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How a Weird American Airlines Bug Almost Delivered Me to the Wrong Airport

I just had a second experience with a strange booking bug.  The weirder part is that my first experience was on the US Airways system and the second experience was on the American Airlines system.  But the same thing happened.

american airlines

Two Years Ago

First, my previous experience.  I booked a late trip to Boston out of DC.  Because it was so last second, I had a connection.

I had the 8am flight out of DC to Philly.  I had an email confirmation saying this.  And all my check-in information said this.

I realized while Ubering to the airport that I hadn’t checked in yet.  I Ubered around 5:30am, mostly because I couldn’t sleep anyway.

When I tried to check in, I got a notice saying my check-in window had passed.  Strange.

I immediately went to the ticket counter and talked to an agent.  The agent told me I didn’t check in with enough time for my flight and that I really should have left earlier.  I was confused.  I left at 5:30am for an 8am flight.

The gate agent corrected me.  He told me I was on the 6am flight, that I was a no-show, and that my ticket had been cancelled.

What?!

I told him I was on the 8am flight and showed him my confirmation to prove it.  He said I must have changed my flight at a later time.

Then, later on, he said nothing had changed in my ticketing history and that I was always on this flight all along.

I showed him my check-in notice with the 8am time, and his tune changed.

The one positive out of this was that he ended up booking me onto the next direct flight to Boston, rather than having me go through a connection.

This Week

I had a similar issue happen this week, albeit on a different booking system.

I booked a multi-airport trip.  I booked a flight out of one airport to a city, then planned on flying back into a different city.

I did this to help me route around correctly for my New Zealand flight to/from the places I had to be flanking the trip.

My confirmation reflected the correct itinerary.

When I got off my flight from Australia (connection from New Zealand), I rushed to the next terminal while checking in on my phone for my next flight.

Then I stopped in my tracks.  My flight said it was to my originating airport–not the airport I believe I booked.

I thought I was going crazy for a moment.  I seriously started wondering if I completely booked the wrong flights and never noticed it.

I checked my email and found the correct confirmation.  Strangely, I did not have a check-in notice from American Airlines.

I went to the counter and talked to an agent.  She said my ticketing had always been that way and that nothing had been adjusted in the history of my ticket.  So I showed her my original itinerary and she looked concerned.  She typed for a little while and said she couldn’t change my ticket at all and that I would have to call American Airlines for help.

When I called American Airlines, they insisted this was my ticket all along, and they would be happy to help me change the ticket–for a $200 change fee plus the cost of the difference between my original ticket and a walk-up fare.

I stuck to my guns, insisting that I had booked my ticket correctly.  I asked them for an email address that I could send my itinerary to, and asked that if no changes were ever made to my ticket, how could I have a different itinerary in my email?

At that point, she got her supervisor.  After about 20 minutes on hold, she came back and said the supervisor could find discrepancies between my booking itinerary and my current itinerary and that I was right.  I asked what had happened, but all she would say was that it was a “goof” on their end.

They re-ticketed me on the flight I wanted to be on, and I got where I needed to go.

Ultimately

I have no idea exactly what went wrong in both these situations.  I’ve been trying to figure out–in both situations–how this could happen and I’m coming up short.

However, the important part is to stick to your guns.  I verified first, in case I did make a mistake.  But once I knew I hadn’t, I insisted on my itinerary.

I wouldn’t let them charge me $200 for my original itinerary.

If you are in the right, don’t shell out more money to the first phone agent you talk to.  Insist on sending them proof that you are right.  Try talking to their supervisor.  And if those don’t work, try the old hang-up-and-try-again-trick.

But I do want to stress–being nice but firm is the way to go here.  The agent at the airport–once she realized I did book that flight–really, really wanted to help me.  She was trying to give information that she thought might be helpful to the agent while I was on the phone, and kept apologizing that she couldn’t do anything further.

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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7 comments

  1. I imagine myself having this happen. Luckily it hasn’t. Very odd. I also picture you at the ticket counter with the agent typing a million keys into the 30+ year old computer system to check the ticket. Fun times. I’m glad you got this sorted out. Also thanks for sharing. This could be valuable information if anyone has this happen to them.

  2. Andy Gliddon

    Being nice is definitely the key. Although, as much as I fly, Ive been ridiculously lucky not to have this happen to me.

  3. You were at the airport talking to an AA rep and they told you to call AA on the phone? I thought airport reps can modify tickets too and if anything have more power to “force” tickets than the phone reps…

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      Yes, that’s correct. I wondered the same thing. It took a supervisor on the phone to fix it, so I wonder if that had something to do with it.

  4. In EITHER situation, did they offer any “gesture of good will?” Those “goofs” seem serious enough (and would damn near give me a heart attack), so a small token of apology would be warranted in my humble opinion.

    • They did not in either case. In the second case, the flight time was starting to creep up, so I was just relieved it was resolved and eager to get off the phone. It was the second leg of a connecting flight, but I had a checked bag and they claimed once I checked my bag, they could not resolve the issue (which made no sense to me, and still makes no sense).

  5. I had a similar experience happen 10 years ago on now defunct Delta Song. My family and I were traveling from Boston to Orlando, though they booked their tickets separately on JetBlue. I booked my flight online, keeping their flight times on JetBlue in mind. We were scheduled to depart and arrive approximately the same time that morning and would meet in Orlando. When I got to the terminal to check in using the self check in kiosk, it wouldn’t let me, so I went to the counter where I was told I was scheduled on an PM flight that evening and it was too early to check in.

    I was horrified. I was absolutely sure I had booked a morning flight- 1)in order to meet up with my family at the same time at MCO and 2) I had purchased concert tickets for my favorite band that night in Orlando. The agent at the counter wasn’t any help and I ended up calling customer service from one of the courtesy phones. Beside me, a couple were on the phone with the airline already… turns out, they had the EXACT SAME PROBLEM WITH THE SAME FLIGHT.

    I don’t remember exactly how I resolved it, but I do know I ended up being on a Delta Song flight that morning, just slightly behind what I had originally scheduled.

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