Aeroplan apparently won’t honor the SWISS First Class award tickets issued last week. I say apparently because Aeroplan still hasn’t contacted me directly concerning my ticket and the reservation still shows intact if I login to my Aeroplan account. Nevertheless, I am planning a two-prong plan of attack in hopes of staving off litigation.
1. DOT Complaint
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) receives consumer complaints against airlines and sellers of air transportation. Aeroplan is not an airline, but does sell air transportation.
The complaint process begins by filling out a form and attaching any relevant supporting documents. I entered my personal details, attached a copy of my tickets, and also submitted a brief written complaint.
Sample DOT Complaint
One Mile at a Time has also filed a complaint with the DOT. I’ve borrowed much of his verbiage with a few tweaks for my own complaint.
On November 30, 2017, I redeemed 140,000 Aeroplan miles for two Star Alliance first class award tickets from to Zurich to Los Angeles on SWISS, an Aeroplan partner airline. Tickets were issued by Air Canada. These tickets were for travel on [redacted] (e-ticket # [redacted]). This availability showed up on Aeroplan’s website, and it is not the first time I redeemed Aeroplan miles for Swiss first class. The tickets were issued quickly, my credit card was charged for the taxes/fees, miles were deducted from my account, and I was able to select seats for the SWISS flights.
It has now been one week since I booked, and my reservation shows as canceled on the SWISS website and intact on the Aeroplan website, though Aeroplan has issued a statement indicating that these flights won’t be honored. I haven’t directly been contacted by either company in this time, even though the decision has apparently been made not to honor these tickets.
This seems like a clear breach of contract given that I had a confirmed reservation that was booked at the regular/published mileage price, not to mention how long it has taken for the companies to communicate with affected passengers (I’m still waiting to be contacted).
With my trip only [weeks] away, your help is urgently requested in expeditiously resolving this matter.
From what I have heard, the DOT is already investigating this matter and has requested the assistance of both Air Canada (the issuing carrier) and SWISS (the cancelling carrier).
2. CTA Complaint – Not Possible
The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) proved very helpful in helping me in the past, but unfortunately is not an option this time around.
Although the agency specifically promises to help with “cancelled reservations”, it carves out an exception for independent loyalty programs.
Loyalty programs, such as Air Miles or Aeroplan, are run by independent corporations. We can only resolve complaints about loyalty programs that are owned by an airline.
3. The Compensation Fund for Customers of Travel Agent
Aeroplan is a Montreal-based company and thus is under the jurisdiction of the Province of Quebec. Quebec maintains an insurance fund available to protect consumers from companies who “cannot deliver the services you have purchased through that agency.”
The Compensation Fund for Customers of Travel Agents is a financial protection plan administered by the Office de la protection du consommateur. It is complementary to the protection provided by travel insurance.
You benefit from this protection when you purchase services through a travel agency that holds a licence from the Office.
I see no restrictions that say this fund is only available to residents of Quebec or Canadian citizens. On the contrary, this fund seems to protect all those who do business with Quebec-based companies. Aeroplan is one of them (verified by the link above).
The agency’s website provides a six-step process for filing a claim. I intend to file paperwork and see if Quebec is willing to help.
Lawsuit: Hopefully Not Necessary
I’ve tussled with SWISS before and prevailed. Same with Air Canada. But do not misunderstand my intentions in saying, “Dear Aeroplan, If You Cancel My SWISS First Class Tickets, I Will Sue You.” Just because I will, does not mean I want to. Instead, I hope to resolve this amicably outside a court of law. That does not contradict my threat in any way, especially since my ticket has not been cancelled yet.
But I underscore once again that I will stand by my earlier promise if necessary. In fact, I’ve consulted with several attorneys, including a Canadian contract law expert who would be happy to aide me in litigation at no cost.
And while I’m sure the drama of a lawsuit would be both instructive and entertaining, my trip is in three weeks. I want resolution before then. Flying my family home nonstop in SWISS First remains the prize, not a court victory. But there may be no choice but to litigate.
For now, I’ll wait for the DOT to respond, wait for my call from Aeroplan, and proceed from there.
If Your Trip is Weeks Away
I cannot see myself reaching a compromise with Aeroplan, even if it was able to secure fuel-surcharge free Lufthansa first class award space for my family via Frankfurt or Munich. All I want is to fly my family home nonstop in first class…no connections.
Although there is not alternate award space open at this time, I do plan on securing a ticket home using another currency, either dollars or points from another program.
I don’t believe this case becomes moot after my trip date. Any resolution will seek restitution, in this case meaning a the ability to fly SWISS First Class from Zurich to Los Angeles, even if not on the original date.
If you’re not willing to pony up for a new ticket, work with Aeroplan on an alternate routing. But be cautious. I’ve heard from at least three readers that some Aeroplan agents are involuntarily canceling tickets and refunding the miles if no resolution can be reached during the phone call. This will reduce your bargaining power so avoid this unless you really are willing to throw in the towel. Aeroplan has the power to purchase tickets and/or get partner carriers to open up saver award space. Thanks to readers, I now have several documented cases. Don’t let them off the hook.
I don’t underestimate the complexity of moving forward with this issue should Aeroplan not quickly find a way to reinstate the allegedly-cancelled reservation. All options are on the table and I will file a lawsuit, by principle, before rolling over and accepting defeat. But all I want is for my ticket to be honored. And yours too.
@Matthew- thank you for the consistent updates on this. (as an aside, I wish there was a way to get email updates from your site every time you post)
If we call AP, and are not able to come to a resolution…and tell them to leave things as they are…but they involuntarily cancel it all, does that really lose our leverage moving forward? (I would tell them up front im recording the call on my end).
DOT doesn’t have jurisdiction to address a breach of contract. They have jurisdiction over unfair and deceptive business practices. The prohibition on post purchase price increases is based on that being an unfair or deceptive practice, not a breach of contract.
My understanding is the DOT has far broader jurisdiction over the regulation of airlines than over fair or deceptive business practices. They could certainly choose not to get involved, but if they wanted to…this could fall under their broader consumer protection regulatory powers.
I got the call from AP and they left a message saying they are just refunding my miles. I called into AP and they weren’t willing to do anything to help. Basically I would have to find space again. I told them that I could fly Air Canada but wasn’t willing to pay the surcharges and there was nothing they would do about it. Guess I’ll file a DOT complaint and see what comes of it.
I called because I changed a reservation to Swiss and I still need to go. They never contacted me. My original flight had no award seats. Aeroplan bought me J tickets, refunded change fee and taxes and redeposited the difference of my Amex points. At least I’m whole.
@MB: Were these tickets they bought on Air Canada or back on the original SWISS? In a revenue-earning fare class?
No, I had an Austrian J award previously booked that I called in and changed to Swiss F. After the fan was hit, I called them back and requested they put me back where I started. I’m back on the Austrian flight with 2 Business Flex, Z tickets, along with my change fee, Swiss taxes and extra Amex points being redeposited.
DOT won’t help. I had an issue when I used miles for a ticket through Aeroplan but realized a name error only moments after. They refused to budge when I called and cited the 24 hour cancellation rule. They claimed to be outside of that rule since they are in Canada.
I emailed a complaint to the DOT and after some back and forth emails, this was the final resolution:
“It appears that your concerns are outside the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation, as your ticket was purchased through a Credit Card mileage program using a self-ticketing mobile device.”
See answer to Kacee above.
1) That rule only applies to airlines, not OTAs.
2) If your ticket doesn’t touch US soil, then there is no jurisdiction.
I side with the DOT. Sorry.
DOT regulates OTAs and my ticket is ZRH-LAX, so it certainly touches US soil.
What is there to be sorry about?
I wasn’t replying to you kiddo! I was talking to Hugh Mann. I’m sorry that Hugh is royally screwed!
Ah, thanks for the clarification.
@ Matthew — If you weren’t getting revenue from blog posts, I would call this a waste of your time. It would be a waste of mine.
I hear you, but truly do want to fly the LX 777 in F and more importantly, treat my family to a nonstop flight home from Europe in first class after Christmas.
” … truly do *want* to fly the LX 777 in F and more importantly, *treat* my family to a nonstop flight home from Europe in first class after Christmas.”
Then pay LX revenue F, you entitled middle class tw*t.
So you are saying people who use miles are second class citizens compared to those who pay with OPM?
I hope you get a kick in your a… at court.
You did know that it is an error.
Act like a man not a little toddler.
This, by definition, is not an error. Selling a ticket at the quoted/normal/standard price…
Keep digging. Keep standing up for airlines. I’m not going to.
Aeroplan/AIMIA is Canadian… subject to Canadian laws (there are none) . A US government entity has less than zero authority in Canada… even less so now that a trade war has been initiated on many fronts.
That is not correct. Any airline, loyalty program or company in general that does business in the USA can be subject to state/federal laws via long arm statutes. That is basic civil procedure.
Good luck with that logic. I agree you have been screwed.
Bctraveler: Read the Lady in Gold. It is based on a true story. They were able to successfully sue a museum in Austria for possession of a painting because the museum sold books in US book stores. Aeroplane sells to the US market so they qualify for being sued in the US.
Except there is no quoted/normal/stated price for LX F awards – they are unavailable for redemption with Aeroplan, as clearly set forth on the Aeroplan award chart. It was worth a shot but didn’t pan out – move on.
@Informer Right now I’m personally amazed at the comment that I just read. Any person who has been following Matthews blog for the past week would have zero trouble understanding the situation at hand, and would also have zero trouble understanding Matthews’ understanding of the situation. How can you possibly come out and make the comment that he “knew it was an error” when clearly, he knows that the opposite is true? He has said I cannot count how many times now that this was “not a mistake fare” and the more times I read it the more amazed I am at people who keep coming back and insulting Matthew over this very issue. I’m curious whats driving you so hard to insult him? If you have a good reason, I’d be curious to know. If not, then please just don’t hit the send button on these comments, because they’re just a waist of everyone’s time here, especially those who want to have a good discussion about something that he presents. I’d love to read an intelligent reason why Matthew is in the wrong, one that is backed up and not by someone who is just writing to insult.
Thank you for a normal (not trolling) post!
@Alan Brint: I thank you as well.
Keep at it! I hope you prevail. We need to show the airlines that they just can’t cancel tickets. Hopefully this will lead to some regulations. I think airlines should only have 24 hour to cancel a ticket, just like a consumer. Otherwise they need to honor what was purchased. No other business gets away with this.
The one thing though is I wouldn’t want to fly Swiss F anymore, even if they reinstate my ticket. After all this nonsense they have started, I don’t want to be a customer of theirs. If this is how they act, I can only imagine what flying them is like.
I think after all the dust settles we should boycott Swiss and you should stop giving them press. Why fly or promote an airline like this?
Best of luck Matt!
@Marsh, I think you are being harsh on SWISS. I’m not talking about award bookings here but as a company in whole…
We, our firm, fly with SWISS daily!!! Not because we got contract with them or other special preferences.
I’ve flown Swiss “only” 2x this week, Newark and London, and had zero issues whats or ever.
We have no problems with ticketing, bookings, treatment at airports, inflight service etc. Also think, people working there are just that – people. Like you and me. Trying to work to meet their end needs, having also their little life issues. Like you and me…. So if I get a “grumpy” person at the airport or as a cabin crew, is it about Swiss, the person working OR even me…? Because really, observing some pax behaviours, sometimes I’m surprised they are allowed to fly at all (I mean paxes with “do you know who I am” attitude). And these are travellers in premium check in’s, lounges and so on.
Not wanting to fly Swiss, having negative attitude towards them, boycotting them because you PRESUME things about them, is rather petty, methinks.
Hope you have a better experience than this pal who flew AF SIN-CDG using miles and settled into his curtained off seat in F, only to be told the wine list wasn’t loaded by catering. Airlines have ways to take the welcome mat from under your feet to signal their real feelings about discounted pax.
Lots of comments on here by people that seem to view miles as something other than currency. Substituting a good for the service (award bookings) might persuade people why the Swiss/Aeroplan logic is deeply flawwed:
Home Depot has every right to decide not to sell Air Conditioners, but if they sell you an air conditioner and you leave the store with said air conditioner, Home Depot doesn’t have the right to call you back over a week later and take it back because they didnt like the price.
Keep in mind that this is NOT a scenario where the “air conditioner” is out of stock and CANT be delivered. These flights will all still be flying and all will still have first class cabins. Swiss just wants to discriminate after the fact.
very good, simple and understandable comparison.
I was sort of against you in the beginning but I’m coming around now. Let’s say you purchased a flight for 1000 dollars and 48 hours later found that same flight for 750 dollars somewhere else. They wouldn’t refund you. This is just the opposite. They sold it to you and now decided that they don’t want to sell it at that price anymore. Bull….. If they want to charge us cancellation fees they shouldn’t be able to cancel our tickets. Im on your side now. Good luck
@Benji: This is exactly my point. Thanks for being open-minded about this.
Even the recent Turkey issue–Aeroplan made me pay a change fee even though the change was 1.) mandatory and 2.) not my fault
The Compensation Fund is basically an insurance agency designed to protect consumers after travel provider bankruptcies. The premiums (0.1% tax) are paid by everyone but it doesn’t apply to AC tickets AFAIK. The UK does the same thing (I forget what it’s called but that’s how they got everyone home after Monarch’s implosion).
Since you were refunded, you certainly don’t have standing to file a claim. And I doubt they have any regulatory authority…
From what I can see, the Compensation Fund covers much more than bankruptcy.
Furthermore, I have not been refunded anything and even if I was, refunding does not come close to making me whole because of the cost of buying a new ticket. Plus, the fact that more than week passed without official communication makes it even more unreasonable to rescind the contract.
I agree with you but I would argue that the letter is “many things” while the spirit is bankruptcy, acts of god, etc. Not computer errors.
Good point. I assumed your were already cxl/ref. Regardless, I’m sure AP would do it in a heartbeat with or without your permission. Could then argue mootness due to relief granted in form of milage refund.
As they say (and I hate this expression), easy come easy go. https://www.doctorofcredit.com/giftcardmall-3-off-5-back-visa-gift-cards-500-card-for-485/#comment-532307
Sue them Matthew! SUE THEM!!!
I don’t want to, but may have no other viable choice…
I draw the line at Office de la protection du consommateur. I’m a resident of Quebec so I hope they don’t waste our tax dollars paying for stuff like this. I doubt that they are going to do anything for you since Aeroplan is offering a refund/rebook (and I doubt they’ll feel sorry for you rebooking in J with the fare difference reimbursed either). As for the rest, good luck to you. Have you considered just targeting SWISS instead? They are the ones who made the mistake.
I believe SWISS at least has a plausible argument that I have no personal jurisdiction over them. We’ll see.
While Aeroplan is based on Montreal, members not in Quebec are governed by Ontario law per the terms and conditions. Also note that the Ontario Consumer Protection Act could protect you (https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/02c30). You could target Swiss by asserting the tort of interference with contractual relations. As a lawyer, I have previously offered to help you if you wish to take this further.
LX has a long history of anti-consumerism. Their general attitude towards travellers is antagonistic and when LX makes mistakes (RGN, this first class seat release etc) it is their approach to come after the consumer with a vengance and piss and vinegar. Rarely do they investigate WHY the error occured on their side and take the hight road and honor their mistake. It is a systematical belief that the consumer is the enemy.
When I screw up in my business, I honor my pricing mistakes and I attempt to implement mesasures to prevent future mistakes, but I certainly don’t blame by customers for buying a low (wrong) rate.
Lol! Trying to weasel your way out of your earlier threat to sue?
All I can say at this point given everyone thinks they are an aviation lawyer, with specific knowledge of DOT rules and an inside track on what should happen, is to repeat one of my favorite legal bloggers:
“The stupidest person on the internet doesn’t get to tell everyone what the law is.”
There is no room for “should.”
So, if this applies to you, please stop. You’re only making yourself and other people stupider.
I think there’s a possibility to make a CTA Complaint against “Swiss”, since they were the ones actually cancelling the tickets, at least for someone who had a ticket from/to Canada.
@YMW: I may try that.