A few weeks ago, I wrote about finally booking a round the world Air Canada / Aeroplan award for a trip my son and I are planning on taking to Japan. It took quite a bit of planning and 352,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (transferred with a since-expired 30% bonus to Aeroplan), but we had it booked.
(SEE ALSO: Booking a (nearly) round the world Aeroplan award for 2023)
Since there are still a few months to go before the trip happens, I have gotten a few notifications of different flight changes. Most of them were not that big of a deal – moving the departure or arrival time by a few minutes either way. But then… I got a whopper of a schedule change. My flight from Osaka to Seoul was now scheduled to arrive at 6:30 p.m., one hour AFTER my Etihad flight from Seoul to Abu Dhabi was supposed to take off. This is not the first time I’ve had to overcome airlines making me time travel, but I knew it would require a call into Air Canada.
Watching my reservation for changes
I had been monitoring my reservations for changes, which is something that is an absolute necessity, especially on longer or more complicated reservations. I like to refer to this as “gardening” your reservations, and it’s a good habit to get into.
Thankfully, both Air Canada and Etihad have been very proactive with sending me text and email alerts of changes, but even if they don’t, it’s a good idea to double check periodically, because sometimes your reservation changes without you even noticing it!
(SEE ALSO: Exhibit #143 why it pays to proactively check your reservations)
In fact, a schedule change can often save or drastically improve your existing flight, by allowing you to open up award availability that is or was not available to the general public.
Prepping for the big call
Given that I was on the phone for 4 hours with Air Canada when I originally booked this flight, it was a call that I was not looking forward to making. In fact, I had it on my schedule to do for nearly a week before I managed to get up the mental energy to make the call.
Ugh – I am trying to psych myself up to be on the phone with Air Canada for 2 hours trying to fix an award ticket. Anyone got any sage words of wisdom for me?
— Points with a Crew (@PointsWithACrew) February 16, 2023
Part of the problem was that I also needed to check Air Canada’s website to see what kind of options I might have to get back home from Japan. Tragically, the flight I was trying to take (and had confirmed seats on) was completely cancelled, and none of the nearby Etihad flights had any award availability. I checked on Facebook, and the consensus was that Air Canada was not going to be able to open up space on Etihad or any partner flights.
My only saving grace was that Air Canada itself flies from both Seoul and Tokyo. So I thought there might be a chance that they might be able to open up space on their own metal. The only possible spanner in the works was that it was showing an outrageous price for those flights on Air Canada’s website, so I wasn’t sure if that would work or not or if that was “saver” availability (whatever that means in 2023)
Calling Air Canada / Aeroplan
I had had the most success calling into Air Canada early in the morning, so I started my call at 8:10 a.m. After button-mashing my way through the phone tree, I was on hold for almost exactly one hour before an agent picked up. The agent was very friendly and we started looking at alternatives.
One thing that she said (that I had heard before with other tickets) is that I could change the routing and dates but couldn’t change the departure or origin of any of the legs. So my flight had
- Outbound – Washington (IAD) to Tokyo (NRT)
- Return – Osaka (KIX) to Cincinnati (CVG)
I tried to add an outbound Tokyo to Osaka leg on my outbound, but she said that would change the ticket and cause it to have to be repriced. I was wanting to do that to mix up the order of my trip but I didn’t want to risk the ticket repricing.
Another interesting tidbit was that when she searched for Osaka to Tokyo flights directly, nothing showed up in her system (or on Aeroplan’s website)
That was frustrating since ANA (a Star Alliance partner of Air Canada) runs like 10+ flights a day between the two cities. But I guess they don’t make the direct flights available to partners.
UNLESS…. you add a longhaul segment. If I searched for Osaka to Toronto (or even better, Osaka all the way to Cincinnati), then the Osaka to Tokyo segments showed up. Not all of the available flights, but enough that we were able to find something that works, even if it will require an airport change in Tokyo.
And the Air Canada / Aeroplan agent was able to add us to the Air Canada Tokyo – Toronto flight on my original award with no problem, even though it was showing over 440,000 Aeroplan miles for just that segment. I’m not sure why Aeroplan pricing on actual Air Canada flights is so weird, and I don’t know if it would fit into the award chart on an initial booking, but on a rebooking it worked just fine.
The Final Result
Even though it took 2 hours on the phone (and several hours of prep), we were able to get the ticket fixed so that it a) didn’t require time travel and b) got us an extra 1.5 days in Japan. We traded 2 longhaul Etihad flights for 1 Air Canada flight, but while flying business class is fun, I’m sure we will be just fine actually on the ground in Japan :-). We will still be flying Etihad business class from Abu Dhabi to Tokyo, so I’ll get a chance to review that then. Plus this way, we are actually going ALL the way around the world, instead of only MOST of the way around the world.
What has your experience been like fixing tickets with Air Canada / Aeroplan (or other airlines)? Leave your thoughts in the comments below
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