A Reminder of the Most Useful Tip in the Points / Miles World…

Some links to products and partners on this website will earn an affiliate commission.

Sometimes the simplest ‘tricks’ are the best, and that’s certainly true of one of the real golden oldies in the Points/Miles/travel hacking world: Hang Up And Call Again  (HUACA) – a tip so famous it has its own acronym.

Even the best known tips are worth repeating occasionally though, particularly if they are as useful as HUACA.

It’s an unfortunate fact that not all call centre agents are given sufficient training to be able to do their jobs properly (an issue I place squarely at the door of senior management, not the under-trained staff themselves), so maintaining a healthy scepticism towards the information they give you is prudent.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I had to ring Marriott Rewards and American Airlines AAdvantage about a couple of things.

With Marriott, all I wanted to do was move some Points from my account to a family member’s – which usually takes 30 seconds. This time, the agent didn’t know where to begin and (in a friendly manner) advised me that I should do it online. I would love to be able to transfer Points myself online, but it’s actually impossible to do so.

It was clear that the agent had no idea how the transfer system worked, so rather than wasting any more time, I just thanked him and then rang again. A couple of minutes later I was speaking to an extremely competent agent who sorted the transfer quickly and easily.

With American Aadvantage, I wanted to change the dates on an Etihad Business Class award that I’d booked using AA Miles (which you can do for free!). To make a change, naturally there has to be award space available on the new date, but as I could see plenty of ‘GuestSeat’ availability on the Etihad site (which is what partners like AA should also have access too) I was confident that wouldn’t be a problem.

I was therefore surprised when the agent told me that there was Economy and First Class availability, but nothing for Business Class. Given that they had managed to find some Etihad space (not all AA agents can do this), I initially decided to stick with the call and asked them to try again and search for space leg by leg, etc. After double checking, the agent was absolutely categoric that there was no Business Class availability.

Etihad business class

The thing to note here is that the agent sounded confident, competent and convincing – if I wasn’t used to dealing with award bookings, I would probably have believed them and given up on trying to change my flights. I was quite sure though that the award space I wanted did exist, so I called back and the next agent found the space immediately and was able to make the changes.

These examples offer two main lessons when it comes to HUACA:

1) Don’t waste any more time than you have to – if it’s obvious an agent is struggling or doesn’t seem to understand what you’re talking about, end the call and try again.

2)  Don’t trust what agents say as gospel – even if they are competent and convincing, mistakes can (and do) still happen.

Bottom line

I dread to think about the number of people each day who get bad information from customer service agents which leads to them paying more than they need to, getting stuck with an inconvenient routing, or missing out on the trip they want to take altogether.

If you’re not 100% sure an agent is right about something, just take an extra couple of minutes and phone back (maybe more than once!) to double check.

What’s the worst/best info you’ve ever been given by a customer service agent?


    • Joe Deeney says

      My pleasure Richard – it really is such an obvious but useful thing to be aware of. The amount of time I’ve had friends and family say to me, “but the agent said…” 🙂

    • Joe Deeney says

      Cheers! Fancied spending another night in Colombo later this year on the way back from Asia and the award space opened up. (I’ll actually be in First from Abu Dhabi… 😉 )

  1. Sam says

    Great post, +1 on the more than once. I was made to believe by Emirates CS agent on the phone and then on the chat feature that infants cannot travel on a F reward flight and could only travel in F if the adult had a revenue ticket. To be fair anyone reading the T&Cs for reward flights might come to the samw conclusion, I would have thought this too had it not been for FF online community

    On the third attempt I was helped by a better trained CS agent who confirmed that it is indeed possible but at a cost of 10% of a what a revenue ticket would cost.

    Spoke to a fourth CS agent a few days later when I was ready to book and was told incorrectly that the points I had transferred over was not enough as I had to pay 10% in points for infant. Whilst that might have worked out to be super cheap for me if i transferred 15k points over from Amex I knew that it would be in vain. CS was trying to sell me skywards points. I asked him to check in with a supervisor before I transferred or bought points and he came back with an apology to say rules must have changed recently. In the end got what I wanted!

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Sam – absolutely classic case there, and the shame is that a lot of people would’ve believed the first agent and missed out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *