As the world of miles and points evolves and airline loyalty programs raise prices while restricting affordable prizes, we’ve seen the relative value of direct redemptions via Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards for increased air travel. But dealing with the American Express Platinum Travel team often (and frankly usually) An infuriating experience.
American Express Platinum Travel raises concern to deal with…a massive missed opportunity
I recently outlined my hopes for a new platform Chase will appear soon as it delves into the full-service travel agency business. His peers at American Express have offered a full range of travel services for years…and they’ve frustrated me for years. Let me tell you a little story.
At Award Expert, many of our customers have a huge amount of points on their American Express Platinum or Centurion cards. If you have a Platinum Business Card and redeem points for direct flights with American Express, you will receive a 35% discount, making the points equal to 1.54 cents each. For those on tight schedules, this increasingly represents a smart redemption option (although 2% cashback cards actually represent a better value…but I digress).
But when schedules change, you have to deal with the good people of American Express…and that can be very painful.
A customer has booked two round-trip British Airways tickets from Washington Dulles to Tel Aviv via London on British Airways. The reduced business class fare was just $2,700 each (270,000 miles each) and with the discount, it came in at just under 176,000 miles each…a good deal since these rates carry no additional fees and you’ll earn miles and elite status.
But British Airways recently updated its schedule and the Washington-London Heathrow flight disappeared in the early evening. The London-Tel Aviv flight now also departs in the evening instead of in the morning. Instead of being rebooked for the last flight to London, the portion dropped completely, so their London trip suddenly started.
I called to correct it, thinking the agent could quickly return the clip. no.
She held me for 25 minutes and when she came back, I literally got the following:
“Sir, your schedule has changed. British Airways is no longer operating that flight.”
You held me for 25 minutes to tell me that?
“Sir, we can return your ticket.”
No, I don’t want that. I want you to fix it. Ticket prices tripled.
She suggested rebooking via JFK on American Airlines to keep the original travel time, as a 13-hour layover would now be necessary at Heathrow. The agent refused even to explore this option because “Americans and British are different.”
Yes, but they are codeshare partners and a joint venture. But okay, okay…just put the British Airways flight back on hold.
“We can’t do that. I don’t see space.”
what are you talking about? There is a lot of space!
“Well what you might see doesn’t reflect what’s in my system.”
Well, can you contact British Airways to solve this problem? Please suggest the American Airlines option.
So you put me on hold. After 45 minutes she came back.
“I’m still waiting, sir.”
lovable. She finally reached out to someone who works for British Airways, and they seem to have told her they “couldn’t do anything”.
Almost real? I highly doubt it. In fact, I’m wondering if she’s reached out to them. Do you really think British Airways would just tell the customer to go into that position? of course not.
Anyway, I already wasted 90 minutes on the phone call.
See, a “real” travel agent can re-enter the passage and reissue the ticket without contacting the airline. But these American Express folks are simply not well trained clerks who really have little knowledge of any aspect of airline reservations. I am sorry to report that both US customers and agents in the Philippines are equally untrained.
It’s a missed opportunity and another distortion of the benefits for which you pay very high annual fees.
I called again. This time I got an agent in the US. She also kept me on the line for over 45 minutes and eventually said she couldn’t do anything. I didn’t even hold back… I listened to her talk to herself as she tried to find a solution. Absolute madness. It can be fun, but it’s blatantly incompetent. As an aside, when I called British Airways, they said (correctly) that I would need to deal with the travel agent who booked the ticket.
This is not a one time incident. I can share dozens of similar stories. Bottom line: Dealing with American Express travel is fine if you just want to make a quick online refund of an itinerary that won’t change, but if you have to change, amend or cancel your reservation…it’s just as frustrating as dealing with support Expedia or Priceline customers.
advice: Book through Platinum Travel Advisor or Centurion rather than online, if possible. These proxies aren’t necessarily better, but sometimes they are. At least you won’t have to deal with the language barrier.
I am sure any of you who have booked with American Express Platinum or Centurion Travel can share similar stories of frustration. American Express must realize that it has no place in the luxury travel market and that its poorly trained agents create bitter frustration for customers.
I’ve instructed my clients to start using the Spark Business Card from Capital One, which offers 2% cash back on all purchases. Bye, bye AMEX.
As a script, my clients said it screws up and we booked non-stop flights on United at a hefty premium. We are still waiting for a refund from British Airways to publish…