Award Booking Adventures – Unable to Book Japan Airlines with Alaska miles and Kenya Airways with Delta SkyMiles and Cathay’s new rules

Posted on October 7, 2017 by in AAdvantage, Cathay Pacific Reviews, Travel Deals

This week I undertook several award booking adventures

Unable to book Japan Airlines (JAL) with Alaska miles

Cheap flights to Okinawa

First, I set out to book Japan Airlines using my Alaska miles. It all seems easy enough and Japan Airlines shows up in the award booking search on the Alaska Airlines website. Alaska can book into U and D class for Japan Airlines.

I used the multi-city option to plan my free stopover in Japan and went to the booking screen. And that’s where it stopped being easy. The booking would not confirm.

I tried again a few hours later, with the same result.

This happens and award bookings can be rough on a website, so I called a friendly Alaska agent and she queried the route data again for me. Once it was all set, she had the same issue – the space shows available but would not confirm.

I told her that I had that issue before and if she could ask the ‘partner liaison’. So she did but came back with the rather surprising answer that ALL space on Japan Airlines is phantom and neither business nor economy class can be booked AT ALL and that Japan Airlines would soon be removed from the website. That just sounded wrong.

I called American Airlines AAdvantage and requested the same itinerary and the agent put it on hold in seconds. She mentioned no issue booking it and the hold would make sure that the seats were really bookable (and the partner airline would also confirm this).

So I called Alaska back and told them what had just happened with American and got the usual spiel that ‘award space is different…’ I requested a supervisor who shared his own frustrations of the discrepancy for many partners between the availability feed and actual bookable space. I told him that American could book it just fine though.

He eventually gave in and set up a ‘manual booking’ that could be confirmed by Japan Airlines within 24 hours. Of course, they did and when I called the next morning, the ticket was issued in seconds.

Why does award booking have to be so difficult?

Using Delta SkyMiles for Kenya Airways

Japan Airlines

I had an active award booking for Madagascar which I intended to visit next week. Alas, the island is in the midst of a plague outbreak that has killed several people in the capital – not something you want to try yourself.

I called Delta and the agent was open to making changes and would waive any fees right away. That was great!

The only option I was interested in was to going to Nairobi instead and connecting with Kenya Airways. Kenya Airways is a Flying Blue partner and in terms of award bookings is a core partner of SkyTeam.

However, the agent mentioned that there had been a ‘problem booking Kenya Airways’ for months now and nobody at Delta could issue tickets using Delta SkyMiles with Kenya Airways. It does not show up online – only agents can book it.

I eventually got through to the partner desk and they eventually agreed and opened up a revenue booking class for my booking. At SkyTeam, this is often a last resort help that I have relied on a couple of times. Flying Blue agents seem to do that on a general basis.

The agent was apologetic but made the changes eventually and the ticket was re-issued after a call of almost two hours.

Why does award booking have to be so difficult?

Booking an award on Cathay Pacific using AAdvantage miles

I also booked an award using AAdvantage miles on Cathay Pacific. I had an active hold on a trip that was set up by an agent in just a few minutes. I expected no issues booking tickets that were on hold.

The agent was very confused when I gave her the record locator and just mumbled that the reservation was canceled. It showed ‘on hold’ for me so I was really confused. She proceeded to tell me that she now needed to ‘cancel it’ and to re-create it. That’s certainly not what I wanted.

I asked for a supervisor and she told me that Cathay Pacific now rejects any reservations (held or ticketed) without a middle name unless they are noted with ‘no middle name’. I actually have no middle name – so the reservation was ‘rejected’ by Cathay Pacific automatically.

The supervisor took a good 30 minutes with the ‘partner liaison’ to re-create the reservation and queue it for ticketing again.

This hasn’t ticketed yet but I’m hopeful it will.

Why does award booking have to be so difficult?

About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]

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