Posts from me are going to be a bit lighter over the next week as I continue my dad’s round the world surprise birthday trip. As you may (or may not) know, I also have a points consulting service, whereby we help people redeem their airline miles. I have several colleagues working with me, and they’re some of the most knowledgeable and passionate people I know in this hobby. They’ve offered to pitch in and write a few posts to give me a bit more time off while I’m traveling, so hopefully you’ll enjoy the additional unique perspectives. This post is from my friend Alex, who is even more of an airline nut than I am. — Ben
As part of what I like to call my “award chronicles” over at PointsPros, I had a small mishap with a booking last week. I figure if for no other reason than entertainment, there’s a good takeaway here that can protect you from the same fate.
A family of four was planning a trip to Europe using Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Traveling from New York, the award itinerary they preferred was on British Airways.
As y’all likely know by now, BA imposes offensive fuel surcharges on award tickets. I really appreciated Ben’s post questioning why airlines aren’t lowering fuel surcharges from last week, because I’m over in the corner asking the same thing.
Yup, on a simple round-trip from New York to London in first class, you’ll be using 120,000 Avios (or 125,000 AAdvantage miles) + $1,180.40 in taxes and “carrier-imposed fees.”
When purchasing multiple award tickets, with each costing over $1,000, it quickly adds up to a rather large transaction that may be declined due to fraud. This is exactly what happened to my clients.
They received a call from their card issuer and I was able to retry the purchase almost immediately, but when I went to repurchase the flights, the award space had disappeared for their outbound (the return had at least nine seats open on both flights, so that wasn’t an issue).
Finding a solution
I figured since seats had been pulled from inventory, a record had been created. I called British Airways to check if the flights were held… nope. My clients didn’t have a booking and nobody else had those seats! Four seats, all gone.
As they had already transferred their Ultimate Rewards points from Chase, they were stuck with British Airways. And of course there was no alternate award space for four people that would have worked well on BA or their partners.
We decided to wait, assuming the award space would go back into inventory relatively quickly. I checked inventory neurotically, and after 18 hours, they were back! I snatched them up as fast as I could before somebody else did.
While the outcome was still positive, the situation was not ideal. What if the award space had opened up and somebody else had grabbed them? What if it never came back, and my clients had to book flights they didn’t transfer points for? What if there was no alternate space at all?
Moral of the story
If you’re going to make a large purchase, make sure your credit card issuer knows. I find a lot of banks are overly cautious when it comes to credit card fraud protection on airline tickets, and this isn’t necessarily in the consumer’s favor. This saves them liability from having to reverse fraudulent transactions down the road.
However, it doesn’t really make sense why a ticket in the cardholder’s name would be declined, but then again, I’m not too sure how credit card processors read initial information on a transaction. Maybe it just sees an amount, and not passenger names (which will show once a transaction finally posts)?
Have you ever had award space disappear as a result of issues with completing a transaction?