We live in a fast paced world and as Forrest Gump says, “it” happens. When “it” happens just about everything we need to change involving travel plans costs money. It’s terrible. There are change fees, fare differences, room types, availability problems and so much more. Though some mountains can’t be moved many can be flattened without a fee. You just have to know how to deal. Here are my tips for getting changes comp’d, fares matched or exceptions made even when they shouldn’t be…
Knowledge is POWER
No one likes to be treated like a moron. Sadly a vast percentage of calls to airlines or hotels are placed by MORONS. The travel world is not a nurturing kindergarten. The less you know the more you will get rolled. Do your best to understand the cancellation, routing or change rules allowed on any airline ticket or hotel room you buy. In doing so you will be able to speak on a neutral level with the representative and offer insights into why your changes or needs should be valid. If you buy an airline ticket and need to change it, know that the best time is always within 24 hours of booking. After 24 hours of booking try to find acceptable flights you’d like to change to and be able to offer flight numbers or alternate dates valid within your fare rate, especially if there is no difference in fare. There is no incentive for an airline employee to save you money. It’s on you to find what helps you the most. If I need to change a hotel or airline ticket I find my acceptable change online, leave a window open and call so I can let them know exactly what I am seeing and for how much. Understanding fare rules and allowed stopovers is huge. More on that HERE. Fee waivers? We’ll get to that.
Being friendly should not be a fake Hollywood approach. Despite being placed opposite you in a battle for fairness, customer service reps for airlines and hotels are generally nice normal people. Be courteous, let them know you appreciate their attempts to help and try to help them help you. Creating a reasonable, fair and relatable narrative is one of the best ways to do this. I needed to change the dates of a flight yesterday and was told there would be a $240 change fee. I mentioned that I had only recently booked the tickets, they were not cheap and that I was new to this particular airline and it would mean a lot towards future business if they would grant me a one time fee waiver. My request was reasonable, it was within the fare rules, there was availability in the same cabin and it was hopefully an easy change. They obliged. Even when someone is full speed ahead on saying no, offering a compromise can be a fantastic idea. “Look, I know you can’t fully comp my change fees but would you consider comping one as a gesture of good will and compromise?”. It never hurts.
No USUALLY Isn’t NO
As I’ve mentioned, airlines, hotels and others are in the business of saying no. Unfortunately it pays. Most people accept that no from the first person they speak to is an honest no. The real answer is that people who pick up your calls often do not have the power granted to them to say yes, even if they want to. When you’re told that what you want cannot be done, look to speak to a supervisor or someone who CAN say “yes”. I find that letting the first person know that I genuinely believe they want to help but that my issue is important and need to speak to someone who can help works very well. Make the person understand, offer a reason WHY they need to say yes and make it happen.
Hang Up Call back
If you pick 100 roses, chances are you will get a few dead flowers. As with any business, there are always a fair share of dead flowers working for airlines and hotels. If you find someone who seems to know less than you do or who is simply combative or unwilling to help find a solution, thank them for their effort, hang up and call back. It’s a true game of roulette each time you call and whereas one person might be willing to search endlessly for the perfect answer to your problems or be very willing and understanding of your request to waive a fee, others might just hate you for no apparent reason. Hang up, call back. Simple.
24 Hour Cancellation. Restart.
MOST airlines and some hotels have a complimentary 24 hour cancellation policy. Essentially any booking made within 24 hours is allowed to cancel for a full refund. Obviously it’s important to check your individual airline before quoting this as gospel but for most, with the exception of American Airlines, this is absolutely true. Even third party sites like Orbitz and others allow this. If you can price out the changes to your hotel or airline ticket online it may actually be easier and less stressful to cancel for the full refund and buy new. Even within 24 hours some travel companies will try to hit you with a change fee or say that they don’t have inventory access available. In these instances, cancel, book fresh with your changes and save yourself the stress of endless phone calls.
I very rarely hang up after a call to change my plans feeling like a million bucks. I usually need something comp’d or I need an exception or I have to pay money. Anytime I find that being fair and equitable while being courteous saves money it’s a good result. Even if it’s not fun. Don’t get left in the dark. Do your homework, be an intelligent traveler and get what’s fair. Good luck!
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