Prepaid and non-refundable hotel stays and flights don’t mind keeping your money when you can’t make the trip, but why do they withhold the points too?
Non-Refundable Flights and Prepaid Hotel Stays
If a customer buys a non-refundable flight, they don’t get their money back if they choose not to fly. The taxes, however, are refundable if the customer does not fly and should a customer’s plans change, they should certainly call to get the taxes back for their unflown segments.
No problem there.
Prepaid hotel stays work the same way, taxes should be refundable if a customer does not fulfil the stay but they are due no cashback on the nightly rate.
They Keep The Money, But I Don’t Get The Points?
What really grinds my gears… is that the customer relinquishes the revenue but doesn’t receive the points they would have for spending money and staying. Before Mileage D-Day (devaluation), when a mile flown was worth at least a mile earned, it made a lot more sense. The miles and points earned weren’t connected with the dollars you spent, they were connected with the distance that was flown.
However, now that miles are earned in exchange for what is spent, why do the airlines and hotel chains get to keep the points your reservation purchased? There was a direct correlation to the miles earned from the transaction based on what was spent, if the agreement is that it is unchangeable, then the miles shouldn’t only apply if the traveler flies the route.
Is This Legal?
Much like the issue with taxes, if the room isn’t stayed in and the flight isn’t flown, anything calculated based on that which didn’t occur should go back to the purchaser, right? Not necessarily. When I brought this up to Matthew he was quick to point out, “their program, their rules” and while that’s, of course, true, there are still legal standards in place that don’t permit airlines to operate outside the law. There was an exchange for a service and that service does not fall solely to the airline seat.
There were some mistake fares from Alitalia a few years ago that cost $0. Courts found that the carrier could cancel tickets where nothing was exchanged of value from the purchaser, but in cases where tickets sold for at least €.01, they had to be honored. Something was exchanged from the purchaser to the vendor and whether it was priced by mistake or not, it was sold and completed. Spanish courts have also ruled in the last year that airlines cannot impose penalties for skipping legs of a ticket, as United famously attempted to do.
The courts have not been favorable to claimants seeking fairness from the airlines in recent years. Though I travel every single week, I find it flumoxing that a hotel can sell a prepaid room, fully intend for me to show up, be prepared to pay out the points, oversell the hotel so that they do not lose out on my night of revenue and yet do not have to give me the points for my stay.
This is Why
If hotels and airlines allowed travelers to earn points and miles from trips they did not take, bad actors would book many to secure status or accrue points without leaving home. Toward the end of the year, those close to status may buy obscure tickets they never intended to fly, or book hotel stays they never intended to use on cheap routes, in cheap markets simply to maintain status, or game the system. If anyone is going to game their system, it will be them.
They also, simply, do not have to. Many reservations go abandoned every year and while the minimal cost of points paid out by airlines and hotels on a per reservation basis would be low, the effect to the business in the form of liability incurred would be drastic. Until the law changes or consumer behavior drives it, the travel companies will continue to retain any points associated with a vacated reservation.
Am I a little whiny and annoyed by this? Sure. But if the airlines and hotels are going to make loyalty all about the money that’s spent rather than dedication to the brand, then they should comply fully with the terms of their sale.
What do you think? If you can’t make a flight or hotel and can’t refund it should you still earn the points? Or is it more a case of “their house, their rules?”