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Update 12/2/2017: A spokesperson for Aeroplan has provided the following statement to The Points Guy regarding the Swiss First Class award redemption situation:
“I can assure you that we are not pleased with the situation.
Our members are our priority and Aeroplan will assist affected passengers. We are investigating the situation as to what exactly happened and why these reservations were cancelled. Working with Swiss and Air Canada, we should know more about that early next week.”
We will continue to monitor and update this story with additional comments and information from all involved parties.
On Thursday, we wrote about Swiss first-class award redemptions that were temporarily bookable via Air Canada’s Aeroplan program for 70,000 miles plus minimal taxes and fees. Swiss First awards are normally only available to the airline’s own top-tier elites, so this was a unique opportunity — a number of readers reported success in booking these tickets, and at least one person was even able to select seats on Swiss’ website.
However, today it appears that Aeroplan is actively cancelling these same tickets. One TPG reader reports that his reservation has been cancelled in Swiss’ system, though it still appears as ticketed with Aeroplan. Several Flyertalk posters report the same has happened to them as well, though at least a few others still have their reservations intact.
Apparently this cancellation is coming from the Aeroplan side of the process — the cancellation note is reportedly from the Galileo computer reservations system that Aeroplan utilizes, not Amadeus (which would be Swiss). It seems likely the original glitch was in Aeroplan’s system and the company is now trying to mitigate the damage, as the program would likely be on the hook to pay for any tickets that were booked but not actually available.
While the DOT decided in 2015 that airlines do not have to honor mistake fares (other than having to reimburse out-of-pocket expenses that were made in reliance upon the ticket purchase), arguing that this was a “mistake fare” may be stretching the definition of that term. Aeroplan publishes an award chart that shows first class Star Alliance awards cost 140,000 miles round-trip between the continental US and Europe region 1, or 50% in one direction. Though to be fair, that same chart has a footnote stating that “SWISS First Class is not available for reward travel.”
In any case, the DOT has been generally reluctant to intervene in issues involving frequent flyer programs, and the fact that Aeroplan is a Canadian company only complicates matters.
If you’re holding one of these Swiss first class redemptions booked via Aeroplan, what can you do? Well, your first step should be to check your reservation on swiss.com and see if it’s been cancelled. If it’s still intact, don’t do anything and wait to see what happens.
However, if your ticket has in fact been cancelled, you should contact Aeroplan and let them know you expect the ticket to be honored. You can call but it’d also be good to follow up with an email so you have your request documented in writing. Keep in mind that it’s unlikely you’ll get the ticket reinstated at this stage — this step is to make sure Aeroplan has a record of your request along with other passengers asking for the same thing so the company can see the extent of the issue.
Once you’re on the record, we’d suggest waiting a few days to see how things shake out. With so many people having booked these tickets, Aeroplan may feel pressure to come to some sort of accommodation to make the problem go away, though that’s certainly not guaranteed. You can also file a DOT complaint, but it doesn’t seem likely to have much effect in this case.
In this situation some folks will feel strongly about Aeroplan’s duty to live up to the tickets, while others will see it as “you win some, you lose some.” So it’s up to you as to how hard you want to push back on this. Just keep in mind you might be whistling into the wind if Aeroplan decides to be obstinate about it.
Finally, if you’d prefer to just call it a day and let your ticket go, there’s one bit of good news — if you transferred Membership Rewards points from Amex in order to make this redemption, Aeroplan has been willing to reverse the transfer for at least one person who had their ticket cancelled. So that’s certainly something you should demand if you want to go that route.
We’ll stay on this story and bring you more information as we get it. In the meantime, if you booked a Swiss First Class award via Aeroplan, let us know in the comments if your ticket has been cancelled or remains intact.
Featured image by FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images.
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