Last time we talked about the 5 things that I did right during my irregular operations when my flight was canceled. Today we’re going to explore 3 mistakes I made and ways I could have handled it better. (Again, as I mentioned this is a repost / update from a trip that happened several years ago, but I think many of the concepts are still instructive)
Mistake #1: I gave up too early
When I wrote about the 5 things that I did right when my flight was canceled, I mentioned that one of those things was being persistent, so how could I also say that I gave up too early?
What I meant was that when I finally got a hold of Aer Lingus on the phone (after being on hold for THREE HOURS!), I almost had the agent booking us in business class seats from Boston to London on Delta later that evening.
But when the Aer Lingus phone rep saw that my ticket was an award ticket booked through British Airways Avios, she said I needed to call British Airways to get them to rebook me. What I did not know then was that with irregular operations (IRROPS), the operating carrier owns the ticket on the day of travel. So if it had been days or weeks before travel, she would have been correct that I would need to call British Airways – but on the day of travel, Aer Lingus is responsible for getting me to my final destination.
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) September 16, 2015
Due to my own ignorance, I didn’t push back on the Aer Lingus phone agent
Mistake #2: I didn’t push for a business class seat
When we got to the airport and finally got 2 seats on a flight, it was only in economy. The super-helpful Aer Lingus agent was able to get us 2 seats on a flight that by all reasonable standards should have been already sold out. Originally she said she could get us in business class, but she was over-ridden by her manager who said that business class was full.
As Seth from the Wandering Aramean pointed out on Twitter, Aer Lingus should have been able to put me on business class on that Delta flight to London (there were seats available for purchase). What the Aer Lingus manager at the airport kept saying was that there was no Aer Lingus business class availability for several days, and she seemed hesitant to (or unaware that she could / should) put us on a Delta flight
At that point, I didn’t really want to fight too hard, because I was super worried about not getting to Europe for several days and missing out on most of our vacation. At that point, we had even seriously considered PAYING $2500 to buy 2 economy tickets.
As I kept saying, let’s just get us to Europe, and THEN we’ll worry about compensation.
Mistake #3: Not calling out to Ireland
The only other thing I think I could have done better was not calling out to the Aer Lingus call center in Ireland. I saw on Twitter that some people had gotten through to the Aer Lingus Irish call center while we were all still on hold with the US call center. I have a “weird” phone plan, and it doesn’t work internationally. I tried to reach out to them to get international access, but I couldn’t get it working in time. At the time, I didn’t have a Google Voice number, though now I do, so that would be another option.
I guess I didn’t realize I should have been prepared to call Europe to solve my problems – maybe next time 🙂
Bonus mistake: Should I have even booked this flight?
At the time, the Boston to Dublin flight is one of the “holy grails” of miles and points redemptions
At only 2,993 miles, it falls 7 miles under the threshold for only 12,500 British Airways Avios. At the time I booked it, you could get this route in business class for 25,000 Avios, though with the recent British Airways devaluation, it now costs 37,500 for business class.
But…. there is a problem, and one I ran into. Since Boston is not really a “hub” city for Aer Lingus, they don’t have as many options for when things go wrong as they would if it happened in Dublin. Also, with 2 flights per day, taking the last flight of the day lends another problem – when it got canceled, there was nothing else in the airport to do. No other flights and no staff available. If something had gone wrong with the 6pm BOS-DUB flight, we might have been able to get seats on the 9pm flight (though we would have had to fight the other 300 people on the flight!)
Does that mean that you should never book flights in a non-hub city? Of course not – that would be nearly impossible. But if you are taking the last flight of a day from a non-hub, it’s something to be aware of!
Bonus Mistake #2 – No Trip Delay insurance
At the time (2015), I didn’t have a credit card that had trip delay insurance. Or maybe I did but just didn’t know how to use it. Now, several years later, I do understand how that can help.
In fact, there’s an argument to be made that you should not even bother with the hotel that the airline provides and make your own accommodations, and then get reimbursed with the trip delay insurance from the credit card where you (hopefully) booked the trip. Depending on the card I used, I’m not sure it would have covered the total $2500 cost of walkup tickets to London, but it would have at least put a nice dent in it.
The Bottom Line
When things go wrong, it usually pays to be proactive (except when it doesn’t). I made some mistakes, but we managed to save the vacation. And although we missed out on a day in Dublin, we also got EU261 compensation. It took forever, but we did finally get 600 Euros apiece for EU261 compensation. In addition, I got 25,000 Avios back for the downgrade from business class to economy.
Anything else I could have done better? Leave me some feedback in the comments
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