It’s a shame that Air China releases so many premium cabin award seats to their partner airlines yet booking those awards seats come with so many problems. Back in April, fellow UPGRD blogger, Matthew Klint, wrote a blog post on how CONFIRMED United Airlines award flights with Air China segments were being mysteriously cancelled and today, Lucky informed us about some more dire news regarding Air China bookings using Air Canada Aeroplan miles.
You can read Matt’s post for more information but the gist of his story was that unknown subjects were maliciously cancelling confirmed United Airlines award trips that contained Air China longhaul premium cabin segments. These were confirmed seats and the cancellations were not due to schedule or operational changes but rather to individuals using United’s Chinese website to manually cancel passengers’ flights.
And the gist of Lucky’s post today was that Air Canada and Air China were having technical “communication” issues. For unknown reasons and affecting several hundred people, Air Canada Aeroplan members who booked Air China flights were confirmed and ticketed by Air Canada when in actuality, their seats were never confirmed by Air China. And to prevent further problems, Air Canada has removed all Air China award space from their systems for the time being.
As you guys know, my friend and I recently got back from our tour around the Pacific Rim with multiple segments on Air China. My entire itinerary including a first class segment from Los Angeles to Beijing didn’t have any issues but my friend’s itinerary was screwed up. I really thought it was an isolated incident and didn’t think much of it. But after reading Lucky’s post today, I realized the problem was much bigger than he and I originally thought so I wanted to share the news with you guys.
Back in January and before the United devaluation, my friend and I booked a trip to New Zealand with a stopover in Japan for late August (seven months in advance). My friend is not too savvy with the booking process so I actually did all the research and booked the trip for him using his miles. United will let you book a trip for someone else using their account if you have their Mileage Plus account and PIN number.
So his trip originally looked like this:
- Los Angeles to Beijing on Air China business class
- Beijing to Tokyo on Air China business class
- Tokyo to Bangkok on Thai business class
- Bangkok to Auckland on Thai business class
- Auckland to Shanghai on Air New Zealand business class
- Shanghai to Taipei on Air China business class
- Taipei to Los Angeles on EVA Airways business class.
In all, he had three segments on Air China. He wasn’t really happy about it but it worked out for our travel dates so he agreed to it.
Well, the trip was booked, confirmed and ticketed by United in January 2014. Around late July, I started calling Air China, Air New Zealand, EVA Airways and Thai to confirm his seats for him. All the carriers were able to confirm his seats except Air China. Even though I had an e-ticket number, Air China was unable to locate his record.
Concerned, I called United to inquire further. I’m summarizing here a bit but the process literally took three days to figure out. Getting transferred back and forth and escalating the situation, I finally spoke to a Director level manager who figured out what happened.
Apparently, United screwed up and confirmed all the segments even though Air China never confirmed his seats on any of the segments. This is the exact same problem that Lucky wrote about in regards to Air Canada and Air China not communicating. He thought the problem was confined to Air Canada and I thought this was an isolated incident on United. Turns out, it’s a bigger problem than we both thought.
Because so many months had passed from the time of the original booking, the Air China LAX-PEK segment was no longer available. In fact, there weren’t any saver award seats on any airline to get him to Tokyo on the dates that we needed and my friend had no way of getting to Tokyo. Because of that, the Director that helped me had to open up a business class award seat on their United LAX-NRT flight for him. And luckily, the Air China PVG-TPE leg was still available so we added that again. The Director actually watched the booking, made sure Air China confirmed the seat and called me back the next day to confirm.
So in the end, it worked out for my friend and it didn’t affect our travel plans too much. But we only caught it because I called Air China to select his seats. And fortunately, the United Director was able to open up award space to accommodate him. Otherwise, he would have been screwed had he just shown up at the airport on the departure date.
So the moral of the story (and it’s not just with Air China), always call to confirm your seats after an award booking and WATCH YOUR ITINERARY for any cancellations or changes. Getting stuck at the airport is never fun and it’s always best to catch it early.