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TPG reader Noah sent me a message on Facebook to ask about getting credit for past flights:
“Is there a statute of limitations on how long I can go back to request mileage for a flight that wasn’t credited, or for credit that was missed during irregular operations?”
One of the first steps new award travelers should take is to sign up for the major airline and hotel loyalty programs. Once you have an account, you can submit your member number along with future reservations to ensure that you earn points and elite status for all your flight, stay and partner activity. However, rewards aren’t always credited properly — computers and employees can make mistakes, or you may simply forget to provide your account information. Fortunately, when that happens you can request an adjustment after the fact.
The major domestic airlines give you a healthy amount of time to claim miles. American, Southwest and United all offer retroactive credit for flights up to 12 months from the date of travel. Alaska gives you 11 months, while Delta gives you nine. Their international counterparts tend to be a bit more stingy, as Air Canada, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines all offer mileage credit for just six months after you fly. Claims for flight rewards (including partner airlines) can generally be filed and processed online. Rewards from other sources may require contacting the partner in question.
In some cases you can earn rewards for past flights even if you hadn’t yet signed up as a frequent flyer when you traveled. Delta gives new SkyMiles members the option to claim mileage for flights up to 30 days prior to registration. United does the same for MileagePlus members, but also lets you extend that limit to six months for a $50 fee. British Airways Executive Club gives you three months, while Southwest Rapid Rewards impressively matches its normal mileage credit policy by giving you a full 12 months.
The rules are murkier when requesting mileage credits during irregular operations (known as irrops). If you’re rerouted involuntarily and you end up receiving fewer miles or elite credits as a result, you can request what’s known as original routing credit for the itinerary you booked. This can help you get what you paid for, and is especially handy if you’re counting on those credits for elite qualification at the end of the year. In some cases you may be able to double-dip by getting credit for both the original and actual routing, especially if you get rebooked on another carrier.
In general, squeezing anything out of irrops is a bit of a crapshoot. As usual, it helps to have elite status, but there’s no harm in asking even if you don’t. I recommend submitting your request within the normal time frame described above (sooner is better), and keep in mind that you’ll likely be asked for your ticket number when requesting a mileage adjustment, so it’s a good idea to save your boarding pass or email confirmation until the correct mileage has posted. If you’re involuntarily rerouted, get a gate agent to mark your boarding pass accordingly so you have evidence to support your claim.
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