A Twitter user shared a story with me that I think is worth highlighting for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s a pitiful example of airline customer service. Second of all, it’s a good reminder that it’s important to manage your flight reservations and make sure everything is in order (it shouldn’t have to be that way, but that could have prevented this situation as well).
Why a customer was kicked off an Aer Lingus flight after boarding
You can read the full email that the customer sent to Aer Lingus and British Airways below, though let me try to sum it up as succinctly as possible. The passenger redeemed British Airways Avios to fly in Aer Lingus business class from Boston to Dublin about three weeks before departure. He received a confirmation number, and the Avios were deducted from his account.
He checked in, was issued a boarding pass, checked his bag, and was allowed to board. However, after boarding he was informed that his ticket wasn’t valid and that he’d have to deplane. Aer Lingus refused to do anything to help, and British Airways only refunded the Avios he redeemed, and told him to contact customer relations for compensation.
— Aimal (@Aimal) November 7, 2017
The British Airways & Aer Lingus glitch
There’s an occassional glitch when redeeming British Airways Avios on Aer Lingus, which is worth pointing out in hopes or preventing a similar situation in the future.
Specifically, when you book an award ticket using British Airways Avios on Aer Lingus, sometimes they’ll go through the process of making your reservation and deducting Avios, only for the ticket to not actually be valid.
I dealt with this myself a couple of months ago. I made a booking on Aer Lingus using Avios, and my Avios were deducted. However, I didn’t see an e-ticket number. I waited about a day, figuring it might take a while for the ticket to issue. I then contacted Aer Lingus to see if they could see my reservation, and they had no record of it.
Then I called British Airways, and they told me that there had been a glitch, and that my ticket was never actually issued, and there wasn’t actually an award seat available (even though there was definitely a seat available when I first made the reservation). I feel like I could have probably escalated this a bit further since they had already deducted the Avios, but I wasn’t 100% committed to the ticket, so just let it go.
I don’t want to say that this happens all the time, but it certainly happens with some frequency.
The part that I find bizarre here is that Aer Lingus let the passenger check-in, check his bags, etc. For the situations I had heard of previously, Aer Lingus had no record of the tickets.
This is clearly an IT glitch, and British Airways needs to do something to fix this. I put this on British Airways because customers are making bookings through them. If there’s an issue with the booking and it doesn’t actually ticket, it should be on British Airways to communicate with the customer and tell them there’s a problem.
What could the passenger have done differently?
Let me start by saying that the blame here falls squarely on the airlines. It’s outrageous that the passenger had the Avios deducted and had a reservation and was even allowed to check-in, only to be denied boarding after being on the plane. How humiliating to be taken off a plane after having already boarded.
However, this is a good time to post a reminder that whenever you make a reservation, be sure you have an e-ticket number. I’m not talking about the 5-6 digit alphanumeric confirmation code, but rather the 13 digit numeric number. Sometimes it takes a few hours after you make a booking for a ticket to issue, so you may not get this instantly. However, without an e-ticket number you’re not going to be allowed to board a plane.
The passenger acknowledged that he realized after the fact that he didn’t have an e-ticket number and the taxes on the ticket were also never charged. Again, it’s still the fault of the airlines, though if he had realized there was no e-ticket number, he could have dealt with this situation earlier.
Airlines should do better when it comes to communicating with passengers when there’s a glitch. While I was familiar with the British Airways and Aer Lingus award glitch, I find this situation especially strange, since the passenger was able to check in without an e-ticket number. I hope British Airways works to fix this issue. But it’s also a good reminder to take charge of your own reservation and always make sure you have an e-ticket number.