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My Reservation Was Never Ticketed — Reader Mistake Story

April 22, 2019
5 min read
My Reservation Was Never Ticketed — Reader Mistake Story
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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Alexander, who had an unpleasant surprise at the airport before a trip to Europe:

Spain is the favorite travel destination for me and my wife, and I find that award availability is decent on Iberia if one looks as soon as the calendar opens up 330 days out. For our trip in March, I transferred 68,000 points from Ultimate Rewards to Iberia Plus to book two one-way business class tickets from New York-JFK to Madrid (MAD) with about $180 in taxes total (we paid cash for our return flight on Norwegian). I received a confirmation email with the record locator, and we selected our two favorite middle seats on Iberia's Airbus A350.

We were all set for our trip, or so we thought. The moment of shock came while checking in at the airport, where agents told us they didn't see our names listed as passengers on the flight. Several supervisors were called in to tell us we were never ticketed despite receiving a confirmation email and selecting our seats months earlier! Iberia had emailed me a request to call and confirm my identity in order to pay the award taxes, but that email had gone straight to my spam folder. Meanwhile, my credit card was never actually charged.

We weren’t able complete the booking at the airport because a separate office handles award requests over the phone. Since we had already made all the restaurant, hotel, and activity reservations, we were still inclined to fly that night, but we were told Avios redemptions couldn’t be made for same-day flights. Our only option was to buy economy tickets for $1,200 at the desk. The lesson here is that when making an award redemption, you should check to see that your credit card is actually charged and a ticket number is issued.

Anyone who flies regularly should be familiar with confirmation numbers (also commonly referred to as record locators). These are the six-character codes you use to reference your reservation when checking in for a flight or making changes to your itinerary. You might reasonably expect that holding a confirmation number means your reservation is locked in, but in reality it may not be confirmed in the conventional sense of the word. A "confirmed" reservation is one for which a passenger name record (PNR) has been created; however, holding a confirmation number doesn't mean you've actually been ticketed. Until you have a ticket number, your reservation remains in limbo.

Confirmation and ticket numbers are often issued simultaneously, but not always. Award holds are a routine example: you'll get a confirmation number when you activate a hold, but you won't be ticketed until you pay for it. Ticketing can also be held up when booking partner award flights, since the issuing airline has to contact the operating airline and confirm availability. That process takes time (I've waited as long as a week), which can be problematic if you're booking at the last minute. An unprocessed payment is another potential delay, though it's less common.

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Alexander has the right idea: you should get in the habit of checking for a ticket number after you book a flight, though I recommend doing so for both revenue and award fares. Airlines may include a ticket number in your confirmation email, or you can check the itinerary in your frequent flyer account online. Otherwise, you'll need to speak with customer service from the issuing airline to verify you've been ticketed. In any case, do not show up at the airport without a ticket number and expect to fly. Finally, Alexander's story is a reminder to review your itinerary before you travel (I think a week is a good amount of lead time). If something is amiss, it's better to find out while you still have time to set it right.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Alexander a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I'd like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, 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.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can't respond to each story individually, but we'll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image by AFP/Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023