American Airlines AAdvantage miles catch a lot of flak and rightfully so. It can incredibly difficult to utilize those miles on domestic routes (that you’d actually want to fly) and many international routes as well. As a result, many people are left with mounting balances of AA miles. However, I still love me some AA miles because they are great for redeeming on aspirational awards on partners like Etihad, Qatar, and Cathay Pacific.
The only issue with booking these awards is that they can be a little troublesome. For example, for the second time in a row, I’ve had to call into the AA Australian call center to book an Etihad flight since the American agents couldn’t find the award seat. To make matters even more confusing, the Australian agent couldn’t find some open seats on Qatar I was trying to book but the American agents could see them just fine!
But all of that is nothing that a bit of patience and few Skype calls can’t sort out. The real problem can arise if you’re transaction isn’t processed with the correct currency.
Warning: pay with local currency
When I booked my Etihad and Qatar flights through the AA Australian call center, my tickets went to “pending.” This is nothing new and it didn’t alarm me since this is what has happened in the past. The thing is, I noticed that this pending status remained for a over a week and I started to get worried.
The next day, I checked “my trips” on the AA app, only to find that my Qatar itinerary was completely gone. I told myself that I probably just caught it right at the moment that it went from pending to ticket issued so it would probably show up any minute. Still, I was a little too concerned to not follow up so I called the AA Australian call center to inquire.
They looked up my booking and then broke the news to me that my booking had been canceled! What!?
I didn’t receive an email, phone call, message, push notification, or anything. Also, my miles and fees paid hadn’t been refunded or anything. And if I didn’t obsess over monitoring my bookings, one can only wonder what would’ve happened, especially if the availability had been taken.
So the agent told me to hold and she would investigate. What ensued was a 25 minute anxiety-inducing hold session. Finally, she came back on the phone and told me that the reason it happened was because the agent processed my transaction in US dollars instead of Australian. I was never asked which currency to pick or else I would’ve picked Australian Dollars since I always go with the local currency, but I had no idea this could happen if the booking was processed with USD!
Luckily, the agent was able to rebook the flight and this time confirm my ticketing on the spot so it would no longer show pending. And the fiasco actually worked out in my favor, since I was able to make a change without a fee to my Qatar booking after business class seats opened up on one of my segments.
But let this be a lesson: If you’re going to book partners with AA miles using the Australian call center, make sure that they charge you in Australian dollars since your itinerary might be cancelled without notice!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.