Booking your flights using miles and points is great, especially if you are traveling in the premium cabin as you can often get an incredible mileage redemption in First or Business Class and travel in true luxury and comfort. As with anything in life, there are sometimes going to be changes and sometimes these changes to flights are either only a few minutes or involve a cancellation – and that’s where things get messy, especially on a partner award ticket.
What is a Partner Award Ticket Change?
A partner award ticket is a mileage ticket that you book with one airline and you fly on another airline. So, for example, you can redeem United Airlines miles for travel on Lufthansa as the two airlines are partners – this would be a partner award ticket. A standard award ticket would be a booking where you are flying the same airline who’s miles you are using.
A schedule change on a booking means that the flight’s schedule was changed – this can range anything from a few minutes to a total cancellation of the flight.
A partner award ticket change means that the schedule on the flight you booked with the partner airline was adjusted – either by a few minutes, hours, or a total cancellation.
Partner Award Ticket Changes are Complicated
Changes on partner award tickets are complicated – they cannot be fixed as easily as a cash/revenue booking, because there isn’t always going to be saver-level award availability on a flight (meanwhile if you paid with cash, there will always be a seat as long as the flight isn’t sold out completely).
The main reason why changes on partner award tickets are complicated is because the airline you booked through cannot simply open up another award seat on a partner airline – they’re supposed to reach out to their contact at that airline and theoretically rebook you on a different flight, but it is hard to get an agent who is competent enough to follow through on this process. There are some amazing agents that might be able to rebook you on any partner flight (as if you paid with cash), but I find that this happens much less now than it did in the past.
Cancel Your Ticket
When your partner award flight is canceled, you always have the option of receiving a full refund of your miles and taxes paid. You will want to contact the airline with who you booked the ticket to request a refund. The miles should go back to your account right away and the taxes will show up back on the original form of payment within a few weeks. Since your flight was cancelled, there won’t be any additional fees.
Change Your Partner Award Ticket
If your partner award flight is cancelled and you want to be rebooked on something else, it can get tricky. If there is award space on your new desired date, you can be rebooked without issue. Do note that some airlines make you pay the difference in miles/taxes and other airlines do not – generally, they shouldn’t charge you additional miles or taxes because your flight was cancelled, but if they do, there’s not much you can do except hang up and call again.
If you want to be rebooked but there is no award availability, it all really comes down to the agent you are talking with – either they will tell you they can’t do anything and you are out of luck or it will be an amazing agent who will work with you to find a solution.
If the agent you are talking to tells you there’s nothing you can do except cancel and refund, I would call back a few times and see what other agents have to say. Try to be flexible with your flights – change the dates by a few days or depart/arrive in a different city – this may open up more options. You can also try to speak with a supervisor.
When your partner award flight gets cancelled, airlines usually have contacts between each other whereby the airline who you booked your ticket with can reach out to the operating airline and that airline might be able to open up award space on your preferred date, at which point the issuing airline can simply rebook you. Not all agents will be willing to look into this option, but it is worth asking about.
There are other agents who will simply rebook your ticket as if it was a normal cash ticket – essentially into a revenue fare on a new flight (and in cases like this you might even be able to earn miles on the new flight). This option was the solution a while back and almost always what was done, but lately, I have found that few airlines are willing to do this.
Contacting the Operating Airline
Usually in the event of a change or cancellation, you will want to reach out to the original booking source. However, if you are very close to your departure, you can try to reach out to the operating airline who cancelled your flight – they may be able to take control of your ticket and simply rebook you right away (this usually happens at airports if the flight is cancelled right before departure). This solution does not always work, but it is worth trying if you had no luck prior.
Rebook Yourself Using other Miles/Points
If you have other miles or points, you can always book yourself a new award ticket, if there is availability. Usually, last minute, there is something available – though note that Economy Class has more availability than the premium cabins, so sometimes this may be the only option. Remember that if your original flight was cancelled, you can get those miles/points and taxes refunded, so you can book something with your other miles beforehand to have a confirmed segment.
This option is obviously not ideal since you are essentially booking something different last minute for yourself, but sometimes in the event of schedule changes on partner award tickets, this may be the only option.
All in All
Flight schedule changes are never good – especially if you are booked on a partner award ticket, it does get complicated. I believe the most important tip is that you stay calm and work with the agents who you are talking to. Don’t be angry or yell at them if they are helping you out – they understand that you probably aren’t happy since your flight was cancelled, but remaining calm and working towards a solution is the best thing you can do. In the event of irregular operations, mileage tickets should be treated the same as cash tickets, but sadly that isn’t the case with many airlines.