Category

American Airlines

How To Get Through To An Airline Call Center During A Weather Crisis

So in case you haven’t been following me on Facebook and Twitter, I have been in New York City this weekend. Unfortunately I booked my flight for free using British Airways Avios, and there wasn’t any availability to come back on Sunday when I originally booked the ticket. So I decided to stay an extra day and leave Monday morning. I mean it is only another 12 hours, what could go wrong…

Needless to say, that turned out to be a dumb decision as all the flights out of New York City have been canceled until Wednesday!

I tried to switch to an earlier flight that came back today but not surprisingly, so was everyone else. Since Hurricane Sandy isn’t expected to make landfall until Monday Evening, I was holding out hope that my flight would not be canceled since it is Monday Morning but after coming back from dinner this evening, I saw on AA.com that all flights until Wednesday had been canceled!

Typically when flights get canceled in mass, you have to be on the ball and get re-booked ASAP or you will get bumped to the back of the line. In my case, I knew flights would start again on Wednesday, so I wanted to make sure I was on one of those flights.

Normally this wouldn’t be a huge issue and I would just re-book my flight online, but because I had booked my Award Ticket with Avios, I had to call into American Airlines Call Center to make any changes. Again this would not be an issue, but because of the mass cancellations, everyone was calling in to change their tickets.

Yesterday after watching the news, before all the flights were canceled, I decided to be proactive and call American Airlines Call Center to see if I could be rebooked for today. It took me over 30 minutes to get through to speak to someone. I suspect with tonight’s mass cancellations, that the wait to speak to someone could easily be 1 to 2 hours.

In a situation where literally every second counts because everyone and their mother are trying to get on the first flight out of town, I didn’t want to risk spending 1 – 2 hours waiting on the phone while the few remaining seats for flights on Wednesday filled up.

I have talked about this a while ago but since there is currently a weather crisis going on, I thought I’d share it again. The easy trick to get through to Airline Call Centers during long wait times is to simply call their Call Center in another country where they aren’t busy.

Many people either don’t think of this as an option or shy away from it because of International Calling Fees, but with Skype, you can make calls to almost anywhere in the world for around 1 – 2 cents a minute. Even better, Skype has an iPhone app, so you can even call while on the go or when you aren’t in front of a computer.

So in my case, instead of calling the American Airlines US Call Center which was sure to be a zoo, I simply tried some other English speaking Call Centers around the World. Most are open 24 hours!

One thing to remember when dialing internaitonal numbers, is that you have to add the + and country code, which is not shown below. To find the country code, just google it. More information about this can be found in my old post.

List Of All AA Call Centers Around The World

I first tried AA’s Australian office but for some reason that number wasn’t connecting. I switched to the New Zealand office but spent 10 Minutes waiting so I hung up. Next I tried the United Kingdom, but they have some weird tariffs, so it was showing that it would cost 50 cents a minute. Finally, I tried Ireland and within 3 minutes I was talking to an English speaking Irish Women.

I simply explained to her the situation, and that I wanted to be re-booked on the earliest flight. I had AA.com up on my Macbook, so I told her which flight I wanted. Without even asking me why I was calling the Irish Call Center, she re-booked my flight and sent me an email confirmation. All in all, it took about 10 minutes including the 3 minute wait.

So even though it took me a few tries to get a Call Center to pick up, all in all, I spent maybe 20 minutes finding a Call Center, waiting for someone to pick up, and getting my ticket changed.

Had I called the US Call Center, it might have taken 2 or more hours to get through!

For the convenience of not having to spend 2 hours on the phone, it cost me only 23 cents to call Ireland for 10 minutes!

Anyways this little trick works with all major US Airlines (not just AA) and don’t be afraid to use it only in emergencies. Feel free to use it anytime you need to call in to the Airlines.

For example, if you ever call in to United, you are well aware they outsource a lot of the calls to Asia. If you have a complicated itinerary and want to speak to a native English speaker, simply call the Airline’s office in Australia or the UK.

Anyways, I hope that helps any of you that are stranded due to Hurricane Sandy.

Although it is annoying being stuck inside for 2 days, as long as the power and internet don’t go down, it shouldn’t be too terrible. If you want an anecdote on how twenty-something New Yorkers approach an impending natural disaster, one of my friend’s friends went out to buy supplies and only came back with beer. Another friend decided that there was no need for groceries when you could just go to Subway and buy 9 footlong sandwiches for $60. Not even a joke…

I guess if there is a silver lining to this situation, it is that I have quite a few awesome posts I want to write about in the coming days, so this Hurricane at a minimum might force me to do just that since I won’t have any other distractions. Although if the power goes out, then all bets are off…

Anyways to everyone in New York and the East Coast area, stay safe and dry.

-Parag

2,500 AA Miles Netflix Offer Ending November 14

Via View From The Wing, it looks like American Airlines is ending its relationship with Netflix on November 14, 2012.

If you haven’t done so already, I’d highly recommend getting in on this offer.

For $8, you get 2,500 AA Miles, which means it only costs .032 Cents Per Mile!

Link To Offer

I got in on this offer in April 2012, and got 3,000 AA miles for $8. Talked about it here. Once I had the miles, it pushed me past the 12,500 AA Miles mark, so thanks to Netflix I got a free AA One Way in the US.

Last month I did the United Netflix offer for 4,000 miles for $8, which is still available. United is really fast about posting the Netflix Miles. It only took a week. AA on the other hand takes about a month. However, you can cancel your Netflix subscription before the start of the 2nd month and still get your miles.

Since AwardWallet can’t track AA Miles anymore, I logged into my Dad’s account to see his balance and he is at 12,118 AA Miles or 482 AA Miles short of a Free One Way.

Normally in situations like this, people find out they are short 482 Miles when they go to book an Award Ticket. In that case, they have to buy the miles from AA.

In my Dad’s case, if he need those 482 Miles, because AA only sells Miles in increments of 1,000, he would have to pay $29.95. That is not terrible, but I still think $8 is better.

As for the 2,500 Miles you earn from this Netflix promotion, if you had to buy these miles, since AA only sells in increments of 1,000, you would have to buy 3,000 Miles for $88.50. That is quite steep considering you could get them for only $8 with this promotion.

Even if you don’t need the 2,500 Miles to put you over for an Award, these Netflix promotions are a great way to extendthe life of your Miles since this counts as Activity.

After you sign up, just set a reminder in your calendar 28 days later to cancel your Netflix account, if you would like. Although AA is really slow about posting the Netflix miles, last time I canceled it at around 28 days and the miles posted a few weeks later even though my Netflix account was closed already.

Unlike the United Netflix promotion, if you have taken part in this AA Netflix promotion before, you aren’t eligible. I always recommend for these type of Airline promotions, use a different Email and Credit Card for each Airline you participate with.

Delta also has a similar offer for 2,500 Miles if anyone is interested. You can do both at the same time if you want, just use different Emails and Credit Cards.

Hopefully everyone takes part in this AA Netflix promotion because it is a really cheap and easy way to earn some Miles.

Not to mention Netflix is pretty awesome. I still have a couple days left on my United Netflix sign up and I have been on a The Walking Dead marathon. A couple thousand miles and 1 month of Netflix is not bad for $8.

-Parag

Easiest Ways To Get Elite Airline Status

At the Chicago Seminars, Mommy Points had an excellent presentation about Airline Elite Status.

While I have plenty of free Hotel Elite Status, I do not have any Airline Elite Status.

After Mommy Points presentation I decided that next year I am going to try and shoot for Top Tier Status on 1 Airline, either United or American, to see what all the fuss is about ; )

That being said, the thought of flying 100,000 Butt In Seat (BIS) Miles does not particularly appeal to me, so it was great to hear about some loopholes in Mommy Points presentation.

Aegean Airlines

For those of you not familiar with Aegean Airlines (wikipedia page), don’t worry, neither was I when I first heard of them.

Aegean Airlines is a Greek Airline that is part of Star Alliance.

What is “interesting” about Aegean’s frequent flyer program is how low the qualifications are for Star Alliance Silver and Gold Elite Status.

While on United or most other Star Alliance Members, it would take 25,000 BIS Miles to earn Star Alliance Silver Status, on Aegean it is only 4,000.

What is even better is that with the current sign up, you get 2,000 Miles Sign Up Bonus, so that 4,000 Miles for Silver is now only 2,000 Miles!

Link To Sign Up For Aegean Airline’s Frequent Flyer Program

For Star Alliance Gold Status, on United or most Star Alliance Members, it would take 50,000 BIS Miles. With Aegean it is only 20,000 Miles!.

Once you factor in the 2,000 Sign Up Bonus, it is actually only 18,000!

Once you have Aegean Elite Status, because they are a Star Alliance Member, you get Star Alliance Silver or Gold Status, which gives you free checked bags, priority security, lounge access, etc.

The only thing you don’t get is upgrades on United, because those are reserved for MileagePlus Elites : (

That being said, given how easy it is to get Aegean Star Alliance Silver status, I suggest everyone go for that because at a minimum you will get free checked bags as a Star Alliance Silver.

The best part about this whole thing is that you don’t even ever have to step foot on an Aegean Airplane to earn this Status. Simply credit a United or US Airways flight to them and you are good.

Only thing to watch out for is that most of the discount fares on United only earn 50% credit with Aegean. A full list of earning % by fare class can be found here.

However Aegean is pretty awesome in that they give 500 Mile Minimums for United flights, so to hit the 2,000 miles needed for Aegean Silver, you can simply credit 4 segments (500 Miles earned each segment) to Aegean!

All US Airways fares earn 100% on Aegean.

If you have a long flight to Asia or Australia, I’d also recommend crediting it to Aegean.

Remember you only need 18,000 miles for Star Alliance Gold with Aegean, so 1 trip to Australia or Asia, and you are set.

Of course, I wouldn’t fly to Australia or Asia just for fun to earn this status but if you have a trip planned anyways, Aegean is the way to go.

Now if the low Elite Status qualification threshold wasn’t enough, the real kicker is that apparently as of right now, once you qualify for Elite Status, it is more or less indefinite as long as you credit a flight to Aegean every 3 years.

Gary from View From The Wing had a great piece about it and the specifics.

Of course, Aegean could change this policy at anytime.

As I’ve stated many times before, most of the miles we earn now come from Credit Cards.

So even crediting 18,000 Miles to Aegean for Star Alliance Gold Status isn’t a huge deal when you can easily earn 65,000 United Miles by signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase INK Bold.

The next time I fly on United, my plan is to simply make sure the ticket has 1 stop on each leg, so I can get the four 500 Mile Minimums and get Star Alliance Silver Status!

Turkish Status Match

While this Turkish Status Match trick won’t help you if you don’t have status, it is certainly useful if you do have status.

One of the really dumb quirks of United is that even if you are a Premier Gold Elite with them (50,000+ BIS Miles a year), you only have access to the Red Carpet Lounges if you are flying internationally.

If you have to fly Chicago to New York for work every week, you don’t get lounge access, but if you were flying Chicago to anywhere outside the U.S, you would get lounge access.

For anyone that has been in a United Red Carpet Lounge, it is not really anything special.

The marginal benefits are Free Internet, Free Beer & Wine, and comfy chairs.

If you are an United Elite and travel primarily in the US for work, you never have lounge access. Your only options would be purchase United Club Membership for a whopping $375 – $425 or get United Club Credit Card that has a $395 annual fee.

Both of those options are terrible, so if you have any Star Alliance Gold, One World Emerald, or Skyteam Elite Plus Status, I’d recommend Status Matching to Turkish Airways.

Again, View From The Wing has all the details.

Normally Airline Carriers don’t Status Match to other Airlines in their alliance because they are essentially poaching from their Business Partners, but Turkish has decided to buck the trend and do just that.

So if you have status on any of the above Alliances, I strongly suggest Status Matching to Turkish Airways.

It is free, and you don’t even have to credit any miles to them.

Once they approve you, they will send you a Turkish Airways Star Alliance Gold Card, and with that you will have access to all United Lounges, regardless if you are flying domestically or internationally!

While Turkish isn’t like Aegean in that the Status is indefinite, they do give you 2 full years of status and 2 years to re-qualify if you choose.

AA Challenge

All of the above examples focus on Star Alliance, but if you don’t have any Status an want to get status quickly, I’d recommend doing an AA Challenge.

More information can be found here.

With a Status Match (as talked about above), the Airline matches you to their program once they verify that you have Status with another Airline.

With a Status Challenge, you will receive the Status, but you have to complete some sort of requirement.

Basically it is just to make sure you are serious and not just getting the Status so you can get free lounge access with United…

For AA’s Status Challenge, there is a fee involved of $120 – $240 depending on what level you are shooting for.

In addition, for Platinum you need to earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points in 3 months. For Gold, it is 5,000 EQP in 3 months.

Elite Qualifying Points are different than Elite Qualifying Miles. Basically, if you fly discounted fares, you will only earn .5 EQP instead of 1 EQP per 1 Mile Flown.

A full chart of Elite Qualifying Points by Fare Class can be found here.

The reason why this Challenge is important is that if you have a big trip coming up (Asia, Australia, etc), you can easily earn Status with American in a single trip.

So assuming that you buy the cheapest fare that only earns .5 EQP per 1 Mile Flown, a trip from New York to Australia via LAX would put you at around 20,000 miles, which would still meet the 10,000 EQP requirement.

Similarly, if you are going for Gold Status and need to earn 5,000 EQP, a simple Los Angeles to Paris trip would earn you 11,300 Miles. Even if you were earning .5 EQP per 1 Mile Flown due to a discounted fare, you would still pass the 5,000 EQP needed to complete the Challenge.

Unfortunately, I only recently learned about these AA Challenges, or I would have definitely done one when I flew on paid Economy tickets to Australia, Europe, and India in my younger days!

Recap

Hopefully if you don’t currently have Elite Status and are thinking about getting some, you now have some easy ways to earn it without having to fly 100,000 Miles.

While earning Elite Status is not for everyone due to the time and money involved, the benefits of Elite Status can be significant depending on your Elite level.

The perks can really add up when you factor in how much you save on ticket changes fees, baggage fees, as well as free upgrades, lounge access, etc.

Although you do have to pay a small fee for the AA Challenge, once you complete the 10,000 EQP requirement, you will have full AA Platinum status.

As you have seen with Turkish Airline offer above, once you have Status with one Airline, it is very easy to simply Status Match to another Airline.

So even if you only earn Status in 1 year, you can very easily Status Match to another Airline for the next year! Check StatusMatcher.com for more information,

If you have any questions, please let me know!

-Parag