Just thought I’d throw this out to see if anyone has had a similar experience. I’ve been trying to enquire and book the discounted business class companion fares from Syd – Joburg using my Amex Velocity card as one of the benefits of the card being 50% fares. The following has been my experience:
On Monday 29/2 I rang through to the 1300 366 105 number as per instructions for my card. I spoke to Toby, who was very friendly and eventually figured out the right area to put me through to. Unfortunately after sitting on hold for 24 minutes on my mobile I had to hang up and try again later on my work phone.
Second attempt, I asked to be put through to that department for what I needed to do. After waiting on the phone for 30 minutes a message came back to inform me that ‘the office was currently closed and to ring back during office hours’. This left me quite frustrated and a little confused. Nonetheless I tried again later in the afternoon and spoke to Shawna. I explained what happened and she thought it to be strange and offered to stay on the line till someone picked up in the area she was transferring me to rather than have me wait. After sometime she got off hold and mentioned that there were only 2 people working in this area and they aren’t picking up. She offered to let me go and ring me back once she got through to someone. She phoned back about an hour later and explained that she could still not get anyone to pick up. She took down some details of what I was enquiring about and said she would call back when she got through or had some answers for me.
The next day (Tues 1/3) after lunch I rang again as I had not heard anything, this time speaking to Liam. I explained all I had already tried and so he again tried to put me through. Waited some time and said he would have to get back to me as no one was picking up. This was becoming quite familiar and slightly more frustrating as I saw the flights I was interested in booking had gone up slightly in price.
Yesterday (Wed 2/3). Not having heard anything,I went online to try and send a secure message but there were technical difficulties and the facility was not available. I managed to find another 1300 number 1300736659 that was to register complaints. So I rang it. I got to half explain what I wanted and what had already happened, when the customer service officer said they would transfer me to the right area and have it sorted. Finally I thought I would get somewhere. I got through to an area that when I explained what I needed, she said it was the wrong area and proceeded to transfer me to what she thought was the right area. So I got put through to, what I again found out, was the wrong area – being Amex travel agent themselves.
Quite frustrated but determined not to get angry at the consultants that were being helpful, I rang the original 1300 number as it seemed the second one did not help. I tried once again and got Meriss,who can see all the notes that are now on my file. She again tries to contact the relevant department and can see that there is an issue and she offered to sit on hold for me till she got through to the area, then call my mobile and connect me.
After waiting an hour, I went and tried the secure message again, to which it worked and I lodged a complaint message.
Today is 4 days later and no response.
I am baffled as to what is going on. I wouldn’t think this is normal but I don’t want to think that redemption of these types of long haul international business class fares is to be this difficult each time? Is it just useless marketing hype?
Has anyone had success with redeeming these flights? Am I doing something wrong?
Thanks for reading my story and appreciate your feedback.
I would also add that the “50%” discount is really not all it’s cracked up to be. I have been a velocity platinum Amex holder since the card was launched and have never used that perk. Why? Well, basically, the 50% discount is off a set fare class that American Express are allocated by virgin. The fares tend to be far more expensive than buying directly through virgin (so much so that you are literally better off paying for two separate fares most of the time).
Basically this benefit is really only of use to people who need to book at the last minute as the fares offered by Amex under this perk don’t tend to fluctuate in price. If you were trying to book a business class long haul flight a couple of days before departure, you COULD benefit under this perk. But really of no benefit at all for others.
This is why you hardly hear anyone speaking about this benefit and probably why Amex seem to have so little FTE invested in managing it (as opposed to the domestic free flight offer which is very quick and easy to redeem).
What a story, all too common these days with “service” providers!
I had a lot of very honest(re pricing v Velocity direct deals) help from an operator who gave me her “direct” number. Her name is Sheryl on 1800 621 524. She gave me this number if I wanted to call back as at the time I was unsure about dates. In the end I got a great deal from Air NZ to the US and decided to pay up this time but accumulate more points for the future.
Perhaps worth trying her number?
Thanks Julian for your suggestion. I actually got a call from Lisa from Amex on Friday but I was driving and could not answer. Even though she said she’d call back later that day she didn’t. No call yesterday either.
Disappointed with their service, we decided to just book Qantas economy fares on points just after lunch today and then got a call back from Amex. Timing!
Simon you are right. The fares aren’t really as great as they are made out to be and there are exclusion on long haul flights to Asia, South Pacific and South Africa – so no go for us anyway. The lady, Cherylyn, spent some time explaining to me the fares to LA and Europe and gave me indicative pricing and explained that sometimes the fares might be cheaper on the Virgin site as they have specials but Amex are allocated 2 types of business class fares (one with more flexibility than the other) but is consistent pricing all year round. Also that one way fares can sometimes be the same as return for some destinations.
All in all, I would agree with you Simon. Limited use. Mainly to LA, London and some other parts of Europe on VA or Etihad flights.
One good thing is that Cherylyn has emailed me some the details of which countries are in and sample costs and her number (which is the 1800 one you gave Julian) so I imagine my contact with them would be less frustrating if I want to call them next time.
Thank you both for your insight.