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A day in the life of an Avios geek .…

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  • THEPUMA

    Prizes to anyone can suggest how I could have done it better…

    On holiday in Antigua. Got inbound flights booked on Avios with companion voucher in premium economy.

    I got an alert yesterday evening from seatspy telling me that there were 3 flights back available in business.

    I was pretty sure I couldn’t upgrade online but took a look on BA.com anyway and couldn’t find a way.

    Tried calling the international numbers from my mobile. None of them were open.

    So this morning woke up early and called BA. First call pressed all the appropriate selections and got a message saying sorry we’re too busy and got hung up on.

    Second call I press none of the numbers so get through to a person. Tell her what I need doing. She tells me she can’t do what I need her to and BA have recently prevented them from transferring calls through to the correct dept.

    So I try again pressing the numbers for the correct options and sit on hold for 40 mins (sorry I should have mentioned, all of this is at £2.23 per minute – lucky it’s a work phone!).

    Eventually get through to a human being. All going well until she tells me it’s an extra £240 per person in taxes. For a one way upgrade from premium economy to business. I tell her that can’t be right. She says ”sounds about right to me”. I tell her it’s wrong. She tells me that’s what the system says, so that’s what I’ve got to pay.

    I ask what my options are. She says pay up or she can get the “fares team” to look at it. They’ll then email me confirmation and I can call back.

    There’s no way I’m calling back. Could lose the flights and/or not be able to get through, and if I do it’ll be another £100 in call charges.

    I suggest that we go ahead and I get somebody to review the taxes when I get home. She says no. Once I’ve paid the taxes, I’ve agreed to them and they can’t be retrospectively amended.

    I eventually convince her to speak to the fares team there and then. She does and comes back and explains to me that the system doesn’t calculate taxes properly in my particular scenario so the correct cost was circa £115 per person. No apology!

    So there you have it. I dread to think how many people would have just paid the incorrect taxes without challenging them or, after challenging them but having been robbed up with the wrong answer. And that’s if they’d managed to get through at all.

    Peter K

    Yay, I’ll win a prize!

    Call using skype and you could have saved a fortune in call costs! That’s a way to have done it better.

    Well done on pushing back though and saving a wodge of cash.

    THEPUMA

    Thanks Peter. Must look into this Skype thing I’ve heard so much about! I’m not paying call costs personally though so it has never been a priority. I do
    feel a bit bad about it though.

    masaccio

    Regarding costs, if it’s a newish phone, use Wi-Fi or your work phone’s internet to buy a local eSIM. That or your work really needs to get you on a business roaming contract. Antigua is on Vodafone Business Traveller for example.

    Still, you can get caught out. Before Vodafone added Taiwan, I got caught with £250 and £500 data bills from very quick mistakes. A strong 4G signal and a phone can rinse through data quickly!

    The real Swiss Tony

    I had something similar upgrading one leg of a UK-Japan-UK flight from W to J.

    The computer seems to collect the higher YQ for both legs. I had some back and forth with the agent, agreed to the higher charge because of the value I was getting but asked that it be reviewed.

    Sure enough the fares team went back to the agent within a couple of hours to advise that it was wrong and they were trying to overcharge.

    I don’t think there’s any malice here and it seems set up to get to the right number eventually.

    Indeed their approach seems somewhat more genuine than yours of “doesn’t matter i’ve run up a £200 phone bill because it’s not my money” when there are well documented ways of getting round this for pennies. Don’t trust Skype mind, it’s only been going since 2003 and has a mere 100 million users. I don’t think it’ll catch on, either 🙄

    NorthernLass

    Even I know how to use Skype, going back to when I was on holiday one year and needed to redeem my Lloyds upgrade voucher at T-355!

    Carlos

    use avios to reduce your work telephone bills

    George K

    Out of curiosity, what’s the best way to calculate the accurate charges for a redemption when speaking on the phone? Would it be via a dummy booking online (and make sure you go to the last page before payment to make sure it’s accurate?). I’m not sure I would have thought to challenge the £240 myself (well, I guess it depends on how much I’d have paid for the PE ticket to begin with).

    The real Swiss Tony

    @GeorgeK – I’d suggest using ITA Matrix as that lets you pick the right combination of flights and provides a full breakdown of each charge.

    THEPUMA

    I had something similar upgrading one leg of a UK-Japan-UK flight from W to J.

    The computer seems to collect the higher YQ for both legs. I had some back and forth with the agent, agreed to the higher charge because of the value I was getting but asked that it be reviewed.

    Sure enough the fares team went back to the agent within a couple of hours to advise that it was wrong and they were trying to overcharge.

    I don’t think there’s any malice here and it seems set up to get to the right number eventually.

    Indeed their approach seems somewhat more genuine than yours of “doesn’t matter i’ve run up a £200 phone bill because it’s not my money” when there are well documented ways of getting round this for pennies. Don’t trust Skype mind, it’s only been going since 2003 and has a mere 100 million users. I don’t think it’ll catch on, either 🙄

    A few points:-

    I’m not sure they would have got to the right number eventually. She specifically told me that I wouldn’t be able to challenge the taxes once I’d paid them.

    I think there is certainly malice in the way BA run their customer service to absolutely maximise profits with zero concern whatsoever for the impact for the customer. I have never known another company with such a poor attitude towards its customers. If I didn’t have 2m Avios I would never use them again. I’m sure the individual call-handler held no malice though.

    It was more like £100.

    I will work out how to use Skype for next time. I simply didn’t know it could be used for this kind of call. I’ve only ever come across it in the context of calling family abroad. I’ll try harder next time.

    Carlos

    I had something similar upgrading one leg of a UK-Japan-UK flight from W to J.

    The computer seems to collect the higher YQ for both legs. I had some back and forth with the agent, agreed to the higher charge because of the value I was getting but asked that it be reviewed.

    Sure enough the fares team went back to the agent within a couple of hours to advise that it was wrong and they were trying to overcharge.

    I don’t think there’s any malice here and it seems set up to get to the right number eventually.

    Indeed their approach seems somewhat more genuine than yours of “doesn’t matter i’ve run up a £200 phone bill because it’s not my money” when there are well documented ways of getting round this for pennies. Don’t trust Skype mind, it’s only been going since 2003 and has a mere 100 million users. I don’t think it’ll catch on, either 🙄

    A few points:-

    I’m not sure they would have got to the right number eventually. She specifically told me that I wouldn’t be able to challenge the taxes once I’d paid them.

    I think there is certainly malice in the way BA run their customer service to absolutely maximise profits with zero concern whatsoever for the impact for the customer. I have never known another company with such a poor attitude towards its customers. If I didn’t have 2m Avios I would never use them again. I’m sure the individual call-handler held no malice though.

    It was more like £100.

    I will work out how to use Skype for next time. I simply didn’t know it could be used for this kind of call. I’ve only ever come across it in the context of calling family abroad. I’ll try harder next time.

    oh wow you had 2m avios at one given time?

    THEPUMA

    I had something similar upgrading one leg of a UK-Japan-UK flight from W to J.

    The computer seems to collect the higher YQ for both legs. I had some back and forth with the agent, agreed to the higher charge because of the value I was getting but asked that it be reviewed.

    Sure enough the fares team went back to the agent within a couple of hours to advise that it was wrong and they were trying to overcharge.

    I don’t think there’s any malice here and it seems set up to get to the right number eventually.

    Indeed their approach seems somewhat more genuine than yours of “doesn’t matter i’ve run up a £200 phone bill because it’s not my money” when there are well documented ways of getting round this for pennies. Don’t trust Skype mind, it’s only been going since 2003 and has a mere 100 million users. I don’t think it’ll catch on, either 🙄

    A few points:-

    I’m not sure they would have got to the right number eventually. She specifically told me that I wouldn’t be able to challenge the taxes once I’d paid them.

    I think there is certainly malice in the way BA run their customer service to absolutely maximise profits with zero concern whatsoever for the impact for the customer. I have never known another company with such a poor attitude towards its customers. If I didn’t have 2m Avios I would never use them again. I’m sure the individual call-handler held no malice though.

    It was more like £100.

    I will work out how to use Skype for next time. I simply didn’t know it could be used for this kind of call. I’ve only ever come across it in the context of calling family abroad. I’ll try harder next time.

    oh wow you had 2m avios at one given time?

    I’ve got over 2m right now.

    Londonsteve

    I’m amazed the employer that pays the phone bill in question wouldn’t draw a red line under a £100 call made abroad when the employee was supposed to be on leave. I would certainly have been asked to explain myself in my previous workplaces (financial sector) had I done this and failure to voluntarily pay for the call myself before I tried to get it through as a business expense might have become a disciplinary matter that terminated my employment. If the OP’s employer don’t check or find this acceptable, they’re either chronically disorganised, a very generous employer or are proving themselves wasteful with shareholder funds. Sorry to sound like a misery guts but I abhor flagrant waste of an employer’s funds because it’s added to the price of goods and services and ends up costing all of us directly.

    JDB

    I’m amazed the employer that pays the phone bill in question wouldn’t draw a red line under a £100 call made abroad when the employee was supposed to be on leave. I would certainly have been asked to explain myself in my previous workplaces (financial sector) had I done this and failure to voluntarily pay for the call myself before I tried to get it through as a business expense might have become a disciplinary matter that terminated my employment. If the OP’s employer don’t check or find this acceptable, they’re either chronically disorganised, a very generous employer or are proving themselves wasteful with shareholder funds. Sorry to sound like a misery guts but I abhor flagrant waste of an employer’s funds because it’s added to the price of goods and services and ends up costing all of us directly.

    Well said, I hope it’s not too heretical for other readers! Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I am much more careful about spending other people’s money (usually an employer or a client) than I am about spending my own. It needs to be properly justified.

    MattB

    Ive had issues in the past adding a 241 return in the middle of the night where I was charged excessive taxes/fees but was able to get a refund the next day when speaking to someone in the UK office.

    I think we often expect the call centre to know everything but the range of things they need to cover is so vast it’s not feasible to do so any great detail. One chap I spoke to when making an avios booking was amazed when I told him to the penny what the fees were going to be before he could even work it out.

    To dare is to do

    Ive had issues in the past adding a 241 return in the middle of the night where I was charged excessive taxes/fees but was able to get a refund the next day when speaking to someone in the UK office.

    I think we often expect the call centre to know everything but the range of things they need to cover is so vast it’s not feasible to do so any great detail. One chap I spoke to when making an avios booking was amazed when I told him to the penny what the fees were going to be before he could even work it out.

    That’s why they should transfer you to correct department which as OP said they have been told not to do. No one expects them to know everything but sometimes even the basics they don’t seem to know.

    Paul

    A few year ago my wife had an accident shortly before a flight to Hawaii. Changing her fully flex ticket was a nightmare with BA insisting that the fare difference and taxes amounted to £1500. I paid the recharged via Amex and a very terse letter to the CEO. It took 3 weeks to resolve but every penny returned.
    A year later I had to change a Turkish airline ticket, again flexible but a complex routing much of which had been flown. It 10 minutes during which time I was given tea and dates.

    It all about training and knowledge things BA staff lack in direct proportion to their uppity attitudes.

    Thegasman

    I think I can see where the fare error will have arisen here. The system will likely do a simple current taxes/fees/charges minus amount paid at booking. With the recent & regular hikes in YQ then £240 sounds about right for a one way W-J upgrade if you originally booked a few months ago.

    What has saved you is that you had already flown outbound leg. In this situation changes should be priced off historical fares ie. how much more would return leg in J have cost at time of booking. £100 is traditionally around the delta between W & J each way.

    These calculations always require the back office fares team as they seem to be the only people with access to historical fare information.

    It’s a useful quirk of the ticketing rules that can be to your advantage. If the J availability had popped up the day before outbound leg it would have cost you £240 each.

    THEPUMA

    I’m amazed the employer that pays the phone bill in question wouldn’t draw a red line under a £100 call made abroad when the employee was supposed to be on leave. I would certainly have been asked to explain myself in my previous workplaces (financial sector) had I done this and failure to voluntarily pay for the call myself before I tried to get it through as a business expense might have become a disciplinary matter that terminated my employment. If the OP’s employer don’t check or find this acceptable, they’re either chronically disorganised, a very generous employer or are proving themselves wasteful with shareholder funds. Sorry to sound like a misery guts but I abhor flagrant waste of an employer’s funds because it’s added to the price of goods and services and ends up costing all of us directly.

    I am actually a co-owner of the business. All private calls are knowingly paid for by the business.

    My co-owners wouldn’t bat an eyelid if they knew, since they would know it wasn’t done maliciously and I bring far more value to the business than I cost it.

    The additional cost suffered won’t cost our clients a penny. It will simply reduce our profits.

    I abhor waste too. That’s why I came on here to ask whether it could have been done more efficiently. I simply didn’t know that Skype could be used for such a call. Now I do and have already used it for all subsequent calls (to clients while I was on holiday, which would have delivered far more than £100 of value to our business – one of the reasons why my co-owners won’t begrudge my inefficiency). That may be hard for you to believe because you did know about it but we don’t always know what we don’t know.

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