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What Should You Do When Airlines Make Mileage Mistakes In Your Favor?

by on August 10, 2013 · 69 comments

in Delta, TPG Contributors

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We all have to stay on top of our miles and points balances to make sure we are earning the miles and points we are due, and airlines, hotels, credit cards and others often make mistakes when it comes to calculating our earnings. But what happens when the mistake is in your favor? TPG contributor Nick Ewen delves into this issue and asks for your opinions on how to resolve it when things go wrong – but also right.

I’m willing to bet that most TPG readers have had experiences with flights/hotel stays/rental cars/etc. not posting to your accounts properly. I can’t be the only one that tracks my accounts using AwardWallet, or even just an Excel spreadsheet –  obsessively logging in to identify any discrepancies, and calling or emailing customer service as soon as I see something wrong.

Someone got credit for flying Air France business class though they had used Delta miles to book an award.

Someone got credit for flying Air France business class though they had used Delta miles to book an award.

Just last month, my Citi Hilton Reserve card miscategorized a Hilton stay (10 points/$) as a regular purchase (3 points/$), resulting in thousands of missing points. Fortunately, a phone call to customer service drew their attention to the problem, and when my next statement closed, the points were posted.

This post, however, isn’t about double- and triple checking your account balances to make sure airlines, hotels and credit cards don’t short change you on your well-deserved points. Instead, it’s about the opposite phenomenon occurring – what do you do when a hotel/airline/rental car company makes a mistake in your favor? Do you let them know about it or do you accept an unanticipated boost to your balance? And does the magnitude of the mistake change the way you would handle it?

Here’s why I ask. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine took a transatlantic award flight in business class on Air France using Delta miles. While he was away, he noticed that the account from which he had redeemed miles got a sudden boost. Imagine his surprise when he logged in and noticed that the airline had mistakenly credited the flight as a full-fare paid business class ticket. The error netted him a 50% mileage bonus plus double elite-qualifying miles, and when factoring in his elite status, he took home over 12,000 redeemable miles and got a significant boost towards his status requalification.

Not only did my friend get mileage credit, but also class of service and elite bonuses.

Not only did my friend get mileage credit, but also class of service and elite bonuses.

The flight had no IRROPS, nor did any of the other flights in the reservation post this way (including the connecting flight immediately after the transatlantic portion). Clearly, this was a one-time glitch, but as it turns out, it was a very rewarding one.

What’s interesting is that I also personally know of another flyer whose friend booked a business class award ticket for him on Air France using Delta miles and he had put his own SkyMiles number on the reservation with the other passenger identification information.  But when his next SkyMiles statement arrived, he found that his account had been credited with the SkyMiles he would have earned if he had bought the business class ticket himself. This makes a little more sense than in my first friend’s situation since there were two separate SkyMiles accounts involved and there was likely a system error, but perhaps this is just an issue with Delta awards on Air France from time to time.

Unfortunately, my friend is still suffering from an attack of moral conscience and he is pondering the following conundrum: If we immediately call attention to mistakes that hurt us and our mileage/point balances, shouldn’t we do the same for mistakes in our favor?

To be perfectly frank, I don’t know where I fall on this issue. My parents always taught me that “Honesty is the best policy,” but at the same time, this flight will really help with his elite status requalification and covers over one-half of a roundtrip award ticket within the U.S. Does staying silent and keeping the miles really hurt anyone?

Another way to think about this situation involves how airlines tend to treat customers on paid tickets. What happens when an airline releases a mistake fare or distributes a coupon or discounts to way too many people? As many of you experienced in the past, these airlines will often catch the mistakes and cancel them or offer less-than-satisfactory options for rebooking. This can wreak havoc on one’s best-laid plans, as one reader discovered with Korean’s Palau fare debacle.

On the other hand, if you mistakenly book a trip and then need to cancel it (outside of any risk-free cancellation period), what happens? You get nailed with a nasty change fee, with most major U.S. carriers now charging a whopping $200 just to change a flight, and that’s not even taking into account any fare differences.

So if an airline can weasel out of their mistake fares and charge you an arm and a leg for your mistakes, shouldn’t we welcome these unexpected miles with open arms as a small consolation prize?

To aid my friend in his moral dilemma, I wanted to enlist the help of TPG readers. At the end of this article is a poll for you all to take. Please let us know your thoughts on this situation. Would you draw the airline’s attention to the mistake or keep the miles? I can’t guarantee that my friend will act on the general consensus, but I do know that he would like some advice from other point-savvy individuals!

Has this happened to anyone else? Did the airline/hotel/car rental agency eventually uncover the mistake and “fix” it? Please share your own experiences in the comments section below.

What would you do if an airline made a mileage mistake in your favor?

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Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Rob philip

    Give them back, no question. They are things of value. If you hand a clerk a $20 bill to pay for your food and they give you change as if you’d given them a $50 bill, you’d let them know. If someone dropped a $100 bill you’d pick it up and give it back. Delta mistakenly gave you points. Call them up and let them know. How is this even a question?

    And if you want to be pragmatic rather than just honest, they’ll probably figure it out anyway. No doubt after there’s no chance for him to salvage his status for the year.

  • Jon Nichols

    If it was an airline worth flying, you’d think that if you called and told them of the mistake, they’d just offer to let you keep the miles. If it was Delta, they’ll thank you, take back the miles, and then tell you they look forward to your next change fee.

  • http://www.batteredluggage.com/ W Brian Duncan (aka IPBrian)

    I have run into this a few times and twice (I think) I tried to call. One agent acted like I was the craziest person she had ever spoken to. The other gave me some bonus points for my trouble. My point is they don’t know what to do with you in this case.

    Maybe this is a good reason to use the pay it forward method and help someone else out along the way. :-)

  • Brian Kavanaugh

    The airlines or issuing card company “own” the miles so they are a perk from the get go. If they make a mistake in your favor, I wouldn’t debate it at all but just take as a message from the underlying company/issuer that they appreciate your business and would like to see you back. Just like when you’re at a restaurant and the owner were to give you a taste of a new wine or entree. It’s a win/win. Consider it customer retention.

  • levander

    You got to be kidding me! It would just be silly to call the airline to inform them they made an error.

    The reason you spend your personal time checking your account balance is to make sure the airline didn’t make any mistake that harms you. You’re not spending your time checking the balance for their benefit. And then to go and spend more time calling them…

    If they want to be diligent about not making errors that harm themselves, let them spend time checking and calling you.

    The clerk handing you an extra $20 is completely different. He’s standing right there, handing it back to him is no skin off your back.

    And if the clerk made me deal with a whole handbook of rules and procedures I had to go through to make the deal, and he still handed me an extra twenty bucks, I’d just keep it. You want simple transactions people can easily be honest about, you design simple transactions people can easily be honest about.

  • Jerry

    being honest with an airline company is not a good thing, because the rest of the time, the company is always doing its best to make the most of your money… unfortunately

    most of the time for a mistake made by the company, their only answers are “sorry”, that’s it

  • cg

    I bought an award ticket for AA using BA Avios and they never pulled my avios. I didn’t notice… and I had to make a change on the ticket and thats when the phone agent told me “Sorry for the delay it is because we just realized we never took the miles from your account so I’m having trouble making the change, but we’ll get that taken care of”

    FML

  • http://StarwoodGuide.com/ Starwood Guide

    Same thing happened on a recent first class trip to bangkok. Sadly only happened on my shortest leg- CLT-IAD.

  • MarkWorth

    Keeping them is theft, no different than what the poster below cited in a clerk giving you too much change back. What is more troubling is the following text in the article, “Unfortunately, my friend is still suffering from an attack of moral conscience.” Unfortuntely? We should all be so “unfortunate”.

  • Sam

    I suppose that the people saying that it is equivalent to stealing would not take advantage of a mistake fare either? In fact mistake fares actually create monetary loss to an airline (high revenue tickets going for pennies on the dollar), while award miles are used for unsold or low revenue tickets

    Also, a fe bonus elite miles are only of use to someone who already gives the airline a lot of business. And in this particular case of Delta, you don’t get the next elite status anyway unless you poney up enough money.

  • jjflysalot

    That didn’t cost AF a dime! It’s not like they cut him a check. Get real. I’ve had Delta (in the past) throw me a bone when I’ve upgraded on miles only to find out they never took the miles. I’m sure it was because I had status (kinda a mute point as that’s the only way I could’ve upgraded using miles, but still…) and they had the availability. Ironically, that was on a international flight–when I did that domestically they were more than happy to take my miles. Which again is odd considering (then) you could still get comp ups with status. Anyway–was pleased I as got more bang for my buck internationally.

  • John*

    These errors don’t happen very often. This has probably happened only once in all my years of flying – for some reason 400,000 points were posted to my Cathay Pacific Asiamiles account – but the error was spotted by CX and quickly removed from the account. Considering the myriad of (unfair) ways airlines fleece you (fees, charges etc) and the atrocious service and standards that you often have to tolerate (U.S. carriers, I’m talking to you!), a little error like this is not worth losing sleep over.

  • Nassles

    I don’t feel sorry for Delta in any way. If they were ever to fix their messed up awards system and treat the public with genuine goodwill, then maybe….

  • Ruthlessly Absurd

    That happened to me on AF last year! It was amazing!

  • tivoboy

    Here’s the deal. The chances that they make a mistake in YOUR favor are a fraction of the chances that they make one in THEIR favor. Forgetting a bonus, getting the mileage wrong, not crediting a partner carrier, etc.. The list for them is ENDLESS and we all know it happens a lot, even for those of us who track it, we know we can’t catch everything. IF/WHEN on the off chance they make an error in my favor – heck, I might not even CATCH it, but if they did I would probably just let it sit. The only time I probably wouldn’t would be if I buy a ticket, and they don’t charge me, or if I bought a ticket and them refunded too much, or something like that. While MILES are MONEY, I think there is a difference.

    Back in the day, 80′s 90′s, we have ALL booked award ticket, that earned mileage credit. Come on, you KNOW it happened a lot. That was supposed to happen, but honestly how many people called the airline and said “hey, that was a mileage ticket and shouldn’t have earned credit. Or, we flew UPGRADED F, and got a COS bonus. Come on, you KNOW it happens..

    Here’s an example that someone presented to me a while ago. A couple flew to SA on a BA Award 241 ticket. They paid 1700$ in fuel surcharges, taxes and fees, and use 250K miles and a 241 voucher. About three months later, they noticed the voucher was still in their account (which they didn’t use much at all) and SO WERE THE MILES.. That was over 2 years ago now. Should they have reported it?

  • BOShappyflyer

    I don’t know. This could be controversial, but I tend to like to do the right thing for my part. The fact that companies don’t usually rule in favor of consumers with their rules/fees has no bearing on ‘my’ doing the right thing. I know people want to stick it to big companies, but two wrongs don’t make a right, IMHO.

    That said, it also depends on the mistake. I used to work in a bank and if the teller errors in your favor, it likely means they’ll be out of a job (depending on how bad the mistake is). In your friend’s case, my guess is that the mistake won’t make ANY dent on Delta’s bottom line (on the contrary, it likely would act as an incentive for your friend to fly more), so it’s probably not big deal and it probably makes sense for your friend to just keep it.

    I had a similar mistake like that happen a couple of weeks ago (my IHG free night cert was re-deposited back to my account). I know people will disagree but I contacted them about it to deduct it. Sure, it may seemed like a silly move when I could reuse it for another night elsewhere, but my gut didn’t feel quite right about it and I also don’t want to get dinged a year down the road and get charged for the stay. I still haven’t heard back from IHG (it’s been more than a couple of weeks now), and cert has still not been deducted yet, but at least I gave them notice. If they decide not to do anything about it and let me keep the cert, that’s on them.

    In your friend’s case, I may be inclined to just keep it. However, it’s a case-by-base, and I always try to keep myself from going down the delicate slippery slope of “it’s not worth it to xyz, so it’s probably ok”. It’s kind of like when I found a wallet once, I immediately went through the IDs to try to locate the owner (which I did). I’m sure some people in that situation would take it to their advantage with the cash, but regardless of who it is (a guy, a company), it doesn’t (or really shouldn’t) make any difference. Doing the right thing is doing the thing – I have to follow my moral compass and do what’s right for me.

    Anyway, good luck to your friend’s. I wouldn’t lose sleep over it though.

  • sfobuddy

    Timely topic as I’m getting ready to request mileage credit on an award ticket that magically when from fare class (OU) to fare class (F) during a hours long delay. I assume the airline was allowing me to fly as an F pax as goodwill gesture for the 6-hour delay.

  • Jim

    U gotta be kidding. First, no airline has EVER made a mistake in my favor. There have been dozens NOT. Agree with the previous reader about Delta. If one of these money-grubbing conglomerates screwed up, I’d simply laugh and be grateful.

  • PointsDude

    Your “Friend”….yeah right!

  • AmericanPlatinum

    A moot point now, isn’t it? I’m sure Delta and the other airlines read these blogs and will make sure that glitches like this are closed, especially when you point it with some level of specificity, which you did. Up to each person’s moral compass…

  • tpup

    Donate the miles to skywish

  • Stephen

    Air France did the same to me a year ago. Award in budiness using Delta miles, and I got full credit including the bonus

  • Rob P

    The right thing to do is let them know of the error. There is a chance that they’ll just let him keep the points, rather than take the time to recoup them, and to reward his honesty.

  • John gillespie

    This actually happened to me this week. Took two flight on ANA as a Mileageplus award. The flights showed up in my account as full fare Y class tickets and deposited miles.

    I am the first to call airlines to uphold their contracts and agreements! My wife and I got in on the RGN-Canada mistake far last fall and enjoyed Air China and Swiss First on Air China ticket stock as a result, and all the miles that came with it! They sold us a ticket, which we purchased as advertised, I’m stoked to benefit.

    For me, I truly believe honesty is the only way to live, and its clear in united’s T&c’s that i wasnt meant to be credited for flights which are award redemptions, so I called united, and they promptly took the miles back! My conscience is clear, and I also believe this is part of the personal responsibility I have to uphold my end of what is a positive and mutually agreeable business relationship with the airline. Trust and honesty is te basis of all good business, and a transaction being mutually beneficial is the basis of all commerce.

    For me it’s not worth losing that for the sake of a few miles.

  • Rob P

    On a side note, my least favorite thing about the miles and points game is that I often have to chase and monitor for points that didn’t post.

  • stoobee

    Well, we must all live with ourselves. It reminds me of the time a ten year-old boy found $50,000 cash in a large envelop in the street. When he turned it in, the newspapers reported that he was a hero. What? A hero—for simply doing the right thing? Regardless of the lack of integrity of some, no law stops anyone from doing what they know is right.

  • Jim

    Amex membership rewards gave me 50,000 points by mistake, so I called them and they said “Yes that was a mistake,however for your honesty enjoy the points on us”

  • Rob P

    “the company is always doing its best to make the most of your money… unfortunately”

    (?) You do this with your money, too. Anyway I’m grateful that we all have the freedom to vote for or against companies with our wallets.

  • Robert

    I think I’ll agree with Jon. You know, without us customers, the airlines simply would not be in business, and as the saying goes, “We know you have a choice when it comes to selecting airlines/travel partners”. So what do we get in return? We get change fees, baggage fees, we get treated like cattle/commodities, and if you fly in coach, you get packed in a like a sardine.

  • Rob P

    But if enough people vote with their wallets…

  • Mileage Cheater

    Hah……. This is all child’s play compared to what happened to me within the last few years. Had two F/C mixed award tix from the US to Europe,Middle East, and South Africa. Must have made 5 changes before departure and 5 more after… After starting the final return legs, made changes mid transit as some F had opened up on different routes back to the states and for some reason rather than just charging the change fee… during the re-ticketing the airline screwed up.. After I got back, I noticed some refunds hit my Credit Card, basically for taxes and gov fees. Then I noticed my miles account had been credited, but not debited for around 150k miles, basically half of the award. 4 months later the points were still there and my Credit Card was never recharged for the fees that got refunded.

    So rather than call up the airline and report the mistake, I decided to use the points for First Class from the US to Sydney last year.

    So I think I win!

    RCK

  • Mrs N

    I like the idea of paying the miles forward to someone in need. On a somewhat related note, I just haggled with Delta to get the proper amount of mileage posted to my account. It was a code share flight operated by China Airlines. Delta twice tried to claim it was a CA flight and not a code share, even though my ticket and boarding pass clearly said “Delta code share.” It left me with a bit of a sour taste. However, on recent flights the check-in staff and FA have been friendly & super helpful – much appreciated as I was traveling alone with an infant and a preschooler.

  • https://twitter.com/ProfCharlotte Charlotte (TYR)

    Depends on the situation. First, in all of my flying I have never had an airline credit me miles that I did not earn. Every mistake has been in the airlines’ favor. So, if it was an airline that I had to spend a great deal of my time in the past to get the miles that I was earned, I do not know that I would tell them. I would be tempted to say that those miles were payment for my time and energy to deal with their mistakes in the past.

  • sloppy

    delta once forgot to deduct 120,000 from me on a business class ticket redemption.

  • Cory

    Faced this dilemma on a Starwood stay a few years ago. I may have even consulted TPG on how to handle it. I really wanted the SPG points, of course, but I felt it was only right to call them and inform them of their error. My moral compass pointed in a different direction when I called and talked to them and explained what had happened and they insisted that it was right (It certainly was not). In that case I said, “Well…I tried to make it right and they wouldn’t let me. It’s out of my hands now”

    I am the type who will happily take advantage of a mistake fare and make no apologies about it. I took advantage of the SAVE300 Vegas mistake in the Expedia Canada site a few years ago, and had booked the 4 mile 1st class award to Hong Kong. But, those were the listed prices and promotions. To me, there’s a distinct difference between paying the price you find and getting more than you’re entitled to. The comparison of getting too much change back and knowingly pocketing it is appropriate.

    Bottom line, make the call and make them aware of the extra points. It may not ever work out to your favor, and maybe you don’t believe in karma. But, there’s a lot to be said for doing the right thing.

  • Jon s

    This one is obvious to me. We ourselves have to watch our accounts to catch and resolve errors that hurt us. Airlines / hotels should therefore be responsible for checking their accounts for mistakes that hurt them.

  • Joeheg

    I’ve let my conscience get a hold of me and try to correct it in my younger days. I found that just like when you are trying to explain anything more than ordinary, the representative wouldn’t understand and I’d end up getting frustrated for trying to do the right thing.

  • BobChi

    Lots of rationalization going on here. I just noticed a hotel chain where I recently spent two reward nights has for some reason credited the points back to me as though I had canceled. I have sent them an email about it. Of course I hope they will tell me to keep the points, but if they don’t, they weren’t really mine in the first place.

  • JM

    After asking Chase reps to match me to the best offer, I noticed that two adjustments were made simultaneously, with each adjustment adding 10K miles to my account, instead of just one adjustment of 10K. I called them up immedi… just joking. I appreciate the free one way ticket. I see it as a bonus for being a Chase customer for over ten years.

  • Mary

    I find it rather repulsive and sad that 62% of the voters believe that status requalification is more important than doing the right thing…it’s too bad credit card applications don’t produce a morality score, if so, that 62% would never receive elite status let alone the bonus miles…justification and rationalization are just attempts to block the conscience.

  • Ron

    Thank you! That’s all I’m going to say after reading this post and a few of the replies. Others can obfuscate and rationalize…

  • jacisme

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because they charge us fees (that we chose to agree to when we bought the ticket in the first place), doesn’t mean we have a right to some random compensation in a completely different transaction.

  • http://david.ulevitch.com/ davidu

    I’m in the “Call them, you didn’t earn it” camp, but this poster definitely has a strong counter-point.

  • timmer1001

    I cannot believe you posted about this. Shame on you. You are completely irresponsible and living proof that the pen is mighter than the sword

  • timmer1001

    Wait, you flew on LX in Round three? Your ticket was not cancelled?

  • Josiah

    Maybe just “unfortunate” because his friend is “suffering”. :)

  • Josiah

    I recently booked a one-way for my wife and me from Cancun to LAX with Virgin America. They debited the miles just fine, but double-charged the taxes by about $113. I called and explained what appeared to have happened. The rep confirmed that he would refund half of the taxes charged as well as half of the miles used. I politely told him again that the miles debited correctly and that he need only refund half of the taxes charged.

    Sure enough, half of the miles were refunded to my account. I did not take the time to call them, figuring I did the best I could to prevent this from happening. Do you think I should have called again?

  • Nick Ewen

    By “unfortunate” I was simply referring to the fact that my friend didn’t want to be in this position, but the airline’s mistake has put him there. In fact, if he wasn’t the type of person to obsessively track his mileage balances, he may have never even noticed! Would that ignorance be theft?

    That being said, I am not sure this situation is completely analogous to a clerk giving you too much change back. A human error that happens “live” in front of your eyes that directly results in lost money for the store (and, as a poster below mentions, could wind up with a firing) is different than a computer glitch that (in the grand scheme of SkyMiles) is no more than a rounding error.

    Not saying either situation is right or wrong, but wouldn’t you agree that knowingly keeping extra change is undoubtedly worse than knowingly keeping extra miles?

  • Nick Ewen

    Very interesting points. I have to wonder whether ignorance plays a role in these situations. Obviously TPG readers are well-informed mileage collectors, but for a casual traveler that doesn’t track his/her balances obsessively, how often does a mistake in the airline’s favor go unnoticed compared to one in the traveler’s favor?

  • Nick Ewen

    Now think about how many people don’t check their balances and have missed out on points/miles without even knowing it. Not saying that makes it all right for my friend to keep the miles here, but I’m sure that mistakes against the consumer happen FAR more frequently than mistakes in the consumer’s favor.

  • Nick Ewen

    Did you get the miles for the full trip? That’s what was so weird about this one, since it was only one leg that credited as paid J.

  • Nick Ewen

    What airline did this happen on? Delta used to do this when IRROPS or a VDB changed your class to Y or paid F/J, but now the miles will always post based on the purchased class.

  • http://www.weflyfree.com/ Justin

    I’d probably say something the next time I had to call anyway, and if they caught it and/or called me, I absolutely wouldn’t raise a stink if they removed it, but if you think I’m going to wait on hold forever just to explain this situation to a CSR who likely doesn’t even care, you’ve got another thing coming.

  • SpamKiller

    I had a travel agent send me two tickets instead of one. I called her and she told me that I didn’t know what I was looking at and blew me off. 6 months later she called asking for money, I told her no. I am of the opinion, if you try to fix the mistake and they fight you on it, they are SOL.

  • Rudy Rosenberg

    I’d like to see TPG contact the airline reps and see how they would approach the issue.

  • D

    I had a similar error in my favor last year where the airline credited me with a flight from the Middle East instead of Chicago. I guess the airport codes were similar. I decided to stay silent. It took them a few months but they caught the error and removed that credit from my account.

  • AKTCHI

    Your friend is a bleeding-heart idiot. :) AIrlines have beaten us down with unfair rules for so long that we don’t even recognize when something right does happen.

    Explain this to your friend: In this transaction DL is acting like a TA. He pays DL; DL pays AF to buy the ticket. In this case, DL accepted his payment in DL miles (ie, they already got paid as in gift-cards). However, AF has no interest in DL miles, so they would have gotten cash payment from DL. As far as AF is concerned, they got paid in cash. It was a revenue ticket to AF and should always have earned miles. (That is precisely how bank points work. Airline points are no different.)

    Except that the airlines have made such a complex web of jargon and rules that people think it is normal that they shouldn’t get the miles.

    Your friend should count himself lucky that this one time he didn’t get cheated out of the miles.

    Ethics and morality are good things, but judgments about fair/unfair and right/wrong require knowledge, and to speak the obvious truth, your friend hasn’t taken the trouble to acquire any and unsurprisingly doesn’t possess any in this situation.

  • AKTCHI

    One problem with advocates of freedom is that they tell us we are free to do anything as long as it is X or Y. :)

  • AKTCHI

    The correct wallet analogy would be that somebody was robbing you an dtricking you out of your wallet for years, and then one day he left his wallet by mistake. :)

  • AKTCHI

    I don’t believe that requal is more important than the right thing. What I do believe is that it is the right thing for AF to award miles for a ticket that they were in paid in cash for (by DL). This is just what happens if one buys a ticket with bank points.

  • AKTCHI

    Of course not: The miles were awarded by AF who paid DL for them in cash. DL in turn had paid AF in cash for the ticket.

  • Matty

    Airlines have made it clear that we don’t actually OWN the miles anyway so who am I to tell them they allocated too many of their miles to my account ;)

  • Rob P

    Nah you already told them.

  • Rob P

    LOL you have a point there…

  • Nick Ewen

    I firmly agree with the ridiculousness that is the collection of airlines’ rules. However, there are other things you mention that are simply inaccurate. For starters, airline points are very different than bank points. Whether you agree with this is a moot point; award tickets are not eligible to accrue miles. Period. It has nothing to do with people thinking it’s “normal” nor do we get “cheated” out of miles when we don’t earn them on award tickets. That would be like saying you get “cheated” when Hyatt doesn’t count an award stay towards elite status. Again, you may disagree with the policy, but it’s the policy. Many others have commented about this mistake being karma coming back to bite airlines for their incessant fleecing of customers, and while I do think that has some merit, it’s simply inaccurate to say that my friend should have received miles for this flight.

    Incidentally, my friend is actually incredibly knowledgeable about the points & miles game and thus knows that (according to the posted T&C of the SkyMiles program) he isn’t entitled to mileage accrual on award tickets. We can debate the rights and wrongs of that until we are blue in the face, but there’s no disagreeing with those facts. Based on this knowledge, I think my friend is in a very good position to made a fair/unfair or right/wrong decision about this situation.

  • Darth Chocolate

    I have had nothing but good experiences with Delta and AMEX. Helps that I have been a Medallion member since 2005 and a Platinum AMEX member since 1996.

    The key is to ALWAYS be polite. It always helps. Always.

    Recently I had to redeposit an award ticket for my wife, no issue. No Fees. And I was only Silver at the time.

    Had a baggage disaster in China (bags delayed 5 days). Flight attendants were awesome, writing information from my cell phone in Chinese to facilitate my luggage reunion. Wrote a firm, but polite complaint and also praised the FAs by name. They gave me 20K miles for my trouble. Had a second complaint when a US baggage clerk gave me attitude and hung up on me (got another 9K miles).

    This tells me that as far as the airlines are concerned (at least for their best customers), regular miles (not MQM) are a throwaway.

    In 2004, I was refused access to a air lounge in Amsterdam with my AMEX Platinum card. I did not really deserve to get access, but I figured I’d give it a try. No dice. When I arrived in DTW while waiting for my connection, I called AMEX and asked why the benefit was not available for international travel (no threats, just an inquiry). As I walked in the door on my return home, AMEX called me back and apologized for not getting a benefit I was not entitled to.

    Last year with Platinum AMEX, I bought concert tickets through one of their “special” programs – purchase prime seats before they went on sale to the general public. There was a glitch in the AMEX clearing process, and after getting my tickets, they gave me 5K points for my trouble.

    That being said, I would always call an error to their attention. 9 times out of 10 they will let you keep them – IF YOU ARE POLITE.

  • VO1Reason

    I received double the bonus points I should have for an online purchase once. Instead of one 50K mile bonus, I got 2. Once I discovered it (yes, I keep close tabs on my account balances), I booked tickets to Europe faster than a speeding bullet. Nothing ever came of it … other than a great trip!

  • Charles Clarke

    I wouldn’t spend time on the phone waiting for them, but I would send them a message from my mileage account. I’ve done this for extra hotel points. I still haven’t heard from them and I still have the points in my account.

    I’ve had waitstaff give me weird looks when I return extra change to them, but I if I notice it(and math is natural to me, so I usually notice), why wouldn’t I give it back. I’ve also mentioned when they haven’t put something on the ticket. About 1/2 of the time for drinks, they let me have it for free.

    Another thought about those of you who wouldn’t mention it to them: I’ve had contractors who have told me they would do some extra work and bill it in to the insurance on a claim. I’ve never hired them as I figure if they would cheat the insurance company, they would be willing to cheat me also.

  • BobChi

    I’m replying to my own post with probably nobody reading anymore, but I have a follow-up. Basically I got back a confused email that wasn’t really responsive to my inquiry and asking for information they could have easily looked up themselves. It’s not that unusual, of course, but considering I was willing to have them correct an error that was in my favor, you might think they would be a bit attentive to the content of my email rather than engaging me in a protracted run-around. My new policy is, “Try once to do the right thing, but don’t be persistent about it if the company is clueless.” I’m keeping the points.

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