Always Check Your Award Tickets After Making Changes

This week I had plans to fly from Washington Dulles to Abu Dhabi, spend a few nights, then fly to London to go see Wimbledon, returning back to the US via JFK, then transferring over to La Guardia for my flight back to DC.

On Wednesday afternoon (the night I was to depart), I received a call from FOX News asking me to speak the next day on the airline collusion case the Department of Justice was investigating (you can see my interview here). Not wanting to miss this opportunity, I quickly pushed my Abu Dhabi flight to the next day.

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After a few hours, I realized visiting Abu Dhabi for such a such a short period of time (I’d be losing a day now) wasn’t worth it, so I re-booked my trip to Zurich. Fortunately, as an Executive Platinum with American, I can freely change award tickets without any penalty or fees, which is probably one of the most valuable (if not the most valuable) perk I am able to use. I asked for the Dulles to Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi to London segments to be canceled, and rebooked on a Washington Reagan to JFK, JFK to London City and London City to Zurich trip, on a mixed American/British Airways itinerary.

My original routing to Abu Dhabi and then onward to London

My original routing to Abu Dhabi and then onward to London

The next day after calling American about a schedule change to my Zurich trip (the flight to JFK from DCA was delayed so much it would force a misconnect onward to London), I had realized that the agent the previous day had canceled my entire itinerary and not just the segments I requested. That means he cancelled my London to JFK and La Guardia to Reagan segments, Oh, boy. That means I didn’t have a way home.

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On the phone with American for over an hour, the new agent was able to sort out that it was not my fault for the cancellation of the trip (I knew that, but its important that they know that so it can work in your favor). Since availability on the British Airways flight I was originally booked on was no longer available, the agent had to conference in a supervisor to force a revenue seat on American’s non-stop London to JFK flight. Essentially, they opened a revenue First Class seat for me and deducted the miles out of my account, which means I’ll get credit for the revenue fare, funny enough.

While it all worked out and I do have a way home from Europe, it’s an important lesson in changing tickets, whether revenue or award:

  • Always ask for an email copy of the changed itinerary to be sent to you that way you have it in writing.
  • If you’re making a major change, see if you can get the agent’s name or ID number that’s changing it for you, just in case there is a mix up. Often times it will be in the record, too.
  • Look at your mileage balances and credit card records. If you see your mileage balance skyrocket or a refund issued to your credit card that you weren’t expecting, there’s a good likelihood something was canceled that shouldn’t have been.

2 months ago, an AA agent mistakenly canceled someone’s two booked award tickets in First Class on the inaugural 787 flight from Dallas to Chicago. Having set an ExpertFlyer notice, I quickly noticed the seats free up and grabbed one, not knowing AA’s mistake. A few days later, I received a call from American’s revenue management department apologizing for their mistake, saying that an AAdmiral’s Club agent inadvertently canceled the other person’s itinerary, thus opening up the seat that I had grabbed. While “legal,” they knew it was their mistake and offered $500 in compensation, an offer I gladly took.

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What should you do if an agent cancels a portion of your trip that you weren’t expecting?

  • It’s important to have documentation of what should and shouldn’t have been changed.
  • Logic works well, too. Why would I have needed the London to USA portion of my ticket canceled, when I still needed a way home? If you’re on the phone with an agent, explain the story. If it’s logical, they’ll agree with you in most cases.
  • If you’ve got elite status it helps. American forced a longhair revenue First Class seat open for me. In most cases, they don’t do that. However, since the error was on their end, they felt obliged to fix it. I can’t say they would do the same thing for a regular AAdvantage member, though. That’s not saying they won’t, however American has been very good to their elites, especially those in the top-tier.

Have you ever had an award ticket inadvertently canceled by an agent?

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  1. Alex says

    And also, make sure that they “ticket” the new flights. I got caught in Rome last year with reservations to LHR but no ticket. AA issued the tickets with 2 minutes to spare before the gate check in counter closed. Cost of call to AA was $112 which they refused to reimburse me for.

  2. Mike says

    Delta gave me 24 hours to find flights low level from nyc to lax which connects or lax to ppt got air Tahiti flights held business. Call back a hour later flights lax to nyc cancelled by them and were no longer available supervisor read notes on my first call cause I had them document that on my pnr told me I would get a call in 24 hours as they had to call air Tahiti when they were open to have them open the seats back up … Woohoo there error with some short term panicking on my end

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