External Reservation Handling Fee?

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Jul 1, 2016
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Here's my story:

Three of us are visiting Japan later this year. To save on airfare, I contacted a travel agency specializing in consolidator fares. We were able to purchase three tickets on American Airlines (with international segments operated by JAL, but marketed by AA). We were quoted a price, which we thought was very reasonable. I received the AA PNR from the travel agency (it took me some painful back-and-forth to get this, however), then I logged into the AA website to find that we can pick our seats online for the domestic (AA operated) segments, which we did. However, I had to call AA to get the JAL PNR for the codeshare flights operated by JAL, which I did receive. When I log into JAL website with the JAL PNR, I cannot see the international portions of the itinerary, just the domestic, AA operated segments (not sure why). Then I called JAL to find out that with or without JAL PNR, JAL cannot assign seats to us either on the phone or online, since the JAL operated flights are "marketed" by AA through the codeshare agreement. So, I called AA to find out if they can assign seats on the JAL operated segments. Then I was told that I have to pay AA $50 per person "External Reservation Handling Fee" for AA to assign us seating, since we did not buy the tickets direct from AA.

So, am I stuck with these fees, if we want the seats assigned now. We prefer getting the assignments now so that three of us can sit together. Also, is the travel agency that I bought the tickets from, should they have informed me that a) they did not assign us seats and that b)it might cost us extra for us to get our seats assigned. Should I be insisting that the travel agency work with AA to get our seats assigned? In my previous but limited experience with travel agencies to buy airfare, they have always given us tickets with assigned seats (though I rarely use travel agencies for airfare.). Is this particular travel agency somehow negligent in not assigning us seats and also not telling me that it would cost extra for us to do it on our own? I was informed by the "travel agency" that seats will be available for us to choose 24 hours before the flight...but I am not sure if this is really true.

I would like to hear from experts who are reading this on what should I do, if anything to recoup the extra cost of getting our seats assigned now.

Also, is it now the case that we will be hit with fees like this every time we don't purchase tickets from the airlines direct? Or is this the case that the travel agency is being just negligent and lazy? Or should I just assume that $50 per person extra fee is just something we should accept as status quo?

Thanks.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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This is common when you book consolidator fares but also if you book a fare through another airline and not directly with the other airline.You usually can't even be assigned seats at all and have to wait u till you arrive at the airport so the fact they are allowing you to pre-book with a fee is common. Even if you had booked yourself on AA for JAL the other airline can and usually does charge for seat assignments.

i can tell you some airlines (like Lufthansa) don't allow pre booking seats period if you do not book direct with them.

Your choice is to pay the $50 per seat now or wait until you get to the airport and hope you can get decent seats and not middles or be separated.
 
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Jul 1, 2016
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Thanks Neil for your reply. However, does the travel agency that sold me the tickets have any responsibility for not telling me that it would cost me to have seats reserved now instead of waiting until the last minute?
 
R

Realitoes

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The time to ask about pre-booking seats would be before purchase. Any responsibility for lack of providing information would depend on the T&C you agreed to when you made the purchase. They don't know what you don't know! :) You could also build a case that they didn't tell you that peanuts weren't being served on this flight.

Personally, if I wasn't offered a seating options during the process, I probably would have looked into more before completing the purchasing process.

I checked on AA.com, and found that you are not given the option to even pay for seats on the JAL codeshare flights during the booking process. The only info I find concerning seat selection is in the FAQ:

Interesting that they will charge a fee for external reservations, but don't even offer the service to customers who book directly with AA.

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Neil Maley

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It is your responsibility to ask. When you book through a consolidator they have different rules. What did you get with your ticket? They usually send a disclosure of terms and conditions. What does yours day?

As Realitoes pointed out, the fact they can even give you a seat assignment for paying is more than you can get if you booked elsewhere.

They sold you a ticket, not a seat assignment and even seat assignments are not guaranteed. I am surprised that they can even give you an assignment if you want to pay because according to JAL's rules, you aren't eligible for a seat assignment at all when to book a code share ticket:

Please refer to this page for further instructions.

ELIGIBILITY

  • Seat assignments cannot be made in the following situations:
  • When all seats available for advance seat selection have already been assigned.
  • If the departures date of a Japan domestic flight is at least two months and 15 days after the day.
  • Other airlines' flights.
  • Most code-share flights not operated by the JAL Group aircraft and crew. (If advance seat selection is available on such a flight, the system will guide you.)
  • Segments beginning and ending out side of Japan.
  • Due to safety reasons, an infant under the age of 2 who occupies a seat may not be accepted on some First Class seats.
  • All Deutsche Bahn Rail Services.
  • Some fares sold outside of Japan don't apply.
 
Jul 1, 2016
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0
1
51
Actually, the JAL rules are about codeshare flights not operated by JAL aircrafts. In my case, I have a reservation marketed by AA, which contains codeshare flights operated by JAL aircrafts....anyhow....

I re-examined the terms and conditions, and there's nothing there that says the tickets will be issued without seat assignments or that I may be liable for additional fee for seat assignment.

When I contacted the travel agency a few days about this, the "agent" wrote me back to tell me that they cannot guarantee seating, but that was never mentioned either on the T&C, their website, or on the phone.
 
R

Realitoes

Guest
Actually, the JAL rules are about codeshare flights not operated by JAL aircrafts. In my case, I have a reservation marketed by AA, which contains codeshare flights operated by JAL aircrafts....anyhow....

I re-examined the terms and conditions, and there's nothing there that says the tickets will be issued without seat assignments or that I may be liable for additional fee for seat assignment.

When I contacted the travel agency a few days about this, the "agent" wrote me back to tell me that they cannot guarantee seating, but that was never mentioned either on the T&C, their website, or on the phone.
They probably don't mention peanuts either! ;)

You shouldn't be liable for additional fees (unless you want to book the seats in advance or upgrade the seats). The seats are assigned free of charge when you check in.

It you were "required" to pay extra to get a seat before and after check in, then I feel you would definitely have a case. Except for not providing a 100 page document listing everything that doesn't happen with your booking, I don't see any liability on their part.

Though on the basis of good customer service they should at least have a FAQ about how seating assignments are handled.
 
Jun 29, 2016
99
47
18
Silicon Valley California
Here's my story:

Three of us are visiting Japan later this year. To save on airfare, I contacted a travel agency specializing in consolidator fares. We were able to purchase three tickets on American Airlines (with international segments operated by JAL, but marketed by AA). We were quoted a price, which we thought was very reasonable. I received the AA PNR from the travel agency (it took me some painful back-and-forth to get this, however), then I logged into the AA website to find that we can pick our seats online for the domestic (AA operated) segments, which we did. However, I had to call AA to get the JAL PNR for the codeshare flights operated by JAL, which I did receive. When I log into JAL website with the JAL PNR, I cannot see the international portions of the itinerary, just the domestic, AA operated segments (not sure why). Then I called JAL to find out that with or without JAL PNR, JAL cannot assign seats to us either on the phone or online, since the JAL operated flights are "marketed" by AA through the codeshare agreement. So, I called AA to find out if they can assign seats on the JAL operated segments. Then I was told that I have to pay AA $50 per person "External Reservation Handling Fee" for AA to assign us seating, since we did not buy the tickets direct from AA.

So, am I stuck with these fees, if we want the seats assigned now. We prefer getting the assignments now so that three of us can sit together. Also, is the travel agency that I bought the tickets from, should they have informed me that a) they did not assign us seats and that b)it might cost us extra for us to get our seats assigned. Should I be insisting that the travel agency work with AA to get our seats assigned? In my previous but limited experience with travel agencies to buy airfare, they have always given us tickets with assigned seats (though I rarely use travel agencies for airfare.). Is this particular travel agency somehow negligent in not assigning us seats and also not telling me that it would cost extra for us to do it on our own? I was informed by the "travel agency" that seats will be available for us to choose 24 hours before the flight...but I am not sure if this is really true.

I would like to hear from experts who are reading this on what should I do, if anything to recoup the extra cost of getting our seats assigned now.

Also, is it now the case that we will be hit with fees like this every time we don't purchase tickets from the airlines direct? Or is this the case that the travel agency is being just negligent and lazy? Or should I just assume that $50 per person extra fee is just something we should accept as status quo?

Thanks.
Hello martini,

I am sorry you were charged this External Reservation Fee. I have booked trips with a Travel Agency and was able to assign my seats without paying this fee. Could you see if you can go online using the PNR to assign yourself seats? Perhaps you can try the JAL and AA PNR on both the JAL/AA websites to see what happens.

Also if you have your Ticket# you may be able to look up your reservation this way.

The only reason why the airline may be charging you this External Reservation Fee is because of the fare class you were booked in. Some Group Fares do not allow the pre-assignment of seats(although you may try assigning yourself at Online Check in or at the airport).


As Neil stated you may want to reach out to your travel agent. It may be if they assign you seats using their reservation system the fee is waived as they own your reservation. Generally its a conflict of interest if the client goes directly to the vendor. While I have been able to assign seats on flights booked with a travel agency I was never charged this fee.

Another option is to politely ask your agency if they would cover this fee on both tickets and assign you good seats to keep you as future clients. I have booked flights with Consolidators and was never charged this External Seat Assignment Fee. Perhaps since it was not made clear to you the agency could cover the fee as you can say you will consider them for future business.

If it were me I would not pay the $50 per passenger fee and you will get a seat either at Online Checkin 24 hours before or at the airport(arrive early). Consolidators have different rules andone of them is the assignment of the seats. Each airline and ticket pricing code has different contracts with the same Consolidator. For instance Lufthansa will allow you to earn miles while American Airlines does not.

These are good questions to ask before you book your ticket. Most Consolidators once you book the ticket there are no refunds,changes,exchanged and your ticket has no value if you don't fly the first portion or no value if you cancel. They are inexpensive because of all the restrictions.

All in all enjoy your trip and have a Happy and Safe 4th of July!!!!
 
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R

Realitoes

Guest
The only reason why the airline may be charging you this External Reservation Fee is because of the fare class you were booked in. Some Group Fares do not allow the pre-assignment of seats(although you may try assigning yourself at Online Check in or at the airport).
Actually AA charges a $50.00 fee for Reservation Assistance when voluntary changes are made to a trip not initially created by AA Reservations or on AA.com. This is probably the charge they are referring to.
 
Apr 15, 2016
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I've been flying a combination of AA and JAL to Southeast Asia for several years now. I have regularly been Platinum or Executive Platinum during this time, and I can't even reserve seats on a JAL flight unless it is operated by American. They will allow me to call or get to the airport early to request a specific seat, but typically they will auto-assign seats, even if you pay for upgrading to their premium economy.

That being said, they're usually good about changing seat assignments at the airport. So I suggest calling 24 hours in advance when you would normally be eligible to check in. Then get to the airport early and ask the agent checking you in if they can assign for you.

I've never been offered the option to book my seats for an additional $50, so like Realitoes, I think this fee is for something else.
 
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jsn55

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You're not being short-changed here, Martini. Many airlines now charge for advance seat assignments. It's my understanding that British Air charges for seats in first class! Many airlines also charge for talking to an agent on the phone. It's an amazing situation these days ... fees for nearly everything a good little airline bean-counter can dream up. You can start the online checkin process 23 hours and 59 minutes before departure time. As far as I know, a majority of the don't care where they sit and don't bother to checkin online, so your chances are good.
 
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Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,008
22,965
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
I've been flying a combination of AA and JAL to Southeast Asia for several years now. I have regularly been Platinum or Executive Platinum during this time, and I can't even reserve seats on a JAL flight unless it is operated by American. They will allow me to call or get to the airport early to request a specific seat, but typically they will auto-assign seats, even if you pay for upgrading to their premium economy.

That being said, they're usually good about changing seat assignments at the airport. So I suggest calling 24 hours in advance when you would normally be eligible to check in. Then get to the airport early and ask the agent checking you in if they can assign for you.

I've never been offered the option to book my seats for an additional $50, so like Realitoes, I think this fee is for something else.
I frequently see these charges especially for code share flights IF they even allow them at all.
 
Aug 28, 2015
3,729
2,899
113
New York
Here's my story:

Three of us are visiting Japan later this year. To save on airfare, I contacted a travel agency specializing in consolidator fares. We were able to purchase three tickets on American Airlines (with international segments operated by JAL, but marketed by AA). We were quoted a price, which we thought was very reasonable. I received the AA PNR from the travel agency (it took me some painful back-and-forth to get this, however), then I logged into the AA website to find that we can pick our seats online for the domestic (AA operated) segments, which we did. However, I had to call AA to get the JAL PNR for the codeshare flights operated by JAL, which I did receive. When I log into JAL website with the JAL PNR, I cannot see the international portions of the itinerary, just the domestic, AA operated segments (not sure why). Then I called JAL to find out that with or without JAL PNR, JAL cannot assign seats to us either on the phone or online, since the JAL operated flights are "marketed" by AA through the codeshare agreement. So, I called AA to find out if they can assign seats on the JAL operated segments. Then I was told that I have to pay AA $50 per person "External Reservation Handling Fee" for AA to assign us seating, since we did not buy the tickets direct from AA.

So, am I stuck with these fees, if we want the seats assigned now. We prefer getting the assignments now so that three of us can sit together. Also, is the travel agency that I bought the tickets from, should they have informed me that a) they did not assign us seats and that b)it might cost us extra for us to get our seats assigned. Should I be insisting that the travel agency work with AA to get our seats assigned? In my previous but limited experience with travel agencies to buy airfare, they have always given us tickets with assigned seats (though I rarely use travel agencies for airfare.). Is this particular travel agency somehow negligent in not assigning us seats and also not telling me that it would cost extra for us to do it on our own? I was informed by the "travel agency" that seats will be available for us to choose 24 hours before the flight...but I am not sure if this is really true.

I would like to hear from experts who are reading this on what should I do, if anything to recoup the extra cost of getting our seats assigned now.

Also, is it now the case that we will be hit with fees like this every time we don't purchase tickets from the airlines direct? Or is this the case that the travel agency is being just negligent and lazy? Or should I just assume that $50 per person extra fee is just something we should accept as status quo?

Thanks.
Often when you purchase through the airline you have to pay more for seat assignments as well. I just let them assign me at the airport. If I'm flying coach then usually the only ones left are exta comfort so I just have them give me one at the airport for free. First class I don't really care. The only times I recall picking a seat in advance, it was changed repeatedly anyway by the airline.
 
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Aug 28, 2015
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Also, if you are traveling with 3 people, then one of you doesn't care about sitting in the middle. I doubt you will have trouble getting someone to switch with you onboard, based on the configuration.
If it makes you feel better, calculate how much flight would have cost if you booked directly with the airline. If more than $150, then you still got your savings (assuming they wouldn't have charged for this also).
 
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Jun 29, 2016
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Silicon Valley California
Also, if you are traveling with 3 people, then one of you doesn't care about sitting in the middle. I doubt you will have trouble getting someone to switch with you onboard, based on the configuration.
If it makes you feel better, calculate how much flight would have cost if you booked directly with the airline. If more than $150, then you still got your savings (assuming they wouldn't have charged for this also).
i wonder if one has a disability would they waive the charge for the companion and the traveler with a disability in this situation? Then the third person could pay to sit in the aisle opposite the other two passengers?

If so you could request special assistance.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
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Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,008
22,965
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New York
www.promalvacations.com
I would never lie to try to get seat assignments, if no one has a disability, it is the wrong thing to do to say you need special assistance.

As I said, I see this all the time with consolidator fares - you are giving up something to get those lower fares. But in this case, it is what JAL does. Lufthansa is another one that is famous for not giving seat assignments if you don't book direct with them and they don't make exceptions at all.

It is not always a good thing to book consolidator fares as you do not have normal consumer protection you would buying direct and if a flight is canceled or changed you might have problems rebooking.

Here is a good article from Airfare Watchdog that explains some of the cons o using a consolidator and not being able to get seat assignments is right here.


http://www.airfarewatchdog.com/blog/3800401/consolidator-cons/
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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San Francisco
i wonder if one has a disability would they waive the charge for the companion and the traveler with a disability in this situation? Then the third person could pay to sit in the aisle opposite the other two passengers?

If so you could request special assistance.
I'm sure I'm mis-reading this and you are not suggesting that a passenger claim a disability to get a good seat? That would be quite insulting to people with real disabilities, wouldn't it? I probably missed something in the initial post.
 
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Jun 29, 2016
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I'm sure I'm mis-reading this and you are not suggesting that a passenger claim a disability to get a good seat? That would be quite insulting to people with real disabilities, wouldn't it? I probably missed something in the initial post.
Sorry for the late response @jsn55 . No I did not mean to lie about a disability. I meant that if the OP has a disability to request special assistance and the companion would be able to sit next to the passenger with the disability and the third person would be treated as a normal passenger without requiring any special assistance.

I myself don't like people lying to get the special assistance. It really is a shame that people try to scam the system and waste resources for someone with a disability.
 

Mel65

Mar 23, 2015
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"So, am I stuck with these fees, if we want theseats assigned now. We prefer getting the assignments now so thatthree of us can sit together"

I have to admit this always baffles me. Why are people so afraid not to sit together? Presumably you're going on vacation together, is a few hours apart going to be such a big deal? What's going to happen? You might talk to someone new, learn something, get a different perspective...or just sleep the whole way. I'm confident my hubby and I can sit apart for hours, even days, without falling out of love. I only pay for assigned seating when I'm on business and HAVE to be on a flight.
 
Jun 29, 2016
99
47
18
Silicon Valley California
"So, am I stuck with these fees, if we want theseats assigned now. We prefer getting the assignments now so thatthree of us can sit together"

I have to admit this always baffles me. Why are people so afraid not to sit together? Presumably you're going on vacation together, is a few hours apart going to be such a big deal? What's going to happen? You might talk to someone new, learn something, get a different perspective...or just sleep the whole way. I'm confident my hubby and I can sit apart for hours, even days, without falling out of love. I only pay for assigned seating when I'm on business and HAVE to be on a flight.
I love your approach. Some people don't mind sitting next to the window a few rows ahead and the other partner in the aisle. One spends 365/24/7 with their Significant Other so spending 10 hours alone is not going to break the bank. At least I hope it won't.

You are on vacation and so as long as you both get on the flight perhaps a kind passenger would like to trade a "like for like seat". So its no use asking for someone in an aisle to take a middle at the back of the plane.

If it were me I would not pay these fees and save them for Day Passes to the Lounge, a nice dinner at your destination etc. Perhaps they may be sold out and need to upgrade you or you may be put in Preferred Seats at no additional charge.
As I believe I have stated earlier plan to check in 24 hours on the JAL Website before as most Elite Frequent Flier upgrades are done at the 72 hour and 48 hour and 24 hour mark and you may get the coveted "2 seats" or a nice Emergency Exit row if you are wiling and are able to meet the requirements or a bulkhead.

If your flexible and the flight is oversold you can ask to take a later flight and get vouchers for giving up your seats.

I sadly don't have a Chrystal ball but if it were me I would save the fees as you may end up in worse seats than if you are assigned online or at the airport.

In any case I would plan to arrive at the airport 4 hours before your flight to deal with security. You can use the JAL Bag Drop Counter if available and select your seats on the Kiosk or the agent can help you too. Remember to ask at the checkin counter for better seats and again at the gate(plan to arrive 1 hour before the stated boarding time indicated on your boarding pass). Please trust me on this as I got my Father and I the 2 seater on the upstairs cabin on a BA Airbus 380 normally reserved for Premiere Customers or those willing to spend $$$ as I was kind with the agent and she said "no problem". You may be the last one on but the agent can get you a better seat.

Go and enjoy your vacation!!! You deserve it!!! Please let us know what you decide to do and if you can how it turned out after your flights.
 
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