How to book a flight over the phone?

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booking flight ticket over the phone

As travelers today we can enjoy fully automated online flight booking. The process allows one to reserve and pay for airline tickets using even a mobile device.

For a typical traveler, online booking is fast and simple. It often involves telling the booking website the departure and arrival destinations and the desired travel date and that is all.

However, not every travel is just as simple. Sometimes we have a little extra on our mind that no booking website could handle. The only way is to call up the travel agency or the airline and ask for help.

Therefore, booking our flight over the phone when we have special needs ensures smooth travel.

The following examples are just some situations when it is best to book over the phone:

  • Traveling with a pet;
  • Traveling alone in a wheelchair or having other disability needs;
  • Requesting service for unaccompanied minor;
  • Having multi-city routes;
  • Carrying excess/over-sized luggage;
  • Using award travel or airline status miles;
  • When the airline changes the reservation.

Or if you simply don’t feel as Internet savvy call up your preferred airline customer service phone line and let them handle your reservation.

Booking over the phone, however, does require some extra attention. Here are some important tips to remember.

Prepare for the call

Be prepared before you call!

  • Know your set and/or alternative dates. If you’re flexible with the dates of travel you can find routes or dates that might be cheaper or even more convenient to travel.
  • Be ready to spell accurately all passengers’ names, addresses, email accounts, dates of birth, or other necessary personal information.
  • Make a list of your special needs, if any.
  • Have a form of payment ready such as a credit card.
  • Know if you want to book in Economy, Economy Premium, Business, or First Class.
  • Make a note if you prefer the window, the aisle, or the middle seat.
  • Have pen and paper to write down booking information.

During the call

During the call there are several important details you have to keep in mind.

Know who are you calling? Is it your airline’s direct phone line or the travel agency you used in the past?

For example, if you travel with a pet, you need to call the airline directly to ensure that on the flight you book there is room for your pet. This is not possible to know when booking online. Airlines have a policy that no more than 2 pets per flight are allowed. And they can only be of the same species (two cats or two dogs).

Listen carefully and ask questions! If you have difficulties hearing well or don’t understand what’s being said make the agent know and ask for repetition.

Look for options. Ask for suggestions for better routes, or cheaper airfare on alternative dates.

Respond only if asked to avoid talking over the agent. It will ensure you won’t miss any information being communicated. Make sure you let the agent speak first and then ask your questions based on what’s being said.

Speak slowly and clearly. Do not assume the agent knows English well if you hear an accent. The agent may not be a native speaker. Oftentimes airlines outsource their customer service to different parts of the world. Even though agents need to communicate in English fluently there’s no need to speak fast or use jargon that can create difficulties in understanding.

If you don’t hear well or the connection is poor let the agent know and ask them to repeat the information as many times as needed.

Always ask important information to be repeated back to you such as names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, etc. It is imperative that your booking contains accurate information. Inaccurate information on your booking may result in penalties or even cancellation of the reservation.

At the end of the call always ask for confirmation numbers such as booking confirmation, transaction numbers, and agency or airline internal reference numbers. They will help you identify your booking should you have to call again.

When the reservation is finalized ask the agent to provide you with a reference number for this call, if possible. Should you have to call again, you’ll have a reference number that would help the agent locate your information.

Ask the agent to email your reservation. Stay on the line to wait for the reservation email to arrive in your email box before you end the call. Look at the reservation to make sure dates, names, and everything discussed is properly spelled and noted. Should you find any discrepancies let the agent know right away.

After the call

  • Keep notes and information that you’ve gathered during the call.
  • Save email messages containing booking confirmation or payment receipts for future reference.
  • Within 24 hours of making the reservation, you should receive your actual ticket which will contain a ticket number and an airline booking code. Once you receive the airline booking code visit the airline website and check if your reservation pulls up. For example, such information is available on:

Regardless if you made your reservation directly with an airline over the phone or with a travel agency as long as you have the airline booking code (reservation code) you can manage your booking online, order special meals, upgrade or reserve seats, or cancel the booking.

To check in online 24 hours prior to your flight you’ll need your last name and the airline booking code.

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Ian Powers is a travel blogger and nature enthusiast. Ian has over 20 years of aviation travel experience.

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