Newest Abrasion: American Express Did What?!

When my dad fell and injured himself on our Thanksgiving trip, we had to make abrupt changes to our Christmas vacation plans. Originally, we were scheduled to leave for Asia on December 17 and return on January 7, spending 12 days in Vietnam, several nights in Singapore, and several more in Taipei. Our new trip would begin on December 25, departing at 11:30PM after Christmas revelry, and would conclude on January 10.

I had booked our tickets through American Express Platinum, something I never do, because I thought it would provide me with some additional security for this rather large voyage. When I went to change the tickets, I couldn’t complete the transaction online. I had to call Amex and wait an eternity to get a representative to make the changes. I was irritated at some of the terms of the ticket. First, even though my new tickets were substantially less expensive, I would get no credit with the airline. Second, they wanted to charge me an additional $1300 for the privilege of changing the ticket. However, I was in no position to bargain, so although I balked, I agreed to the terms.

After that call, I logged into my Amex travel account to verify that I’d done everything on my end to change my tickets. On the home page, it still said the original travel dates, but when I clicked on the link to see my reservation, the new dates appeared. Everything looked zen. I rebooked all of our hotels, tours, and connecting flights, and then turned my attention to my father, who needed to have his quadriceps tendon reattached.

Around midnight on December 17, I realized I hadn’t yet booked a car to take us from the airport to our hotel in Singapore, where we’d spend the first few nights of our trip. I went onto the Blacklane app, which I always use for quality transportation to and from airports abroad, and it asked for my flight number. On Gmail, I searched “Singapore” to retrieve my reservation info, and the first message that popped up was from American Express. It had come in at 2:45AM (call it the night of December 16 or the wee hours of December 17). The subject read, “Your booking has been canceled.” What, what? My heart started pounding, and I said, “Oh, my God, Jamil, Amex canceled our flight to Singapore!”

I spent the next three hours on the phone with American Express, trying to rectify the mishap.

The representatives explained that the person I authorized to make the changes never processed the change fee on the card, which I didn’t notice because of all the other chaos going on in my life. Consequently, although American Express had changed our flights on my home page, the new tickets had never been issued. The representatives apologized and accepted responsibility, but they also explained that our flight plan was no longer available. We could get to Taipei, where we’d planned to lay over, but the flight to Singapore was completely full. Moreover, every flight American Express had access to book between Taipei and Singapore was sold out between December 25 and January 2!!

Immediately, I started searching on Kayak for flights. There was literally ONE flight left. It was on a new Taiwanese luxury carrier, called Starlux, and they only had first class, not business. It was $9300 for three tickets to make the one-way trip between Taipei and Singapore. I was still on the phone with Amex, and I told them I’d found a flight that worked, but that they’d need to reimburse me for that massive charge. And while they couldn’t promise I’d get a refund for the purchase, they said they’d file a case right then on my behalf, and they felt it would likely be resolved in my favor. Nervously, I confirmed the payment and prayed for the best.

I have to say that the flight between Taipei and Singapore – that unexpected first-class experience – was incredible. Starlux Airlines is quite a carrier. We had gorgeous, huge seats, and Josephine and I were able to enclose our seats in a private, two-person suite. We had massive televisions with all kinds of movies and great Wi-Fi. We had amazing service and wonderful food. Not only that, but because we were in first class, Starlux sent representatives to usher us through immigration and ensured that our bags made it safely from EVA Airways (the airline we took from Houston to Taipei) onto the Starlux flight. They even showed us pictures to reassure us that all was well with our bags and drove us on little carts through the airport. We felt like rockstar VIPs.

And, all’s well that ends well! I received a message from American Express the day after we arrived in Singapore, saying that they’d issued a credit to the account! Still, American Express probably added about 9,000 gray hairs to my head that night.

Author: Jessica Givens