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.