Typically it seems all we are ever exposed to in the media whether its global, national or local news, internet forums or even some blogs (can you believe it?) tends to be negative and critical of someone or something. I think people tend to feel better about themselves when they can complain about others. Its an opinion, but I’ve observed enough in life to have it be an opinion grounded in reality.
But Friday (Feb 17) was different. The Sun rose in the evening and the Moon was out at lunch time. North was South and South was North. You get the metaphor at this point right? Those who know me would classify me as clinically pragmatic, without emotion, without expression (source: Mrs. LufthansaFlyer). So for me to be singing the praises of anything or anyone required something terrific to have happened, and it did.
To put things into better context, let me go back and give you some history….
My wife will be celebrating her Birthday in May and I thought it would be a nice gesture to put together a trip that would celebrate the event. And what woman wouldn’t want to have special attention drawn to such a milestone…
We usually travel to Europe and the idea this time was to try something different. Typically we make an annual pilgrimage or two to Slovakia for a shot glass or 12 of homemade Slivovica and to visit with dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins and a Grandmother approaching 100 who captivates me with her stories from World War II. From there we normally bolt on a visit to another country before leaving for home. This time I decided to skip the homeland (we’ll visit later this year) and expand our comfort zone by introducing Istanbul to our passports. Additionally, we’ll spend a few days in London as well, just in time for the Olympics’ dress rehearsals.
Up until today, I had only booked the critical legs of the trip. Back in September of last year I came across ultra-rare Lufthansa First Class availability for 2 passengers through United’s Mileage Plus program and booked them on the spot. I had booked us from Chicago to Frankfurt via Dusseldorf, and returning from Frankfurt to Detroit. That left Grand Rapids to Chicago, Frankfurt to Istanbul, Istanbul to London AND London to Frankfurt unbooked. I figured I could piecemeal the rest of the trip so long as I had the Transatlantic segments covered. Over the last few months I would occasionally call United Mileage Plus and ask them to help fill in the gaps. Each time I would be met with objections. These would include excuses such as no availability for certain legs, having to give up the Lufthansa flights, not being able to book stop overs and open jaws in the way I wanted to, etc. etc. etc. and etc. Even though I know that United changed their booking rules to allow stop overs within open jaws, apparently that information did not cascade down to the service reps in their call centers.
Having had some free time this afternoon I decided to call United again to see what luck (or lack of) I would have. At first I called Mileage Plus and the answering system said the wait would be 9 minutes. After 45 minutes on speakerphone listening to “Bot” tell me about all the great things happening with the merger, I decided to give up and dialed the dedicated Premier Executive line and routed my way to an agent.
The Sun began to rise….
After introducing herself, Cari (based in the Honolulu Service Center) jokingly chastised me for even considering calling the Mileage Plus line and insisted that I always call the Premier Executive line, even when dealing with a Mileage Plus issue. OK…lesson learned.
After explaining what I had booked so far, and what I needed in order to finish up the trip booking, she took over and started giving me options faster than I can process them. I was caught off guard so much (and in a good way) that I had to ask her to stop and and let me catch up with all of the options she was providing. I couldn’t write fast enough! What had appeared to be an insurmountable task as far as getting the booking done for the routes I needed, she made it look as easy as taking a breath. Within 10 minutes she had it lined up. Everything I needed to get us from Grand Rapids to Istanbul and home from London through Frankfurt was accomplished.
A few dollars in taxes for the additional routes, a couple of minutes on hold while she called ticketing and an updated E-ticket arrived before our conversation ended. She even provided me with some internal lingo and short cuts to suggest to agents in the future if I ever encounter booking problems with reward travel. Yeah, like I’ll EVER want to talk to anyone other than her at United again. I couldn’t thank her enough for her time and mastery of their booking system. I did ask for her employee contact information because United has to be made aware of this jewel that exists hidden in the “rough” of their organization. If United had a few more of her walking the halls, they would be better for it. Normally I dont exude such appreciation, but her efforts and knowledge deserve recognition.
After several attempts to book this trip the way I knew it could be done, I finally found someone who knew exactly what I needed and took care of it perfectly. If you are a 1k or Global Services level member with Mileage Plus, I would encourage you to call the Premier Executive line and ask for her. She may be the best United representative that you’ll ever encounter…..
Looking at it in pictures…..She took this:
and with a few clicks of the keyboard turned it into:
It may not look like much on the maps, but to me it was a world of difference and now the booking is perfect. We get to travel in Lufthansa’s First Class cabins for the Long Hauls, we get to visit the First Class Terminal in both directions, add to our collection of ducks(with any luck our brace of “enten” will grow to 20) and have all the intra Europe legs booked in Lufthansa Business Class.
I think all is right with the world, at least for today!