In the past two weeks I have been traveling for my company, talking about our new product, LivePlan, and have unfortunately had to endure canceled flights, delays, and re-bookings on all my trips. Let me give you a quick recap of the issues I have encountered recently, as I think they are common to anyone who travels for business:
1. My trip two weeks ago was supposed to be a fast one nighter in Los Angeles, as I was speaking at an SBDC Development conference for about 100 people. I planned to fly out of Eugene at 5:00 p.m., land in Burbank at 9:30 p.m., drive to the hotel, sleep, do a presentation at 9:15 a.m., drive back to Burbank, catch my flight and be back home by 6:00 p.m. My flight was booked out of Eugene via San Francisco. It turns out it was cloudy in San Francisco that day, which meant terrible delays. I got to the airport and realized there was no way United was going to get me to Los Angeles that evening, and if I didn’t get in that evening, I would not be able to get to my speaking engagement on time the next morning. I was starting to panic when I saw that Allegiant Air had a direct flight that evening from EUG to LAX which was leaving in 50 minutes. I could get a one way for $160. Done I thought. Perfect. I waited for a United agent, and explained I just wanted to buy a ticket on Allegiant, as United was not going to get me to LA in time for my speaking engagement. She agreed that they were not going to get me there, but then told me that if I didn’t take the outbound flight, I would invalidate my ticket back. I was NOT asking for them to book me on Allegiant, or even pay for the fare. I was simply asking for them to make sure my return flight was not canceled because I did not board the outgoing flight. Nope. She couldn’t help me. She suggested I call the United phone number. So, standing right in front of her, I called the phone number. I got an agent that understood what I wanted to do, but proceeded to tell me that my ticket, which cost $485, would need a $150 change fee, and then the difference between the one fare was $1,500. So let’s recap:
- United could not get me out on time.
- Allegiant could, and I was willing to pay for the ticket.
- To keep from invalidating my return flight, I had to pay roughly $1,300.
I calmly explained to the agent that I was not asking for any money, and in fact all I wanted was to deal with my flight issue myself, and let United off the hook. The agent was smart enough to understand, and after a 15-minute hold time (where the minutes ticked by and I wondered if I would be able to make the Allegiant Air flight that was now taking off in 35 minutes), he came back and let me know a manager had approved the changes without any fees. I know that if I had been angry, screaming and yelling, he probably would not have talked to a manager. But instead I enlisted his help, explained the situation, and knew I had him on my side. I was able to buy my Allegiant Air ticket, contact Alamo rentals to change the pickup location for my rental car, and run to the gate. Problem solved. Had I not acted like my own travel agent and charmed the customer service agent, I would have missed my speaking opportunity.