If you’ve ever tried to call up an airline reservation line to make some kind of change to your flight chances are they didn’t do it out of the kindness of their heart, and instead stuck you with some huge change fee. It took me a number of times before I realized that these people suck and can’t help you. Even if you complain, ask for a supervisor, make a big fuss, ask nicely, they still won’t help you – or they’ll charge you. The people in the call centers have no discretionary power, and are a profit center for the airlines. So who can help?
Despite frequently being some of the surliest, most bitter employees of any airline, ground staff at the airport have the power! They can book you on a earlier flight, change your connecting city, book you on another airline, upgrade your seat, even change the city you’re flying to – without charge!
The people who can help you the most are the staff at the actual gate. The check-in staff often have to get permission from a supervisor, or are super-unhelpful because they deal with assholes all day. It depends on the airport and airline though. You can forget about getting help from any New York airport. They have hands down the worst ground-staff across all airlines in the whole country, if not the world. People are nicer and more helpful in smaller airports and in the southern cities.
The best position to adopt with any request is to be nice, extremely polite, and as friendly as possible. They have total discretion about how much to help you, and if you are refreshingly nice from most of the people they deal with all day you’ll find you’ll have a better chance of them going out of their way for you.
Next time you’re at the airport, go ahead and ask if you can get on that earlier flight, or that free
seat upgrade. Be nice and you’ll be surprised at your success rate!