After receiving a disingenuous and dishonest response from SWISS earlier today over my DOT complaint, I’ve now composed a response that I hope will be addressed line-by-line. I won’t hold my breath…
> Read More: Disingenuous, Dishonest Response from SWISS Over DOT Complaint
It took self-discipline to refrain from being snarky in the response. For example, the final paragraph of the SWISS letter stated:
We realize, in light of the competitive nature of the airline industry, there is no guarantee of continued patronage and we are appreciative of your support.
The politest middle finger I’ve ever received…
I wanted to respond back:
I realize, in light of the competitive nature of the airline industry, there is no guarantee of stellar customer service. Even so, I am appreciative of your support in acknowledging that all parties woefully failed to contact me in a timely manner, giving me every indication the fare would be honored.
But I think you’ll agree I have kept the letter fairly non-emotional. Thanks to many people including Ben, Mitch, and Chris (in Ben’s comment section) for their perspectives on what to address in the letter.
Here it is:
Thank you for your earlier note, which requires significant clarification. I am CCing [redacted], who is looking into this matter on the DOT side.
First, you contend my cancelled first class ticket was an “erroneously published fare”. This implies the ticket was purchased at a price clearly below the ordinary or expected price range for the route and class ticketed. The published Aeroplan rate of 70,000 miles for Western Europe to North America is the “published fare” in terms of redeeming Aeroplan miles for first class partner award tickets. I paid 70,000 miles per ticket. Thus, it clearly was not an “erroneously published fare.”
Further, you assert that “award bookings are not permitted in First Class by SWISS as evidenced on the Aeroplan Miles Flight Reward Chart” but that is simply not the case. The award chart provision you cite simply says that first class awards are not “available” — but that general disclaimer was clearly incorrect as Aeroplan’s search engine returned this availability on November 30th. Indeed, I was able to ticket the flights, and SWISS.com permitted me to choose seat assignments. Plainly, the flights were in fact “available” at that time, even if generally speaking they are usually not. Airlines frequently manipulate award availability to limit access to premium cabins, and generally do not announce when they intend to make seats available. By your logic, any airline that makes an award seat available but later comes to regret it because it could sell the seat for cash to earn more revenue could simply claim the availability was in error and cancel the ticket. I also note that on other occasions in the previous years there has been availability to book SWISS first class via Aeroplan and other Star Alliance loyalty programs. I am aware of no prior instance where those tickets were cancelled.
Second, your assertion that “Swiss did not make any changes in our reservation system or have any procedural changes that would have authorized the bookings” misses the point. While SWISS uses Amadeus for its reservation system, a different system called StarNet is used to release award space to Star Alliance partners such as Aeroplan/Air Canada or United Airlines. Do you deny that first class (“O” class) award space was released through StarNet by SWISS to your Star Alliance partners? If so, how were the award tickets on United and Aeroplan issued? Do you contend that Aeroplan and United somehow opened up the space themselves?
Third, your explanation of the chain of events is inconsistent. You note, “SWISS cancelled those tickets, and promptly contacted Aeroplan. Unfortunately, SWISS has no control over tickets issued by its interline partners.” So which is it? Is SWISS able to cancel a ticket issued by an award partner or does it have “no control over tickets issued by its interline partners”? It can be one, or the other, but not both.
Fourth, please address why otherwise identical SWISS first class award tickets issued by United Airlines MileagePlus and Lufthansa Miles & More have not been cancelled. Why have only Aeroplan (Air Canada-issued) tickets been cancelled?
Finally, your suggestion that this cancellation was handled promptly is curious. I was not contacted in any way, by anyone, for over one week after booking. During that time the booking still showed as valid on Aeroplan’s website. And even then, I merely received an email with an altered itinerary downgrading me to business class and rerouting me on a different airline at a different time with an additional overnight connection of nearly 22 hours–all done without my knowledge or approval. Airlines frequently have draconian policies requiring customers cancel within 24 hours of booking to obtain a full refund. I didn’t receive any notice of cancellation for over a week. How is that fair to consumers?
[DOT official redacted], I hope that the DOT will appreciate that this was not a mistake fare, as I paid the full posted price for my tickets. When I booked late on November 29th, I knew that SWISS infrequently offers first class awards for sale but I had no basis to believe that the fares I booked would not be honored based upon the past practice of SWISS. It cannot be the case that airlines can wait days to notify customers that their purchased tickets are being rescinded and cancel tickets booked through some outlets but not others if this truly was an error. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Let’s see if SWISS responds…
Anything I left out in my letter back?
For those of you who were initially on the side of SWISS, I hope you are starting to see the dangerous ramifications of allowing an airline to unilaterally cancel what it deems a mistake days or weeks after booking. It is bad public policy and leaves consumers with no reasonable basis upon which to plan travel.
If your SWISS First Class award trip has been canceled and you are contracted by DOT/SWISS, I encourage you to send a letter back like the one above.
Excellent! Did you borrow from my comment on Ben’s post at OMAAT or do great minds just think alike?! If they can’t answer the StarNet question then they should realize there is a problem. I think you strike the right balance in giving airlines an opportunity to cure mistakes (24 hours).
I was already planning on including that, but liked the language you used on Ben’s blog (and gave you credit just above my letter). Thanks for your valuable input!
Oh wow, I didn’t even see the credit (not that I need it). Thanks! Your blog is what educated me on the different computer ticking systems. I only knew of Amadeus. Good luck. I hope they realize it’s easier to do the right thing this time and then insist on changes to partners’ terms & conditions going forward.
can you link that article?
Bravo!!! The airlines are here to serve us, not the other way around. I rarely use my BA/One World points because there never seems to be availability on dates I require. So I pay full fare for 1st and keep racking up miles …
I think you touched many points here. And thanks for fighting for the people who do not even care to spend time, thus let airlines do selfish stuff. I am wondering if it is effective to respond line by line like you did. Argument wise, correcting her that it was not an erroneously filed fares should be enough for you to get the ticket but again, her initial letter was just so bad. Either Swiss does not have talented staff to do this or they are so arrogant that they will win the case so that they sent a sloppy response.
However, I wish you pushed a bit harder that the rule is not fair to customers in the letter. I think DOT should know that they created a mess by changing the previous rule and the current (un)protection is so bad for customers. I just do not understand how DOT cannot see this so long. Finally, I hope that these cases will make DOT rethink its course and change the rule again to something fair to every party.
I’m waiting for the “YOU CAN’T JUST SUE EVERYONE FOR ANYTHING” trolls.
That’s me in most circumstances. However in this case, I agree with Matthew
Nice comment about how airlines could just cancel an award and claim it was a mistake if down the line someone else will pay cash
Always happy to provide my perspective. The letter really ties things together nicely.
If a picture of your infant crawling around Swiss’ business class cabin doesn’t get results nothing in this world will. Just remind Rosie that next time she craves a cold drink just pressing it against her heart will do the trick.
“I also note that on other occasions in the previous years there has been availability to book SWISS first class via Aeroplan and other Star Alliance loyalty programs.”
I think to make it a stronger point, state a couple of recent months and years that this had happened.
Uh, you’re dealing with Swiss. They’ve got Zurich and Geneva lawyers. They ain’t gonna budge for all the logic you reveal to them. Call them stubborn, whatever, but the penchant for arrogance I’ve seen over 45 years in Germany and Switzerland, less in Austria, is another form of ‘never surrender’ to them. Good luck.
To be fair, the Krauts always surrender whenever Americans decide enough is enough. 😉
A very well written letter. Aren’t lawyers supposed to have someone else represent them, though? I’ve asked some lawyers about this in the past, and they were pretty adamant about this point, so it’s interesting to hear another perspective.
Should I opt to forgo pursuing this case pro se, my attorney will depend upon venue. I have many who have already volunteered their services pro bono. We are not at this point yet.
Put your money where your mouth is. Spend some money, hire a lawyer on a retainer and serve some papers instead of the low-cost/low-impact email back and forth.
Airlines care less and less about your business. Only “certain” bloggers seem to be getting airtime these days.
Mostly good letter, I still think your point about airlines manipulating awards availability elides the fact that Swiss has a very clearly stated policy about not releasing awards tickets in F to partners. Even the most stingy airline when it comes to releasing premium cabin seats still advertises those seats as potentially “available.” Swiss explicitly states that they do not release F seats to partners. The “availability” of F seats due to Swiss’s error does not change the fact that their official policy on releasing F space to partners never changed, thus why they are legitimately able to claim a mistake here.
Also, we all know that Aeroplan miles are a far more accessible currency than UA or LH miles, and perhaps those itineraries weren’t cancelled because when Swiss came to cancel, UA and LH (which, as you know, is affiliated with Swiss) decided to just eat the costs as they were minimal. That probably wasn’t the case for Aeroplan, which is why they decided to just refund the tickets and non-refundable travel costs or rebook passengers on a different itinerary.
My only suggestion would have been to add the word “Expert” underneath your signature name.
This was a very articulate opening volley. I think you touched on all the appropriate matters, while not allowing too much snarkiness or emotion to drift in. Well done Matthew.
Very good letter though I can’t imagine they will correct the problem or compensate you. As we read this, they are probably hatching up other methods of subterfuge and deception for future use lest anyone else even think of questioning the way of doing business.
You bring up some good points. Why do you think Swiss apparently canceled only Aeroplan-based award redemptions, but not UA or LH? Swiss obviously is closer to LH than the independent program Aeroplan. Do LH and UA have more leverage with Swiss such that Swiss could not easily cancel the bookings made through them? Alternatively, is Swiss compensated at a higher rate for award redemptions from LH and UA than Aeroplan? Otherwise, if Swiss mistakenly made award space available to Aeroplan, LH, and UA, then it seems like Swiss should cancel ALL of the bookings. If DOT makes Swiss honor the bookings, I wonder where fault ultimately will lie — with Swiss or Aeroplan.
We Swiss will never relent and you will NEVER fly Swiss first class. As far as we are concerned, no Americans should be allowed in a long-haul first class cabin to preserve the dignity of the cabin. If you do attempt to fly with us, it you will be escorted from the plane.
Thank you. Auf Wiedersehen.
I’m sitting in the Priority Pass lounge in US departures at YYC reading this and laughing.
So they downgraded you and extended the trip time on your “free” ticket.
Geez……F or J……..I pay my way out of pocket all year and will cross 100K miles with today’s flight. Croissants not heated in J perhaps ? Oj got too much pulp ?
You come across as someone who deserves to be seated in the middle in basic economy, next to the Swiss pax who complained that she didn’t get her champagne last month.
Here’s to not meeting up in flight.
I’m sorry you’re not a savvy traveler. May 2018 be a better year for you!
Priority Pass lounge? Wow you must be such a road warrior! Enjoy your stale crackers and Finlandia with tonic!
I would that that’s a pretty snarky letter! My demand letters usually start with brimstone and fire and end with salting the earth. No rhetorical questions.
Good job Matthew.
Keep this going on and we’ll see a further decline in potential partner award inventories and what not. You might win this one, but in the long term we’re all going to lose.
I believe your opinion is 100% wrong, but thanks for taking the time to comment.
my concern with this issue is that there is absolutely no system in place to keep airlines from allowing award tickets to be booked, then 6 months later see that there is revenue demand, then cancel them and sell the seats. This would make it very difficult to plan the other aspects of a trip – often non refundable when you dont know if the ticket you booked will be arbitrarily cancelled just so an airline can make a few extra bucks. Furthermore I dont see how anybody who booked these tickets through aeroplan was trying to game the system in any way. Award bookings are always a situation where long-haul first seats are “not available” very often. When you see they become available, you book them – at the well-established published price. The aeroplan chart that says “swiss first is not available” doesn’t say “not permitted”. I read it to mean “we apologize in advance that you wont find any bookable seats for swiss first” as opposed to what a lot of angry readers of these blogs are suggesting instead “you are not permitted to book swiss first even if our system lets you”. I also refute the accusation some have made that “all you bloggers knew this was a mistake”. Based on SWISS award availability in first historically, it would on rare occasions pop up, and then you jump on it and book it. In no case was that considered an “error” including aeroplan awards booked in 2016. ok. rant over.
Nicely crafted letter. I believe fighting this injustice is in all our best interests. Thank you for demonstrating a well thought out complaint letter.
“So which is it? Is SWISS able to cancel a ticket issued by an award partner or does it have “no control over tickets issued by its interline partners”? It can be one, or the other, but not both.”
I can already tell you you came through as entitled and arrogant.
Of course, corporate teams at LH/Swiss will fight you to the bitter end, while taking a higher-brow and more contrite avenue of response.
i agree with all of your points; you’re delivery is far too long, and the bitchy/snarky rhetorical questions are what doomed this email.
I do wish you luck, however