ANA (All Nippon) - Cautionary Tales and Such (seats, flight changes, etc.)

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Mar 9, 2018
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#1
Hello All,

I had initially reached out about an issue that has since been resolved to a degree, but was encouraged to post here to pass on details. I'm not looking for intervention, just want to pass on what I have learned in the process.

Background, my brother is stationed in Japan, and he's getting married next month. There are 11 of us traveling to the wedding next month, and I'm in charge of the logistics. Full disclosure, I am a former airline employee, but I have been out of the game for 8 years now. I'm familiar with ANA's contract of carriage and the terms we accepted when we booked our flights.
We booked the reservations in September for our April departure. 11 passengers on two reservations, all in premium economy (we're all pretty tall).At the time, I also booked our seats. Half our group is flying from Boston and the other half is flying from Philadelphia, connecting to our ANA flight in Chicago. (Yes I know Boston has direct Tokyo service on JAL. They do not offer premium economy, and the return flight is originating in Fukuoka, which would have given us a 9 hour layover at Narita...I'm fine spending 9 hours in the lounge but my family is not! :p)

Over the next few months, I received emails from ANA about flight changes; these were usually changes in departure and arrival time to the tune of 5-10 minutes. However, in December I received an email stating that a flight had been changed. Originally, our Boston group was flying United at 5am to Chicago on Saturday. United chose to cancel that flight, and we were rebooked to an 8am flight, which would put us in Chicago at 10:40am for an 11:50 departure. Those of you who have flown through O'Hare know that while a carry-on only passenger would have no trouble with that connection, baggage transfer would be iffy in only 70 minutes. I called ANA to see what could be done. The first time I called, I got an ANA agent at their Torrance, CA office, who said that the connection time was fine, and that we had nothing to worry about. I persisted and asked about what options we had. The agent offered either the flight to Tokyo-Haneda, which would arrive 5 hours after the flight to Narita (and also had single seats only in premium economy), or the United flight to Narita (which doesn't have premium economy). I conferred with my group, and the idea was floated to see about flying to Chicago the night before, staying overnight, and catching the Narita flight the next day. ANA initially balked, but eventually determined that since the change to our reservation constituted an involuntary re-routing, the change to Friday night was acceptable. A month later, they moved the departure time up 30 minutes to 11:20, which would have made that a 40-minute connection. I wonder what would have happened then…

This past week, I received an email that our aircraft had been changed, and that seat assignments may be lost. I quickly logged in, and sure enough, our seat assignments were shuffled. To put it into context, the aircraft swapped one 777-300ER for another 777-300ER, and the change adjusted the number of seats in business class and economy class. In both cases, premium economy was not affected (same number of seats, same row numbers, etc. However, our reservations for all of the A-C and nearly all of the H-K seats had been removed, and we were now occupying one A-C, a D-G, and an E-G. I immediately called ANA, and the agent was surprised, almost offended, that I would complain, since ANA had “put us all together”, as if their change had done us a favor. I asked them to adjust to our original reservations, and the agent said that they “could not move another passenger from their seat to accommodate another.” Considering they had just done that to our group, I questioned the validity of their statement.

The next day, I called ANA again, adjusting timing to speak with the California office. The first agent I spoke with I have to say was quite rude, interrupting my questions with her broken record statement of how “the terms you accepted clearly state that seat assignments are not guaranteed.” I told her that as a former airline employee I understand how that system works, but my attempt to finish with “but in my experience, if a cabin is not affected by a version change, we simply transferred the existing seat assignments to identical locations” was interrupted with her replying “well then, you must know this better than me!” I realize I should not be shocked at such a retort, but I was nonetheless. Her supervisor, on the other hand, was more than pleasant to deal with. She was not able to solve my problem, but she did not make me feel belittled as the initial representative had. We were able to at least get our couples paired up, but in the process, we lost three window-aisle combos. We’ll keep digging into it.

So that’s where we’re up to at the moment.

The one takeaway from this that could prove useful to others is: if your flight is shifted due to cancellation, even if the agent says the timing is still fine for your connection, argue on the point of involuntary re-routing. You might be able to switch to flights more in your favor, instead of racing through the terminal (and arriving last, missing out on overhead bin space, being “that passenger”, etc.)
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#2
Thank you for posting this. We tell consumers this all the things me. As a travel agent I won’t put anyone on a connection of less than 2 hours and if they have to go through Customs, preferably 3.

We have company contacts on top of our page. Why not use our Executive Contacts at the airline and go further up the chain to try to resolve this?
 
Mar 9, 2018
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#4
Thank you for posting this. We tell consumers this all the things me. As a travel agent I won’t put anyone on a connection of less than 2 hours and if they have to go through Customs, preferably 3.

We have company contacts on top of our page. Why not use our Executive Contacts at the airline and go further up the chain to try to resolve this?
I have internet again! Gotta love winter in New England!

I did initially look in the Executive Contacts, but did not see any details for ANA's management team. Did I overlook them?

I agree on the connection times...when I worked for my airline I had people with connections of less than 1 hour at one major European hub...thought they were crazy! Granted they had no baggage, but still, one misstep and they're waiting another two hours. We have a short connection at Dulles on our way back, but everyone in our group has either Global Entry or NEXUS, so we'll be able to shave some time there. Pity there's no precheck line at the mid-field TSA checkpoint exiting customs...
 
Mar 9, 2018
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#5
You are traveling with a large group. Have you tried contacting their Group Sales department? They will have more experienced agents who understand your needs better. https://www.anasales.com/en/blog/group-reservation-n68
I had not considered that, but at this point there's not a lot they can do. It's not a matter of seats together, they can easily provide that. It's the matter of how they killed the existing reservations and assumed we would be fine with it. Yes, I know this is all done in the computer. It's their response which rubbed me the wrong way. I guess my experience with my former employer set my standards too high...not a lot that can be done about that though...
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
11,977
12,226
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#6
As a former airline employee I’m sure to know when an aircraft type is changed- you are lucky if you all are able too be out on the same plane let alone the same seats.

I see we don’t have contacts for this airline. Use our help screen and request contacts for the airline. It’s important to be able to see if you can reach someone higher than customer service.
 
Jul 27, 2016
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#7
As a former airline employee I’m sure to know when an aircraft type is changed- you are lucky if you all are able too be out on the same plane let alone the same seats.
Generally totally agree, although, in this case, the new aircraft apparently has exactly the same premium economy configuration as the old plane. All of ANA's 777-300ERs have three rows of premium economy in a 2-4-2 configuration.

Schlange, I think the issue here, and the reason the reservations got jumbled, is that even though the configuration of premium economy didn't change, the row numbers of premium economy vary (17-19, 18-20, or 25-27), depending on how much business class the plane has. So, they couldn't just transfer your seats over directly (i.e. move you from 17D to 17D). So, they clumped you together as best they could, even though that meant that you went from having almost all of your seats in the 2's to most in the middle 4.

At this point, I really doubt that ANA is going to move seven passengers, all in aisles and windows, to the center section (including middle seats), in order to accommodate you. Right now they have one annoyed customer - that would leave them with as many as seven annoyed customers, some of which likely have status.

You might be able to get something (a voucher, or Mileage Plus miles) for the inconvenience, however.
 
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