My rookie mistake: not linking flight reservations

Sep 11, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

My number one piece of advice for booking airfare is to always search for only one ticket, even if you need three or four seats.

Airlines have odd pricing systems. Let’s say there are two seats left at $99 and then the next cheapest ticket is $120. If you search for four seats, all four will price at the higher $120 cost.

This is all about how many tickets are left in a fare class or “bucket.”

So a trick to save some money is to buy two tickets at $99 on one reservation and the other two at the $120 price on another reservation.

That usually works unless there is a massive schedule change, storm, mechanical problem or some other delay.

Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter for more airline news!

Back in March, I booked a trip on Delta Air Lines from New York (JFK) to Cancun (CUN) for my family for the 2021 February school break. Airlines typically open up flight schedules 330 days in advance and I wanted to get a good mileage flight before others booked during the popular travel week.

(We will see if we actually take the trip based on how the fight against coronavirus goes. But as a Diamond Medallion elite member, I can redeposit my miles for free up to 72 hours in advance — the perfect pandemic insurance policy. The hotel was also booked on points with a flexible cancellation policy.)

For the flight down, I found three tickets together at the same mileage cost. But for the return, it was cheaper to book two reservations. I booked one ticket for my wife at 27,000 miles one way in first class. My daughter and I each paid 47,000 miles for our one-way first class tickets. (Not the best use of miles but the flexibility here is key for me.)

Normally, I would then call Delta and link the two reservations. That way, if there are any changes, the airline will hopefully try to keep my family together.

Well, blame it on my exhausted, pandemic mind but I failed to do that. There were also some pretty bad wait times at Delta’s call center back in March.

Fast forward to September and I got the schedule change email. At first, it didn’t look bad. My daughter and my mid-afternoon flight was shifted 20 minutes. Then I looked at my wife’s ticket. She was moved to the morning flight.

Oh no.

I called the airline and sure enough the flight was sold out in first class. So was Comfort+.

Delta was able to downgrade my wife to coach. The agent was about to give me back the difference from her 27,000-mile first class ticket and the new mileage price for coach. Then she priced it out: 74,000 miles, one way for coach. So no difference in miles but she was given a $200 travel voucher for a future trip and is still able to move up to first, if a seat opens up for sale.

Bottom line

The splitting up of my family could have been easily avoided. I tried to save money by booking two separate tickets. That was the right call. But then I should have immediately called up Delta to link the reservations together. That would have kept us all together when the schedule change occurred. It’s something that I’ve done countless times but failed to this one trip and it hurt me.

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.