Persistence (or A Newbie Books Award Travel)


A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. – Elbert Hubbard

I’m very much a newbie when it comes to booking frequent flier award flights. So while I was booking my flight to India a couple of months ago I settled on flying American Airlines / British Airways. I wanted to fly Cathay Pacific, but didn’t know how to get the person I was speaking to at AAdvantage to give me the CP ticket. She told me only the AA/BA flights were available. I knew that wasn’t true, but I didn’t know enough to get around it.

So I booked a series of flights that left DTW at 6:30am for a nice 9 hour layover in Chicago’s ORD airport! The rep told me there were no later flights available even though that was a lie. They just didn’t want to offer Award tickets on those flights. After being on the phone with them for upwards of 30 minutes I didn’t feel it was worth my time to try to figure out how to get them to book me a better flight.

A couple of weeks later I read this article by Gary Leff:

You can see I was the first to comment on it.

Not much I could really do about the already booked flight, but now I had a plan for the future.

And then I thought: “I should use this to decrease my layover time in Chicago. 9 hours is dumb.”

First Try: Failed, Sort Of

I called AAdvantage up and asked for a later flight. “All they could do for me” was put me on the 9:40am flight. 3 hours later than 6:50am so already a win, but not a very big one. I wanted on the 12:55pm flight with an arrival at 1:05pm (only 10 minutes later due to time zone difference). That would leave just 4 hours layover before my flight to London (and then finally on to Mumbai!) and I wouldn’t have to wake up early to get to DTW airport.

But I let it be. I booked the 9:40am flight and figured I’d try again later.

Try Again

I tried exactly 2 days before my flight’s departure.

And this time I was going to get my 12:55pm flight. I didn’t care how long I’d have to stay on the phone. I was going to make it happen.

I called AAdvantage and got the regular old spiel. “Sorry, there are no Award flights available on that flight.” Which was a lie, because I was looking at a booking screen that showed 2 available Award seats for 25,000 miles each. These are the “expensive” award seats. 25,000 miles one way domestic!

They said my particular Award ticket wasn’t bookable there.

So out comes a variation of Gary Leff’s little white lie tactic.

“I know you’re not supposed to book the ticket for me, but I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to the airport for the 9:40am flight. Is there anything you can do?”

“Let me check with a supervisor. Hold please.”

3 minutes later…

Yes, you’re booked on the 12:55pm flight.”

“Wow, thank you for doing that!”

And there it is. Nobody got hurt. Karol got the later flight. Thanks Gary Leff.

As an aside: The Business Class seats on both airlines were great. BA was better than AA because the seat folded completely flat and I got a great sleep. I have a strong feeling Cathay Pacific would’ve been considerably better, but I’m surely not going to complain about traveling in a very comfortable business class seat.

Do you have any stories of booking award flights or being persistent and getting what you want?


  1. OMG! This is seriously a great post on persistence. I have never booked FF flights, but I have always had to deal with agents who are gatekeepers. There’s a tone in their voice that is very distinct. Anyway, thanks for the link to Gary’s article. I am so psyched to start telling my little white lies!

  2. I have tons of persistence stories from my time spent living in Korea. The school I worked for kept trying to tell me things I knew were lies, because they assumed I hadn’t read my contract over in detail. I let them win some of the smaller, unimportant battles, but when they tried to do things like cut my vacation time short, I was extremely persistent. Persistence in the face of someone of higher rank is highly unusual in Korean culture, and it really caught them off guard that I kept finding higher and higher people to talk to until I finally found an administrator with power enough to tell my principal that be was violating my contract, and that he would have to give me my vacation days or be subject to a corruption investigation.

    My persistence in that situation and in others earned me something of a reputation for being “difficult” with my school, but I have heard from other teachers who worked there after I let that my actions made the school realize that they can’t assume that they can pull the wool over foreigners’ eyes, and that they have been treating their employees better. So, persistence can often not only help you, but it can also pave the way for those who come after you!

    • Kudos to you for sticking up for yourself Kelsey! That’s really great to hear. And it’s awesome that other employees have benefited from your persistence. Rock on!

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