My Award Travel Fiasco – Financial Panther

Benefiting from factors and miles has been one of many large recreation changers in my life. Certainly, I haven’t needed to pay for a flight or lodge in over six years due to all the factors and miles I’ve been capable of accumulate. At this price, I don’t assume I’ll ever need to pay for a flight or lodge for the remainder of my life. 

Sadly, final month I had one of many largest fiascos I’ve ever had with reserving award flights. It’s a narrative that’s value sharing. And whereas issues ended up figuring out, it was a nightmare coping with every little thing, requiring me to spend numerous hours on the telephone with completely different airways and staying up your entire evening actually the evening earlier than I used to be scheduled to go away on this worldwide journey.

On this publish, I wish to go over this award journey fiasco, talk about what occurred, and take a look at what I ended up doing to ensure my trip wasn’t ruined. 

The Starting – Reserving My First Worldwide Enterprise Class Journey 

To start, let’s take a look at my preliminary journey plans. Final 12 months, I obtained phrase that my cousin was getting married in France, which meant I wanted to e-book tickets for my household’s first worldwide journey in over two years (and my son’s first abroad journey ever). The plan was to fly to Paris in enterprise class for 3 folks (me, my spouse, and my 2-year-old son).

You’ll be able to’t be too choosy while you’re attempting to e-book award seats in enterprise class for that many individuals, so for me, the secret was discovering something that was decently priced. Fortuitously, I’ve collected a variety of factors, so spending them – even on lower than optimum award bookings – wasn’t a giant deal to me. In any case, factors haven’t any worth except you spend them. 

After spending a while trying to find flights, I settled on three enterprise class seats I discovered on the Virgin Atlantic web site for 87,500 Virgin Atlantic miles every (or 262,500 miles complete). The seats have been on KLM enterprise class, flying from Minneapolis to Paris with a layover in Amsterdam. I already had 100,000 Virgin Atlantic miles in my account from a visit that was canceled in 2020, so to get the remaining factors, I transferred 163,000 American Specific Membership factors to Virgin Atlantic. 

I booked these flights in January for flights scheduled to go away in July (so about 6 months upfront). Altogether, I spent 262,500 miles and about $69 in taxes and costs for 3 tickets in enterprise class to Paris.

The Fiasco 

Two days earlier than my flight, I obtained an e-mail from KLM letting me know that the second leg of my itinerary (the connecting flight from Amsterdam to Paris) had been canceled.

The e-mail from KLM telling my flight had been canceled.

Somewhat than reassign the second leg of the journey, KLM as a substitute rebooked our whole itinerary, placing the three of us on a Delta flight flying direct from Minneapolis to Paris. The rebooking was truly higher for us. The flight was nonetheless in enterprise class and was now a direct flight. I uploaded all of the journey paperwork utilizing the Delta web site (vaccination data, passports, and so forth) and obtained my seat task and affirmation emails. Nothing appeared amiss.

However then, the fiasco started. The night earlier than my flight (i.e. lower than 24 hours earlier than my flight), I opened my Delta app and observed one thing odd. The flight that I used to be scheduled to fly on the following day not confirmed up in my Delta app. After I looked for my flight utilizing the affirmation code, nothing got here up both. The flight appeared to be gone. 

I instantly known as Delta and after ready on maintain for a while, I used to be lastly capable of speak to a customer support consultant who informed me that my household had been unticketed from our flight. After I protested that I had been rebooked onto this flight and had an e-mail with my affirmation quantity and seat assignments, the rep basically informed me powerful luck and that I wanted to speak to Virgin Atlantic about it since I had booked my flight utilizing their miles they usually have been the provider that I purchased the tickets from.

What made issues actually maddening is that the flight wasn’t overbooked. I may nonetheless see the three enterprise class seats and if I wished to, I may have bought them with money (for about $7,000 every). No matter had occurred, it appears like Delta had merely eliminated my household from the flight and refused to place us again into the seats that we had been assigned. And since I didn’t use Delta miles to e-book my seats, they weren’t keen to do something about it. 

Virgin Atlantic’s Resolution – Provide Me A Refund!?

After a irritating name with Delta that didn’t remedy something, I then gave a name to Virgin Atlantic. Once more, after being on maintain for some time, I obtained by means of to a consultant who, after reviewing the scenario, mentioned all she may do was refund me my factors and taxes. 

This was, after all, not an answer. I had deliberate this journey for months and had motels, prepare tickets, and return flights booked, so merely refunding me didn’t remedy my issues. What I wanted was for them to both get me again on the Delta flight that I had been unticketed from or put me again on my unique KLM flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam and I’d determine one other approach to get to Paris from there. 

Sadly, the Virgin Atlantic rep may solely put me on flights that had award availability, and despite the fact that the seats I wished have been obtainable for money, they weren’t obtainable for award bookings anymore. I continued to get the identical spiel – that they may both give me a refund or attempt to put me on a distinct flight that did have award availability.

I used to be furious. At this level, it was round 10 pm and I nonetheless hadn’t packed for my journey that was supposed to go away the following day. After arguing with the Virgin Atlantic folks for a bit, I informed them I’d name them again after I spoke to KLM.

KLM was the worst of the three airways. The primary quantity I known as mentioned their workplaces have been closed. My spouse ended up discovering a European quantity for KLM, which left me on maintain for over 2 hours. After I lastly did connect with somebody, they informed me to take it up with Delta or Virgin Atlantic (despite the fact that it was KLM that had canceled my itinerary and rebooked me to the Delta flight). Then, the consultant outright hung up on me. 

It was now the nighttime and I used to be operating out of choices if I used to be going to get on a flight for the following day. Out of desperation, I drove to the airport to see if I may get assist from a Delta agent in particular person, however because it was the nighttime, the Delta counters have been closed. 

I gave one final name to Virgin Atlantic, who once more gave me the choice of refunding my factors or attempting to rebook me on one other flight with award availability. 

Reserving New Flights For Us 

Since I wasn’t getting helpful assist from any of the three airways that have been concerned on this fiasco, I made a decision to take issues into my very own fingers. It was now about 4 am and I nonetheless had no flight to Paris for the following day. My aim was nonetheless to fly in enterprise class, however discovering three seats for a flight leaving hours from now wasn’t going to be straightforward. Looking for award availability from Minneapolis wasn’t going to work – there was nothing obtainable.

I ended up taking a look at Aeroplan and was capable of finding two United Polaris enterprise class seats leaving within the afternoon from Chicago to Paris, with a 4-hour layover in Zurich, for 76,000 Aeroplan miles every. This was truly fairly strong pricing. The one challenge is that I wanted three seats and Aeroplan solely confirmed two obtainable seats on their web site.

Fortunately, the United web site confirmed there have been 5 obtainable Polaris enterprise class seats, though the pricing on United was horrible at 158,000 United miles every. I wanted all of us on the identical flight although, so I booked the two seats utilizing Aeroplan, then snagged the third seat utilizing my United miles.

Lastly, I wanted to get a positioning flight from Minneapolis to Chicago. The most cost effective choice would have been to fly on Southwest to Chicago, then take the prepare from Halfway to O’Hare, however that might have minimize it shut. I as a substitute opted to take a Delta flight touchdown at O’Hare. I may then catch my flight with loads of time to spare. It wasn’t low cost although – 40,000 Delta miles every (or 120,000 Delta miles complete). 

To recap. My preliminary flight was 262,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for the three of us. After getting screwed by them, I needed to e-book a brand new itinerary, spending 152,000 Aeroplan miles, 158,000 United miles, and 120,000 Delta miles. It wasn’t the optimum use of my factors, however I’m pleased with it contemplating I booked these flights hours earlier than they have been scheduled to depart.

What My Flights Have been Like 

So let’s take a look at a few of the optimistic features of this fiasco. First, I’m comfortable that I used to be capable of e-book new flights and get to Paris on time. Actually, I’m stunned I used to be capable of determine this out myself as a result of I used to be positive that I used to be screwed.

The flights themselves have been nice. United Polaris enterprise class was simply what I anticipated. At O’Hare, I used to be capable of spend a while within the Polaris lounge, which is a lounge unique to vacationers flying on United worldwide enterprise class flights. I used to be stunned at how busy it was after I obtained there although – I suppose much more folks than I notice fly enterprise class.  

In Polaris enterprise class, you get what quantities to a pod for your self. The seats are organized in a 1-1-1 configuration, which suggests you don’t have anybody subsequent to you and each seat has direct aisle entry.

united polaris seat

It’s undoubtedly very comfy, though not nearly as good while you’re flying as a household, particularly with younger kids. My son refused to sit down in his personal seat and spent many of the flight in my spouse’s seat. I managed to get a strong few hours of sleep although, which I used to be grateful for contemplating how exhausted I used to be from the earlier evening.

Takeaways From This Award Journey Fiasco 

Listed below are a number of takeaways from this fiasco:

1. You Can Get Massively Screwed With Sure Sorts Of Award Bookings.

Maybe the largest takeaway I realized from that is that while you e-book associate award flights, you will get massively screwed. Loads of associate flights get higher award pricing, which is why folks e-book flights this manner, however when one thing like this occurs, you’re not going to get a lot assist from anybody. 

As greatest as I can inform, after I obtained reticketed to Delta, both Delta didn’t receives a commission by KLM or Virgin Atlantic, so that they unticketed me or Delta simply didn’t wish to settle for the award reserving. Then, as a result of KLM had eliminated me from my preliminary flight, I now didn’t have a flight in any respect. Virgin Atlantic can solely see the award bookings which are obtainable to them, so that they couldn’t put me again on these flights. I believe if they may name one another, they may in all probability determine it out, however the customer support reps both don’t know or don’t wish to do it as a result of it takes an excessive amount of time. 

What stunned me is that this example isn’t that unusual. After I was within the midst of this, I posted what was taking place to me on Reddit and obtained lots of people speaking about how the identical factor had occurred to them they usually have been left scrambling to search out new flights.  

Briefly, there’s some threat that the sort of factor can occur while you’re reserving associate award flights. It’s maddening and looks like BS that they will do that as a result of we’re nonetheless paying prospects (simply paying with factors as a substitute of money). I’ve no clue how they will get away with this.

2. Having A Lot Of Miles On Hand Is Like Having An Emergency Fund. 

The large factor that saved me with this journey is that I had so many factors and miles to make use of that I used to be capable of rebook myself on new flights. I don’t assume hoarding your factors is an efficient factor – as I’ve mentioned earlier than, factors and miles haven’t any worth till they’re used. However, having this large stash of factors is what made it doable for me to rebook myself on new flights, even at sub-optimal costs. 

I’ve had this similar scenario occur up to now after I was on trip and had my return flight canceled. The one method I used to be capable of get residence on time was as a result of I had a variety of factors and was capable of finding a brand new flight on a distinct airline. 

It’s at all times good to produce other sources of money while you want it – and factors can act as a quasi-emergency fund in some circumstances.

3. Checking Your Award Bookings Commonly Is Essential. 

I obtained fortunate that I observed this the evening earlier than as a result of Delta by no means let me know that I had been unticketed from the flight. If I hadn’t checked my Delta app, I might have proven up on the airport the following day with no ticket and been in a worse scenario.

Might somebody have helped me in particular person? Perhaps. However who is aware of? That’s why it’s fortunate I used to be always checking my flight to ensure every little thing nonetheless regarded proper.

Anyway, that’s what occurred with this award journey reserving. I’m nonetheless debating whether or not I wish to ship formal complaints to those airways, as I used to be very disillusioned with how this example was dealt with. I nonetheless don’t actually perceive what occurred or why they may simply kick me off my flights, particularly since I by no means did something (i.e. I by no means modified my itinerary or messed with my reserving since I booked it 6 months in the past).

Fortuitously, all of it labored out and I had a terrific journey. We obtained a terrific lodge in Paris, had a pleasant high-speed prepare experience to Amsterdam, and obtained upgraded to a penthouse suite in our lodge in Amsterdam. And our return flight (on KLM enterprise class) went easily. If I can, I’ll in all probability at all times fly enterprise class for worldwide journeys any longer.

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