Aeroplan Blocking All Air China Award Space

One of the side effects of having an award booking service is that not a week goes by where I don’t wonder how in the world “normal” people who aren’t obsessed with miles and points manage to redeem their miles at all. This goes beyond knowing that people in our hobby get a much better “value” out of their miles than the average person — there are times where I am truly blown away that anyone else ever manages to get anything ticketed.

An example of this is an award we recently booked for a client from New York to Beijing on Air China, with the return from Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. Both segments are in first class, and with direct flights this was a rare “textbook” award booking.

Until, that is, we went to confirm seat assignments with the operating carrier (something you should always do, as it’s the easiest way to identify these types of issues). Air China could see the reservation, but couldn’t access the record, and after several conference calls with supervisors from both Aeroplan and Air China, we determined that while Air China had offered the space, and Aeroplan had issued the ticket, a communication issue prevented Air China from confirming the space, so the ticket was stuck in this endless “pending” loop.

Apparently there are several hundred other tickets being affected, and my guess is very few (if any) of those passengers know about it.

As a preventative measure, Aeroplan has removed all Air China award space from their systems. You cannot book Air China award flights through the Air Canada Aeroplan program at this time, even if the space is available to other Star Alliance partners.

Look, for example, at the Paris > Beijing flight I took last year, which typically has plentiful award space.

Air-China-Business-Class
Air China 777-300ER business class

United shows space nearly every day:

Aeroplan-Air-China-2

As does the more-reliable ANA tool:

Aeroplan-Air-China-1

But Aeroplan only shows connecting options:

Aeroplan-Air-China-3

So, what does this mean in practice?

If you have an Aeroplan-issued ticket for travel on Air China that was issued after August 1st:

  • Call Air China to see if the reservation is correct on their end. The best way to do this is to call their US reservations line at 800.882.8122. If they can assign seats and provide you with the Air China record locator you’re good to go.
  • Otherwise, you’ll need to contact Aeroplan at 800.361.5373 and ask them to review the ticket. Any agent should be able to see whether or not the space was confirmed, but you might have to push to have the ticket sent for review by a ticketing supervisor.
  • Wait.
  • Seriously, you’re going to have to wait a long time. Aeroplan is working to fix the issue on the IT side, and have other people working with Air China on a case-by-case basis. Aeroplan is prioritizing tickets based on departure date.

Eventually the ticket will be reviewed (realistically within 7-10 days of departure), at which point the following will happen:

  • The liaison agents will be able to open up award space on Air China, the tickets will be reissued correctly, and you will fly as scheduled.
  • Depending on the destination, Air Canada will open up space on their own flights, in the same cabin of service, regardless of award availability.
  • Alternatively, you may be able to reroute on other Star Alliance partners, though that will be dependent upon partner award availability. Aeroplan is being aggressive about asking other partners to open award space on regional flights in this situation though.
  • Worst case, Aeroplan is purchasing revenue tickets on Air China for impacted passengers. I can’t imagine how costly this is getting, which is likely why they’ve made the decision to block all space in the meantime.
  • You also have the option to cancel your ticket completely, and have all the miles and fees refunded for no charge.

This is a mess for everyone involved, so I’d suggest being as patient as possible. The agents at Aeroplan are typically exceptionally competent, and it does seem like they have a solid plan for working through these tickets.

Anyway, I figured this was something most people didn’t know about. It’s a good reminder to always double-check your award reservations, and if you’ve been unsuccessful in booking Air China flights through Aeroplan recently now you know why.

Hopefully this will be resolved sooner rather than later, and I’ll post an update when Air China space is bookable again.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the post… I’m searching available award tickets in November between PEK & SIN and only Singapore airline flights are displayed whereas I can see Air China flights via United.com reward option…

    Hopefully, they will fix this very soon since Singapore airline’s flights do not have any award seats on my planned return date…

  2. I wonder if this has anything to do with the rumored brokering of business class seats and simultaneous cancellation of award tickets by Air China insiders? Gotta love those Chinese capitalists. These are probably the same folks who were buying up all of the IHG PointsBreaks and re-selling them, or the people who opened the fake Apple store in China.

  3. Just to add a bit more to the story:

    Last night I posted on the “Ask Lucky” page asking whether it would theoretically be possible to have Aeroplan waive my award change fees because there was a direct Air China flight available that wasn’t shown on the website. You said my chances were slim to none.

    I called anyway just to see what would happen, and when I told the agent my story, she said that she didn’t see any flights available. I asked her to take a look again, and she was able to find the space. She said, however, that it wasn’t showing up in her system initially, but it was once she “requested” it.

    Anyway, I wasn’t willing to change my ticket for free (and I’d rather fly with a connection on EVA Air than direct on Air China anyway), but the moral of this story is that apparently agents can request space.

  4. Who are people reselling IHG pointbreaks? I ask because at two different pointbreaks hotels I checked into over labor day, neither asked me for ID or credit card …

  5. There is a sure way to mess up any Aeroplan award ticket, not just on Air China:

    1. Book an award for two or more people containing one or more A* flights other than Air Canada;
    2. Split the PNR file into two separate files;
    3. Voila. One of the files is now messed up and invalid for travel.

    I had this happen to me several times with Aeroplan awards over the last three years, involving travel on TG, LH, SN, UA, TK. The issue is not fixed. If you show up at an airport trying to check in with an Aeroplan issued ticket from a previously split PNR file, then one of the passengers will most likely be denied boarding. Beware.

  6. Also, Aeroplan has mysteriously removed all Copa award space since early Aug. Very frustrating as I need to make a date change.

  7. Mark M, not really all that mysterious, since COPA hasn’t been able to display their own award space online since June. Have you tried calling Aeroplan to get the date change? That is the only way to book COPA with COPA and/or United, so it may very well be true of Aeroplan as well.

  8. Ben,

    This just happened to me with United also. I booked a flight for my friend (using his miles) on Air China business class from LAX-Beijing-Narita back in February (before the devaluation) for travel in late August. Everything was confirmed by United and a confirmation email was sent out to him a day after booking. When I called Air China to select his seat in early August, Air China was unable to locate his record.

    Several escalated calls to United and Air China later, it turned out Air China never confirmed the seat (but somehow United did). United was unable to solve the problem and had to open up award space on their own metal for him to fly from LAX-Narita directly.

    So it all worked out in the end but it was a hectic couple of days worrying about the beginning leg of his trip as everything else was already confirmed. Thank God I called to select his seat otherwise we would not have known about the problem until he arrived at the airport.

  9. I completely agree with Shi Guo. I have spent countless hours in the past trying to fix problems with CA flights booked with UA award miles that CA cannot accurately see. In a few cases I was able to resolve the problem by calling the United Airlines local Beijing call center agents, but in a few other cases I had to cancel my flights because United and Air China couldn’t make it work. The worst thing you can do is call the United US call center, as they will reissue the ticket again and again and claim everything is fine, but when you call Air China you’ll find out they didn’t fix the problem. This is frustrating beyond belief. Air China and United computer problems are hopeless!!!

  10. I had an itinerary booked with USDM, and when I click through to British Airways online seat assignment I see all of the segments assigned a seat, does it mean I’m safe?

  11. Thanks very much for your post, can’t imagine those who didn’t know this and show up staright at the airport. I, coincidentally, had booked three tickets on Sept 6 on Air China flight. Called Air China and got my PNR number. This time I am “lucky” as well.

  12. It’s even worse that you stated. In January, I helped by uncle book two first class tickets on Air China using United miles for an October flight from Sydney to San Francisco with Beijing to San Francisco in first class. Not only were the tickets confirmed, but I was able to get an Air China record locator number and confirmed seats back in January. Two weeks ago, we received an e-mail with a change. The change was to shift them to a United business class flight from Beijing to Newark instead. The change was initiated by Air China and United could not find any reason for the change in their records. United did rebook on a United flight in first class, but only because my uncle could be flexible on dates and times and the cabin was available. Something very strange is happening even with confirmed first class Air China flights and United does not know what it is. According to United, the change occurred, but there was no explanation in the records and they have seen a lot of this recently with Air China.

  13. This reminds me, has United fixed the problem with Air China awards being cancelled by a third-party (presumable, unscrupulous ticket brokers)? There was a rash of these cancellations in the spring.

  14. Hey Lucky.
    I think in the past one week, Air China blocked all *A partner award ticket request on their International route. pick any date , you will find there is none. Expertflyer, Lifemies, UA, and AC. the same result. this is CA’s problem .

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