Let’s call this Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Award Ticket. Perhaps, with our collective deductive reasoning, we can get to the bottom of this.
An Award Expert client was traveling from San Francisco to Milan with her husband. We had arranged tickets for them on SWISS via Zurich in business class using United miles. Each used miles from their own account, so they were on separate reservations.
As always, we babysit award reservations after they are confirmed to ensure they are ticketed correctly. Sometimes glitches occur, especially when dealing with partner reservations. Here, though, everything looked good. Ticket numbers were assigned, seats were reserved, and both reservations pulled up just fine on the SWISS website.
We even checked the reservation seven days before departure, just to ensure everything was still intact and there were no unreported schedule changes. Everything showed HK (confirmed).
Departure day arrived and my clients showed up at the airport. While the husband had no trouble checking in, his wife was told she had no ticket.
After back and forth on the phone between the SWISS agent at SFO and United, she was offered a seat on the flight…in ECONOMY CLASS.
She took it. Well…her husband did…
Sadly, they e-mailed me after they arrived in Milan. Not a lot we can do at that point.
I honestly don’t know what went wrong. Was the problem on United’s end? Was it on SWISS’s end? Could it really be a ticketing issue or did SWISS just need the seat and choose to “bump” her in a way that would shield them from liability?
The key would have been to attempt to pull up the ticket at the counter. Could it really have just dissapeared suddenly? Since it was a one-way reservation, I was unable to pull up the reservation a couple days later when I received her email.
What I Would Have Done
Had this happened to me, I may have ended up with a similar outcome…but not for the reason you may expect.
I would have called United Airlines myself and explained the issue. If United was unable to resolve the issue with SWISS, I would have asked to have been rebooked on United flight to Milan the following day. That’s standard.
But if I had to be in Milan the following afternoon, like my clients, I likely would have ended up in economy class. The SWISS flight from SFO departs later in the evening, with only the Lufthansa flight to Munich departing after. There really wasn’t time to find a business class solution and still arrive on the date planned.
Make no mistake, I would have asked for the Station Manager and probed to ensure there were no overbook or HON upgrade shenanigans going on. But there’s not a lot you can do if you are stonewalled.
To avoid totally unexpected issues like this, try to check-in 24 hours before departure. Not all airlines permit this on international trips, but SWISS does. Perhaps the problem could have been avoided by checking the night before.
Nothing like starting a vacation in economy class when you are expecting business class.
Sometimes totally unexpected ticketing glitches occur. When they do, your best tool is flexibility and calling the airline that ticketed reservation if the operating carrier refuses to help. But when time is of the essence, the solution is not always ideal.
What do you think happened to this reservation? Foul play on the part of SWISS, a glitch on the United side, or something else?