Downgraded On A Flight: What Are Your Rights?

Downgraded On A Flight: What Are Your Rights?

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An OMAAT reader asked me a specific question about a flight downgrade situation that he’s dealing with. I figured this would be a good opportunity to address this topic more broadly. What can cause you to be downgraded on a flight? What are you entitled to if you are downgraded on a flight? It’s not necessarily so straightforward…

Reasons you can be downgraded on a flight

Let’s start by covering the very basics — what constitutes a flight downgrade? For the purposes of this post, I’m talking specifically about situations where you’re involuntarily downgraded from one class of service to a lower class of service. This could be a downgrade from first class to business class, a downgrade from business class to premium economy or economy, or a downgrade from premium economy to economy.

Downgrades are rare in the scheme of things, though they do happen. You could be downgraded months before a flight, or once you’re onboard a flight. What could cause you to be downgraded?

  • It could be that there’s an aircraft swap (either way in advance or close to departure), which means a particular cabin is no longer available on a flight, or more people are booked in that cabin than there are seats
  • It could be that the airline oversold a cabin, so needs to downgrade people (this could also be due to last minute operational needs, like needing to move a crew around)
  • It could be that a seat on a plane is broken, and as a result, a passenger can’t sit in it
  • It could be that you booked a premium cabin ticket but are then rebooked in a lower cabin, either because your flight was canceled, you misconnected due to a delay, etc.

Let me emphasize that for the purposes of downgrades, we’re not talking about when your seat is swapped from one seat to another within the same cabin, since airlines don’t guarantee seating.

Flight downgrades do happen sometimes

What you’re entitled to for a flight downgrade

In the event that you deal with a flight downgrade, what are you entitled to? Legally, this comes down to two factors:

  • What the contract of carriage says, which is what you agree to when you book a ticket
  • Any relevant government regulations regarding downgrade rules; these differ significantly around the globe

Broadly speaking, many government agencies don’t clearly dictate what airlines have to do in the event of a downgrade. Similarly, many airline contracts of carriage give airlines a lot of flexibility when it comes to downgrades, as contracts of carriage are typically pretty one-sided, protecting the airline a lot more than the consumer.

Since I often also talk about redeeming miles & points, let me emphasize that your rights should be the same whether you paid cash for a ticket or redeemed miles. As an award passenger, you should be no more likely to be downgraded than anyone else.

With that in mind, let me address a variety of considerations that could impact what you might be entitled to in the event of a downgrade.

You’re entitled to the fare difference when downgraded

You’re always entitled to the fare difference if you’re involuntarily downgraded from one cabin to another, as that’s just common sense — you’re not getting what you paid for, and airline contracts of carriage even support this.

Let’s say that you book a flight 10 months in advance in Air India first class, and then six months before departure, there’s an aircraft swap to a plane without a first class cabin. In these situations, you’re generally only entitled to a difference in fare between what you booked and what you paid for.

So whether you paid cash or miles, expect you’ll be refunded the difference between the first class fare and the business class fare, in the currency you paid. Keep in mind that airlines often won’t be very proactive about this, so you’ll probably have to ask.

If you’re on a partner award ticket, you’ll usually want to reach out to the program through which you booked the ticket to request the difference in miles, since they can most easily process that.

Lastly, some airlines will be willing to work with you to accommodate you on another flight or routing that still features first class, but generally speaking, that’s a courtesy rather than a legal requirement. That’s also significantly more complicated when the airline through which you booked and the airline operating the flight aren’t the same.

You’re entitled to the fare difference when downgraded

Europe has the best consumer protections

Many countries in Europe have excellent consumer protections in the form of EU261, which covers you in the situation of flight delays, downgrades, and more.

Under this policy, if you’re downgraded, you’re entitled to:

  • Reimbursement of 30% of the ticket price for flights of up to 1,500km
  • Reimbursement of 50% of the ticket price for flights of 1,500 to 3,500km
  • Reimbursement of 75% of the ticket price for flights of over 3,500km

As you can see, this can quickly become pretty lucrative, especially on long haul flights. This applies to all airlines when departing from an eligible part of Europe, while it only applies on European airlines when departing for Europe.

Just as a point of comparison, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) doesn’t dictate any downgrade compensation, beyond just the fare difference.

Downgrades can be pretty lucrative in Europe

Downgrades due to operational issues are complicated

What happens if you have operational issues on the day of travel, and end up not traveling in the class of service you were confirmed in? Just to give a couple of examples:

  • Say you have a first class ticket from Los Angeles to Charlotte to Tampa, but you misconnect in Charlotte, and are rebooked in economy on that second segment
  • Say you’re ticketed in first class on a severely delayed flight, and you decide to get rebooked on another flight that will get you to your destination early, but there’s only economy available

It’s important to recognize the difference between a voluntary downgrade and an involuntary downgrade. If you miss your flight due to a delayed inbound flight, or because of operational disruptions, and if you choose to take the next available flight in economy, that’s generally considered voluntary.

Why? Well, you’re choosing to take that flight, rather than waiting for the next available flight in the same class of service (which could be in hours, or days, or weeks, or…). Airlines make no promises about how soon they’ll get you to your destination, so airlines would argue that’s not an involuntary downgrade, since they could probably get you to your destination in your initial class of service at some point.

However, this is very much a grey area, and it can be a very thin line between a voluntary downgrade an an involuntary downgrade. For example, if you misconnect and the airline proactively rebooks you in a lower class of service on another flight without you asking, is that a voluntary or involuntary downgrade?

Regardless, I find that most airlines are willing to provide a partial refund in the case of downgrades, regardless of what the circumstance is. So the refund would be pro-rated based on the percent of the distance you are traveling in a downgraded cabin.

This would generally apply if you paid cash, booked an award ticket, or redeemed miles for an upgrade. Meanwhile if you received a complimentary upgrade on account of your elite status it wouldn’t apply, since there’s nothing to refund, as there was no payment method.

Operational downgrades are often considered voluntary

Goodwill compensation is up to the airline

Lastly, I think it’s worth mentioning that beyond what you’re legally entitled to, many airlines may extend a gesture of goodwill, even if they’re not legally required to.

If you are frustrated about a downgrade situation and feel you haven’t been made whole, you can always contact the airline and see if they’re willing to offer you bonus miles, a voucher, etc. There’s no guarantee they’ll do it, but in many situations they will.

If you’re on a partner award ticket, I would only expect the airline on which you’re traveling to offer you anything, rather than the airline through which you booked (since they have no control over the downgrade).

You may be offered a gesture of goodwill

Bottom line

Flight downgrades happen sometimes, and what you’re entitled to depends on the airline contract of carriage and the relevant government regulations. Most airlines only promise a refund of the fare difference for involuntary downgrades, while some government bodies may promise more. For example, in much of Europe, you’re entitled to a 75% refund if you’re downgraded on a long haul flight.

Hopefully the above is a useful rundown of what you can expect in these situations.

If you’ve been downgraded on a flight, what was your experience like?

Conversations (31)
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  1. Michael Shade Guest

    I booked Business class with Delta for May 9th from Orlando Fl (MCO) to Vancouver BC (YVR) connecting through Toronto ON (YYZ). Delta codeshares with Westjet who operated the flights. First leg was fine. Nothing was said when we checked in concerning a downgrade. We were unaware of the change until we were on the plane to discover there wasn't anything other than basic economy seats on the plane. We did have 3D & 3F...

    I booked Business class with Delta for May 9th from Orlando Fl (MCO) to Vancouver BC (YVR) connecting through Toronto ON (YYZ). Delta codeshares with Westjet who operated the flights. First leg was fine. Nothing was said when we checked in concerning a downgrade. We were unaware of the change until we were on the plane to discover there wasn't anything other than basic economy seats on the plane. We did have 3D & 3F but not 3E. The flight attendant said this happens a lot on the route and that someone would contact us tomorrow. Neither Delta or Westjet contacted me. When I called Westjet I was pointed to an online form, that I did complete. Still not a word from Delta or Westjet. I am very disappointed with Delta customer service

  2. Swetleena Guest

    Recently, I took a flight from Mumbai to Washington on Emirates, and after paying the price for premium economy (in advance) on the actual travel day, they downgraded me and my son to economy. On first leg Mumbai to Dubai, they said no premium economy class is available on this flight, that is also after boarding flight. I showed tickets and boarding passes to air hostess she said your next flight is Airbus, which has...

    Recently, I took a flight from Mumbai to Washington on Emirates, and after paying the price for premium economy (in advance) on the actual travel day, they downgraded me and my son to economy. On first leg Mumbai to Dubai, they said no premium economy class is available on this flight, that is also after boarding flight. I showed tickets and boarding passes to air hostess she said your next flight is Airbus, which has premium economy so your tickets are like this. I was hoping for the next flight, a Dubai to Washington 14+ hrs will. But got same answer: no premium economy. It was a nightmare, as I have some health conditions with spine, due to which I needed reclining seats like premium economy. I explained this to airhostess but they couldn't help other than offering extra legroom economy seats. I asked for wheelchair but I got only once after reaching at Washington. I complained to the travel booking site first; they asked me to check with the airline, and then airline asked me to check with the travel site. Now travel booking site after 4 phone calls/emails saying they are looking into issue. It's been over 8 days from actual travel. Please advise what I need to do.

  3. Dan Guest

    I had an infuriating experience once booking VS Upper Class with Flying Blue points. We got swapped to a different flight a few months out and were bumped into economy. Not a single Flying Blue phone agent even acknowledged this, much less apologized; their systems all said I had booked economy and they were essentially gaslighting me saying as much.

    I ended up having to rebook on a much worse flight and they eventually...

    I had an infuriating experience once booking VS Upper Class with Flying Blue points. We got swapped to a different flight a few months out and were bumped into economy. Not a single Flying Blue phone agent even acknowledged this, much less apologized; their systems all said I had booked economy and they were essentially gaslighting me saying as much.

    I ended up having to rebook on a much worse flight and they eventually refunded the cancellation fee after I sent a scathing email.

    I suppose the lesson is that when codeshares are involved, it can get messy very quickly.

  4. Bob Guest

    Last summer on an AUS-CLT-MUC itinerary, AA boarded us in AUS, deplaned due to mechanical issues, the replacement that was supposed to be there in an hour took three, got to CLT with enough time to make the connection but then sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes upon arrival, got to the connecting gate just in time to wave goodbye to the plane that was backing out. The only thing AA offered us was...

    Last summer on an AUS-CLT-MUC itinerary, AA boarded us in AUS, deplaned due to mechanical issues, the replacement that was supposed to be there in an hour took three, got to CLT with enough time to make the connection but then sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes upon arrival, got to the connecting gate just in time to wave goodbye to the plane that was backing out. The only thing AA offered us was CLT-LHR-MUC with a wait of several hours in CLT and nearly 12 in LHR, and on top of that downgraded the final segment (on BA) from business to steerage. We didn't even get a free meal out of AA, let alone any kind of compensation. Repeated complaints to the airline resulted in a whopping 7500 AA miles as compensation.

  5. aeroandquiver New Member

    I know this isn't what the article is talking about, but my parents booked award tickets several months in advance on BA, connecting through LHR to MXP. A few months before their flight BA moved them to an LHR-MXP flight that was over 24 hours after the original, leaving them with a 33 hour layover in London instead of 4. The original flight had not been canceled, there were tons of seats, and plenty of...

    I know this isn't what the article is talking about, but my parents booked award tickets several months in advance on BA, connecting through LHR to MXP. A few months before their flight BA moved them to an LHR-MXP flight that was over 24 hours after the original, leaving them with a 33 hour layover in London instead of 4. The original flight had not been canceled, there were tons of seats, and plenty of seats on other flights to both MXP and LIN on the original day but BA refused to move them to any of those flights to keep their original schedule, essentially saying that entire day had no award space on any flight. This seriously screwed with my parents' plans. How can they do this?

  6. Samo Guest

    One thing to note is that EU legislation won't protect you on itineraries that are just connecting in the EU/EFTA, even if they are operated by a community carrier. So for example YYZ-AMS-DXB would not be eligible for anything other than what T&Cs provide (and possibly the consumer protection law at the point of sale).

  7. Points Adventure Guest

    "As an award passenger, you should be no more likely to be downgraded than anyone else."

    Unless you're flying Qatar on a partner award.

  8. Tim Guest

    We were downgraded on Delta on the ATL-SFO leg of a LIM-ATL-SFO from business down to economy on a paid flight due to a plane swap. Delta was terrible about it, and only refunded $326 which they claimed was the fare difference. I later heard that that they use the highest economy fare to calculate the difference which is why it was so low. When I contacted their customer service after to complain, they did nothing.

  9. destruya Member

    I couldn't help but hear Jim Jeffries' story of being downgraded on a BA flight because Neil Diamond, his band, and his entourage decided to leave South Africa early, and it resulted in him getting bumped out of business class.

  10. Dave W. Guest

    When flying to Europe, Delta always turns out to be the best option for me. If I can, I book an AF or KL DL code share for the flight to Europe, so the better European rules apply. They apply to DL too on the flight back to the US.

  11. Potato Guest

    "Europe has the best consumer protections"

    This is in my opinion not exact. When facing an involuntary downgrade situation, be sure to do your math. On the face, European rules seem very advantageous but that's not necessarily the case.

    On a 12 hrs Lufthansa flight back home, I was informed at check-in that they'd bump me from C to Y (not even considering a downgrade to Y+ and in turn bumping someone from Y+...

    "Europe has the best consumer protections"

    This is in my opinion not exact. When facing an involuntary downgrade situation, be sure to do your math. On the face, European rules seem very advantageous but that's not necessarily the case.

    On a 12 hrs Lufthansa flight back home, I was informed at check-in that they'd bump me from C to Y (not even considering a downgrade to Y+ and in turn bumping someone from Y+ to Y). Applying the EU rules to my fare (for the downgraded segment, it amounted to 1,200 EUR), I would have been entitled to 900 EUR. I ended up refusing to take the flight and getting involuntarily denied.

    Lufthansa put me up in an hotel for the night, provided food and drink and I flew home in C the next day. After a few weeks of back and forth, Lufthansa eventually forked out the 600 EUR for denied boarding.

    You'd have to be mad to accept a double downgrade in that scenario for only 300 EUR more.

    1. Icarus Guest

      You should not officially be entitled to denied boarding if the airline is able to accommodate you on the same flight
      , but in a different cabin. Only the fare difference plus possibly a gesture eg miles or a voucher.

    2. Samo Guest

      Shouldn't the compensation be on top of the fare difference refund? I'm sure LH will act like it's not, but does anyone know what the actual legal situation is?

      For example in case of denied boarding, you are eligible for the compensation and either rerouting or refund. So if you choose not to travel anymore, you get compensation and a refund. Shouldn't it be the same in case of a downgrade?

  12. InLA Guest

    Is the correct “difference in fare” calculated as of the fares posted at the time of booking? If so, who keeps screen shots at the time of booking showing all the cabins available and their prices? I guess I’ll have to start doing this.

    1. Matt Guest

      Was just thinking the same…

    2. Icarus Guest

      It’s based on the date of issue however you wouldn’t be able to calculate it yourself if for example it’s a connecting flight eg London Frankfurt Chicago and downgrade was in the FRA ORD.

  13. Howard Miller Guest

    Usually, when there were schedule and/or equipment changes in advance of departure date that resulted in a downgrade from PE to extra legroom or even Main Cabin seats, all it took was calling (or texting) the airline to get reinstated into the originally booked cabin, provided we were able, or willing, to change our departure time to whenever seats in PE were available.

    Last fall, when our flight in PE was canceled about 5 hours...

    Usually, when there were schedule and/or equipment changes in advance of departure date that resulted in a downgrade from PE to extra legroom or even Main Cabin seats, all it took was calling (or texting) the airline to get reinstated into the originally booked cabin, provided we were able, or willing, to change our departure time to whenever seats in PE were available.

    Last fall, when our flight in PE was canceled about 5 hours before scheduled departure time (EWR-LAX on an international configured wide-body), and the airline (United) rebooked us in Main Cabin on a narrow-body 757-200 with nothing else available that day, we were glad we could get out as planned on a slightly earlier flight, even if 6-hours (actually turned out to be >7 hours due to line of strong thunderstorms passing after boarding) in the much narrower seats & significantly reduced row pitch was less than ideal for us (especially my partner, who has permanently reduced mobility, so 31” pitch usually causes his most impacted leg to seize/severely cramp on flights longer than 2-3 hours).

    However, as Ben notes, the downgrade did not include an automatic refund (or e-credit, which we usually use for our next bookings, so we don’t mind), and required us to contact United to request a refund for the difference in fare for the downgrade to Main Cabin, which was processed immediately.

  14. Beachfan Guest

    I thought there was a distinction between instant upgrade Y fares and business class fare codes. Can you discuss that?

  15. JN Guest

    Getting worse seat type than the one you originally booked, as a result of an aircraft swap should be considered as a downgrade too. Yes, I'm talking about you two (and more)... Korean Air and Qatar Airways.

  16. EndlosLuft Guest

    Have never accepted a downgrade and always insisted that they find me another flight in the same class of service. If it's the next day or later they can put me up in a hotel at their cost. No sense paying for business and flying Economy. But I'm also not in a rush to get anywhere. I always pad my schedule to avoid stress during travel. Fortunately EU law applies on most of my flights.

    ...

    Have never accepted a downgrade and always insisted that they find me another flight in the same class of service. If it's the next day or later they can put me up in a hotel at their cost. No sense paying for business and flying Economy. But I'm also not in a rush to get anywhere. I always pad my schedule to avoid stress during travel. Fortunately EU law applies on most of my flights.

    The airline should be expected to pay for any inconvenience if they make changes that inconvenience the passenger.

  17. Zach Guest

    What’s really important with downgrades is that you lobby the airline to repay the difference (in cash, not vouchers) with regard to the actual difference in original fare.

    If you purchased a business class ticket 6 months out and you are downgraded in the day of travel, the airline might offer you the difference between business and a full fare economy ticket.

    But you are owed the difference between business and the fare you would...

    What’s really important with downgrades is that you lobby the airline to repay the difference (in cash, not vouchers) with regard to the actual difference in original fare.

    If you purchased a business class ticket 6 months out and you are downgraded in the day of travel, the airline might offer you the difference between business and a full fare economy ticket.

    But you are owed the difference between business and the fare you would have purchased in economy 6 months out.

    Case in point: last summer, I had five Mint tickets on JetBlue. They swapped out the plane day of travel, and our family all travelled in back. JetBlue first sent us each $500 vouchers. But I lobbied for the fare difference in cash. They then gave us a refund of a last minute walk up fare and the Mint fare (About $250 per person).

    But the difference should have been $800 per person. I finally spoke with someone in the executive office. They finally offered a refund to the correct amount.

    Yes, they honored the $500 vouchers as well.

  18. Mo Guest

    One time LH screwed up badly and I had to take the next flight but business was full. It iwa united ticket so their agent upgraded me to first but at the check in I was downgraded to economy because they don't want to upgrade, even though it was their mess. Eventually at the gate I was able to get business back but it showed how bad LH can be so I never flew them again

  19. VB Guest

    Ive been donwgraded only once, by Virgin Atlantic. I had booked LHR-BOS to try out the new upper class on the 330neo. On the day of operation they swapped it for a high density A351, with only 16 upper seats, so I got downgraded to premium economy, front row with extra legroom. They gave a choice. Either 100.000 points, or a Red Select voucher for a free return flight in J including taxes. I chose...

    Ive been donwgraded only once, by Virgin Atlantic. I had booked LHR-BOS to try out the new upper class on the 330neo. On the day of operation they swapped it for a high density A351, with only 16 upper seats, so I got downgraded to premium economy, front row with extra legroom. They gave a choice. Either 100.000 points, or a Red Select voucher for a free return flight in J including taxes. I chose the latter. I didnt mind this at all. The premium flight was not bad at all (sure, no J - but it was comfortable enough). They still gave clubhouse access at LHR, and the ground staff and cabin crew were very understanding of the dissapointment it was for passengers. How they handled it has made me a fan of VS. I havent used the voucher yet but look forward to doing so!

  20. Bob Guest

    I was downgraded from F to J on an LH award ticket. LH proactively offered EUR 800 in compensation, which I’m happy with. Should I also be asking for a refund of the difference in miles? If so, should that request go to Lufthansa or Miles & More? Suggestions are much appreciated.

  21. E.T. Guest

    I've only ever been "downgraded" once, but it actually had a happy ending. Last year Aeroflot swapped a 777 for an A350 on a Moscow-Vladivostok flight I had booked. I had booked Comfort Class, but the Comfort Class cabin on the A350 is smaller, and when I checked my reservation, I noticed my seat had been changed to a regular economy seat, and no seats were available to select in the Comfort Class cabin. Since...

    I've only ever been "downgraded" once, but it actually had a happy ending. Last year Aeroflot swapped a 777 for an A350 on a Moscow-Vladivostok flight I had booked. I had booked Comfort Class, but the Comfort Class cabin on the A350 is smaller, and when I checked my reservation, I noticed my seat had been changed to a regular economy seat, and no seats were available to select in the Comfort Class cabin. Since the economy fare for this route is a flat fare no matter what date and time you fly, it was significantly cheaper than (more than 50%) what I had paid. So, I called Aeroflot and asked them to refund the difference. The lady said that she could do that, no problem....or, she could just book me in business class. So I got to try the new business class seat on the Aeroflot A350, which was a treat.

    1. Mark Guest

      I fully expected the "happy ending" was a seat on a different airline.

    2. E.T. Guest

      Aeroflot is a really good airline, sooo, not sure what you mean? Much better than most European and American carriers, anyway.

  22. Icarus Guest

    Eu261 is also badly worded as it is a percentage of the affected sector not the ticket price.

    In a longhaul it’s 75% “cash” or miles even if it’s to Premium Economy v Economy

  23. Matt Guest

    I was flying Delta TATL (J outbound, Y on the return) when mechanical issues lead to 7hours of delays before the flight was cancelled at 1-2am. I was auto rebooked in economy the next day but would then miss meetings I had organized. So I bought a ticket out on the first flight in the morning. Delta wouldn’t let me just cancel the outbound, so had to cancel the full trip and pay last minute...

    I was flying Delta TATL (J outbound, Y on the return) when mechanical issues lead to 7hours of delays before the flight was cancelled at 1-2am. I was auto rebooked in economy the next day but would then miss meetings I had organized. So I bought a ticket out on the first flight in the morning. Delta wouldn’t let me just cancel the outbound, so had to cancel the full trip and pay last minute rates to rebook the Y return which now cost thousands more than it originally did. I received a $250 e credit for the cancelled flight, the downgrade was never acknowledged, and I spent way more than the e credit to fix my trip. I’m still pretty bitter and delta reps never seemed to care. Did I go about something the wrong way?

    1. The nice Paul Guest

      Yes: you should have booked an EU- (or UK-) registered airline, then you would have been eligible for EU261 compensation (or UK261 compensation respectively -- they offer the same benefits).

  24. George Romey Guest

    Generally if you've been upgraded you will be first to be downgraded and in the case of cash upgrades I'm told at AA they would be refunded. Now on very rare occasion (usually a 772 swapped for a 773) I've had AA proactively call me and offer me a modest compensation ($200) to take a downgrade back to coach (really PE).

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Zach Guest

What’s really important with downgrades is that you lobby the airline to repay the difference (in cash, not vouchers) with regard to the actual difference in original fare. If you purchased a business class ticket 6 months out and you are downgraded in the day of travel, the airline might offer you the difference between business and a full fare economy ticket. But you are owed the difference between business and the fare you would have purchased in economy 6 months out. Case in point: last summer, I had five Mint tickets on JetBlue. They swapped out the plane day of travel, and our family all travelled in back. JetBlue first sent us each $500 vouchers. But I lobbied for the fare difference in cash. They then gave us a refund of a last minute walk up fare and the Mint fare (About $250 per person). But the difference should have been $800 per person. I finally spoke with someone in the executive office. They finally offered a refund to the correct amount. Yes, they honored the $500 vouchers as well.

3
Bob Guest

Last summer on an AUS-CLT-MUC itinerary, AA boarded us in AUS, deplaned due to mechanical issues, the replacement that was supposed to be there in an hour took three, got to CLT with enough time to make the connection but then sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes upon arrival, got to the connecting gate just in time to wave goodbye to the plane that was backing out. The only thing AA offered us was CLT-LHR-MUC with a wait of several hours in CLT and nearly 12 in LHR, and on top of that downgraded the final segment (on BA) from business to steerage. We didn't even get a free meal out of AA, let alone any kind of compensation. Repeated complaints to the airline resulted in a whopping 7500 AA miles as compensation.

1
Points Adventure Guest

"As an award passenger, you should be no more likely to be downgraded than anyone else." Unless you're flying Qatar on a partner award.

1
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