Tending To Your Award Reservations…

I write this post post-turkey day and am so glad that I took the week off to spend time with family and friends. I hope that you spent time with loved ones and paused to think about what you’re thankful for. When I left my corporate job about 18 months ago, I did so in order to have more time for the important things in life. I was too stressed out and constantly running from one place to another. I wanted to slow down and enjoy each day. Things have again been quite busy in my world of late so taking a week of enjoying the big “small” things was great. Don’t get me wrong, I still worked on many award bookings, but I didn’t work at the pace that I’m used to. But, now I’m back at it and during my hiatus I got the dreaded “schedule change” email from American Airlines on my husband’s reservation coming up in just a few short weeks…

What!? A schedule change within weeks of travel? While not common, it does happen. I scrambled to see what the change was… My husband was now on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney one hour earlier than the three of us. While not catastrophic, it wasn’t great. It meant that we’d have to get to the airport one hour sooner and we’re already having to be at the airport far earlier than I’m even used to getting up… Maybe jet lag will be the saving grace for once?

So with that, I thought I’d give you my thoughts on schedule changes and what to do about them. First of all, don’t panic. The airline is obligated to get you to your final destination in approximately the same manner as your original flight. If your schedule change is less than desirable, make sure to do your research to see if one, there is a better or equally acceptable option with miles and two, if there is an option without award availability that you’d prefer over your original itinerary. When booking award travel, often we’re at the mercy of less than perfect itineraries because of award availability. More than once, I’ve leveraged a schedule change to get a better option than what we were originally booked on.

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Business class on Austrian Airlines for four to Dubai? Yes, please!

If there is at least an equally acceptable option with miles, that’s what the airline will put you on 99% of the time. If there is nothing with miles, than they have to figure out what the best option will be and it will make their life easier if you’ve done the research and can “guide” them. Unless there is absolutely nothing to get you to your final destination in approximately the same manner as your original itinerary on their own aircraft (even without miles), they won’t put you on a competitors flight. So, you’ll want to find the best itinerary on their aircraft if possible. Basically they have considerable leeway in opening up award seats on their own flights. And they have almost no power in opening up award seats on any other airline.

If there is nothing on your travel date that is at all reasonable on their aircraft and there is no award availability on partner airlines, your job just became exponentially more difficult. At this point, you’re likely at the mercy of several supervisor’s supervisors to come up with a solution. But the bottom line remains the same. The more in advance you discover a change, the better off you’ll be. If you realize that there is a problem just a few days before travel, your trip may be impacted negatively.

I, therefore, suggest that you review your reservations at least once a month leading up to your trip. And about 3 months in advance, I suggest checking your reservation at least once a week. And one week before your trip, you should be checking your reservation daily. This may seem excessive but it doesn’t take much time and you’ll want to make sure that your itinerary remains the same and that your seats are still as you have assigned them.

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A few weeks ago, while tending to our Australia reservation, I discovered that we no longer had seat assignments on the upper deck of the Qantas 747. As I have mentioned, we booked this reservation about 11 months in advance and assigned ourselves these prime upper deck seats at that time. When I discovered that we had been booted from them, I assumed we would have been reassigned on the lower deck. By some miracle, our original seats were still available and I was able to get Qantas to reassign them to us. While this wouldn’t be disastrous to our trip, it certainly would have made the experience a little less enjoyable.

I know so many people who expect that they’ll get an email when a change has been made. That simply does not happen about 50% of the time. The email they have for you may be outdated, the miles used may have been a family members and they get the email not you, or there just may be a glitch in the system. That’s why it’s so important to check up on your reservation yourself.

So, how do you check your reservation? When you’ve made an award booking, you get a confirmation code from that airline. You can use that code to check your reservation on their website. For example, you would get a United confirmation code even though the United miles you redeemed were for travel on Swiss Air. The reservation will always be visible at United.com. But you also should ask for the partner confirmation code at the time booking. That way you can check your reservation with the partner airline as well. And if you have an additional airline partner on the reservation, you’ll want to get that code as well. For our Australia reservation, I have four confirmation codes for the different airlines that we’re flying. As long as all of the partners show everything correctly, you can be 99% confident that everything is ok.

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So, back to my husband’s altered reservation… While I have my theories on why things were changed in the first place, the bottom line is that the award seat that was taken from him did not go back into award inventory. After 45 minutes on the phone, the American Airlines agent put in a request to Qantas that he be returned to our flight. That would require them to open up an award seat in order to do so and I’ll put the odds at 50/50 that he’ll be be changed back to our flight from Brisbane to Sydney. It certainly isn’t the end of the world (the flight is only 1.5 hours, after all) but if we can avoid having to get to the airport earlier than is humane, it would be lovely.

Bottom line, don’t forget to check up on your reservations regularly. All issues, if handled with enough time before travel, should be correctable. Don’t wait until last minute to try to fix anything. These things can be quite time consuming and when trying to make a change as your travel date is approaching, time isn’t a luxury you have.

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3 Comments

  1. This summer I’m headed to Portugal with my hubby on award flights. They moved our Mia-lhr flight up by 2 hours. So we are now set to sit at Heathrow for 7 hours instead of 5 until our connecting flight to Lisbon. Do I have a leg to stand on to be switched to a different flight? We have 3 stops on the way to Lisbon and I’d love to take out one. Any advice on what to say when I call?

    • Hi Julianna,

      I think you do have a leg to stand on depending on what kind of miles you used for the flight. If you want to email me your routing Miami to London to… and what kind of miles you used, I can let you know what I’d do if it were me!

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