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Extra bookings get airline to waive fee

Ananda Laberge

Negotiating with airlines is never easy! Long gone are the days of receiving upgrades by just asking nicely.

 Recently, I booked an international flight on points for a companion and me. My friend paid me the additional dollars needed as I didn’t have enough points for both tickets. Then, my friend had to cancel one week out, so I called the airline. When I requested that the balance of the points be re-deposited back into my account, the agent abruptly told me that would cost me$150.

 I was astounded! Still, I kept my cool and said I had never heard of such a fee. Then I tried some persuasion. I told her I was a long-time customer, had “Premier” status and would appreciate it if she would waive the fee. But after checking with her manager, she apologized and said that wasn’t possible.

 I then told her I was planning several trips over the next few months, and that if she would waive the fee, I would book five trips with her right then on the phone. Plus, I told her that I had originally planned to use another carrier but wasn’t happy with its service. She asked me to hold, and when she got back on the line she asked if these were domestic or international trips—good question I thought! I told her that one was international, three were across the country and one was a two-hour trip to Oregon. After placing me on hold again, she said that as long as the trips were completed before year-end, the fee would be waived!

 I was surprised that I didn't have to work harder. My wish list was ready since I had a chance to jot down a few potential tradeables while on hold. I knew that those agents worked on commission ,and that there was a chance she (and her manager) might be persuaded if they got a booking of several thousand dollars in one shot. And I knew from reading the paper that this airline was working hard to retain high-status clients, whom they had been losing at a dramatic rate in the past year.

 The lesson: never assume an agreement cannot be made when dealing with a party who’s not generally inclined to negotiate. Always try—you might be surprised what you get in return!

 Ananda Laberge

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