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We often publish stories from readers that illustrate how points and miles can help you get where you want to go. However, it’s important to learn from our mistakes as well as our successes, so I’m calling on you to send us your most epic travel failure stories. Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, we’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure!
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader David, who lost a Delta companion certificate when his travel plans changed. Here’s what he had to say:
My wife and I decided to visit family in Milwaukee for Thanksgiving this year, and we wanted to travel on Thanksgiving day and return to Orlando the following Sunday. As usual, flying on the holiday was not too pricey, but our return options on Sunday were super inflated. Most flights were going for $400-500 per person round-trip in economy.
I decided that this might be a good opportunity to use the Delta companion certificate that I had been holding onto from the renewal of my Platinum Delta SkyMiles® credit card. I found an itinerary that would get us both there and back for $473 using the companion certificate. The seat options were poor and the schedule was less than stellar, but I went ahead and booked it.
Later that day I found out that some family members were flying out of Chicago that Sunday, and that we could ride down there with them if we wanted. After doing a bit of research, I found a one-way, first class flight on United that would get us back home earlier for only $260 apiece. I hopped back on Delta’s website to cancel our flights, and was told that while I would receive a refund for the money paid, I would lose the companion certificate despite having booked it only five hours earlier.
I ended up cancelling the flights anyway because our new flights were more valuable to me, but it was an expensive lesson to learn. On the bright side, I was able to get us to Milwaukee in Delta Comfort+ for only 25,000 SkyMiles and $11, with our return being two first class seats on United out of O’Hare for $520 total.
You can get a lot of value out of airline companion fares, but they may have stricter change and cancellation policies than paid or award flights. For example, the Delta Platinum and Reserve companion certificates, the Alaska Airlines Visa companion fare and some others are forfeit upon cancellation. Those rules apply even within 24 hours of booking, when paid flights are still eligible for a full refund.
Some companion fares are much more flexible. The British Airways Travel Together ticket can be cancelled up to 24 hours before departure, and Southwest’s policy of no change or cancellation fees extends to reservations made with the Companion Pass. Before you redeem a companion ticket, make sure you’re aware of any restrictions that apply, and plan accordingly.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank David for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels.
I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card bonus or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!