My brother-in-law and his family have been in town for the past few weeks courtesy of the 75,000 Avios required to get them up here to Charlotte from Managua. A good time has been had by all, and since they were scheduled to leave Tuesday, May 2, I figured late last week I’d look up the flights to make sure everything was okay for departure.
The return flights were also booked with Avios on American Airlines. I made two separate bookings due to the fact that the available routing for this day had more than a four-hour layover at MIA and therefore didn’t show up in BA’s booking engine as a bookable route. I looked up the CLT-MIA booking: everything was fine. But when I looked up MIA-MGA, I noticed a problem: it was scheduled to leave before the CLT-MIA flight arrived.
How did this happen, you ask? The first thing you need to know is that, for reasons I’ve since forgotten, British Airways emails for my wife’s BA account go to my wife’s email account instead of the account where I keep track of all this stuff. And my wife doesn’t do travel hacking stuff–that’s all me. This is relevant because a few months ago, BA sent out a schedule change email notifying her that her brother’s family’s MIA-MGA 6 pm flight was cancelled and they were being moved to the 12 pm flight, the one which takes off before their connecting flight from Charlotte arrives. They had already sent multiple schedule change emails for this trip, the kind which say “We’re cancelling your 11:39 am flight but rescheduling you for the 11:39 am flight” and don’t require any action, so she didn’t notice this one and I can’t fault her for that.
American was not really on the hook since these were separate bookings done via a partner. British Airways wasn’t really on the hook because, again, separate bookings on a partner. Since the flight was changed we could have moved it to a later MIA-MGA flight, but apparently American switched up their schedules and does not fly to Managua out of Miami after lunchtime on that day. We could have moved to a Managua flight the next day but then they would have to deal with all the luggage and the kids for a brief overnight at the Miami airport, which would also require spending money and/or points on a hotel, plus the possibility of extra baggage fees (they have done a lot of shopping here, which you would totally understand if you’ve ever shopped in Managua)… no thanks.
The next option we looked into was moving them onto an earlier connecting flight. I contacted BA over Twitter (Twitter can be helpful for customer service issues, I recommend it) and explained the situation, but their response was: “The earlier flight from Charlotte isn’t a codeshare available for Avios bookings.”
But, as luck would have it, American Airlines (and by extension, British Airways) had tons of availability the next day on both CLT-MIA and MIA-MGA. AA gets a lot of flak for lack of award availability, and rightfully so, but availability has been known to open up a few weeks before departure. In fact, I successfully planned one leg of a trip once based on this phenomenon. (I also unsuccessfully planned part of a trip using this method as well and had to burn AA miles on AAnytime fares. You win some, you lose some.) In this case, it was wide open, with 7 seats available per flight despite the fact that both flights were almost full.
And this is the latest example of why I like to hoard points & miles. If you cancel an Avios booking, you get your points back pretty quickly. But for some reason, the BA website would not let me cancel the booking online; it just kept giving me the ‘technical difficulties’ message every time I tried. And since the booking was from my wife’s account, she would need to be on the phone to cancel, but she was out for the day with her family and I didn’t want to coordinate a conference call. Fortunately, I have a whole bunch of Avios in my account from trading in a bunch of Marriott points so I booked the tickets before the availability disappeared (because sometimes American makes availability disappear for no reason).
We had to eat some fees but the fees aren’t too bad for this one, I think it was less than $100 for everybody. (Now that I think about it–should I ask BA for the fee refund on the one ticket since that was due to a schedule change?) It was the best solution I could come up with given the situation, though I wonder if somebody more adept at working the airlines might have been able to persuade BA/AA to change to the earlier CLT-MIA flight. Perhaps a HUCA operation would have prevailed? In any case I’ve learned my lesson about attention to detail.