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For as long as I have been traveling and using airline’s partner miles to book a particular airline flight to yield good redemption value, there’s still something new to learn about! This is the first incident that I’ve encountered. Thankfully we arrived at the Honolulu airport at least 3 hours prior to departure and the check-in counter wasn’t busy at all. But still, it wasn’t fun to come to the airport to check in and the agent told you that your reservation does not have the ticket number so he or she cannot check you in and issue you a boarding pass.
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I wrote about using JetBlue TrueBlue points to book Hawaiian Airlines flight to Tahiti. Both airlines have partnership and at the time Amex had a transfer bonus from Amex points to JetBlue miles. So it was a good redemption. The flight’s reservation was done like 3 months before the departure. After the reservation was confirmed, I proactively contacted Hawaiian airlines for their airline’s confirmation code, seat assignments and what not. For once, no body mentioned to me that the second segment from Honolulu to Tahiti did not have a ticket number. Our flight itinerary was from Kona to Honolulu and Honolulu to Papeete (Tahiti airport). I was under the assumption that if I could see the reservation online says “confirmed” with a reservation code and I could select seats for the flights, the ticket should be valid for all the segments.
Fast forward on the day of travel. First we couldn’t check-in online, so we arrived at the Kona airport to perform the check-in using the self-kiosk machine, but the check-in process error out on us. We went to the check-in counter and quickly got help from the Hawaiian airlines agent. To my surprise, she informed us that she could only check us in from Kona to Honolulu but she could not check us in for the flight from Honolulu to Tahiti because there’s no ticket number attached to that segment. I was scrambling on trying what options to do. The Hawaiian Airlines agent could not do anything with it. The only option I was told was to contact JetBlue because the ticket was issued by them using their points program. I completely understand that part, but the questions that I had were why in the world the so-called “Partner Airlines” do not communicate with each other, and the operating airline requested traveler to contact the other airline when it is on the day of travel? I contacted Hawaiian Airlines on the phone and the rep told me the same story to contact JetBlue. I have had bad experience with contacting JetBlue before. The hold time sometimes can be very long. However, this time it was around 13 minutes that when we got a JetBlue agent on the line to help us sort out this whole fiasco.
Fortunately we arrived at the airport at least 3 hours before our flight to Honolulu from Kona. Once the Jet Blue was on then line, she put me on hold to sort out the ticket’s issue with the TrueBlue department. During the process, JetBlue asked us to tell Hawaiian Airlines to un-check us in for the Kona-Honolulu flight. Good thing we had not gone through TSA security to our gate yet! After that, JetBlue took care of the issue by re-issuing us new tickets that contain ticket numbers for each segment. Our confirmation code and seats assignment with Hawaiian Airlines remained the same. All said and done, the whole process took almost an hour to get the issue sorted out. I kindly asked JetBlue to remain on the call with me until I was able to successfully receive our boarding passes!
When it comes to partner bookings using miles, just because the ticket is confirmed, and you can select seats doesn’t mean it’s a valid reservation to get the boarding pass at the airport. It makes me become more careful moving forward to re-check with the airline that books the ticket for the ticket number and double check everything with the operating airline, then contact the booking airline to fix any issues as early as possible because in the end the operating airline cannot do anything to the reservation, even if it means that you are stuck at the airport. I am thankful that we were at the airport a few hours before the flight’s departure, and that JetBlue was available to help us out at the time. My thought went to what if it were Avianca LifeMiles that has terrible customer service or Aeroplan that puts you on hold forever?