Aeroplan award bookings made with Swiss First Class are being cancelled. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s going on?
On November 30, 2017, Swiss released First Class award space into the Star Alliance award system, known as StarNet. For a short period of time, First Class award space could be booked by Star Alliance partner loyalty programs, including Aeroplan, United, and ANA.
Swiss First Class is not usually bookable by Aeroplan or Star Alliance partners. Indeed, Swiss’s own loyalty program, Miles&More, only releases First Class award availability to their most elite frequent flyer members. In this case, any Miles&More member was able to book these seats.
I booked three tickets on Swiss First Class using Aeroplan:
- Montreal to Istanbul with a segment on Turkish
- Naples to Montreal on Swiss
- Geneva to Montreal on Swiss
To make these bookings, I had to pay over $600 in change/cancellation fees to existing reservations.
On December 1, 2017, reports emerged online that Swiss was cancelling Aeroplan tickets. While reservations appear intact on Aeroplan and Air Canada’s websites, when trying to pull reservations on Swiss’s website, a message appears saying that the booking is deleted.
As of today, Aeroplan has not communicated with members. Tickets remain valid, and flights appear properly booked on Aeroplan and Air Canada. However, since the reservation has been deleted from Swiss’s system, passengers cannot fly on these tickets.
According to what I’ve seen online, it appears that only flights booked using Aeroplan miles have been cancelled. I have not seen any reports of passengers who used United or Miles&More having received a cancellation. Aeroplan has NOT contacted members.
On December 1, 2017, Aeroplan’s Public Relations department emailed a number of bloggers with a statement:
I can assure you that we are not pleased with the situation.
Our members are our priority and Aeroplan will assist affected passengers. We are investigating the situation as to what exactly happened and why these reservations were cancelled. Working with Swiss and Air Canada, we should know more about that early next week.
Since then, reports have not been positive. All I’ve seen is passengers contacting Aeroplan only to be told that they’d be accommodated on other flights or receive a full refund. So far, Aeroplan is refusing to accommodate passengers on revenue or award seats in Swiss First Class. It appears that most bookings containing Swiss First Class flights are being cancelled, regardless as to whether they were booked online, with an Aeroplan phone agent, or paired with other airlines.
(I am not a lawyer and this is my personal opinion.)
Aeroplan is a Quebec-based corporation, and the contract between passengers and Aeroplan is subject to Quebec law if the passenger was in Quebec when the ticket was booked. For residents outside Quebec, Ontario law applies pursuant to s. 33 of the Aeroplan General Terms and Conditions.
Under both Quebec and Ontario law, Aeroplan has little protection. There was a valid contract pursuant to s. 1388 of the Civil Code of Quebec. Aeroplan may attempt to rely on s. 1400 of the Code, which protects them in cases of error, but they simply don’t meet the bar for a s. 1400 defence. That defence requires an extreme and obvious error AND requires a clause in the contract that allows them to cancel for error (Faucher v. Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd.). This was not an extreme and obvious error, nor was the alleged error a fundamental aspect to the contract. Aeroplan has a clause in their Terms and Conditions that allows them to cancel a booking if there was an error as to price, but not as to the booking of a flight (that they didn’t intend to book).
Under Ontario law, Aeroplan may attempt to argue unilateral mistake. The rule on unilateral mistake would allow Aeroplan to void the contract if there was a mistake as to something fundamental to the contract, and the buyer knew or ought to have known it was a mistake.
Aeroplan was given Swiss First Class award space through StarNet, and put it out on their distribution platform. Perhaps Swiss made a mistake in releasing that award space, but Aeroplan did not. Aeroplan clearly did not make a mistake in the legal sense. Further, any alleged mistake is not fundamental to the contract – fundamental mistake refers to something like price, not stocking something on your shelf that the manufacturer (Swiss) didn’t intend to offer.
So either under Quebec or Ontario law, Aeroplan is vulnerable to legal claims for breach of contract. Further, they are vulnerable to claims made to the Office de la protection du consuommateur (Quebec’s consumer protection agency).
If you contact Aeroplan right now with an impacted booking, they’ll tell you that Swiss has cancelled the ticket due to mistake. They will either rebook your ticket on something else that is currently available or refund your booking. They are not re-booking Swiss First Class in award or revenue space. However, if you decline these options, they are not changing your booking.
I’m in close contact with Aeroplan regarding these developments. This is the most recent message I’ve received (December 5, 2017):
We are still investigating the situation and working with our partners. For now the protocol is for agents to look for first class/J class redemption on another Star Alliance carrier or offer to reinstate miles free of charge as first class on LX is not currently an option.
I think Aeroplan is trying to make things right, and Swiss is screwing them over. But at the end of the day, Aeroplan is a travel agent and my contract for the flight is with them. Legally speaking, I don’t believe Aeroplan has a shot at defending any claims made against it. Historically, Aeroplan has been good about honouring bookings and making their customers whole. I remain confident that Aeroplan will make things right.
So what’s the best thing to do at this point? Wait?
I had called in earlier, and they said i have 48 hours to approve the change in itinerary on air canada business, or cancel my booking. Can they enforce the 48 hour rule? Or is this bs. I live in Quebec, and am thinking about making a formal complaint.
I think the agent misspoke. I would just wait.
I believe the 48 hours was referring to the new itinerary…i think they put the ‘replacement’ itinerary on ‘hold’ for 48 hours. Should i make a compliant right away here in Quebec or wait for a decisive response from Aeroplan? My flight isnt until may, but if this doesnt work out, want to get Airfrance business booked asap…plan on paying for First class service in CDG.
I’d wait until the end of the week for Aeroplan to formally respond.
Isn’t their argument that this is a price mistake? Their award chart does not offer award pricing for Swiss F class, as there is a footnote that says Swiss F is not available for awards. Saying that 70k miles is fair/normal price is a null argument when the chart doesn’t offer a price point for it. They’re most likely working with their lawyers to see if they are within their right to cancel these tickets.
It can’t be a “price mistake” since the alleged mistake wasn’t regarding price, but the availability of the thing for sale. That form of alleged mistake isn’t a sufficient defense in Quebec or Ontario to void the contract. Further, the statement you’re referring to says “SWISS First Class is not available for reward travel.” It doesn’t say that Swiss F can’t be booked, just that it’s not available. As a contract of adhesion, the rule contra proferentem applies. I’d defer this issue to ambiguity.
My travel is close to the 30/60 day window of the US DOT response limit. I went ahead and filed a complaint against SWISS (with details of how I booked of course) with the DOT. I told them I wasn’t sure who cancelled the ticket because SWISS blamed it on Aeroplan initially, although we know it was SWISS.
I’m assuming filing a DOT complaint against SWISS won’t affect this negatively should Aeroplan make customers whole?
Did DOT give you a case number and accept the complaint? I do not see how they can help because no US law was violated. This happened outside of the US, and the normal DOT complaints are for fights to and from the US.
My flight originates in the US, why wouldn’t the DOT have jurisdiction? SWISS was in the dropdown box to file a complaint, why else would they have SWISS on the list?
I just don’t understand how ANY authority could allow this as a precedent. From everything I’ve read SWISS is much less customer focused, borderline arrogant, in these type of cases but you better believe other airlines are watching what is going on. With the direction award charts are going there is nothing to keep them from saying “Whoops, we didn’t mean to release that seat.” for any reason in the future.
I didnt file the DOT complaint agasint Swiss, I did against AC, as they were the ones that I had the K with.
so it seems like theymare trying to get rid of as many tix (either by rebooking or refunds) as possible now to clear it up a bit…
It’s simple – there’s a contract and Aeroplan breached it. They received payment for a booking and they try to back out of the contract with no penalty. This is illegal, and worse, it ruined my entire travel plans this month. They didnt even inform me before my flight – i would have showed up at the airport and be stranded.
I tweeted to Swiss and here is their response: “I have checked with our support team and apparently, Aeroplan has made your booking but did not issue the tickets in the right way and that is why your ticket have been automatically cancelled by SWISS. Unfortunately, we do not have the right to touch a mileage booking from our end, we kindly ask if you can contact Aeroplan so they may reinstate your flights”
So – who to believe, Swiss or Aeroplan? My flights are in 3 weeks and (silly me!) I cancelled my ‘backup’ flight as soon as I saw myself ticketed on Swiss website (and was even able to select seats)… should I wait? …
My flights are also in 3 weeks. filed a DOT claim but dont expect it to be resolved by then. I dont see your tweet…wanted to respond to it
@T – the Swiss Twitter team is unreliable and frequently spouts incorrect information. (For example, they told me I couldn’t clear passport control at ZRH for the sole purpose of accessing the Swiss F lounge, which is patently false.) I agree with what Avery’s saying here.
So, the best action for now is to wait?
That’s what I’m doing.
I got a voicemail from Aeroplan today saying it was a mistake fare and they are offering me business class instead (not direct like I booked with First but with 1 stop) or refund. Should I call them and say “no’? should I accept? anyone has any experience with this??