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The match game

December 20, 2009|By ON THE SPOT and CATHARINE HAMM

Question: My husband and I flew from LAX to London Heathrow and to Prague, Czech Republic, returning from Berlin to London Heathrow to LAX. We flew British Airways on all legs. I joined BA's Executive Club upon our return and have been trying to get mileage credit for the Heathrow legs. BA insists I cannot receive mileage on the return Heathrow-LAX flight because my middle name is not on my ticket and thus does not match the name on my Executive Club membership. My middle name is on my passport, and the departure boarding pass includes my middle name. But it was the BA agent on the return flight who generated my boarding pass using only my first and last name (no middle name). Can you help?

Carol Patricia Orendy

Palm Desert

Answer: In the end, I didn't need to, because BA didn't help me. On a more positive note, Orendy discovered, after sending a certified letter to which she never received a reply, that her account had been credited with the miles.

"What a struggle," she said in a follow-up e-mail to me. "I still think not having the exact name on my boarding pass . . . is absolutely ridiculous."

That is only slightly more ridiculous than BA's response after I asked for help (and before I knew Orendy had received her miles). Although acknowledging that this was a case of common sense, BA suggested I call the Executive Club and try to get a resolution myself.

I called (800) 452-1201, the Executive Club number, and the digitized voice told me the wait time was "zero minutes." After 5 minutes and 10 seconds, I hung up. Incidentally, customer service manifestoes suggest that 45 seconds is the maximum one should be on hold without some reassurance that help is at hand. My only reassurance of anything was a recorded message that a BA Visa card would be the next best thing to heaven.

So, BA, I give you credit for resolving this problem (though I question whether this should have been a problem in the first place), but a head thump for your communications skills, which are a large part of customer service. I hope Santa brings you a new playbook to help you understand that the airlines voted best year after year are those that know the customer is the backbone of the business.

Meanwhile, a heads-up for all fliers/readers: In the coming year, be sure your names match on all your documents.

Under the Transportation Security Administration's Secure Flight program, you may encounter a problem if your boarding pass says, for instance, "Ms. T. Sterling" and your driver's license or other government-issued identification says "Misty Sterling." The time to get it fixed is before you have to make that flight.

The program is designed to make the airline watch list more specific. Implementation is to be completed for domestic flights early in 2010.

For more info, see www.tsa.gov.

Have a travel dilemma? Write to travel@latimes.com. We regret we cannot answer every inquiry.

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