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

This week I undertook several award booking adventures.

Unable to book Japan Airlines (JAL) with Alaska miles

First I set out to book Japan Airline using my Alaska miles. It all seems easy enough and Japan Airlines shows up in the award booking search at Alaska Airlines website.

I used the Multi-City option to plan for my free stop-over in Japan and went to teh booking screen. And that’s where it stopped being easy. The booking would not confirm.

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

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 from me. Once it was all set the had the same issue – the space shows available but would not confirm. Alaska can book into U and D class for Japan Airlines.

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. IT will remove Japan Airlines soon from the website. That sounded just wrong.

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

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

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

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 make changes and waive any fees right away. That was great!

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

However the agent mentioned that there is a ‘problem booking Kenya Airways’ for months now and nobody at Delta can 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 been relying 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 an almost two hour call.

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 using Cathay Pacific. I had an active hold on a trip that was setup by an agent in just a few minutes. I expected no issues booking tickets that are on hold.

The agents was very confused when I gave her the record locator and just mumbled that that the reservation was cancelled. It showed ‘on hold’ for me so I was really confused. She proceeded and tell me that she now needs to ‘cancel it’ and 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 (hold 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?