Etihad Guest has risen to be a major loyalty player since it:
- is part of a major airline now.
- has added transfer-ability with Citibank ThankYou points.
- has lots of partners – some unique.
However, there is one I thing that I dread the most – calling the Etihad Guest Call Center.
Yesterday I looked up flights with Air Seychelles and wanted to see if they have availability for a redemption. Redemption rates with Air Seychelles within the Indian Ocean aren’t bad at all, with the smaller sectors like Mahe – Mauritius and Mahe – Antananarivo for just ~10,000 miles. These flights often cost $500 one-way in economy.
Air Seychelles does not fly every day so I looked up flights on ITA Matrix and made sure that they operate it on their own metal. There is no way to look up partner availability for Air Seychelles.
I called and a friendly voice said ‘Hi’ – after that funny voice prompt that says ‘Your call ends now unless you press 0’. Huh?
I asked to look up availability for one passenger in economy for December 19th DAR-SEZ-TNR.
The operator was not familiar with the airport codes, so I spelled them out for her. Keep in mind that Etihad practically owns Air Seychelles and that this is an Etihad Equity Alliance Partner.
After a few minutes she came back to say that the flights don’t exist and so naturally can’t be booked with miles. I asked for different dates but got the same answer. I inquired about which system she had checked, since the flights are bookable according to ITA Matrix. She refused to tell me and found no other date for those flights.
Now TNR is a bit exotic (but not DAR) so I asked her to search for SEZ-MRU and while she found that flight she couldn’t find a single day with availability in December. I asked again which booking class she was trying to find but she refused to tell me.
I then asked to to speak to a supervisor but she said that is not an option. I tried to find out if she has one and she said yes, but since she works off the same system I can’t talk to her.
And then she hung up!
I’ve had a bunch of those calls now for different airline partners and different agents. They all end up like that – it’s often comical just to spell out an airport name and takes 10-15 minutes since the agent refuses to believe that miles can be redeemed anywhere else but on Etihad.
The agents are clueless about partner booking classes and downright hostile when it comes to looking up availability over more than a few days.
Plus availability always comes back as non-existing with pretty much any partner even if that partner shows partner availability.
So as long as we have to live with this call center, most partner redemptions are completely phantom unless you find that one skilled agent who actually knows what he/she is doing…
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