American Airways canceled our Qsuite award tickets. Now what?

Jeremy Vogel was thrilled when he redeemed American Airways AAdvantage miles for round-trip award tickets in Qatar Airways’ luxurious Qsuites for an journey to South Africa along with his accomplice, Dave Norton. However that pleasure would flip to frustration a number of months later when the couple was notified that their tickets house had been inexplicably canceled.

What adopted was Vogel’s unsuccessful and protracted battle with American Airways to have their award tickets reinstated. With the couple’s departure date quick approaching and $14,000 of nonrefundable journey bills on the road, Vogel turned to TPG for assist.

Vogel hoped we might persuade American Airways to just accept accountability for this award ticket conundrum and make sure the Qsuites they’d initially redeemed their miles for.

However what recourse does a passenger have if a accomplice airline out of the blue refuses to honor an award ticket? That is the query for in the present day.

Utilizing American Airways miles to e-book award tickets on Qatar Airways


Final June, Vogel and his accomplice had been at first phases of planning their journey to South Africa. Whereas perusing the TPG website, they got here throughout an article about Qatar’s Qsuite that caught their consideration. Vogel was satisfied he and Norton ought to fly to Cape City and again in Qsuites.

“I had loads of American Airways miles, so I checked for award availability,” Vogel recalled.

A lot to his shock, Vogel was capable of simply e-book flights to and from Cape City utilizing simply 75,000 miles per individual every manner. The couple would fly from Washington, D.C.’s Dulles Worldwide Airport (IAD), their house airport, to Doha, Qatar’s Hamad Worldwide Airport (DOH) to Cape City Worldwide Airport (CPT) and again for a complete of 300,000 AAdvantage miles.

Discuss a very good deal. In whole, the couple would have the prospect to take pleasure in over 46 hours in presumably the most effective business-class seats on this planet.

Conscious that the flights weren’t formally booked till they acquired ticket numbers from Qatar Airways, the couple held off on making any further plans till that occurred.

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“The following day, we acquired the ticket numbers and had been capable of decide our seats within the Qsuites,” Vogel reported.

Happy that Qatar Airways had confirmed their award tickets to and from South Africa, the couple subsequent set their sights on making the remainder of their plans for this journey, together with an costly safari.

A Qatar Airways reserving change notification


For the following 4 months, the couple accomplished all of the preparations for his or her journey, which was scheduled to start in March 2023.

However late in October 2022, an electronic mail arrived from Qatar Airways a few “reserving change.” Figuring out that schedule modifications are widespread, particularly when flights are ticketed to date upfront, Vogel initially wasn’t very involved in regards to the alert.

Nonetheless, trying extra carefully on the message from Qatar Airways, he seen that it didn’t truly describe a schedule change.

“That prompted me to go browsing to the American Airways web site to verify the reservation,” Vogel recalled. “I noticed a minor change to the departure time (25 minutes) of the Doha to Washington D.C. leg of our flight house.”

Though the schedule change turned out to be slight, Vogel seen one thing extra ominous: Their ticket numbers had vanished from their reservation. Immediately, he was on the cellphone with American Airways asking for an evidence.

“American Airways advised me that after Qatar Airways had modified the schedule, our tickets had turn into ‘unconfirmed’ on each legs of our flight house,” Vogel defined. “After many hours on the cellphone, I used to be capable of get American Airways to reconfirm Dave on the initially ticketed itinerary within the Qsuites.”

However regardless of Vogel’s continued makes an attempt to get himself again on the flights and again into Qsuites with Norton, the American Airways agent wouldn’t budge. She defined that Qatar Airways had restricted the Qsuites stock on each legs of the journey house. She had booked Norton into the one Qsuite out there in her system whereas Vogel’s reservation remained “unconfirmed.”

“She defined that my Qsuite award seat could be on request and that hopefully it could clear earlier than the date of journey,” Vogel advised me. “The agent would not even supply me a voluntary downgrade to financial system class.”

Having no intention of touring for 23 hours in one other cabin whereas Norton sat up entrance in a Qsuite, Vogel launched a campaign to reclaim his Qsuite that may final for the following three months however would finally finish in defeat … that’s, till he had one final thought: Ask TPG for assist.

Asking TPG to assist reinstate this award ticket


In February 2023, Vogel reached the tip of the road in his battle. He had complained to the Division of Transportation, the Higher Enterprise Bureau, Qatar Airways and American Airways. His decided efforts had been chronicled over a 66-page paper path, however regardless of all of it, he was nonetheless no nearer to getting again his personal Qsuite for the return journey from Cape City.

In actual fact, when Vogel despatched his request for assist to TPG, he had no transportation house in any respect. His reservation continued to show the unconfirmed standing with no ticket quantity.

By the point I acquired Vogel’s request for assist, American Airways had supplied him two “resolutions,” neither of which he was keen to just accept.

“American Airways advised me they’ll refund my award ticket for the flight house, and I can purchase my very own business-class ticket,” Vogel defined. “Or I might take a downgrade to financial system class — which I am not going to do. If you happen to aren’t capable of assist me, then that is most likely going to go to small claims courtroom.”

After I went by means of some (however not all!) of Vogel’s 66-page paper path, I famous some extremely uncommon particulars. These included the truth that Vogel and Norton had confirmed tickets for a lot of months earlier than the schedule change and that such a slight schedule change would have triggered the outright cancellation of their ticket numbers.

Qatar Airways states that: “The minimal connecting time between Qatar Airways flights in Doha is 45 minutes (60 minutes for flights to the US). This permits adequate time for passenger’s switch in addition to the switch of bags to his/her onward connecting flight.” However even with the 25-minute change, Vogel and Norton nonetheless had practically three hours to make their connection.

A 13-digit ticket quantity means the traveler’s reservation is paid for and confirmed. As soon as a ticket quantity is issued, it’s a uncommon circumstance for an airline to delete it — and to take action with out a legitimate clarification is almost remarkable.

Nonetheless, time and again, when Vogel requested about reinstating his beforehand confirmed ticket, the American Airways brokers merely reiterated that there have been no extra award seats out there. Nobody was capable of clarify why his flights had transformed into an unconfirmed standing after which canceled to start with.

In a irritating go-round with agent after agent that spanned weeks after which months, Vogel urged American Airways to push Qatar Airways into opening up one other Qsuite award seat on his unique flight. Right here’s an excerpt of one in every of his emails to American Airways:

“Qatar already launched — and AA ticketed — mileage seats.

That they had been paid with miles is of no consequence; federal guidelines don’t distinguish between tickets paid for with miles (I do not assume you’d disagree, a type of worth) and money.

American Airways issued us tickets, and now you could see that they’re honored. Whether or not you’ll be able to get Qatar Airways to ‘open [a seat] for miles’ once more — as they already did for our journey which American Airways ticketed on 15 June 2022 and as they apparently did once more when David was reconfirmed to our unique itinerary — is of no consequence to me; if AA has to pay full worth for a income seat to reconfirm, then that’s what you could do.”

However to Vogel’s astonishment, the American Airways agent countered that the 25-minute schedule change is the origin of the issue and she or he has no means to power Qatar to honor the unique ticket.

“Our schedule change coverage is to request the area once more in Enterprise Class to the provider that had the schedule change they usually have the choice to substantiate or deny the request. On this circumstance, QR denied the request and we’re capable of reinstate the miles in your account if most popular.

We’re sorry for the schedule change. However it’s Qatar’s option to both affirm or deny using award miles on their flights, they usually restrict what number of seats can be found for miles from different airways. (American Airways customer support)”

Annoyed, Vogel reiterated that he didn’t desire a downgrade or a refund of his miles. He simply needed his seat again.

And whereas it’s true that airways assign limitations on award seat availability for flights, these numbers are normally predetermined. As soon as a ticket quantity is assigned and the miles deducted from the traveler’s account, the airline can’t retroactively decrease the variety of award tickets and cancel the transaction as if it had by no means occurred.

It was time to ask American Airways what had gone unsuitable right here.

Asking American Airways to retrieve this buyer’s award seat


As we had been quickly approaching the departure date for the couple’s journey, I hoped to get Vogel shortly confirmed again into his beforehand confirmed Qsuite with Norton. I suspected that Vogel had not been reaching anybody at American Airways who had the authority to resolve this drawback with Qatar Airways instantly.

I hoped our government contact at American Airways might unravel this drawback and repair it. This isn’t a customer-facing individual at American Airways, however moderately somebody I can attain out to as a member of the media and a client advocate. Right here’s what I wrote:

“Hello ****!

Jeremy Vogel and his accomplice Dave Norton booked a flight utilizing A.A. miles from Capetown to Washington DC on Qatar in enterprise class final June. They acquired affirmation with ticket numbers after which a affirmation from Qatar inviting them to choose their seats.

They assumed all was so as. However in October, Qatar despatched them an electronic mail alerting them to a “schedule change” and advised them to contact American Airways. This schedule change seems to have been a cancellation (with no clarification).

The flights are nonetheless out there for buy however this couple’s tickets had been canceled. One way or the other they bought Dave’s tickets reinstated, however Jeremy continues to be ticket-less.

May you see in case your group might determine this out and get Jeremy’s ticket reinstated too? Dave does not wish to depart him behind in South Africa 😬. Thanks!

Greatest, Michelle Sofa-Friedman, Shopper Advocate”

Even with the help of the manager decision group at American Airways, as with different instances involving Qatar Airways you’ll have examine right here, this case nonetheless wasn’t simple to resolve. American Airways needed to negotiate with Qatar Airways to make one other Qsuite out there for an award ticket.

However lastly, the answer Vogel had hoped for got here by means of.

Reunited! 2 Qsuite award tickets

After 4 months of struggling and simply weeks earlier than their scheduled departure, we helped carry Vogel’s battle to a profitable conclusion. The American Airways group was capable of get Qatar Airways to make a Qsuite out there for him.

“Hey, Michelle,” my American Airways contact emailed me. “I hope you are nicely. I needed to shut the loop with you on this. We had been capable of get the stock from Qatar opened up and the shopper has been accommodated and reached out to by our group. (American Airways, spokesperson)”

Though there has nonetheless been no clarification as to how this occurred within the first place, Vogel and Norton had been simply joyful to place this expertise behind them and take that journey to South Africa on Qatar Airways, which they did just some weeks later.

“We had an incredible time!” Vogel advised me after the journey. “We particularly cherished being on safari on a personal sport reserve close to Kruger Nationwide Park. And the world-class international delicacies (at an incredible worth, particularly with the USD trade fee) in Franschhoek and Cape City. Thanks a lot to your help with this; I actually don’t know if I might have ‘gotten there’ with out your assist to escalate.”

What to do in case your award tickets get canceled


Having the ability to e-book award tickets on accomplice airways can turn into difficult if an issue develops together with your ticket or flight schedule. Confusion typically ensues, with every provider referring the traveler again to the opposite. As Vogel came upon, this may result in an countless customer support loop with no simple method to a profitable decision.

Here is what you could know if you end up in an identical circumstance.

Affirm that you’ve a ticket quantity

Sadly, I generally obtain complaints from vacationers about “canceled” award tickets that, upon nearer look, had been by no means truly booked. Step one to fixing an award ticket drawback is to make sure that you had a confirmed flight within the first place.

Reserving award tickets on accomplice airways is a little more difficult than redeeming miles instantly with a frequent flyer program for flights by itself airline.

While you e-book a ticket on a accomplice airline, you’ll first obtain a affirmation with a passenger title report (PNR). That report locator is a six-character code. Which means your airline has despatched a request for the reserving to the accomplice airline. You should not have a ticket legitimate for journey should you solely have a report locator.

If the accomplice airline accepts the reservation, you will obtain an extra affirmation with a 13-digit ticket quantity. Meaning your ticket is paid for and also you’re cleared for journey. However, as we have seen in in the present day’s case, issues can nonetheless go unsuitable earlier than your flight, so you will wish to maintain your eye in your emails alerting you of any schedule modifications or different issues with the reservation.

Be looking out for updates from the airways

It’s not unusual for airline schedules to vary — generally dramatically — between the time you e-book your ticket and the date of journey. You need to by no means ignore or gloss over an electronic mail from an airline on which you’re holding a reservation.

It’s vital to bear in mind that in some instances the airline could be alerting you to a cancellation with a instructed flight substitution. If you happen to don’t reply to the e-mail, chances are you’ll end up moved mechanically to a brand new flight that’s unacceptable. So, all the time rigorously learn and reply to any messages about current flight reservations.

Transfer past speaking to front-line customer support

Entrance-line customer support brokers typically haven’t got the authority to appropriate difficult reservation issues. That is very true in case your scenario includes a number of airways or award tickets. If you happen to’ve cycled by means of one or two loops between the 2 airways’ front-line customer support, it is positively time to escalate your grievance to the airline’s subsequent degree of problem-solvers.

If you happen to need assistance discovering somebody on the airline who can truly assist, my advocacy group Shopper Rescue gives a free customer support and government contact finder for vacationers. Simply tell us what firm you’re having an issue with, and we are able to provide the title and electronic mail handle of somebody we all know there who may help you.

Doc your conversations

Discovering your self repeating the identical narrative over and over to numerous cellphone customer support representatives is usually a irritating train in futility. You possibly can keep away from persevering with this kind of ineffective back-and-forth by complaining in writing as an alternative. This fashion, you’re documenting what has already been performed and stated, and you may cease retelling the identical particulars.

Bear in mind, the airline that booked your award ticket is the place to focus your efforts, not the airline on which you intend to fly.

File a grievance with the Division of Transportation

If you happen to’re positive you had been issued an award ticket (with a 13-digit quantity on report) and, regardless of your finest efforts, your airline’s frequent flyer program won’t help you in getting your accomplice flight reinstated, you’ll be able to file a passenger grievance with the Division of Transportation. The airline should reply to your grievance inside 60 days by way of the DOT.

Submitting a grievance with the DOT typically is all that’s wanted to get an airline to appropriate an issue inside its management.

Backside line

Reserving award tickets in luxurious cabins like Qatar’s Qsuite is usually a fabulous method to redeem your American Airways miles, but it surely additionally is usually a irritating expertise if one thing goes unsuitable between the accomplice airways, with no clear path to a good decision for the traveler.

Even in the present day, neither airline has defined how the couple’s two absolutely ticketed award seats went from confirmed to unconfirmed. That ought to by no means occur.

Fortunately, Vogel and Norton turned to TPG for assist, and we had been capable of assist get their journey plans again on observe. We’re joyful they’ve efficiently accomplished their journey and loved the Qsuites they initially booked.

When you’ve got an issue with a bank card firm, cruise line, airline, automotive rental company or resort that you have not been capable of repair by yourself, ship your request for help to I will be joyful to analyze and do my finest that will help you, too.

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