GeoVisions Blog

One Airline Ticketing Trick

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Thu, Jul 03, 2014

When Bad Things Happen With Your Airline It Is Random Not Personal

BA FlightI’m traveling in Europe for a month visiting our overseas partner offices and meeting and talking to many of our participants in Europe who are on our programs. That’s mostly tutors, teachers and camp counselors. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve taken a full month away from the office to talk to visit our participants and programs and I’m excited to learn as much as I can.

Because I work in our office in Connecticut, of course I had to fly here. Normally this would have never made it to the top of the “Blog This Now” list. But when British Airways canceled my reservation and didn’t tell me until I went online to check in … I thought I might write about the experience. We do get a lot of “emergency” phone calls when flights are missed or canceled. I thought it might might make even a small difference if our participants knew those are random incidents and can happen to anyone. But turning that really bad experience into something good is all in how you approach the problem.

No airline is out to get you.

They are out to over price you, but they are not picking on you when they cancel your flight, lose your luggage or make you late. If you approach the challenge knowing even the most experienced travelers in the world get bumped off a flight every now and then … you will keep the stress levels down.

Did You Reserve Your Flight With An Agency, An Online Company Or The Airline?

I ask, because it makes a huge difference. The first thing British Airways said to me when I called them was, “You didn’t make your reservation with us, sir. You made it through American Express Travel. You’ll have to talk to them. Your reservation is canceled and the flight is full. Call American Express.”

Totally up to you, but 95% of the time I will reserve with the airline directly. The little I save with Travelocity or Kayak pales when I need to negotiate with the airline directly (like at the airport at 5:00 a.m.) and then I don’t need to step out of line, call the agency hotline, talk to them, have them call the airline, then the agency calls me back an hour or more later, and then I still end up talking to the airline. After the flight has departed, of course.

Direct. No matter the airline, deal with them if you want to minimize issues after you purchase.

Do You Have Travel Delay Coverage?

If you are traveling on a GeoVisions program, yes you do. Always check to see if you have travel delay. If a flight delay means you have to overnight or buy a big meal when you thought you might be served on the flight … insurance to cover you in the delay could save you a lot of money.

My Entire Reservation Was canceled

This is rare. Last week I checked in to BA online and when I did I saw a message saying I could not check in and that I needed to call the airline directly.

I called British Airways and through a random glitch, my name was still in the computer at BA, but my seat had been given away and although I was showing to hold an open ticket … BA said they could not allow me on the plane because the my reservation had been canceled by American Express Travel, where I originally made my reservation. I had made the reservation 60-days out, had never received an email or call from Amex … so I suspected it was an internal error that BA refused to confirm. AND they refused to talk to me, since Amex had made the original reservation.

So, 9:00 p.m. I called American Express Travel. They tried for hours (literally) to find someone at BA after 9:00 p.m. eastern on a Thursday night who could help. I memorized the music on hold. And I was on hold for 30-45 minutes at a time not knowing what was going on.

Much later, American Express Travel found a supervisor (it pays to be able to ask an agent: “Could you please connect me with a supervisor?” I did on my original call but was reminded that only American Express Travel could help.

The supervisor was able, after hours of work, to find a seat for me. The thing was, they gave me Row 23, Seat J. I was thrilled. I would be going to Europe on time after all.

I logged back in, checked in and printed my boarding pass. Row 19, Seat G. Um. I wrote down 23 J.

I called BA back again. After 15 minutes they confirmed I was indeed on the flight and in Row 23, Seat J. I asked them why I had printed out 19 G and they had no real reason for me.  "Show up at the airport and hope for the best."

Lesson Learned - You Can benefit

Had I made my reservation on BA back 60-days before now, I’d have been off the phone in 30-minutes with the right seating assignment that matched my boarding pass.

Instead, I drove 2-hours to NYC with the idea I was 23 J, had a pass printed for 19 G and worried for hours.

And as it turns out? They switched out the aircraft. On the flight I actually used, I was 19 G. The computer was right all along.

I hope these few lessons and ideas are helpful to you. Remember … these things happen to everyone. They’re random and not at all personal. And if you can remain calm and patient you will get more of what you need. Getting up in someone’s grill who’s trying to help will only get you a step backward. You are trying to fly forward. In this case, booking directly with the airline would have saved hours of sitting on hold.

If you have stories that could help others here, please do leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.

Tags: Airlines, Airfares

Volunteer And Choose To Make A Difference With Civic Responsibility

Posted by Alexandra LeGrant on Tue, Jan 11, 2011

KarenGeoVisions is proud to present this guest post by Karen Middleton, President of Emerge America, a premier training program for Democratic women. Karen also served as a Democratic Representative for the state of Colorado and was on three committees - House Education, Business Affairs and Labor, and the Legislative Council.

For as long as I can recall, I have always felt a strong sense of civic responsibility and a commitment to my community.  Interestingly, I do not remember how and where this was instilled in me.  I vividly remember registering to vote on my 18th birthday, and casting my first ballot that same year.  As I have voted and engaged in my community in other ways, it has been both a source of pride and a consistent theme in my life.

While I know I have this gut-level sense of myself, I have spent several years trying to find the best way for us and our society to instill this same sense in our children and students across America.  When I see someone throw trash out their car window, or tell me they don’t vote, I have a strong physical reaction and wonder what we can change and why I have this sense when others don’t?  While I have long felt this way, I don’t know where I learned that lesson and how it was so deeply embedded.  If I knew, I would bottle it to share.  You might ask, how are these acts linked?  To me, it is whether you care about the world around you and whether you participate to make the world better.

I have tried to impact this type of thinking in two ways.  First, I spent several years working with civic education issues – how to teach it, what it should include and how to incorporate it in schools across the country.  I participated in both state and national groups to help affect this policy change.  While there are many splendid examples of how to do this work well, I don’t know how many people have been impacted and if it has worked.  Reports were produced, conferences were held, materials were shared, and websites were developed. 

Second, I taught political science for a couple of years and tried to engage students in this type of thinking myself.  We talked about the impact that just one person, just one voice, and just one vote can make to change the world.  It may be a big problem, or a local issue.  Was I successful?  I am not sure.  I definitely engaged some of my students in some of my classes to think differently about their place in the world.  I can only hope that my continued efforts, through example, and by continuing to engage in other ways.

global handsIn addition, I presented this issue to civic groups who are part of the fabric of community engagement.  Interestingly, they were struggling with how to best reach young people to both offer their guidance, and to support them.  Groups like Rotary or Civitan are equally challenged by how to reach the next generation of young people to engage them both as future members and recipients of community and civic engagement work.

This is work we must all continue to think about and continue to work on as we lead by example and share our time and energy to inspire others to join us as voters, volunteers and active members of our society.  It is a journey we take together.

Tags: Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Volunteer Locally, Staying Involved, Make Something Happen, Working For A Better World, Airfares

Help Our Volunteers By Removing Airline Fees

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Sun, Apr 18, 2010

There are quite a few companies out there offering low-cost airfare.  Here are a few we recommend to people who plan to volunteer or teach abroad:

Smarter Travel

Student Universe

The Airfare Guru

STA Travel

Fly For Good

But my point in this post is that anyone out there who provides airfare for students, teachers, and volunteers...thank you.  And while you're finding lower fares, where you could also be of great help is to negotiate reduced airline fees or negotiate that the airlines get rid of them totally for teachers, students and volunteers.

Guide  To Airline FeesTo illustrate my point, take a look at this chart I downloaded from Smarter Travel.  It is very current...updated on April 6.  It lists 14 airlines and 12 different fees the airline charge passengers.  Just click on the link above and take a look at the chart.

I just returned from meetings in and around London and I flew on United.  Because I fly constantly, I don't have to pay all these fees.  But had I been going over to volunteer abroad or teach abroad, here is what I might have had to pay in fees on United, in addition to my airfare and taxes:

$25 for my bag.

$45 for my 2nd bag (Int'l charge)

$25 booking fee

$9 for extra leg room on the International flight

$9 for a meal plus $6 if I want wine or beer

And that totals up to $119.

On Student Universe, I can fly over June 1 from New York to London and return on July 31 for $280 and then add $389 in taxes and security fees and then add my $119 in airline fees (above).  The airline fees are almost 50% of the airfare and the taxes and security fees are even more than my airfare.

So I'm asking all of you out there who brag about how low your airfares are (and they really aren't all that low if you don't fit a very small demographic like student or maybe a teacher), you could help our volunteers by asking the airlines to get rid of those extra fees. We will give the airlines proof that our volunteers are who they say they are and they are going abroad to volunteer their time.  This is how you can be helpful to everyone.  I understand you can't get rid of security fees and taxes, but the rest of those fees?  You can negotiate that for us.

So if I'm a senior citizen (and I almost qualify) and I can't access the student airfare, I'm going to have to pay full freight to buy my ticket through you.  But if I go ahead and buy my airfare from you anyway and prove I'm going to volunteer, why can't you help me by getting the airlines to get rid of all those extra fees?  That helps everyone and it would certainly sell a lot more tickets on your site.

Please? Anyone else have ways to help?

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Tags: Teach Abroad, The Well Prepared Traveler, Airfares, Volunteering Abroad