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Emily: I’ve been collecting miles and points for 8+ years now. And for the past few years, I have only booked flights for myself and my partner. But lately, I’ve had a fantastic time traveling with family – my cousin Jered and his wife, Jen.
Last year was the first time I’ve planned a trip for 4, primarily by myself, using miles and points. Daraius and I took trips with our parents before, but he did all the planning & booking. Now, I was faced with the excitement (and challenge!) of finding 4 seats on Business Class flights to and from Europe.
Jered and Jen had never experienced Business Class before. So I wanted to treat them to a memorable vacation! Plus we were flying out of different airports, and I wanted us to meet up in New York for our international flight together.
Eventually, I successfully booked their flights out of California and our flights out of Texas with a meet up in New York for our international flight to Paris. Or so I thought.
I sent the confirmations to them. But none of us reviewed them closely. The morning of our departure, I got a text from Jered that said they couldn’t find their flight reservation out of San Jose, California (SJC) because it was accidentally booked out of San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO)!
Jen: Jered and I were so excited for our first trip to Europe. It was perfect the adventure would begin in France because I had wanted to visit Paris since I was a child. We’ve had mishaps with being late for flights before. And because of the unpredictability of traffic in the Bay Area, I decided to book an Airbnb in San Jose for the night prior to our departure. We were 15 minutes from the airport with no chance of getting stuck in traffic.
The morning of, we were excited about the amazingly generous Business Class flight Emily had booked for us. We couldn’t wait to fly in luxury.
There was a bit of a line at the check-in counter (Emily had advised we go to the counter to ensure our checked luggage would go directly to Paris). When it was our turn, I marched confidently up to the airline agent to check in for our flight to Newark.
I did not expect the agent’s response, “There are no more flights departing to Newark.” I was sure he had made a mistake. I showed him the giant QR code – “Newark. 9:00 am. See?” I said.
And with the utmost casualness, he replied, “Oh, that’s San Jose, Costa Rica. We get a couple of those every week.”
I think I just stared at him for a few seconds in shock. Luckily, Jered took action and began texting Emily. It became a very nerve-wracking debacle for about half an hour (and I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be making it to France that day). But by some great fortune, Emily managed to book us different flights to Paris from San Francisco minutes before she had to board her own flight!
Emily: I lost my appetite, whipped out my laptop, and searched United Airlines, American Airlines, and Kayak.com frantically for ANY flights to get them to New York for their connecting flight later that day. I only had ~15 minutes before my flight was due to board. So didn’t have much time for re-booking. I ended up finding a flight that would get them to New York in time for their connection, and there were 2 seats left. So I started the re-booking process.
But as soon as I clicked on “complete booking,” I got an error message that said to call the airline. According to the agent, there was only 1 seat left, and not 2! During that time, I had instructed Jered and Jen to switch airports and fly out of San Francisco instead of San Jose. But there was only 1 seat flying out of San Francisco!
Agghh!! It was back to square one. So instead of getting them to New York, I looked at flights going to Paris. I found award flights from San Francisco to Paris, with a layover in Chicago. I booked this flight the same day, and used a TOTAL of 60,000 United Airlines miles (30,000 miles per person X 2 people). The total cost for the coach flights was ~$160 ($75 per ticket for a late booking fee plus ~$10 in fees).
Pro Tip: If you have the United MileagePlus® Club Business Card or United MileagePlus® Club Card, late booking fees are waived. If you don’t have either of those cards, here’s a post on how you might be able to avoid United Airlines’s late ticketing fees.
Alfy and I continued our journey and were sad to not see Jered and Jen in New York. But we were very happy the flights worked out and we would see each other in Paris, with our flights landing within 2 hours of each other!
In New York, we stopped at the United Club lounge. While in the lounge, I called Aeroplan to cancel Jen and Jered’s tickets and to check if I could get my miles back. Instead of issuing a refund, they held the miles for a future trip to be used in the next year. If I had canceled 21 or more days out, I would have gotten a full refund.
Update: I did end up successfully re-booking Jered and Jen for another trip and made full use of the miles on hold! But more on that in another trip report. 🙂
Everyone makes mistakes, including miles and points mistakes. When booking your travel plans, be sure to TRIPLE check names, birthdates, and airports. Especially when it comes to group travel because the more flights you book, the probability for mistakes can increase.
You can usually make changes within 24 hours of booking. And having an emergency stash of points can really help in booking last minute flights!
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made when collecting or redeeming your points?