Here is something simple that can save you a lot of time. If an airline’s frequent flyer program has a pin number for you to set – set it and don’t forget. You can store your pin in Award Wallet or wherever you like, just don’t forget it! If you’re saying to me, “duh”, that’s great – but even with all the awards I’ve booked, I still forget this. Here are two examples and how I dealt with them recently.
If you don’t care (I wouldn’t blame you), just remember – set your pin numbers and don’t forget them! I do think these anecdotes should give regular award bookers some ideas of how to troubleshoot, which is why I’m sharing them.
Pin Fail 1: British Airways
There was, erm, a bit of a hubbub the other week involving British Airways Avios. While it turned out to be much ado about nothing, I went into full on fire-drill mode and took my own advice, booking an award trip to Ireland for my parents.
I ran into a bit of a problem – my mom was in Brazil for a conference and unreachable and I didn’t know her British Airways pin. I HAD to use miles from her account because my dad didn’t have enough. I came up with what I thought to be an elegant solution – I created a household account for my parents, meaning their miles would pool together and I’d only need my dad’s pin to book the tickets.
Household accounts with British Airways are great – you can share miles; whenever a ticket is booked an equal number of miles are taken out of each account. The only drawback is that you can’t redeem miles for a ticket for someone NOT in the household (which you can do with individual accounts).
Of course, I ran into another snafu with the household account – I needed my mom to confirm her entry into the household account through her e-mail. Of course, I don’t have my mom’s e-mail password so I thought we were done for again until I thought of how to Macgyver out of the situation.
I knew my mom’s BA password (stored on Award Wallet), just not her pin. But since I could get into her account, I changed her e-mail address on file to one I knew the password to and then had BA send her another household account invitation.
Boom! I accepted it, my mom and dad were a household (in BA’s eyes), and we got the ticket booking done. I managed to do all this while the patient rep was on the phone – but it all could have been avoided if I had just known the pin number. Why there is a separate pin number and password is beyond me, but there you go.
Pin Fail 2: United Airlines
As you may have gathered from my post/Twitter/Instagram, I was in Los Angeles for a wedding this past weekend. I had helped the bride and groom book their honeymoon tickets awhile back. Even though I got them onto Lufthansa first class pre-devaluation, I wasn’t too happy with the flights – two redeyes and a few long layovers (over 3 hours). My plan had always been to change their flights as part of their wedding gift a week out, but the busyness of life caused me to not search for award space until…5 hours after they tied the knot.
My original plan was to change the flights without even asking them and then just “presenting” them with their new flights. But, of course, I didn’t know their pin numbers. Fail again. Now, if United had let me change the flights online, it would have been no problem since I had their account passwords, but they did not and thus there was a problem.
So, instead of enjoying the after party with everyone else (though I’m old and exhausted so I probably wouldn’t have anyway), I walked right past the twenty McDonald’s cheeseburgers displayed on the table and grabbed the groom to try to figure out both of their pins. This also blew the surprise. We managed to figure out the bride’s pin in 10 seconds, but we tried all of the groom’s go-to pins and only managed to get ourselves locked out of his account.
At this point the whole thing almost blew up in my face – a friendly but not super competent United agent had already changed the flights on the groom’s itinerary but not the bride. But since we didn’t have his pin, we couldn’t confirm the flights and I was deathly afraid that I was going to screw things up and they were going to have to fly separately. ALL BECAUSE WE DIDN’T KNOW THE PINS.
Compounding the matter was the fact that the department that resets pins wasn’t even open. So what I did was just leave the groom’s flights in limbo (but with the flights held) and confirmed the bride onto the same flights. I just had to cross my fingers that United wouldn’t release his seats in the next six hours. The next morning I woke up, we called and got everything squared away immediately, but I’d be lying to say if I wasn’t a little nervous.
In the end, everything ended well and the only one who was stressed was me – but it’s my job to be stressed for the people I’m making award bookings for. I thrive off of it and now I can happily send my buddy and his new wife to Italy in style AND without annoying connections! But it would have been so much easier if I had known their pin numbers. Though in this case, he didn’t even know, I guess…
Hopefully I’ve impressed upon you the importance of knowing your pin number or securing it somewhere where you can access it easily. Off the top of my head, I remember United, British Airways, and Delta asking me for a pin in the past. If any of you know other airlines which insist you have your pin before you book an award (over the phone), please chime in. And please, airlines, make it so we can book everything online so I don’t have to deal with this madness anymore!