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).
On December 21, 2017, I shared the response that Swiss sent me regarding my DOT complaint, and then later that day I shared the email I sent back, as I thought their response was bogus.
As a reminder, here’s the email I sent to Swiss:
Thank you for taking the time to reply to me, though I’d like to address some of the claims you m ake, as they don’t match my understanding of the events.
To start, your claim is that SWISS is not responsible for making these award seats available, and that “the affected itineraries were all mileage award tickets booked via Aeroplan on Air Canada ticket stock.” This is simply not true, as I know several people who also made bookings through other partner programs, including United MileagePlus. However, their tickets haven’t been canceled, even though the conditions were identical. Could you please explain how this wasn’t SWISS’ error if several airlines had access to these seats, and why only Aeroplan tickets were targeted for cancelation? Are you suggesting that partner airlines manipulated SWISS inventory to make these seats available, or how would other airlines have been able to book SWISS seats in the “O” fare class if it wasn’t SWISS making those seats available?
You also make the claim that SWISS first class travel is “not permitted” by Aeroplan. The footnote in Aeroplan’s award chart (which I hadn’t actually seen until after my ticket was canceled, and which otherwise doesn’t in any way show during the booking process) states that SWISS first class awards are “not available,” which is different than stating that travel in SWISS first class is not permitted. But clearly that wasn’t the case, since it was available when I booked.
For reference, I actually redeemed Aeroplan miles for a SWISS first class ticket from Zurich to Los Angeles back in June 2016, and that ticket was flown without any sort of issue. Could you explain what has changed between then and now?
Next, you make the claim that this was handled promptly. While SWISS may have canceled the tickets quickly, it was two weeks from the time I booked until anyone reached out to me to inform me that my ticket had been canceled. I wouldn’t call that swift communication on the part of any party. Do you consider that to be adequate communication to passengers when SWISS unilaterally decides to cancel a ticket?
[DOT Representative], I hope that the DOT can appreciate that this was not an “erroneously” published fare, but rather this was a first class award ticket booked at the published price, virtually identical to the one that I booked and flew last year. No attempt was made to contact me regarding my ticket until two weeks after I booked, and SWISS seems to be honoring some airline partner award tickets, but not others.
I look forward to your response, Rosemary.
Just a few minutes ago I received an email from a “consultant” at Swiss (the previous email was from someone who referred to themselves as an “expert” — quite some job titles they have over there). Here’s the email I received (over a month after I emailed them), essentially telling me to pound sand):
Dear Mr. Schlappig:
We understand you are disappointed in the handling of the error in the Aeroplan First class award bookings on Swiss. We further regret that our original response did not meet your expectations.
As you are aware, all customers who requested First Class Aeroplan Award space on Swiss have been offered three alternatives. We trust that one of the following options will meet or minimize any impact on your travel needs.
1) Rebooking in First Class on other carriers than LX
2) Reprotection into Business Class on LX
3) Full refund of miles
We again ask for your understanding that First Class Award redemption on Swiss flights is limited to HON Circle and Senator members of airlines participating in the Miles & More program. This limitation is known throughout the industry and is clearly published. While great strides have been made to harmonize the IT solutions of the Star Alliance partners, these IT systems are not infallible and in exceptional cases (i.e. system failures) a First Class Award booking is made erroneously. As you experienced in November 2017, when an individual error is identified, published in public forums and exploited, the error is amplified drawing the attention of the involved carriers. Due to the magnitude of the exploitation in this case, Swiss was required to take appropriate action.
We respect your right to disagree or further express your disappointment, however, we ask you to do so respectfully, professionally and without malice towards individual employees. As we have replied satisfactorily to the DOT and all customers have received alternatives, we consider the matter closed.
Not surprisingly, their response doesn’t address any of my concerns or points, but rather is just dismissive throughout, and now they “consider the matter closed” (which I guess is exactly what I was expecting). Conveniently they don’t address why they didn’t honor Aeroplan tickets but did honor other Star Alliance tickets. They’re also dishonest in the options they claim they offered, as most of us weren’t offered rebooking in first class on another Star Alliance airline.
I’m not sure where things go from here. I filed a DOT complaint because I was genuinely curious to see the DOT’s stand on this, rather than because I insist on flying Swiss first class. As this is my first DOT complaint, the part I’m not sure of is where the DOT’s involvement would be here.
The DOT is CCed on all of the correspondence, but is there a certain point at which they get involved, or they just sort of sit there and watch?
I’ll probably just cut my losses at this point. Like I said, I’ve been going through this exercise more because I’m curious about how it works than anything. I’m certainly put off my Swiss’ arrogance, dismissiveness, and dishonesty, but I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Live and Let’s Fly says he’s going to sue, so I’ll be watching from the sidelines with popcorn.
What do you make of Swiss’ response?