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When Booking A Partner Award Bites You In The Butt

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Partner Award Booking Issues

Partner Award Booking Issues

A few weeks ago I shared with you that I was able to take advantage of a flight change and come up with a 190,000 mile win. Well, I tried to do something much less awesome and it came up snake eyes this time around. Why? Because I used a partner airline to book my flight. Even though partner awards are great for booking the same flights for way less, they can lead to partner award booking issues. I figured I would share one such instance with you that I came across today.

Partner Award Booking Issues

Mexico City Trip Original Booking

We have an MtM Diamond meet up coming up in a few weeks in Mexico City. We are heading to town to take part in Mexico’s Independence Day festivities. It should be a great time, and I have been looking forward to it for a while. Plus, I was able to snag a really good deal on the flight.

My initial booking was Detroit (DTW) to Mexico City (MEX) non stop on Delta metal. I was able to grab the flight for a price of only 25,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, quite the feat these days. When I logged into my Delta account to choose seats I was offered an upgrade to first class for the 4ish hour flight for 11,400 Delta Skymiles each way. An unexpected offer that I jumped all over. So for 47,800 miles, between the two programs, I was flying round trip in first class. I was pretty happy with that haul, especially with the way prices were at the time of booking.

The Dreaded Flight Change Email

A few weeks ago I got the dreaded, but totally not unexpected, flight change email from Delta. They had changed my flight from non stop to a connecting flight through Atlanta (my nemesis). And, it was leaving two and a half hours earlier in the morning, something I wasn’t thrilled with.

There was still a non stop flight the following day and I booked a day longer than I really needed to anyway. I tried reaching out to Delta first, looking to get lucky. I figured they may help me out since it was their change, plus I had booked a part of the flight with Skymiles (my upgrade cost).

The Delta chat agent surprisingly got on right away, and after checking, told me I needed to get with Virgin since I booked the ticket with them. Dang! Just what I didn’t want to hear.

Partner Award Booking Issues

A Couple Of Issues Here

I immediately knew this wouldn’t go anywhere for a few reasons. First off, I paid that upgrade cost for the flight with Skymiles. So even if Virgin Atlantic was able to help me switch flights I would lose the upgrade. Something I wasn’t really excited about doing.

Secondly, it would be unlikely Virgin would find saver space on Delta for the dates I needed. I booked this back in October of 2021 and was shocked to find saver space back then. There was almost no chance of it happening now. A quick search on Virgin Atlantic’s site confirmed this. I decided to give it the old college try anyway to see what they would say and see how long the process took.

Virgin Atlantic Is Of No Help

I fired up the Virgin Atlantic chat on their site and it took about 45 minutes for a response. Luckily, I had filled out all of the info since I totally forgot about it in the meantime. An agent did join the chat and read through everything. They confirmed that they didn’t see anything available for me the next day that I could change too. Whomp, whomp.

Partner Award Booking Issues

Partner Award Booking Issues – Final Thoughts

I have been talking for a few weeks now about not booking flights with travel portals because of issues like this. Well, it is something to be aware of with partner bookings too. The juice is usually worth the squeeze here though, since the savings can be huge. On the other hand, portal bookings only get you a few more points per dollar, which isn’t worth the potential hassle in my book.

One would think the airline that makes the change would just take care of you, since they are getting paid anyway. The rates they get from partner bookings are a lot lower than what they charge normal customers however. Because of that they are not going to go out of their way to help you. This also reinforces people to book directly with them in the future.

I guess I will just have to suck it up and take my first class flight with a connection now. First world problems for sure!

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Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. I got hit with a JL schedule change on AS miles on a F award. It was a nightmare to fix, and I had to rearrange my dates, but things actually worked out better in the end.

    I was supposed to fly JFK-HND-BKK but JL 3 got axed, and JL’s computer rebooked me on some impossible itinerary.

    A miracle then happened – a F award opened up on JL 6 on June 11, and U was also available on JL 34 on June 10. As I had to be in NYC for something starting June 12, this worked out perfectly. Instead of leaving for Thailand after the event in NYC, I was going to Thailand first and then going to NYC.

    It was then only a matter of rebooking my Aeroplan award for the other direction – and because it was only a matter of weeks before, there wasn’t much available at low redemption rates, but I managed to find YYZ-YUL-FRA with I class available, and ongoing FRA-BKK via either BAH or MCT. I ended up choosing the routing via BAH on Gulf Air due to my personal circumstances.

    I pieced that together and it all worked out nicely – despite being a very, very long trip – though not awful as it was all in J. Also, because my JL F flight was now departing from Japan, that meant I’d get to have a taste of Salon 2007! It was amazing.

    Schedule changes like these can be very good, or very bad. Also, it’s one reason I never buy prepaid, non-refundable hotel reservations.

  2. Didn’t know you could book with Virgin and then use SkyMiles to upgrade. Learn something new all the time in this hobby. Are there others partners/alliances that operate in this manner?

  3. Concur with commenter “listen.” I’ve had similar similar situations. After calmly and thoroughly explaining that the partner program cannot help me because saver level space is no longer available, and that you are not seeking to make a voluntary/discretionary change but rather the change is necessitated by the carrier’s own independent action (schedule change), agents typically become more helpful, in my experience.

    • I had this exact scenario and Delta wouldn’t budge even slightly. At one point the agent seemed my ticket was a “hot mess” because I booked through Virgin Atlantic. I calmly replied that the hot mess was Delta cancelling my flight which caused my problem. Supervisor no help.

  4. The worst is when booking with Lifemiles for a partner award. Even when there is partner award space open and it should be an easy change, Lifemiles agents are so incompetent that you may as well not even bother. My last experience was a partner flight cancellation the day before the flight…Lifemiles agents couldn’t even seem to grasp the problem much less resolve it. So I just bought a new ticket and turned it in to insurance.
    It’s been months and still waiting for my Lifemiles refund – every month I ping them and they tell me their internal department has a long queue and to be patient, lol. I’ve basically written those miles off at this point.
    Of course my Lifemiles redemptions were all super good deals so I did it, even knowing the risk. But I’m probably done rolling the dice with them.

    • I agree. Lifemiles are great as long as nothing goes wrong. Then you are kinda screwed if it does. Why I will never speculatively transfer to them myself.

  5. DL can absolutely reissue a 932 eticket onto 006 stock. You just have to keep calling to find a DL agent willing to make the reasonable change after significant sched change. I’ve done it myself multiple times, none painlessly.

    • Thanks for the info. I figured it would be possible if I work at it enough but I am not sure it is worth the effort for this one since it isn’t a horrible change. Still debating it though.

  6. DOT Complaint and be done with it, no one is going to do anything but blame the other, so send them all that info and let them deal with it.


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