How to Talk to Agents (and Other Ways to Get the Awards You Want!)

How to Talk to Agents (and Other Ways to Get the Awards You Want!)

Million Mile SecretsHow to Talk to Agents (and Other Ways to Get the Awards You Want!)Million Mile Secrets Team

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Getting the award flight or hotel stay you want usually requires planning.  But it also helps to get the right airline or hotel agent!

Often, you won’t get the award you’re after unless you have an agent who is willing to go above and beyond to help you.  And you’ll have better luck if you sound like you know what you’re talking about, and do your research in advance.

How To Talk To Agents And Other Ways To Get The Awards You Want
Knowing the Right Way to Talk to Agents Can Get You Better Perks!

Here are 4 tips for how to talk to airline and hotel agents!  And what NOT to do!  🙂

How to Talk to Agents (4 Quick Tips)

Link:   Fake It ‘Til You Make It:  How to Sound Like a Seasoned Air Traveler (Even If You’re Not!)

1.   Always, Always, ALWAYS Be Polite!

I can’t emphasize this enough.  Being nice makes a world of difference.  And you will NOT get what you need by being rude, pushy, or yelling.

In fact, you’ll likely get the exact opposite of what you want if you’re unkind to an agent.  Trust me, folks who are mean to airline agents often find themselves wedged into a middle seat in a non-reclining row near the back of the airplane!  🙂

How To Talk To Agents And Other Ways To Get The Awards You Want
Getting Upset Will Get You Nowhere!

Remember, you want the agent on your side.  They’re much more likely to help you if you’re friendly, open, and have a positive attitude.

2.   Be Prepared

Do your research in advance.  Search for award flights and find out (as much as you can) where award seats are available before you call the airline.  Tools like ExpertFlyer can be very useful!

Or check out my series on how to book flights using United Airlines and American Airlines miles, British Airways Avios points, or Starwood Preferred Guest points for ideas.

How To Talk To Agents And Other Ways To Get The Awards You Want
Knowing Where, When, and How You Want to Go Will Make Your Award Booking Call Easier

If you’re looking for a specific hotel stay or type of room, be sure to check online before you call to book.

When you call an airline to book an award, you should already know dates, flight numbers, routings, and times (as much as possible!).

For example, DO say:

“Hello!  I’d like to book 2 award tickets in coach on XYZ Airline flight #123 from Chicago O’Hare to Los Angeles on April 5, 2015.  I see that there are available award seats online.”  (Even better – use the airport 3-letter code and spell it using the phonetic alphabet!)

How To Talk To Agents And Other Ways To Get The Awards You Want
Being Polite, Firm, and Knowledgeable About What You Want Will Help

Do NOT say:

“Hi, I’d like to use miles to fly from Chicago to Los Angeles this spring.”  An agent who gets a call like this knows they’re in for a lot of work and questioning!

3.   Hang Up, Call Again

Sometimes, despite being the politest, most well-prepared customer, you won’t get extra help from an agent.

That’s usually the best time to say dinner is on the table and thanks for your help!

How To Talk To Agents And Other Ways To Get The Awards You Want
Hang Up, Call Again – and Maybe You’ll Get a Better Agent!

Call back later and try again.  Agents are human.  They have off-days too, and some are just more likely to help than others.

And if you end up on the phone with a newly-hired agent, they might not have the tips or tricks at their disposal to help you get the award you want!

4.  You’re Not More Entitled Than Anyone Else

Nobody likes an obnoxious customer with an overblown sense of entitlement.

Especially if they’re getting something for free (or very cheap) that others would normally pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for.

Please, don’t be like this guy.

That said, you can occasionally get better hotel rooms or perks by being extra nice to hotel agents.

And in certain cities (like Las Vegas), the $20 trick has worked to get free upgrades and other benefits for many folks!

How To Talk To Agents And Other Ways To Get The Awards You Want
In Las Vegas and Other Large Cities, Slipping the Front Desk Clerk a $20 Could Get You an Upgrade!

Be humble and discreet when asking for extras and you’ll likely have good luck!  But if it doesn’t work out, at least you tried.

Bottom Line

The number 1 way to keep airline and hotel agents on your side (so they’ll help you get the award flight or stay you want) is to be POLITE.

Being prepared, doing your research, and sounding like you know what you’re doing are also keys to making your phone call or interaction a success.

If things aren’t going your way, there’s nothing wrong with hanging up and calling again.  But never, ever be rude or sound entitled.  That’s a sure way to NOT get what you need!

Do you have any good tips or tricks when talking to airline or hotel agents?  What’s worked for you?

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It should not be encouraged for bribing indeed. But sometimes it work quite nice in some third world countries when you were in trouble. And even some countries' officials may ask you for a tip proactively. Try going to Egypt. Their immigration personnel will probably ask you for USD tip when you leave the country. I don't think this is an anecdotal facts since it has happened to many people. Google it.

Of course I won't do this unless I am into some deep trouble or I need sth badly from those reps/staff.


I get it man. I tried so hard to be a BS American (it works...sometimes). It works even better if you are a white/caucasian especially in some Asian countries (just my experience hope it doesn't offend anyone).

Trick is to be talkative and friendly. People trust them more. If you are from naturally reserved and shy culture like parts of Asia you are at a disadvantage. Learn to BS like the Americans.

Not being sarcastic, really mean it.

I always find it helpful to call them by their name. Get into an actual conservation with them.

Lots of good ideas here, but don't support a culture of bribery ($20 trick), which is prevalent many places in the world, but should not be encouraged.