The ridiculous world of airliner booking systems

This week I should have been in New York City enjoying a 7 days family vacation but I got stranded in Dublin for a stupid typo mistake in my daughter’s surname and surprisingly nothing could be done to amend that and I was left with no options than go back home (I booked her using my wife’s surname instead of mine, don’t ask me how the hell it happened, but I made the mistake unfortunately, shit happens).

It’s a typo… how difficult would it be to amend it? Well today I found out that’s it’s ridiculously hard, and I also found out the whole booking system for airliners is a total mess.

Yes, we could not fly, I could not amend Emma’s surname in the ticket, to add insult to injury I also found out I could not get my Avios points back.

Picture this, you are an Aerlingus Platinum member, over the years you accrued a considerable amount of points, those points are managed by Avios.

International Consolidated Airlines Group, S.A., often shortened to IAG, is an Anglo-Spanish multinational airline holding company with its registered office in Madrid, Spain and its operational headquarters in London, UK. It was formed in January 2011 after a merger agreement between British Airways and Iberia. It operates Avios.

One day in February I realized I had enough points to book tickets for my entire family to NYC (EWR) in June, I also realized I had enough loyalty points with a pretty big hospitality company to basically book a 1 week stay in a pretty central hotel in Manhattan, and I felt safe staying here since I could even get legal insurance for any injury that happen in the trip, according to my lawyer which I got from https://www.spauldinginjurylaw.com/areas-served/cumming/personal-injury-attorney/ . So I only have to worry about pay airport/travel taxes.

So I booked our hotel stay, only ~400USD for a week in central Manhattan. not bad! Next thing I did was taking care of flights, so I went to the Avios website to do that.

Fast forward June. The day before the flight (note, less than 24h before departure time) I went to do online check-in, and then is when I realized the mistake.

Knowing I had booked with Avios I called their customer care.

“We cannot change the name from here, you have to contact the airliner”

I call AerLingus customer care.

“We cannot change the name from here, you booked this with Avios”

I was baffled, I kept insisting that a solution must be there, the operator on the Aerlingus side tells me something like “we changed something in the reservation that will allow Avios people to make the change, ring them again”

I ring Avios again, this time it’s past 5pm, the lady on the phone tells me the ticketing team responsible to complete the change is not available after 5pm, and they cannot make any change until the next morning. She asks for my phone number, “if you don’t hear from us by 10am call again”, the flight was scheduled for 1pm.

The next day at 9am I am on the phone again, this other lady from Avios tells me they can’t do anything for me, as it’s less than 24h from departure time.

I decide to go to the airport anyway to try to sort this out with ticketing desk there. Once at the airport, I go to the Aerlingus ticketing desk, I explain my situation, the Aerlingus employees checks my e-tickets and sees that they start with “125-“.

“125 is code for BA. I am sorry but this tickets shows as it was produced by BA. I suggest you go to terminal 1 and ask at the BA desk”.

I walk to Terminal 1 to the BA desk, surely they would be able to amend the name! NOPE. The guy at the desk tells me they can’t do it, he stands up and walk to his supervisor/colleague, and she confirms she was never been able to do it in the past.

I call Avios again, the lady on the phone tells me that there is nothing they or I can do. I ask for other possible solutions, “Can I cancel my booking and get the points back at least?” No, I can’t for some stupid scammy T&Cs. and a supposed “contract” Avios has with AerLingus in which they are forbidden from altering booking system with less than 24h notice.

I went to the Avios T&Cs and found these points that are a fraud in my opinion:

G.5.13. Changes to bookings for Reward travel on flights operated by Airline Partners are permitted via our Customer Services Department only in respect of date, time, class and service. Such changes may only be made by the Member or an individual nominated in accordance with Section B.4.6. If more than one price option is available for a flight, it is not possible to change the price option chosen by a Member after a booking has been made. All permitted changes are subject to capacity limitations and may not be made after the time 24 hours prior to the scheduled departure of the first flight in the Reward travel itinerary. Unless otherwise stated a per person fee of £35 will be payable for each permitted change. For the avoidance of doubt, name changes are not permitted.

G.5.16. If flight bookings for Reward travel are cancelled by the Member within 24 hours of departure, Points in respect of the Reward will not be re-credited to the Member. In the event you are prevented from travelling by an Event Beyond Your Control we will refund your Points provided you have an unused Reward, have informed us promptly and provided evidence of the Event Beyond Your Control and paid the applicable £35 per person fee.

I go back to the AerLingus desk to ask if Emma’s ticket can be cancelled and reissued (paying if necessary). “You can do it online as it’s cheaper”. I go online to check the price but then something comes to mind, I can’t book a ticket for a minor alone 😀

I check the price for an adult, it’s like 1500 euro, fuck that. I take the taxi back home (80 EUR of taxi wasted BTW).

So here I am, Avios basically stole my points which I did not use. And I payed airport taxes and I am not sure I can get my 477.31EUR back.

Things I learned:

  • Check things more than 24h before departing, always
  • The Avios T&Cs are borderline scammy: I am very disappointed by them, this is not the way a loyalty programme should operate. This is now how you treat loyalty…
  • The customer care experience was super shitty, nobody cared, nobody even tried to find a solution. This was the constant across BA, Avios and AerLingus. Again, this is not how you treat loyal customers.
  • This seems a case of fucked up integration. As someone that has worked in IT for 20+ years I am baffled of a stupidly fucked up the process of changing a string in a system can be. I remember reading the the whole airliner booking system is managed by a system owned by a company called Amadeus.

UPDATE:

There is some twitter thread here.

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