Is Swiss Trying To Cancel Yesterday’s First Class Award Tickets?

Filed Under: Awards, Swiss

Yesterday I wrote about how Swiss first class award availability was bookable using Star Alliance miles. While Swiss released a ton of first class award availability until 2013, starting then they began restricting first class award availability to elite members of the Miles & More program, which makes it one of the most restrictive first class products out there to score on miles.

I managed to book a first class ticket from the US to Europe for just 70,000 Aeroplan miles. Best of all, I transferred over the points from Amex Membership Rewards using a targeted 20% transfer bonus, so my real “out of pocket” was just 59,000 Membership Rewards points, and there were no fuel surcharges. What an outrageously good deal.

This isn’t the first time Swiss first class award availability has been bookable with partner miles in the past few years. Last June there was a brief period where Swiss first class was bookable with partner miles, and that allowed me to fly them from Zurich to Los Angeles.

Anyway, the ticket I booked yesterday confirmed just fine — it shows on Aeroplan’s website, I got an e-ticket receipt, etc. I know the same is true for many others who took advantage of this deal.

However, it looks like Swiss may be thinking of canceling these tickets. Yesterday the tickets pulled up just fine on Swiss’ website, while today many are reporting that Swiss’ website says “your reservation has been deleted” when trying to pull it up.

Nowadays the US DOT doesn’t require airlines to honor all mistake fares, but rather they have to reimburse passengers for any non-refundable expenses incurred from a reliance on the tickets. However, there’s simply no argument to be made here that this was a mistake fare. Passengers were being charged the standard price for a capacity controlled award seat (it’s not even like every single seat was available as an award), so there’s simply no justification for canceling these seats.

So for now we’ll mark this as “developing.” Usually with mistake fares I tend to think that we win some and we lose some, and it’s not always worth fighting them. In this case, I absolutely think Swiss has no grounds for canceling these tickets. They’re not canceling a mistake fare here, but rather are canceling a ticket issued at the agreed upon price.

I’ll reach out to some contacts to see if they know what’s going on, but in the meantime I’d maybe hold off on making too many plans surrounding these tickets. Yesterday I already locked in hotels based on my booking, which I’d never do with a mistake fare, as I always wait a few days. That’s how surprised I am by what Swiss seems to be doing for now.

Comments
  1. I called Swiss after they removed my flights from the reservation. They said I need to contact Aeroplan and that I still hold a valid etix just no flights attached to it.

  2. if the cancellations stick, maybe you should stop giving free ad to LX until they start releasing F to partners …

  3. Side note: It probably doesnt matter at this point, but in general isn’t it somewhat risky (as a blogger) to post an unpixelated screenshot of your booking code (maybe they change their mind and reinstate)?

  4. This is insane.
    So far my outbound is still in tact on swiss.com, but they “deleted” my return which I had to book separately.
    Please get to the bottom of this. If they really try to renege on this I will be furious.

  5. ZRH-HKG (LX O) BKK (TG O)
    Deleted from LX.com and TG.com
    Intact on AP.com

    Appears to have advanced one critical step beyond “..thinking of cancelling…”

  6. Do you think they might try to move folks to biz if they didn’t intend to open First up the space and return the mileage difference ir more?

  7. If these do get cancelled, any chance Aeroplan would let me get my Amex points back (that I had to transfer to get this?) I know thats not normal course of business, but…

  8. Precisely why I didn’t do this. I thought of orphaned points in an orphaned program if it did’t go through.

  9. This is Swiss we are talking about. If they’ve decided to cancel these awards they will cancel 100% they notice and will not balk at a DOT/CTA complaint or lawsuit. But someone please do fight them on this…we beat Swiss on the RGN mistake fare all the way through the Canadian courts until they successfully lobbied the executive branch to intervene.

  10. Some general observations (I am not opining let alone “advising” on the laws of any specific jurisdiction, but just my two cents’ worth):

    1. Agreed that this wouldn’t constitute mistake fares – as in this case Swiss was not even selling (whether in return for cash or in return for their own miles) any of those seats / tickets.

    2. Rather, the tickets involved were mileage tickets issued by partner airlines. In other words, generally speaking, Swiss was not even a party to the contracts (i.e. the mileage tickets). As such, unless the law provides a remedy against a non-party, the passengers involved would not even have a claim against Swiss, and correspondingly Swiss would not even have any liability to the passengers (who, after all, do not hold a Swiss ticket).

    3. Of course, as between Swiss and the partner airlines which issued the tickets, Swiss might incur liabilities. But unless the law allows the passengers to step into the shoes of the partner airlines, Swiss’s liabilities to the partner airlines would in law be none of the passengers’ business. Anyway, the passengers would not be interested in enforcing the partner airlines’ claims against Swiss on those airlines’ behalf.

    4. Nor would the mileage ticketing partner airlines likely be liable to the affected passengers (beyond a full refund of the mileage tickets together with any liabilities resulting from their booking system glitches) – the mileage terms and conditions would clearly have excluded (and, honestly, most of us here would realise this) redemptions on Swiss F.

    5. Of course, all of the above is subject to the governing laws of the individual mileage tickets concerned, in particular laws on consumer protection especially those regarding the sale and purchase of air tickets (including mileage tickets).

  11. I dont want to give too many details, who knows if swiss pa(trolls) your website…my booking is still valid. For the data point: Called Aeroplan to book due to complicated itinerary not bookable online, booked yesterday around 9am, immediately took the time to log-in online and select seats on both air swiss and air Canada flights. Fingers crossed…

  12. Swiss is most likely arguing with star alliance carriers saying they are on the hook for this since their F product shouldn’t be bookable through other programs. They will probably claim that they shut off inventory well before it updated on the aeroplan website and make AC pay cash for all the tickets sold after that point, which is sort of standard procedure when codeshare inventory mistakes happen with one airline filling another airline’s plane with garbage fares.

  13. Aeroplan was very cordial and offered (on their own) to return my miles back to Amex MR as they recognized I had transferred it just to make this booking. However they did say that they couldn’t request seats on other airlines unless they were readily available. So I took Aeroplan up on their offer to return my miles to Swiss

  14. @ Thomas…nice thoughts. But to point #4, the mileage terms and conditions do not exclude Swiss F. They just don’t make it available for the past few years.

  15. @G Fingers crossed for you. I had selected seats on LX and TG, and selected special meal service on TG. I did book around 12P EST and was immediately confirmed on all partners prior to the cancellation this morning

  16. I called Swiss and the agent claims that there is a cancellation notice that came from Gallileo (Air Canada’s system), and that this cancellation notice is not from Amadeus, which is on the Swiss side.

    The agent advised waiting 24-48 hours to let it sort out.

    This is very fishy and I agree with @Lucky — this is not a mistake fare. This was a fare paid at normal prices.

    My AC res is showing up but it does not show up on Swiss when it pulled up fined and confirmed yesterday. So this is very suspect./

  17. @G

    Im in the same boat as you. I booked via phone, im hoping that makes the difference in this situation. Also booked around the same time

  18. The Miles & More SEN and HON lines have told me previously that (during normal periods) Swiss routinely cancels LX F awards mistakenly ticketed by Miles & More staff to non SEN and HON members.

    I am fairly confident Swiss will cancel these tickets.. this is technically different but the same concept to Virgin Australia cancelling those mistake fares recently, all the bloggers and readers knew this was a mistake so they jumped on it, and now all act hard-done by. You win some, you lose some. You knew you were getting something you weren’t entitled to.

  19. @G Booked on-line.. Since I jumped in late (11:30A-coordinating skeds with 3 other family members) I was afraid LX would plug the dyke– so I could not successfully patch in from home airport–*A gateway–ZRH (thinking incorrectly that I had 24 hours to sort that out and the onward HKT). Planned to pay the $79 PP change fee last minute when ex-US F/O space opened up.

  20. Lucky, I don’t understand why you are saying LX has no grounds for canceling these tickets.
    Clearly these tickets were released when they should not have been, so I think LX does have the rights to cancel them.
    What’s wrong with canceling tickets that were not supposed to be bookable in the first place?

  21. Someone puts goods out in the store at the advertised price, they should get to cancel them AFTER sale because they “didn’t mean to”? Everyone could get out of a sale whenever they wanted if that was the case.

  22. Well my tickets disappeared midway through the booking process, so “if I can’t have it, then no one should!”. Kidding… sucks they are canceling. It’s not a mistake fare, so I’m very surprised that they are doing it. We’ve seen all kinds of reward seats released on accident that are bookable and I cannot remember an instance where that has been reverted with cancellations.

  23. As the Arabs say… “Never let the nose of the camel inside the tent”’. The airlines will now expand their interpretation of what a “mistake” is and go on that. They will even start recalling revenue fares that they feel they could sell even higher. Thanks to the asses at the DOT.

  24. Lucky,

    This reminds me have you heard anything back from the match.Com people?

    I think quite a few people that jumped off the cliff with the lemmings are waiting to get their money back. I know a few decided gave up on getting money back and decided to get second wives instead.

  25. My LHR-ZRH-SFO flight was also cancelled. early June. This is bullshit. We didn’t book a fare mistake, etc. Standard award rates!

  26. @Tom because they entered a contract at that price. Whether or not they meant to is irrelevant, at least under US Fed law. To rescind the tickets would be to breach the contract because there is nothing in the agreement that says miles can’t be used to book F. That’s just an internal policy.
    I think Lucky is right on this. And it seems like you have an unusually apt legal mind for someone who hasn’t studied law, Ben. Obvi reading all those Ts&Cs has helped, but I feel like you could really put that to work.

  27. If one could afford the float, one option would be:

    1. Purchase itinerary from Swiss identical to one that was cancelled, but make sure it’s fully refundable.

    2. Sue whomever sold you your ticket for the price of that purchase in small claims court.

    3. Enjoy your flights.

  28. Lucky, you have ticket numbers, so you have a binding contract. But your contract is NOT with Swiss. It is with Aeroplan, who is your travel agent, and/or Air Canada, who issued the tickets.

  29. So, Lets say LX does not honor – Is AC obligated to give the same class of tix purchases on other flights? What are their obligations here?

  30. I think where this does get complicated is the fact that you do not, in fact, have a ticket issued by Swiss. You have a ticket issued by AC (your ticket number will begin with “014”). While the flight is operated by Swiss, the point is that you do not have a contract with them — AC does. Indeed, AC is obliged to fly you between the cities of your ticket, but they do not offer the class of service purchased. My take on this situation is that your rights are limited to demanding AC accommodate you in business class between the ticketed cities on the dates originally purchased and a refund of the difference in cost (in points back to aeroplan) given the involuntary downgrade.

  31. In the words of one of my favorite legal bloggers, “This is why the stupidest person on the internet doesn’t get to tell everyone what the law is.”

  32. @Andy11235 I completely agree, and Aeroplan was willing to (and did) search for alternative ways of getting me from my origin to my destination, and even found a business class alternative and offered to refund the difference in miles. However that didn’t suit my needs so I canceled the ticket.

  33. Spoke to an Aeroplan representative and said it is still under investigation with Swiss and that her supervisor told her not to do any changes on my tickets yet. She also said I will be getting an email from Areoplan in the next couple of days with the outcome.

  34. The legal arguments are intriguing. Couldn’t someone make the case that AC acts as an authorized agent for Swiss and that Swiss is still ultimately responsible for fulfilling orders through a qualified vendor?

  35. Yesterday I switch my return leg (outbound complete) for Dec 5/6th to include Swiss first as the third of 4 segments including an overnight, already paid for, in FRA. Logged in to Swiss and it’s still there. Fingers crossed. Otherwise this is going to be really fun.

  36. I changed my return flight a week ago and flew Swiss First on LX14 today. 70k mile upgrade as LH Senator. Initial ticket was Z Class on LH which you can’t upgrade with LH. Love it !

  37. I’ve seen numerous instances where Aeroplan and Air Canada have issued an award ticket, and the partner airline later came back and said the ticket wasn’t confirmed (this was a perpetual problem with Air China for a few months).

    In every case, the eventual resolution was either for Aeroplan to get Air Canada to open up space (not possible in first class, or to certain destinations), or to purchase revenue tickets. I don’t see why this should be any different.

  38. I learned on FT that the sooner you get your butt on a plane the better.

    So, I flew the first leg yesterday (built in a long stopover). I flew YYZ-SFO in business, AC metal. No issue at checkin counter.

    Now, what will happen if they cancel the rest of my itinerary ‘mid trip’? I am certainly not going to let Aeroplan keep all the miles….

  39. After the DoT changed their rules, this is what u r getting; airlines are completely disregarding the passengers.

    Swiss will surely do that since they do not give a sxxx about passengers. No Star alliance partner will waste any effort to get LX to honor when the DoT allows them to get away.

    If you had transferred miles and is now stuck, too bad. Its no different from all the trouble that you book an error fare and its not honored, only worse as u cannot unwind those points transferred.

  40. Aeroplan HQ is in Quebec and they are governed by civil law. Which clearly states they cannot amend or cancel contract unilaterally!

    11.2. Any stipulation under which a merchant may amend a contract unilaterally is prohibited unless the stipulation also
    (a) specifies the elements of the contract that may be amended unilaterally;
    (b) provides that the merchant must send to the consumer, at least 30 days before the amendment comes into force, a written notice drawn up clearly and legibly, setting out exclusively the new clause, or the amended clause and the clause as it read formerly, the date of the coming into force of the amendment and the rights of the consumer set forth in subparagraph c; and
    (c) provides that the consumer may refuse the amendment and rescind or, in the case of a contract involving sequential performance, cancel the contract without cost, penalty or cancellation indemnity by sending the merchant a notice to that effect no later than 30 days after the amendment comes into force, if the amendment entails an increase in the consumer’s obligations or a reduction in the merchant’s obligations.
    However, except in the case of an indeterminate-term service contract, such a stipulation is prohibited if it applies to an essential element of the contract, particularly the nature of the goods or services that are the object of the contract, the price of the goods or services or, if applicable, the term of the contract.
    Any amendment of a contract in contravention of this section cannot be invoked against the consumer.

  41. God, you people are babies. All this crying and moaning because you don’t get to fly first class. Such deprivation.

  42. Despite the current issue with award tickets, SWISS First is an excellent product – watch out for the SWISS Connoiseur Menu sessions 4 times a year – right now they serve a 4 course dinner with white Alba truffles – wow!

  43. As SWISS own programm Miles&More showed bookable availabilty in First, it cannot be a glitch with *A-Partners alone.
    Would be interesting if anyone who booked through Miles&More is affected by canceled tickets?

  44. @Steve, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, I’m not with Swiss. I’m a bystander who thinks you could all grow up a little.

    Sure, it’s frustrating and disappointing to miss out on something nice that you thought you were going to get, I see that.

    But you all knew this was pretty speculative and if you get your points back then you’ve lost nothing more than the chance to fly first class.

    Not really that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but the collective sense of entitlement and general moaning on here is astounding.

  45. Isn’t this the third or fourth time this happens? You would think Swiss would have it figured out by now.

  46. Well suprise, suprise, looks like someone finally got around to cancelling my ticket this morning, nearly 5 days later…it was an exciting run while it lasted!

  47. My ticket was cancelled also, but only a portion of it and no one bothered to inform me. I was suppose to leave in a few days and they cancelled my seat without any information – was lucky i checked on the Swiss web site. I had paid for the ticket and now they cancelled it. Seems like a breach of contract to me. First class tickets are bookable on Aeroplan sometimes – ive done this before – without them having been cancelled. This is an Aeropaln issue to resolve and they need to step up and do the right thing. I’m now stranded.

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