Wild Week in Airline Travel Plans

Years of experience has taught me that if you can, you should always buy flights directly through the airline you plan to fly with. When there are issues, there is virtually no way they can shift the blame to someone else. Been there done that. Additionally, until this year, I have never had status with any particular airline. Well this week I got to put both issues to the test and then some.

Back in November I went against my own preset rule of always buying flights directly from the airline I plan to fly with. I wanted the mileage multiplier and loyalty points for booking with American, even if I wasn't flying on American. My trip to Tanzania this July is "Marketed by American" but "Operated By Qatar Airways". It was at the time just about an even price to book with Qatar directly - but I got 2x loyalty points and 3x miles just for purchasing the flights through AA with my AA card. This was no small purchase (and we still couldn't afford business class) for us so we just racked up the miles. In fact it seriously helped us move towards Aadvantage Platinum (Oneworld Sapphire) Status. Now at the time of booking I didn't have status - so in order to pick our seats I had to contact Qatar and pay a premium for extra legroom/premium seating. Had I had status - I could have picked those seats for free via a Oneworld agreement between AA and Qatar. But I didn't and that cost me an extra $1000 for the seats - still far cheaper than Business Class.

All was fine until last Wednesday, when I started the process of the e-visas for Tanzania. I knew they were going to want a copy of my return ticket/itinerary, so I logged into the American app and double checked the flights. I knew there was a problem immediately. We were missing an entire leg of our flights - ie. Kilimanjaro back to Doha was gone! Doha back to Boston was there, but there literally was no Kilimanjaro to Doha!! I quickly jump on AA.com - same. I get on the Qatar App which also has our travel plans. Same. WTF?!

So I grab the AA Platinum status 800 number and in less than 5 minutes I was connect to a human. So there's my first win for having status now. The nice agent reviews my itinerary and sees the same thing. It takes her a moment, but then there is the ah ha moment where she realizes there is a glaring issue. Turns out AA no longer markets that flight from Kilimanjaro back to Doha and as such the flight was just dropped/cancelled. I'm stumped - how the heck does this happen. Either AA dropped the flight or Qatar did, but either way I wasn't notified of this. She says I was notified on 4/2 by e-mail. I ask what e-mail address did they use? It was blank she reported. So... I wasn't notified. This is entirely bizarre as I'm an Aadvantage member and I have gotten updates on flight time changes but not for a completely dropped flight?! OK so how do we rectify this. Well it turns out Qatar is operating the exact same flight, at the exact same times, under a different flight number and it will operated by Oman Air. She quickly and efficiently rebooks us on that flight (kind of necessary) and while doing so I ask what happed to my paid seats. She admits they were probably lost as the flight was cancelled and now it's on a completely different plane, so I will need to contact Qatar. Grrr... But in an effort to be accommodating she puts a seat request to Qatar and in 4 hours they tell me the seats are confirmed and yet they cannot send me anything with a new seat confirmation. I check expertflyer and I can see those seats are still open so they have not been assigned (actually most of the flight is open so I think a lot of people haven't caught on to the flight change yet). Hmm

Not wanting to let those seats be lost...I called Qatar. I have my receipt for my seats, but that may not mean a damn thing. But I now have an ace in my sleeve - status. I spoke to a very nice agent who could see our previous flight, our previous seats and how much I paid. And I am correct, those new seats have not been assigned and confirmed. He was willing to speak to his superiors about getting me into new seats minus the cost I previously paid as a courtesy since seat purchases are non-refundable. I was willing to fight that one when I didn't cancel the flight, but I pointed out 3 times that I have status and should not have to pay for seats at all. All I asked was for him to follow his protocol and check my Oneworld status with his superiors. He tells me he will have to call me back in a few minutes and I think well this is not going to end well. In 30 minutes he does in fact call me back, has in fact confirmed I do have status reciprocity and I can in fact chose any seats at no cost. Perfect, all I wanted was the seats I had back. They confirmed the seats in less than 10 minutes, sent me a confirmation e-mail, and expertflyer shows those seats (and many more now) as occupied. I call that a win.

The scary part here is that AA told me that since my other 3 legs are codeshared with Qatar - this issue I went through could happen at any time again in the future if the two companies decide to change the flights. Yikes. Hopefully this time I'll be notified.

2 days later, after the above debacle, I was reading on Reddit about a person using Twitter/X to speak to American Airlines when his Business Class fare dropped $900 to have them reticket him and get a $900 travel credit. It took two messages and it was done. I was stunned that 1. it was so easy to do and 2. that it was even possible to get a credit if the fare dropped. Given that my trip fares have been crazy higher than what I paid I didn't think I would get to test that theory - especially on codeshared fight. Well this Monday I checked and our flights have dropped to what I calculated was ~ $200 per person less x 4 people. So I tested the theory. American Airlines on Twitter/X was amazing. I gave them my name, copassengers names and my record locator and they determined in ~15 minutes that it would be a trip credit of ~$280 per person and that all my seats I paid/pick on Qatar would still remain intact. All I had to do was approve the reticketing and they would do their magic. 18 minutes later I had 4 trip credit emails! Wild - that absolutely offset the cost of the seats I paid!

What a crazy week with the American Airlines and Qatar Airways! Bonus points for my 4 Tanzania e-visas being approved today!


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    What a nightmare!
    Our local airport is Philly. They used to fly Qatar to Doha, but AA took it over, so that’s how we got here in Doha right now, on a much less impressive experience. Not a fluke, this is the second time with this new arrangement.
    When we fly to Tanzania in July, we deliberately decided to go via JFK so the family can experience Qatar air even if they are in economy and we are in business. We have status but had to pay extra for them to sit nearer the front of the plane because we have a tight connection. Actually, we are worried about missing it. Just yesterday, a friend flew from JFK on that first flight and missed her connection to Singapore. Another ti,e, going to the Tauck Arabian cruise, we made the flight but our luggage didn’t.
    We will have to check our flights when we get home, don’t have the details to do it from here. We booked with Amex

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    I had a similar experience with American - they cancelled one leg of our flight to Morocco and never informed us. We didn't find out until we got to JFK and tried to check in to Royal Air Maroc (It was an Anmerican codeshare, and booked through American). I try to avoid American now.

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    I had a similar experience with United/Egypt Air. For no apparent reason (and no notification), Egypt Air cancelled by Cairo to Frankfurt leg. I called the United Status 800 number and they reinstated the flight without any explanation as to why Egypt Air cancelled the leg. It happened a second time about a month later and at that point, I asked United to rebook the leg on another airline (Lufthansa), which they did with no fees.

    Moral of the story - always check your scheduled flights on a regular basis.

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    Another moral: use a travel agent to do all this for you! That’s their job. Just an idea.

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    As well as using Tauck for air. Just another suggestion.

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    edited April 18

    @British - thanks for the sympathies. I'm just glad I sorted it all out. Out flights to and from Boston are on Qatar A350-900's. But the biggest complaint I've heard is that they don't run the Q-Suite planes on that route. Doesn't affect me much in economy though. For future reference though - if you've got status on AA at Platinum or higher (ie. Sapphire Oneworld or Emerald Onworld) and all passengers are on the same reservation under you, you ARE able to choose seats (extra-legroom or premium seating) for free. You have to make sure your Aadvantage number is on the reservation you have to call Qatar directly.

    @BKMD - I've been checking weekly. I just got complacent that last week between work, eclipse travel, and well - I thought I get notified of change like that since had been notified of a departure time change of 15 minutes before. LOL

    @OurTravels34 - yeah, I know folks like using travel agents. It's never been my thing. But I get it.

    @kfnknfzk - using TauckAir has pros and cons. The pros are pretty big, but they come at a hefty price tag too when they have contracts with only so many options for airlines, flights and times and they also are typically much higher in cost than what our family could find for both our Danube trip in 2022 as well as this Tanzania trip.

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    Dogdoctor. The others in our group did not have status, that’s why we had to pay for their seat choices. We have never used travel agents since we moved to the US, apart from when we took a trip with friends with a a British TA. Their flights were more expensive.

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    @British - are you sure you couldn't get their seats covered?

    The rule has been that as long as one traveler on the booking (same reservation) has status, then the companions on that reservation (regardless of status and regardless of who booked) get those benefits as well. I am not sure if there is limit on the number of companions though. You may want to look into that.

    So, for example on that leg I had issues with - I now have 2 extra legroom seats and the 2 seats right behind it (first two rows behind business class) but you can't pick the seats online. You have to call and speak to an agent force the issue with your status. I know how much I paid for seats for 4 people x 4 flights (and I bought them all over the course of 3 days to get the cheapest price per seat as they do vary day to day for some reason) - so I can only imaging how much you/your family paid for all your economy seats! :#

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