPTION OF CANCELLING WITHOUT PENALTY, OR
REROUTING ON DIFFERENT FLIGHTS TO/FROM THE
SAME OR DIFFERENT DESTINATION. HOWEVER, THE
PASSENGER MUST PAY ANY ADDITIONAL AMOUNTS
RESULTING FROM THE REROUTING.
§IV appears to be a catch-all provision that allows a passenger to cancel for any reason at all if a schedule change of any variety occurs, as long as it is “unacceptable”.
In my experience, agents have been pretty reasonable about schedule changes and are often willing to help you out with your preferred routing at no cost, but AA does not guarantee this.
I decided to leverage this schedule change and change everyone’s flights into much better flights, and not make my friend have to do some crazy transcontinental flying. I pulled up the flights I wanted on Google Flights, and made the call.
Call #1: I explained to the agent that I had booked these flights on a US Airways companion pass, and one person had moved to Boston, yada yada…she put me on hold for 20 minutes as she called US Airways for their terms of the pass, and came back and told me there would be a $200 change fee for every passenger and there was no way she would waive the fee. Uh…that’s…a lot…of money…I politely thanked her for her time and said I’d talk it over with my companions and call back.
5 minutes later…
Call #2: I explained to the agent that there had been a schedule change on these flights because I had originally booked them on US Airways, and one person had moved to Boston, and it made no sense for her to fly all over the country to keep the original flight, plus I had this other person on another PNR, etc etc. She was SOOOOOO NICE and understanding! She separated out my Boston friend’s reservation, took down all the flights I wanted, and went and changed every single person’s flight. No additional questions. And AT NO CHARGE. It took her 21 minutes to re-ticket everything, but she saved me $800. I love her!! (I think her name is Kathleen) I thanked her many times throughout the call for her time.
So, ~40 minutes later, a schedule change worked in our favor, and we changed 4 reservations from SFO-CLT-MIA-MIA-CLT-SFO into SFO-MIA-FLL-DFW-SFO and BOS-MIA-FLL-CLT-BOS. SO much better.
Thank you, American Airlines, for being so accommodating! And for setting another example of wonderful customer service. (btw, their Twitter team is awesome too)
Image courtesy of Pinterest.