SWISS Canceled All First Class Award Tickets and Aeroplan Can Do Nothing

So by now you’ve probably heard that SWISS opened the floodgates of First Class award space last Thursday. SWISS does not USUALLY release its F space to partners, so this is a truly rare occurrence. However, I underscore “usually” because things like this happened in the past. When in June 2016 SWISS temporarily allowed such partner redemptions, all ticketed reservations were honored.

1. I redeemed a Round-The-World trip in First Class

I used 210k Aeroplan miles and got a mini-Round-the-World ticket for my travel next summer. Aeroplan does not charge YQ on SWISS flight so this is a truly wonderful redemption in terms of maximizing point values and routing rules.

Fly around the world in ANA and SWISS First Class. Isn’t it sweet?

Well, this time SWISS does not seem so accommodating anymore.

2. SWISS started (silently) canceling ticketed award

So far there have been two rounds of cancellation. The first round came around the next day, when users on FlyerTalk and two of our authors here at US Credit Card Guide reported the disappearance of their LX tickets. It seemed that the tickets getting canceled were (1) booked solely on LX and not involving any partner airlines and (2) booked online rather than on telephone.

There was a slim hope that some itineraries will be too complex (e.g. involving partner flight) so they will somehow survive. Except they don’t.

The rest of the ticket got canceled this morning, ostensibly the second wave of mass cancellation. When I logged into SWISS this morning to check my reservation my PEK-ZRH and ZRH-GVA-JFK were all gone. What is left is the outbound leg of ANA and Air China.

So I phoned Aeroplan to see what happened.

3. Conversation with a phone agent

A phone agent informed me that LX’s first class space cannot be confirmed by SWISS, so they had to rebook me into something else. However, there was no other first class space available. To further complicate things, by downgrading myself into business class (which, ironically, LX has award space on the same flight), I would still pay 210k miles. Remember Aeroplan applies the highest level of service to the entire award ticket. So even if there is one leg in First Class and the rest in Economy, the whole ticket would be priced at First Class.

So I asked what could be done on their part to get back the LX First Class, and the agent basically said nil.

I understand it wouldn’t help to argue with or threaten to sue an agent over phone, so I asked what could be done. The agent was happy to refund me the ticket and redeposit the miles back into my account. I appreciate their gesture, though I hate 210k miles sitting in a program that is going to terminate in 2020. Thus I asked if the points could go back to Amex (basically where it came from), and she said that would need the approval from a supervisor and told me to hold.

Maybe ten minutes later she came back and told me it could be done. So I said fine and called it a day.

4. Conversation with an Aeroplan supervisor

Now here came the interesting part. After hanging up the phone with the agent, I got a phone call from Montreal, where Aeroplan’s headquarter is located. It was an Aeroplan supervisor and the purpose of the call was to ask for my Membership Reward number and some credit card information.

While on the phone, I asked what the drama was all about and what happened in the first place. So here is the perspective from someone who (presumably) has plenty of knowledge about this entire SWISS thing.

  • On Nov 30, for whatever reasons SWISS opened the award space to partners that is usually not bookable with partner miles.
  • Later SWISS refused to honor it and started canceling the ticket.
  • Aeroplan basically cannot do anything, because it was SWISS who initiated the cancellation.

I buy it. Not because I have sympathy toward Aeroplan allowing reverse-transfer of miles back to Amex, but because reservations ticketed by United and other partner programs also disappeared.

That is right, vanished, no notification from anybody involved.

5. What do to next?

Now that my ticket is gone and points on the way back, what should I do next? Should I sue SWISS for their unilaterally canceling a confirmed ticket? Or is Aeroplan that must be forced to honor the ticket (even if that means costing them an arm and a leg in buying a revenue ticket)? Or perhaps just move on?

I will (largely) move on. But, I will file complaints against SWISS to every aviation regulation agency possible. This is a bad precedent and a slippery slope. If SWISS can cancel a ticketed award because it claims it is a mistake, how about next time someone voiding your reservation because the seat could be sold at higher cash price?

I thought about resorting to the legal avenue and have SWISS pay, but I budged. It would be very a painfully long process and I did not have the expertise or the resources to go after SWISS. However if anyone else is determined to call out on SWISS he or she has my full support.

Additionally I will try to let everyone know how arrogant SWISS is. That’s why you are reading this article.

What about Aeroplan? Should I hold them accountable?

For myself I would not pursue Aeroplan too much. They have done their part and to me have done their best. Make no mistake. It is SWISS who unilaterally and silently canceled the ticket. I understand that my contract is technically with Aeroplan, not SWISS. But I don’t think Aeroplan should pay for something SWISS did wrong.

6. Bottomline

All in all, this redemption in theory ought not to happen in the first place. Probably it was a bad glitch on the SWISS side. However, for five days we heard absolutely NOTHING from SWISS, only to find our tickets gone.

Is this how you choose to do business, SWISS?

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