A $300 Mistake to an Award Ticket – It Could Happen to You

Back in January, I had booked an award trip using British Airways Avios from Boston to Dublin. Why Boston you ask? Well, that was only 25,000 Avios each way. Had I left from New York or DC, the price would have gone up, so being the mileage stickler I am, I took the “book now, think later” approach.

Fast forward to last week, and I realized I still didn’t have options to get me up to Boston. Luckily combined with a quick opportunity to see family, I got the outbound covered with a combination of Amtrak Guest Rewards points and British Airways Avios. I used 4,000 Amtrak points to New York and 4,500 Avios from New York to Boston. Since I had a stop in between, I didn’t see this as wasted points, considering I’d get to see family.

Limited Time Offers Up To 50,000 Points

Coming back was another story. Wanting to having something reserved, I booked an overnight Amtrak train from Boston to Washington DC that would have taken nearly 12 hours. I booked Business Class for 4,000 Amtrak points, but even with Business Class, hopping from a transatlantic flight to an overnight train didn’t really seem to be the most sensible option. The train could have been delayed and I had to work the next day. I didn’t want to risk it.

I had set an ExpertFlyer alert for any sAAved availability (“T” class), but nothing was coming open. As I was in the air flying to Boston from Dublin, I noticed the 6pm departure to Reagan was delayed almost 2 hours, and because of this, man seats opened up, including one sAAved seat. Frantic, I transferred Amex Membership Rewards points to my Avios account and attempted to make the booking. The problem was, British Airways could not ticket a flight within 2 hours of departure, let alone a flight that was almost 2 hours past departure. Crap. My plan to get an almost free ticket back home had backfired.

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It’s worthwhile to note that I spoke with two supervisors and even an airport ticketing agent about this – their systems show the flight as “departed” at the scheduled time, even if there’s a delay. So, if your flight is late, they’ll still show it as having left, so there’s little they can do to ticket you. In fact, there’s nothing they can do, so this is a word to the wise: you can’t book British Airways Avios tickets within 2 hours of departure, and certainly can’t book flights that are delayed, even if you can make it to the airport. Interestingly, if you’re taking Amtrak, that’s one of the luxuries of using Amtrak points – you can call up and book a train that’s late.

I was stuck with a tough choice. Either take the Amtrak train overnight, or pay the cash rate for the U.S. Airways Shuttle – the same plane I wanted to get an award seat on. The train really didn’t seem like a logical choice so I tried phoning the Executive Platinum desk to see if I could use 12,500 AAdvantage miles, however by this point, they could not ticket the reservation since it was too close to departure. Well, then. I guess I’d have to pay the walk-up rate which ended up being $288 for the one-way, one-hour trip. My upgrade cleared at the gate, which only took a small portion of the sting away, but in the end, there wasn’t much of a choice in my book.

I could have planned better.

  • I should have booked flights farther out with the option to cancel outside of 24 hours until departure, but I waited to think of this until the week of my trip.
  • Thanks to US Airways policy of not being able to standby for a later flight, I didn’t want to book an earlier flight (that would have coincided while I was in the air flying TO Boston) knowing I’d never be able to get on a later one.
  • I was hoping T award space would open up for a flight that would have worked (to begin with) with the arrival of my Dublin flight, but nothing did. Had I booked the cash ticket a week ago, the rate would have been cheaper.
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In the end, I was able to get home much earlier, albeit at a cost. It’s one of those risks of traveling, and a lesson learned for next time. Guess I was due a hiccup at some point!

Have you ever made a similar mistake?

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  1. cakflyer says

    Actually – I have ticketed a ticket with less than 2 hours until departure via british air (on a USAIR flight) perhaps your only issue was the delay / the fact it was after that point. My booking occured at 1805 for a 1955 flight

  2. James Bond 007 says

    Amateur mistake. Just call BA in the UK Via Skype and have them ticket it.

    They need the airline to verify the delay at the ticketing desk to ticket it.

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