Someone decided to cancel my tickets — remember to protect your travel plans!

It’s sad that it has come to this, though since it has, I figured I might as well share my experiences so others can learn from my mistakes.

One of the things that I think makes my blog a bit different than others is that I like to blog “live.” In fact, it’s what I enjoy most about blogging, from making a live post while onboard a plane, to sharing what a douche I am for wearing pajamas in an airport, to posting my upcoming travel plans in hopes of meeting some readers (which, on my most recent trip I did in Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, and had a truly spectacular time). That awesome global interaction wouldn’t be possible if I just posted trip reports weeks after the fact.

However, it’s clear to me that there are some malicious people out there with a bit too much free time on their hands.

A couple of months ago I had an itinerary booked, and the evening before my flight I went to check-in, only to find out my itinerary had been canceled. I called up the airline, only to be told by the agent that I had called in to cancel the itinerary an hour prior. Fortunately the itinerary was restored within minutes when I explained the situation to the agent. I assumed it was an isolated incident, and even tried to convince myself it might have been an error.

Well, this evening I went to check-in online for my trip on American Airlines to Paris tomorrow. This is the trip that will earn me Executive Platinum status with them.

I logged into my AAdvantage account to view my reservation, and noticed that the record locator for my Paris trip was actually for a ticket from Raleigh to Los Angeles in a few weeks in coach. I chuckled, since it wasn’t the first time an itinerary for someone else had popped up. After all, the internet can be a funny place. I opened up a new browser and entered the record locator and my name again, and the same itinerary came up. I was shocked.

I called up American Airlines right away, and was informed by the friendly agent that I had called at 3:52PM central time to change my itinerary (which was about an hour after I called). I explained to her that I hadn’t, and she immediately escalated my call at least a few levels since she realized the gravity of the situation.

Jeff, a manager in the Tucson call center was conferenced in, and he couldn’t have been more helpful.

He did some digging, and while I won’t get into all the details, let’s just say the person that decided to change my itinerary isn’t the brightest. The only smart thing he did was give an incorrect email address, so that when the ticket was reissued for the new itinerary (from Raleigh to Los Angeles in coach instead of Tampa to Paris in first class) it would bounce, so I wouldn’t even know my itinerary was changed.

I’m sure he was hoping I’d show up at the airport tomorrow morning totally out of luck, though fortunately Jeff was a savior and fixed the itinerary in about 75 minutes (and it was a lot of work, since there were some British Airways codeshares and upgraded segments involved).

Anyway, my point here isn’t to spite the person that did this. With the help of Jeff I already managed to figure that out. My point is to remind bloggers (and others) to be careful with what they post. And I’m the last person that should be giving that advice, since I think I share just about all my rants, viewpoints, and just about everything else on the blog. Hell, it’s kind of tough not to share everything in this day and age of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. What am I supposed to do, tweet about my massage from the TSA a day after it happens? That wouldn’t be very fun, now would it?

I won’t change that, however, and I won’t change the fact that I like to post my travel patterns in advance. It’s what makes blogging fun, and trust me, that’s the main reason I do this.

But there’s a real lesson to learn here. For one, it’s far too easy to change airline reservations for other people. As Jeff explained to me on the phone, it’s a tough situation for the airlines — they want to make planning travel as easy as possible without compromising security. Should they have asked a few verification questions when my Tampa to Paris first class ticket was changed to a Raleigh to Los Angeles coach ticket? Probably, given what an extreme change it was, though I think it’s very rare for someone to change someone else’s ticket purely out of spite, so I don’t blame them for assuming the best of intentions.

But here’s the good news — you can password protect just about any reservation with any airline or hotel chain. It’s actually what I’ve spent most of my evening doing. You can have it so that in order for anyone to even call in about an itinerary, they have to provide a password of your choice, and the same goes for hotel reservations. The exact process all depends on the program. Some airlines and hotel programs will let you password protect only specific itineraries/reservations, while some airlines and hotel programs will let you password protect your account so that you need to verify the password in order to even have a conversation with them.

So in the end I won’t be changing anything. Yeah, each reservation is taking me a bit longer as I have to call up each time I book an itinerary to add a password. Hopefully the sorry soul that’s changing my itinerary gets some satisfaction out of that.

Comments

  1. StarGoldUA says

    Pathetic is one word. i could think of a lot more but this is a family forum. Whoever you are Mr. Lowlife, what goes around comes around.

  2. TravelinWilly says

    There seem to be some envious/jealous souls out there. Super glad you caught this, though!

  3. rich (arizona) says

    There are a lot of weird envious people out there. Sorry to hear about this. I wondered why they didn’t have a password option and I’m glad that may be possible.

    I totally agree with StarGoldUA’s sentiments.

    Have fun on your trip.

  4. Dultah SkyPesos says

    What an asshole…sorry about that! Some people are just losers, I guess. Too much free time can be a bad thing!

  5. globalgirlster says

    This is rather shocking behavior and wholly spiteful. I’m sorry the lesson learned came at your expense, Lucky, but I’m grateful to know that I can password protect my travel itineraries. I’m not a blogger or anything like that, but who knows what could happen when you’re on the road in the middle of a trip. Thanks for the heads up!

  6. 1K says

    Hmm – did this guy happen to be one of your past blog readers that couldn’t say anything nice? Read some of Lucky’s past trip reports. You’ll be able to find a few jerks.

  7. Kier Matthews says

    That is crazy but great advice! Thank you for sharing! So sorry this happened to you!

  8. JRL says

    A buddy of mine had this happen to him a few years ago when a crazy ex-girlfriend caught wind of his travel plans to visit a new romance. He didn’t realize until check-in at the airport, at which point the flight was an oversell and he was SOL all the way to a Southwest walkup.

    I’ve been password protecting my travels for a while- as I broadcast them on facebook. Mazel Tov for getting your PNR back in order. Safe ✡✈ing to Paris.

    JRL

    P.S. Order a fucking drink ;)

  9. chitownflyer says

    I hope the SOB whom did this to you is prosecuted for the fraud that was committed. Let us know if it is anyone with whom your readers are familiar. Perhaps your blog is a better location to post updates than Twitter?

  10. Ryan G says

    It’s a pretty simple fix for the airline – they just should never change the e-mail address attached to the itinerary. If the e-mail address needs to be changed for some reason, an e-mail stating that the address was changed should be sent to the original e-mail address. That way at least you would be automatically notified without having to always set up passwords.

  11. brahms77 says

    Wow! While I had worried about such thing happening, this is a first time I am hearing about it. I am glad that everything is fixed and whoever did this really needs to get a life! This also reminds me that I should definitely password protect my itineraries and that never to post flight schedules (even without PNR, if a person knows your name and the dates/flight number, it’s easy to pull-up a reservation) online. I am glad that you were able to correct things in timely manner. Hope you didn’t lose your first class upgrade.

  12. brahms77 says

    @JRL Wow the infamouse Jew Jetter JRL is reading up on lucky’s blog :D A flight with you is a party flight ;)

  13. says

    I am really shocked to hear this! I can’t really understand what motivation the person has to perform such a heinous crime!

  14. Tom says

    Would you write an article about password protecting the reservations/account? I would love to know more about that.

  15. caelus says

    It reminds me a guy who obsessed with you & even followed you around in real life…… He used to comment on every posts here, Whats his name, I forgot it……

  16. Jeremy says

    Ben, the bad folks are out there, it’s sad. So sorry this happened to you. I like to remember that learning from these “mistakes” now saves us from something far worse happening in the future! So glad you could save your itinerary and could help us all learn something too… You have 99% decent people reading your blog, and we love your posts, so don’t even blink at the haters. They’ve got serious issues and it’s truly, truly sad for them. Keep up the great work, Ben, and have a great trip!

  17. Gene says

    COULD IT BE YOU-KNOW-WHO? HOW SICK.

    Sorry this happened to you. I applaud your positive attitude.

  18. Hermann says

    So sorry this happened to you! Glad all is fixed! I´m disappointed some pathetic people would do this.

  19. says

    Wow, I am really astounded that someone took the time and energy to do this. And for what? Just to mess up someone’s day, how petty and cruel. You do have a great attitude though and I’m glad you got it sorted. Great advice!

  20. Les says

    It may be a good idea to not list your specific flight selections (including airline) until you blog about the completed segment or trip. For example, if you’re traveling to Zurich, no need to specific the airline, departing city, or date. After you’ve taken the flight, go ahead and spill all the details. There are plenty of crazies out there — be especially careful with identifying your hotel stays in advance! Good luck and enjoy your trip!

  21. Jeff says

    i’m glad you were able to get everything sorted out. i have to say whoever cancelled your itinerary is definitely pretty crazy/pathetic. shame on people like that who are just out to ruin someone else’s day.

    i second Tom’s post about an article on password protecting an itinerary. that would definitely be good knowledge to have.

    in any case, hope you enjoy your trip to paris and congratulations on your reaching executive platinum on american!

  22. stan ath says

    IT HAPPENED TO ME TOO– I WAS IN COURT SHOWED THE JUDGE N GAVE A COPY OF MY AIRLINE TICKET ,MY OPPONENT TOOK A COPY AND THAT SAME DAY CANCELLED MY FLIGHTS!!! , HE HAD THE NERVE TO GO BACK TO COURT I SAY I LIED ABOUT MY UP COMING TRIP AND THAT MY FLIGHTS WERE CANCELLED AFTER I LEFT THE COUR HOUSE

  23. stan ath says

    brahms77– I’M NOT JEWISH OR BLACK BUT—F.Y.I. –PEOPLE FIND IT OFFENSIVE WHEN YOU USE THE TERM “JEW” WOULD YOU USE NIGGER TO A BLACK MAN ! OR ANY OTHER DEROGATORY LABELS BASED ON ETHNIC BACKGROUND — THIS 2011 NOT 1411

  24. Wes says

    Ben, thanks for turning an extraordinary vindictive act against you into a Travel Lesson Learned for us…glad u were able to fix.

  25. Andy Bluebear says

    Using the term Jew is ok, I think. It’s not the same as N*gger. I think the Jewish version of that term would be K*ke.

  26. Scholar in Training says

    Shame on AA for letting someone change a reservation so easily. That’s really ridiculous.

  27. Dan says

    Coins,

    After Rudi reported the same problem years ago on Flyertalk, I added a password protector to my account. My itn’s couldn’t be changed without the password. Since you’re ‘visible’, you may want to do the same.

    How did the agent know who made the change? Did they see the phone number on their screen (and name?) You can answer indirectly if you’d like.

  28. says

    Absolutely terrible, Ben. Glad it sounds like you have a lead. I’ve always been wary of it & have avoided posting specifics on my site until after the fact, even going so far as no longer posting my availability to sponsor people into RCCs on the FT forum. Got get ‘em!

  29. as219 says

    @ stan ath AND Andy Bluebear:

    Although it took me a minute to figure it out, brahms77 was merely responding to JRL aka Justin Ross Lee aka (see comment #12), who — for better or for worse — is indeed “known” as Justin “Jew Jetter” Ross Lee. Personally I don’t care for the moniker, but if he wants to make an @ss of himself, so be it.

  30. Despina says

    @caelus, that was JOSH. We haven’t heard from him in awhile though.

    As for the individual who did this, lame, lame, lame! I’ve always been impressed by how even keeled Ben is, and how he refrains from responding to haters. Very glad you worked this out Ben. Have a safe trip.

  31. says

    Wow, that sucks. I will be hitting up flyertalk to figure out how to add another layer of security on my reservations. What a PITA (for you).

  32. Katie says

    Since you know who the person is, I hope you and the rest of the FT/MP community can blacklist this person from future events. The person sounds like they have a few screws loose (to put it mildly) and might try to do it to others. Thank goodness you were able to get both itineraries fixed.

  33. Tenmoc says

    Thanks for the post Ben. Good to know about the extra password. Hopefully it protects you. I know I’ll be looking into this concept more now.

    Glad you got it sorted.

  34. MS says

    Disgusting. Blacklisting this person from future events is not enough punishment. This type of identity theft/pretexting is illegal in many states and I’d pursue criminal charges.

  35. Chas says

    It seems you’ve precluded this as an option, but I don’t think a public naming and shaming is out of line here. Anonymity is clearly what gave this person the “guts” to do that to you, and taking that protection away would at a minimum deter future similar acts.

  36. GoAmtrak says

    Wow, there are some crazy haters out there, Ben. Sorry you had to go through this. I like Ryan G’s suggestion (post #14). You should pitch your experience to WSJ’s Scott McCartney; it would be a great topic for The Middle Seat. Maybe he could get some airline spokespersons on record about why they don’t have simple PNR-level security policies, such as locking the e-mail address as Ryan suggested. Some good could come of this incident with a little more light being shone on the topic.

  37. Karma says

    People don’t just hate and screw you for no reason. The idiot had to have done something to offend someone.

    I doubt jealousy is the reason because well, there’s nothing this idiot blogger does would make anyone remotely jealous.

    Traveling on daddy’s allowance, alone, without friends only to meet other losers who spend 95% of the paycheck to mileage run around the world to meet other losers is, well, hardly envy in anyone’s eyes.

  38. Despina says

    @Karma, any chance you’re the one who altered his reservation? You sound bitter and jealous enough to have motive.

    @1K, very funny and apropos. :)

  39. Dultah SkyPesos says

    @Karma: You’re the only commenter justifying the actions of the asshole who cancelled Lucky’s ticket. Was it you? I recognize your writing style and repetitiveness.

  40. Vitaly says

    Wow. Did not know the loosers like that exist. Or perhaps you have a secret enemy? :)

  41. Greg says

    How did he change/cancel your flight? Doesn’t he have to have your AA number and other identifying info to pretend to be you? I must have missed something. What a d*ck.

  42. John says

    @Karma- A number of us think Ben’s blog is useful & interesting. If you think he is an idiot then spend your time somewhere else! Personally I’ve gained some good information from Ben’s blog, particularly on racking up mileage without flying.

  43. JamesORD says

    I agree with the others about looking into pressing charges. This is identity and wire fraud plain and simple, most likely across state lines.

  44. says

    Ben,

    Sorry to hear that happen to you :(

    Do you know the person who made the change?

    He/She must have known your AAdvantage number, record locator, or address to make the change?

    I can’t imagine that AA would let a complete stranger call and make changes to a ticketed itinerary without the caller providing at least a LITTLE information besides their name!

    Is there something else that we’re missing?

  45. Iowan says

    You have always been at the forefront showing us new ways to gather miles and travel well. I hope you will go after this individual with the same passion. You cannot walk away tamely from this.

    @Karma – if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything. Please!

  46. Steve K says

    I read a book a few years ago in which a jealous assistant kept changing is boss’ reservations (sometimes different airport in the city, sometimes just a change to a middle seat in coach from F). Small enough changes to be thought of as clerical or electronic accidents until it happened too often.

    Wish I could remember the story; I do remember that I liked the book, even tho this was just a minor subplot.

  47. lucky says

    Thanks for the nice comments, folks! For those of you asking if it’s really that easy to change a ticket, the answer is yes. If you call in with confidence and claim to be that person and have the record locator, they’ll let you make just about any change. How do you get a record locator? Probably by calling a few times before, claiming to be me, and saying you’re booked on flight XYZ, and that you can’t find your record locator. Agents will gladly give it to you, and then you have all the information you need to change a ticket.

    I’d like to respond to more comments, though I’m about to board my flight to London, so it’ll be tomorrow before I can respond. Thanks again for all the support.

  48. Tom R says

    I hope you decide to pursue this further, and look into both civil and criminal remedies available. This person is seriously messed up and you want to make sure they are sufficiently deterred from pulling a stunt like this against you or anyone else. I’m completely floored that there are such pathetic people out there.

  49. Carl says

    Ben, please write a post explaining how to password protect your itineraries, how it works on different airlines, whether you can do it online or need to call, etc.

  50. Acker says

    Wow, what a story. That’s crazy. So sorry you had to experience such a awful thing. I appreciate the password-protect tip – who would have thought?? And I think I’m savvy when it comes to travel…

    Hope you’re having a blast.

  51. toomanybooks says

    “Anyway, my point here isn’t to spite the person that did this. With the help of Jeff I already managed to figure that out.”

    Sue the idiot in small claims court for your wasted time, which must be worth a few hundred an hour.

    Since he almost certainly won’t show up, you should win.

  52. Cedarglen says

    Wow! Sorry that you had to learn this the hard way. The ASSHOLE that did this sould be confined to a middle deat for life. Given the detail that is recorded when using 800 numbers, the AA folks might be able to stack this SOB. Good luck. -C.

  53. stan ath says

    REF. :Carl said,

    Ben, please write a post explaining how to password protect your itineraries, how it works on different airlines, whether you can do it online or need to call, etc.

    I called Delta was told no way to protect with a pin, they can only put a reminder in the resv. to be sure it is me. I was told to make a change on a award ticket I need to give my F.F pin #

    Ben please advise how to add pins to reservations

    PS — U DO A GREAT JOB !!KEEP IT UP-TKS

  54. Siobhan says

    That is seriously the most bananas. And also, it strikes me, illegal.

    No stranger to the internet crazies myself, I feel for you, dude.

  55. sam says

    the password advice could be a double edge sword, the Jacka$$ in question might now add a password of his/her choice next time, and lock you out of your own reservation.

  56. Michael H says

    I won’t repeat the comments here already, I share the sentiments expressed that whoever did this is a complete d-bag.

    In all seriously, I would be referring these matters to the FBI in your case. What was done amounts to identity theft, and malicious activity.

  57. SN says

    I second the request for a post on how to password-protect reservations at various airlines, hotels, etc! Sorry you had to go through this, Ben, but on the bright side it’s a learning experience for your loyal readers.

  58. says

    For the sake of others that this person and people like them may try victimizing in the future, please pursue legal action to nail them to the wall. If something isn’t done, they may feel free to victimize others. They need to be stopped now.

  59. says

    What a sad little person!

    Once someone in my office changed someones seat on a flight (they left themself logged in to email) – put them in a middle seat at the back of the plane. Luckily, he noticed before he got to the airport and could change it.

  60. Skye1 says

    The staff at AA’s Tuscon office is, and always has been, consistently amazing. Getting Dallas or Raleigh can be a crapshoot–sometimes a great agent, other times not at ll. Yet, Tuscon? Consistently awesome. If you don’t get them directly upon calling, you can ask for your call to be transferred there.

  61. Maria says

    Hi Ben,

    This exact same situation just happened to me last night with United and I’m 1k, but they offered absolutely NO HELP.

    My international reservation for two passengers in business class booked using United miles from LAX to PEK direct WAS CANCELLED by someone else, and I received NO NOTIFICATIONS (I have a specific label in gmail for United because I fly with them so much), I CAN ALMOST say with certainly that someone did this intentionally, but United would not offer any other information to me aside from that SOMEONE logged onto United’s website online and cancelled the reservation on 5/29.

    so NOW they routed me on a flight thats 2 days later, INDIRECT, AND IS CHARGING ME ADDITIONAL MILES because the redemption rates went up in Feb. I was SO UPSET about this that I didn’t sleep at all last night, and even more incredulous that they would treat their 1k members like this. I asked nicely and spoke to at least 2-3 different supervisors… I’m at a loss of what to do, please advise! Appreciate your help!!

  62. says

    @ Maria — Was your original ticket on Air China, by chance? If so, this is a known fraud issue, and United should be willing to rebook you on one of their own flights. I’m surprised a supervisor didn’t offer to do this, but would absolutely call again.

  63. Maria says

    Hey Ben,

    Thanks for the quick follow up. I had booked the original ticket through United with United miles, so the confirmation I received was from United with a United record locator number, however, all segments were operated by Air China. Not sure if this answers your question.

    Do you have any strategy on talking to United about this particular issue? Specifically involving fraud? They were able to book me on another flight, LAX-HNL (United) then HNL-PEK (Air China) but like I said, this one is leaving tomorrow (+2 days delay) and United had deducted an additional 40k miles from my account, am I crazy for thinking that this is unacceptable?

  64. Maria says

    @ Ben – Holy CRAP! We are definitely victims of this. Thank you so much for this article.

    I just called United again, and they say the best they can do for us is to go ahead and complete the travel, then ‘plead’ with the 1k line to get the additional miles charged refunded… this sounds kind of shady, as I’m not entirely sure how miles are going to get refunded after they’ve already been exercised, what’s your take?

  65. Maria says

    @ Ben, thanks for the advice, I was able to reach a supervisor and alerted her to the post you shared which had a link to a FlyerTalk thread filled with other people in this exact situation, the thread has a collection victims of this united / air china cancellation fraud, she is going to escalate this to a director so we’ll see what they do about it.

    To answer your question about pass code, I’m almost certain that you wouldn’t need a PIN or passcode in order to cancel or modify an existing United reservation, one can access the reservation with confirmation number and last name under “guest” pretense and make the modification, additionally, I do not share my password or PIN with anyone, so this most likely points to an ‘inside’ job

  66. me says

    Good advice! I called United immediately to add a password to my ~$7000 award ticket. What concerns me a little is that United does not require any SECURITY QUESTION TO SET A PASSWORD (such as my passport number at least). I discussed my concern with the agent, apparently the very nice agent could do nothing about this expect setting a password for me.

    Guess the best way in future is to phone in as soon as you make the reservation :)

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