How I Mixed Up Airline Ticketing Rules — Reader Mistake Story

Dec 26, 2018

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Shray, who spent a long day at the airport after attempting to fly standby:

For the Thanksgiving holiday, I booked a trip home to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) on American Airlines with British Airways Avios. I booked the ticket in September, and double checked the syllabus to make sure class was scheduled normally. But as the last day before Thanksgiving break came around, my professors canceled our afternoon classes. Wanting to go home as soon as possible to be with my family, I decided to go to the airport early and try to standby for an earlier flight.

When I fly with AAdvantage miles, I can standby for free, so I thought the rules for my ticket would be the same. I stood to be corrected. I was informed at the airport that since I was ticketed by British Airways, I have to follow their rules, which do not allow for free same-day flight changes or standby. I would have had to pay 71 GBP (~$91) if I wanted to go home early. As a college student on a tight budget, I decided to just wait for seven hours until my original flight took off.

I learned an important rule that day: follow the ticketing rules of the airline you booked with, and not those of the carrier. Had I known this beforehand, I would have saved a lot of time at the airport.

Airline tickets come with a litany of rules and restrictions, and to get full value from your fare, it helps to know which ones apply. Shray is right that you should look first to the ticketing airline, especially for questions about changes and cancellations. However, issues that pertain to your airport experience and the flight itself (like seat selection and baggage allowance) generally fall under the purview of the airline you fly with.

Your relationship with the operating carrier can also supersede rules put in place by the ticketing airline. For example, American Airlines offers complimentary standby to passengers with AAdvantage status or Oneworld status; booking through British Airways wouldn’t have mattered if Shray had access to those benefits. Similarly, many (but not all) cobranded airline credit cards offer benefits even if you’re ticketed through another airline. The takeaway is that if you’re booking through one airline to fly on another, verify that any benefits you may need will be available to you.

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 Shray 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, 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. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image via Shutterstock.

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