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South African Airways Reservations Are Impossible!

Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:39 am

South African Airways reservations are impossible to deal with – a cry for help!

Does anyone have a similar miserable experience with the reservations department and customer service departments of South African Airways – and were you able to solve your problem?

Anyone have any suggestion how to persuade these people that the customer is not the enemy?

I am desperate for help – really!

Here is the short version: A good customer of our travel agency booked and ticketed through us Abidjan –St. Louis roundtrip, via Dakar and JFK. Yes – I am a travel agent of 25 years, have seen a lot, but am running against a wall here. She is a nurse in Africa, and came home to visit her mother who is ill. She called me to postpone her return travel date due to the illness of here mother. So far – no problem – I quoted her the change fee, and was ready to re-issue the ticket, as soon as she would know her new return travel date.

Then South African Airways had a schedule change (they canceled their Dakar-Abidjan flight), so they re-booked the customer on a Kenya Air flight and they re-issued the ticket.

Here is the problem: Since the airline re-issued the ticket, our agency has no longer control of the ticket, and they, South African Airways, need to now do any and all future re-issues of this ticket, according to their own rules.

Unfortunately – for 2 weeks now – they refuse, or are too incompetent, to calculate the change penalty, so they will not re-issue the ticket. Their reservations department in the US hangs up on us, when they realize that this is not a simple transaction. This has happened about 5 times, no matter who calls them.

They also say that only their rate department can handle this, but refuse to connect us to them.

We called reservations in South Africa, to have THEIR rate department in their home country look at the fare and penalty, but they have not done anything, after one week, despite a promise every day that they will have the answer the next day.

I E-mailed their customer service department with a plea for help, a week ago: NO answer. Nothing. Nada.

All the customer wants, is to know what the change penalty is, pay it, and take the return trip to Abidjan. Our agency cannot tell the airline what the change penalty is. Our agency cannot reissue the ticket, and even take responsibility for the change penalty, since we have no control of the ticket. The ticket coupons show “exchanged” The airline has control over the ticket.

Oh - by the way- we have here a situation where we have a Star Alliance ticket, South African and United airlines ( “seamless service” - LOL).

This airline has the customer’s money, they have been paid for the return portion of this trip half a year ago – but the customer cannot, at this time, take the return trip, because the airline refuses to re-issue the ticket.

And the reason why they refuse to re-issue the ticket: They, themselves, refuse to make the effort to come up with the amount of their own change penalty.

Talk about a catch-22 situation.

Any thoughts, any help would be welcome. I have seen a lot of obnoxiousness when it comes to airline behavior, but this is one of the worst.

I am sorry if you think this is a rant, but I am actually seriously looking for a solution.
This traveler has at this time the return portion of her ticket confiscated by an airline, which is 100% non responsive. This traveler is ready to pay and travel. It is South African’s OWN schedule change (=cancellation of flight) which puts the customer in limbo, and this airline simply will not take responsibility, nor show the slightest attempt of customer service ( see non-responsive customer service department).
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RE: South African Airways Reservations Are Impossi

Tue Jan 19, 2010 1:09 am

Quoting Skisandy (Thread starter):
South African Airways reservations are impossible to deal with

Well, for a start, if you are calling their hot-line within South Africa, it is a toll call, and it takes at least 15-20 minutes before someone answers the phone. Whatever you want them to do that is more difficult than canceling the booking and NOT get a refund, it takes at least 2 calls to get it right, if you are lucky. If there is a local SAA office in your city, it would be better to go there in person and refuse to leave until your problem is solved. I avoid SAA whenever possible: they are not cheaper than their competitors and their service is mediocre at best.
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RE: South African Airways Reservations Are Impossi

Tue Jan 19, 2010 1:15 am

If there's an SAA rep in town- ask them to come in ASAP. Otherwise, go to the local office and as correctly stated, don't leave until they send the correct internal messages off.
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RE: South African Airways Reservations Are Impossi

Tue Jan 19, 2010 1:18 am

Try calling the London office when the US office is closed and say its an emergency. May work if you get a nice person.
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RE: South African Airways Reservations Are Impossi

Tue Jan 19, 2010 1:23 am

Thanks for your responses!

Unfortunately we are based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, far away from any South African Airways representative.

I will call London tomorrow, to see if they can help. A few toll calls make absolutely no difference to us any more, all we want to do is get this done.

My secret wish is maybe that someone from the airline will read this or will find out about this - and help.
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RE: South African Airways Reservations Are Impossi

Tue Jan 19, 2010 1:58 am

I own a business in Cape Town and believe me, although SAA is an inefficient customer unfriendly business, generally everything is done on "South African Time" (i.e there is no rush).

SAA are a nightmare, even their web bookings. Also I couldn't believe there was no AVOD / Personal TV on their London flights to Cape Town!? Worst case scenario call your credit card company, cancel the transaction and book with a better carrier!


P.S Internally there is a lot of competition now although SAA do have the most modern fleet.
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RE: South African Airways Reservations Are Impossi

Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:10 am

Come to think of it- they were pretty lousy 20 years ago too. I had an SAA airpass and needed to make changes and the grumpy witch in the Bloemfontein ticket office said there would be a penalty (agreed), went about re-assessing the fare, and then tried to assess an extra penalty for the already flown sectors!!! I said no-way- get the supervisor who was a nice competent guy and sorted it out.
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RE: South African Airways Reservations Are Impossi

Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:43 am

That sounds like situation normal in South Africa. I have family there and they tear their hair out ever time they need something done. Sorry not to be more help, but that's the way it is. It gets worse when you travel north in Africa. London might be the best bet.
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