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Airline phone agents have probably hung up on me a dozen times in my life. The story is usually pretty similar.

I call in with an award request that is complex. The computer prices it incorrectly according to published rules. I ask for clarification on the rule that is causing my award to misprice.

The agent makes up a rule. I point out that rule doesn’t exist. I speak to a supervisor. The supervisor makes up a rule. I point out the rule doesn’t exist.

At this point, the supervisor might go to the airline’s internal experts on awards. Sometimes they try to explain a real rule, but the rule is posted nowhere online, and the internal experts won’t get on the phone with customers, so we are left at the mercy of the supervisor mediating the conversation. Since the supervisor knows very little about award booking rules, the supervisor is a horrible person to ferry messages between me and them.

Eventually I am hung up on. But the supervisors are clever. They want plausible deniability. So they tell me I am being transferred somewhere, then during the transfer, the call is dropped.

It’s the perfect crime.

They know they’ve hung up on me. I know they’ve hung up on me. Google voice knows they’ve hung up on me.

But there’s no way to prove the agent intentionally hung up on you. The agent can get away with it easily and rids himself of a pest.

Two recent calls from Google Voice. I ended the call with my friend. Delta ended the call with me while I was on hold.

I’m not just basing the likelihood that the agent intentionally hung up on me solely on the Google Voice data. I’m also basing it on the fact that when a phone call with an airline reaches about an hour, and I am put on hold, the chances of the call being dropped are at least ten times higher than if I am put on hold at the beginning of a call. I can update the probability that the call was dropped as well as the next Bayesian.

Unfortunately I can’t think of a way to get hung up on less–at least not while maintaining my success rate in ticketing tough awards. I could be less persistent about ticketing difficult itineraries, but that just guarantees I won’t get the best awards ticketed. I am better off being hung up on a few times.

The real solution is probably actually to book all my awards with US Airways. The hang ups always stem from disagreements when I want the agent to override a computer. That never happens on US Airways bookings since computers don’t price US Airways awards. Humans do, and they tend to be very pliant.

Too bad I expect this hang-up-free-zone to disappear when US Airways and American Airlines merge, bringing computers into the award pricing of ever more awards.

Have you been hung up on by an airline?

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