On December 7, 2017, I filed a complaint with the DOT regarding an Aeroplan award ticket for travel in Swiss first class that was canceled. As a reminder, on November 30, 2017, Swiss made some first class award seats available through partner programs. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened — for example, last year a similar thing occurred, and Swiss honored all those tickets (I even flew them in first class from Zurich to Los Angeles).
While Aeroplan issued the tickets, Swiss unilaterally decided to cancel them.
I had never filed a DOT complaint before, but figured this was an occasion on which it would be interesting to do so. What makes this different than other situations is that this wasn’t a mistake fare — this was an award ticket sold at the published cost.
Well, two weeks after my complaint with Swiss was filed, I got an email from Rosemary at Swiss, who is an “Expert.” On the email she CCed the DOT. Here’s the email, in its entirety:
Dear Mr. Schlappig:
We received your correspondence from the Department of Transportation, in regard to your booking using your Aeroplan miles for travel on SWISS.
The reservation you purchased on November 30, 2017 was an erroneously published fare that was not calculated, published, or sold by SWISS. The affected itineraries were all mileage award tickets booked via Aeroplan on Air Canada ticket stock for one-way and round-trip travel in first class, despite the fact that award bookings are not permitted in First Class by SWISS as evidenced on the Aeroplan Miles Flight Reward Chart attached hereto.
Your ticket was issued without SWISS’ knowledge or approval. Swiss did not make any changes in our reservation system or have any procedural changes that would have authorized the bookings. The fare you purchased was clearly made available by Aeroplan in error. Pursuant to Rule 005(F) of SWISS’ tariff, which is part of the contract of carriage between SWISS and its passengers, “SWISS reserves the right to cancel reservations and/or tickets issued with an erroneously quoted fare . . .” and “void the purchased ticket . . .” please see attached SWISS tariff.
As soon as SWISS became aware of the erroneous fare, SWISS cancelled those tickets, and promptly contacted Aeroplan. Unfortunately, SWISS has no control over tickets issued by its interline partners. We are happy to see that Aeroplan has contacted the passengers affected by this to personally arrange first or business class redemption on another Star Alliance carrier or reinstate miles free of charge.
We realize, in light of the competitive nature of the airline industry, there is no guarantee of continued patronage and we are appreciative of your support.
What I find most interesting about this letter is how Swiss claims they literally have no responsibility in having made this made inventory available:
- “An erroneously published fare that was not calculated, published, or sold by SWISS”
- “Pursuant to Rule 005(F) of SWISS’ tariff, which is part of the contract of carriage between SWISS and its passengers, ‘SWISS reserves the right to cancel reservations and/or tickets issued with an erroneously quoted fare . . .'”
It’s clear that Swiss is completely throwing Aeroplan and Air Canada under the bus here. They make it sound as if Aeroplan somehow opened up these award seats, though it’s not my understanding that this is what happened (after all, partner airlines can’t offer more seats than the operating airline directly makes available).
To suggest that this is being canceled on the grounds of this being an “erroneously quoted fare” is simply untrue. The ticket was booked at the published fare.
Anyway, this makes for an unfortunate situation. I think Swiss is really the airline responsible here, since it’s my understanding that they’re the ones who made the award space available, and they’re also the ones who canceled the tickets. They’re just refusing to take any accountability here. At the same time, they’re not completely off base in shifting blame, since ultimately my contract was with Aeroplan, since they issued my ticket.
What do you make of Swiss’ response to this situation?