When HUCA doesn’t work so well


There have been a number of posts out lately reminding everyone that if you don’t get what you want from a reservations agent to just hang up and call again (HUCA). And that usually works. I do it somewhat often, especially when stretching the rules on award routings or other complicated tasks. But there are also times where it doesn’t work, times where the agents simply cannot do what you’re asking. And I’ve had one or two of those experiences, too. Not that they didn’t want to help, that they truly couldn’t.

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Roughly 10 years ago we spent a week in Alaska. It was a great vacation in many ways, but the part where one of the checked bags failed to make it to Anchorage when we did presented a bit of a problem. We were headed directly from the airport to Talkeetna, about a four hour drive away and from there to spend three days rafting and camping. Waiting a day or two for the bags wasn’t particularly viable. We solved the immediate problem by going shopping that afternoon and buying new stuff, but I still wanted to know where the bags were. So after checking in to our hotel around 11pm local time I made a call to Continental’s lost baggage office.

The agent was friendly and polite but she had absolutely no idea where the bag was or when it would get to Anchorage. Not surprisingly I was rather unsatisfied by that answer so, following the tried and true method I thanked her, hung up and then called back. Agent number two was similarly pleasant but still offered up no useful information. Not surprisingly the third call was a near Waiting for Godot version of the prior two.

I was exhausted, having been on the go for about 24 hours at that point and frustrated at the missing bag and lack of info.I would not take “I don’t know” for an answer, and so I called back a fourth time. And that’s where things became rather comical. Perhaps I was not paying enough attention to the names of the agents or perhaps I was simply to tired to care. But the agent on the other end of the line was all too aware of the situation. I started in my my tale of woe and she politely cut me off before I could really get started. It went something like this:

Mr. Miller, I understand your frustration with the lost bag. But at this point you’ve now spoken with all three of us working here tonight; we simply don’t have any more information about the bag available and there is no one else here to talk to.

Whoopsie.

We eventually agreed that they would hold the bag at the airport rather than trying to deliver it. Something about them not having a bush plane to find us out rafting the following few days. And the bag did arrive a day or two later and was waiting for us as we passed back through Anchorage to continue the trip. Plus they paid out the maximum delayed bag compensation (at that time it was $50/day up to 5 days) because we had to replace so much so quickly. I honestly cannot complain at all about the way the situation ended up, other than the initial frustration of course.

The story isn’t much of anything other than a bit entertaining to me. Though it is also a friendly reminder that sometimes there simply isn’t anything more to be done. And then it is probably not worth it to further waste your time nor that of the agents.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

5 Comments

  1. Agree, which is why I’ve articulated a “call three times” rule when you aren’t sure what the right answer is — if you get told no 3 times it is probably no. Not that the 10th call won’t ever yield positive results, but that roughly speaking by the 3rd no that’s ‘probably’ the answer.

    ps Love the new blog theme!

  2. I had a similar experience back when US used to allow 2 stopovers on an award. I must have called 4 times that morning and eventually got a supervisor who had heard my tale before from her colleagues (I played dumb – “yeah, I called once and thought I’d try again”) and actually bothered to look up the rule and realized that I was indeed correct that 2 stopovers were legal (and my PNR had notes on it too). Of course she apologized then but man, it’s a pain in the butt sometimes…

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