Qantas Denied American Award Seats — Any Recourse?

Filed Under: Advice, American

A couple of days ago I wrote about how Qantas was releasing a good amount of business class award availability between the US and Australia over the coming months. While Qantas business class isn’t the world’s best product, it’s extremely rare for them to make business class awards available, so I thought it was a great opportunity, especially before American’s award chart devaluation.

Qantas 747 business class

However, some people have been having issues with ticketing these awards. While they’ve been able to place the Qantas business class award seats on hold, they seem to disappear from reservations within hours.

Reader Coloradomom shared the following experience in the Ask Lucky forum, where she changed a previously ticketed award to include a San Francisco to Sydney flight on Qantas, which was later removed from the reservation:

Ben: I consider you the AA guru, so I’ve got a situation and don’t know how to proceed. In October, I booked two business seats using AA miles for DEN – SYD on March 27, routing DEN-LAX-HNL-SYD. The HNL-SYD leg was on QF, the rest on AA metal. After reading several posts yesterday that QF had opened business space on its new SFO- SYD flight, I checked the BA website and, sure enough, there were two business class seats available for March 22. I called the EXP reservations desk last night to change the reservation. The agent could see the seats in the system and after confirming all flight information I was told, “you’re all locked in. You’ll get a confirmation email in the morning.” Well, morning came and went and no email from AA. I was unable to call, but my husband phoned the EXP desk to find out what was going on and he was told QF had denied the request for the seats. While he was on the phone with the agent, she requested the seats on the SFO to SYD flight again (she could see them in the system) and they were again denied. She told him that QF had 72 hours to deny a request for seats. When we changed the reservation, we lost our seats on the QF HNL to SYD flight, so now we are without a flight. (We have a return booked on United). The agent told my husband that they will try to get our original seats on QF 4 on March 27 back, but I don’t hold out much nope that we’ll be able to get those back. Award seats are so hard to find as it is. I’m so disappointed. If I had known that QF had the option to deny the request, I probably wouldn’t have made the change, or at least put in on a hold status. What should we have done differently? I thought my newly minted EXP status would help me out in changing the reservation if space opened up (and with no change fee) for an earlier flight. But now we’re without a way to get to OZ. Any suggestions on how to proceed? Why would QF deny the request? If the seats are in the system, shouldn’t we be able to get them? What should AA do to fix the situation? Any advice you or your savvy readers can provide us will be much appreciated! Thanks!

Ouch! That’s a really unfortunate situation. It’s one thing to just hold an award ticket and have the space taken back, but it’s another thing to have already planned your trip and changed to get on one of those flights, only to be left with no flight at all.

There are have been several reports of American claiming that Qantas rejected the award space, and I’m really not sure what’s going on. I’m not sure if this is intentional on the part of Qantas, or if it’s some sort of system glitch. I’m almost leaning towards the latter, but can’t guarantee it.

But the reality is that unless otherwise noted, AAdvantage holds are intended to be confirmed. And in the above instance, of course when you try to ticket a change it should be confirmed as well. The “they have 72 hours to deny the request” claim simply isn’t true.

So realistically there are two forms of recourse here:

  • Have American contact a liaison to work this out with Qantas. Airlines have liaisons to “fix” these types of situations. It won’t be an instant process, but you had a confirmed reservation and they took it from you. So they should be able to get you that San Francisco to Sydney flight, or at an absolute minimum get you back your original Honolulu to Sydney flight. It’s these types of situations that alliance liaisons are there for, so while it might take a few days, that’s a near sure bet.
  • American should be willing to open space on their own Los Angeles to Sydney flight. Given that this screw up wasn’t your fault and that you were ticketing through American, they should be willing to open business class award space on their own flight for you (and American actually has good service on these flights). If you call and suggest it as a solution there’s a chance they might be willing to do that right away, or they might first want to resolve this through a liaison, and in the unlikely event that doesn’t work, they should be willing to then.

American 777 business class

Bottom line

This is an unfortunate situation which is rare, and shows that airline ticketing processes aren’t seamless at times. Sometimes it requires a bit of effort to get these situations fixed, but the good news is that Coloradomom should come out of this with a significantly better award ticket than she started with, whether it includes Qantas’ San Francisco to Sydney flight, or American’s Los Angeles to Sydney flight. The same should be true for anyone else in a similar situation.

Qantas 747

Has anyone else had their Qantas award seats rejected after the fact?

  1. I think this is an IT issue with QF. The award space is phantom. Even on BA it will not confirm the QF space (the website shows the availability but will not confirm it). I tried with a couple routes and the confirmed space always ended up coming back unconfirmed. We should try to reach out to QF for answers

  2. In the past few days, I’ve noticed an odd thing here. A number of QF business/first flights will show as available thru AAdvantage’s system. Then, when you get to the final confirmation screen, you get a “the selected flight is no longer available.”

    Guessing an IT issue.

  3. Same thing happened to me. AA said they are working on it, but may take a few days to figure things out. Meanwhile my original date is done. Fun times. They sent confirmation emails and for a while I could log into QF and see my flight, select seats etc so it’s something other than phantom space.

  4. Same thing happened to me. Changed my flight based on Thursday’s post. They cancelled my return trip back home from SYD. The BNE to lax flight is still unconfirmed. The agent, I have no status, told me there isn’t anything they can do except to reach out to a liaison. Hoping to hear one thing back soon as I have no flight back home.

  5. Ouch – I have a JFK-LAX on AA in First followed by LAX-SYD on QF in First then a third sector on QF in J to get me home to MEL that I changed to the next flight a half hour later (so I could get onto an A330-200 with the new Qantas domestic Business Suites) and am STILL waiting on it to now go from “On request’ to ‘ticketed’ post-this small change (all three prior sectors were ticketed nearly a year ago). As I read this horror story I am getting ore and more nervous by the minute… #getmeanotherTanqueray

  6. I also changed my flight based on the post. The agent was claimed that they are not able to open space on their own flight. All she was willing to do was write up something for the liaison to look at next week.

  7. So you wrote a whole post about someone asking for help and couldn’t actually help them fix it? Was it because they didn’t pay your booking company fee?

  8. So it’s the same person who also wrote to view from the wing who also posted his response today. She didn’t have trust in either of you so played you off each other

  9. Good point, @Tyler. The way business operates is: you provide the same level of customer service to people who aren’t your customers as you do to people who are. In fact, if you don’t serve everyone in the world the same way as you serve your patrons, you’re an asshole. You’ll make a great businessman someday, champ.

  10. I had QF ticketed and confirmed from LAX-MEL in F and later cancelled to route though HKG on Cathay. A week later and multiple phone calls later, I’m still without my refunded 72.5K miles. They kept saying it’s an IT glitch with QF and that several account have been affected. Maybe different issue in the same family of IT glitches?

  11. @tyler @josh. Agree with you and if you read the same post on view from the wing, Gary goes out of the way to help and successfully finds her a new route and how to do it.

  12. @ Tyler — Maybe we have different definitions of “help.” To me, telling someone how they can fix their flight issues, while writing to dozens of others in the same situation, seems like help. Or was I supposed to call American on behalf of dozens of people? I didn’t realize she had also asked Gary, and that he had written a post about it as well until after it was published.

    Not sure I follow?

  13. Wow – this is disturbing. I had considered making some changes to a return QF reward. But I am in London and forgot my Skype headset so I went out and purchased a new headset and now glad I read this. So obviously, I will keep what I have.

    This is very surprising. There have been some issues with Expert Flyer – so I could not get to the inventory. I checked inventory at and it showed. If the inventory showed on QF then I would think it was real (not phantom). (This is not like LH phantom inventory on

    My experience has been if AA sees QF inventory, it has always been real and confirmed immediately when AA booked. Now sure why QF no longer shows on – it used to and could be booked and held from And once you grabbed it, it immediately was gone from Expert Flyer.

  14. Thanks for posting this update. I was going to switching my routing from ORD-DFW-SYD-MEL to ORD-LAX-MEL based on your Jan 14 post. The AA agent said that she could see the award space on QF but wasn’t able to book it, so put me on hold to speak to her supervisor. While I was on hold I saw this new post, and when the agent came back I told her to please leave the prior reservation as is!

  15. Flyer 94: I contacted both Ben’s Ask Lucky forum and Gary because they are the two who I knew could give me the best advice. I was not playing anyone off anyone. How cynical you are!

  16. @tyler and @flyer. It seems like lucky and Gary both gave her the same advice. Get American to open a seat on their flight. Gary’s post just included the follow up that the advice worked.

  17. Ben, there are varying levels of access to airline availability, so it’s not correct to blanket state the 72-hour isn’t true. It actually is true, if the space was not sold interactively (i.e. Called ‘direct access,’ where the airline or agent requesting availability to book actually ‘jumps’ into the system of the responding career via a specific availability entry). I don’t know how AA views and books QF availability in Sabre, but if it is NOT done in direct access the airline does indeed have a certain amount of time to deny the space. You need to find out from AA what its procedures are before jumping the gun.

  18. Just went through something similar. Found the space on Qantas website, booked with AA on the phone, gave credit card info, was given record locator.
    Showed as “ticketed”, but also had a message to call reservations. Gave it a day, to see if it cleared. Called about 48 hours after the original booking, and the agent on the phone informed me “rebooking” was necessary. It finally seems to be showing up “in increments” on the “My Flights” page on AA. Had a similar experience with Air Berlin last year.

  19. Am I missing something? As it’s pretty much a sad commentary on society that we see a petty jealousy towards a successful and worthy blogger. Well, let me say, it’s childish in fact.

    Now let’s go beat up the guy in the upgrade list above you.

  20. Not Qantas / American, but Qatar / American. I had a ticketed flight returning from CPT via DOH to PER. 3-4 months after ticketing I received an email from American to say that there had been a ‘change’ and to contact them. the CPT-DOH sector was not being flown that day (apparently) – I verified this by checking the QR schedules. After booking a BA flight CPT-JNB and QR JNB-DOH I was able to be on time for the DOH-PER sector. Than was early December. Early Jan the BA website shows availability on the CPT-DOH sector for QR (4 Business available, I wanted 2). I get onto AA and book, the await confirmation – a week passes and noting is said and I check AA website My Flights and the CPT-DOH sector has disappeared. Luckily I could reinstate the CPT to DOH via JNB.

    Last week I booked MEL-AUH (for the 388 first apts experience!) return and await confirmation – status shows ON REQUEST. I get the feeling if someone comes along with dollars then we will not get tickets issued.

  21. I had this same issue with a Qatar flight about two weeks ago. Booked a mileage ticket from Dubai to Singapore via AA for the next night. Still didnt have my confirmation number in the morning and called them up. Qatar had cancelled the reservation because an AA glitch didn’t ticket correctly/fast enough.

    Agent was able to figure it out even though the space was technically no longer available. So hopefully Qantas flight will have the same outcome too.

  22. Not “rare” AT ALL. This is simply a continuation of what can only be termed a war against Frequent Flyers and any potential benefit they might possibly receive from participation in ANY of these programs.

    I am relaying my own personal experience in dealing with the representatives from several airlines.

    What people are doing is extending whatever frustrations they have, ( their career, their mortgage broker, their teenage daughter’s flunky new boyfriend) into just simply doing whatever nastiness they can behind the scenes.

    This “agent” wasn’t an agent at all and most likely deliberately had the seats removed from inventory once it looked like someone was going to actually be able to fly them.

    You’re on very dangerous ground in this supposed “game” and you’ve got no one to blame for it but yourselves.

  23. @Coloradomom: I had a similar experience with an award on LAN that disapeared after a few days of being on hold. I contacted AA, asked to work with the liaison and then contact me back. They did after a day or two and said the liaison couldn’t get the space back but they opened space on AA’s own flight to accommodate us (4 pax). So try that and hopefully you’ll get a solution. Good luck!

  24. I had a J award AKL-BNE-SYD-LAX ticketed. The afternoon SYD-LAX flight was subsequently eliminated from the schedule resulting in a mis-connect. It took 2 weeks, but the QF liaison opened up the BNE-LAX flight for me.

  25. I’m a bit worried after reading this. I have just been trying to get 6 people from LHR to SYD using AA miles, in mid-December, as close together as possible. Business class availability was terrible – routing me via Shanghai or Tokyo, nothing direct with Qantas. First class was ok though (mustn’t complain !) and have got 2 x QF2, 2 x QF10 changing to QF2 in DXB, and 2 x QF2 again the next day. Aadvantage “My trips” shows them as ticketed, my bank says AA have taken the fees and taxes, and if I enter the AA record locators into Qantas’s booking management site, it recognises the bookings and will let me select seats, order special meals etc. Am I safe ?!

  26. I’ve seen this QF glitch lately myself, in my attempt to work out a routing back to the USA from Australia in early March. At first I was trying to route via PVG to make a brief stop there taking advantage of the 72-hour transit visa waiver program. I thought I had QF 129 SYD-PVG in J, but the agent said it kept coming back to her “UC” despite having a segment tag. So I gave up on the Shanghai routing, and tried QF 73 SYD-SFO in J about 1 week later (3/10), and put it on courtesy hold. Now, although the latter PNR is still there, there are no flights in it, so evidently not only the QF flight but the subsequent AA flights via CLT to DAY seem to be just gone and I think I actually have nothing on hold there! I’ve tried this through both the U.S. and Australia (Fiji) call centers, although I haven’t tried requesting escalation via the liason (and probably won’t, since I have an alternate routing in mind which will avoid QF altogether). One agent I spoke with during all this read me an excerpt from an internal email memo she had been sent which suggested it was a known IT glitch that they were working on, but the verbiage she read to me also directed agents not to commit to any ETA for resolution. My cynical side suspects this will clear up right around 3/23….

  27. Re my comment yesterday, 2 of the 3 bookings have now vanished from “My Trips” on the Aadvantage website, but all 480,000 miles are still shown as redeemed and all 3 bookings are still showing as ticketed, and seats allocated, on the Qantas website. I’ll keep believing Qantas for now……

  28. Called today and was able to sort out an issue with a J award ticket between BNE and LAX. They had to have a liaison intervene, but it was resolved.

  29. I am flying AA 777-300er First Class from LAX to Sydney, and returning via Qantas A380 Business Class SYD>DFW “purchased” using award points.

    This is my first time cashing in award points, and first time flying anything other than economy class on this route. I have a status of “Ticketed”, with a date of January 31. Based on this post, does this mean that Qantas could deny me boarding?

    The flights are still showing in “my trips” on, and the miles have been taken from my account.

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