By now you know me well enough to know that I need to share my experience when I don't care for the way a company conducts their business.
Well hats off to American Airlines. They really did it this time.
Let me set the scene: I was planning a trip. I wanted to use my miles. I want to book flights and because I didn't have enough miles, I was going to buy some right before I confirmed the booking.
My flights took me on an American Airlines flight to a British Airways flight. Same, but in reverse, on the return. The representative told me that if I fly AA at least part of the way it would save on taxes and fees since BA charges more when flying over the water.
I did it all and was ready to book but we changed our travel plans so our dates of travel changed.
I called AA and moved the flights. Unfortunately there were no seats on an American Airlines flight using miles so I had to book British Airways all the way. That led to higher fees and taxes. OK, I can deal with that since it was still less money than buying a ticket outright.
I had some questions for which I needed answers to before confirming flights and booking. Because my original flights had American Airline segments, I was able to get seat assignments on those AA flights. Now I had all British Airways flights. What about getting seat assignments on the BA flights? At least three AA agents said that as soon as I confirm my flights and pay, I can call BA and get my seats.
Sounds good, right?
So now my dates are set and I call American Airlines to pay for miles and book the flight. For starters, I had been told that it is best to call to buy the miles I need so that the miles and the bonus miles they were offering would go into my account ASAP vs buying online and waiting for the miles to actually move into my account.
I call. I explain that I need to buy miles, book flights. The agent was totally clueless about the Bonus miles I was to get. I told the agent that I need to buy 48,000 miles and that I would get a 9,000 bonus miles to get me to the 57,000 I needed to buy the tickets. She had me on hold for almost 15 minutes because she thought the bonus miles get put into the account after I booked the ticket and that I had to purchase 57,000 miles. Now I am telling the AA agent that she is wrong and that I spoke to 3 agents over the past few days all who said the Bonus miles are immediately added to my account when I call. I had to leave for an appointment so I gave the call to my husband.
When I return home, my husband and I discuss the amount charged for the additional miles as well for the tickets. You also have to pay fees and taxes when buying miles. The total seemed wrong, so I called American Airlines. The agent told me that because we did this over the phone, they charged an additional $80 for the phone booking vs online booking. I was ready to explode. I told them that the agents before told me to call and never mentioned it would cost extra money.
I am steaming at this point.
Finally they reverse that extra charge. I then get on the phone with British Airways. I am informed that in order to book a seat assignment now there are fees charged. Needless to say, I am in shock. Not once did American Airlines tell me that British Airways charges for seat assignments and considering I mentioned getting seat assignments 3 different times, I was in disbelief. I am told that unless you are an AA Executive Platinum member, you have to pay unless, are you ready for this, you get your seat assignments 7 days in advance of flight date. Well, when we are that close to a departure on a popular route, what are the chances that my husband and I would get seats together on a very long flight? AA did not charge for seat assignments when I made the original reservations.
So I paid the extra fees which totalled $928. Each flight segment per person gets a fee charged. It seems that the idea of using and buying miles, then paying for seat assignments was not the great deal I thought it would be.
I called American Airlines to tell them how disappointed I was in what I went through and it was a waste of my time. They couldn't have cared less. They knew that there were charges to get seat assignments. In fact one agent I spoke with afterwards laughed and said that "of course you have to pay for that on British Airways." I told her I wished I had her for my booking agent because then I would have used a different airline.
I then tweeted and DM'd with AA and got nowhere. They basically washed their hands of the fact that it would have been good customer relations had they at least mentioned that some airlines charge for seat assignments, especially since they partner with BA. I told them that in all the years I have been flying, I never had to pay for a seat assignment so how would I have ever imagined that this could happen. So they say they are sorry that I didn't know there would be a charge.
I end with this: from now on, before booking any flight, whether using miles or paying for a ticket, it wouldn't hurt to inquire whether or not you have to pay for a seat assignment. And if you are using miles, remember that there are taxes and fees on the miles so nothing is free. If you are buying miles, you also get fees charged to your purchase.
And to American Airlines I say, "Go fly a kite!"