My Delta Codeshare Flight Fiasco

by Chris Dong

A traveler’s worst nightmare — arriving to the airport with a reservation only to find that the ticket to have “disappeared.” I’ve heard a few horror stories (usually on award tickets). The whole airline confirmation and ticketing process is somewhat archaic and confusing, and things sometimes slip through the cracks. That’s what recently happened to me on a Delta codeshare flight with Aeromexico.

Background

While I am a oneworld frequent flyer, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to stay loyal to a particular airline or alliance. When I was looking at one-way flights from Mexico to the US, I found a great fare through Delta. No American Airlines this time around.

delta codeshare fiasco

My Delta/Aeromexico flights

I was originating from Merida, Mexico and needed to get back home to New York. My Delta fare was a mixed cabin itinerary, with the short Merida (MID) to Mexico City (MEX) flight in economy operated by Aeromexico. The longer segment from Mexico City to JFK was in first, on a Delta-operated flight that had lie-flat seats.

Delta doesn’t have its flagship “Delta One” service between MEX and JFK, but I was really looking forward to the lie-flat and to change it up from my usual oneworld flights.

Related: Review — Delta One Boeing 757  

How I Bought The Delta Codeshare Ticket

One of the perks of the Platinum Card from American Express is $200 in airline fee credit annually. Unfortunately, this does not apply to actual airfare purchased. Previously, a loophole (now closed) was to purchase airline gift cards that would trigger the credit.

I had five $50 Delta gift cards that I had stacked up, so I thought this was the perfect time to get rid of them. Delta’s website only allows up to four gift cards in one transaction though, so I called up Delta reservations to purchase my ticket.

delta aeromexico codeshare

It took some time to manually read out all the gift cards and for the agent to process it, but after about 30 minutes, everything went through smoothly and I received an email confirmation. The cost for my flights? $292.

As mentioned, I paid with five $50 Delta gift cards and for the $42 remaining, I used my American Express Platinum which gets 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines. I thought this was a pretty stellar deal, considering the 4.5 hour lie-flat seat and my first time experience Delta first. Also, economy was only $80 cheaper.

The excellently styled seats in Delta One business class aboard the Boeing 757.

My specific Delta 757 had lie-flat seats in first

While I received a confirmation number, I did not receive a ticket number in the email. I didn’t think much of it since perhaps the triggered email from a phone reservation just looked a little different. However, there was a ticket number attached to “My Wallet” on the Delta app.

I used that Delta app to select my seats and even selected my meal (pancakes or tortillas, anyone?). I also pulled up my reservation and the seat map on Aeromexico’s website. Great, everything was fine and dandy — nothing seemed amiss.

Checking In 

The night before my flight, I tried to check in online for my Delta codeshare flight. Since I booked through Delta, I navigated to their website to begin the process. Delta directed me to Aeromexico, which makes sense since my first flight was operated by them. However, each time I clicked to continue on Aeromexico’s website (after agreeing to that I didn’t have any prohibited items), my page froze. This was both on desktop and mobile.

delta aeromexico codeshar

I direct messaged Delta on Twitter (my go-to way to reach out to airlines) about this and was assured that because the flight was operated by Aeromexico, I had to check in at the airport. This was a bit inconvenient since I had a very early morning flight (6:01 A.M), which meant arriving to the airport earlier to get checked in at the Aeromexico counter. Looking back, what I should have done was direct message Aeromexico about the online check-in issue.

Oh well, off to bed I went.

Arriving To Merida Airport

After calling an Uber (readily available in Merida even at 4:30 A.M.), I arrived to the airport at about 5:10 A.M., a bit tight for a 6:01 A.M. departure. However, this was a domestic Mexican flight and MID is a pretty small airport. No worries, so I thought.

I strolled up to the counter a couple of minutes later to get checked in, and my slight worry about missing the check-in cutoff disappeared. It was replaced with growing dread as the agent summoned his colleague, then another, and then another, to “investigate” my reservation.

As they debated in Spanish and made some calls, the minutes started ticking by. The woman who seemed to be the most senior explained that while my reservation appeared when my passport was scanned, no ticket was attached on Aeromexico’s end. She told me not to worry though, and this was likely an issue with credit card verification and it would take just a few minutes to resolve. At this point, it was 5:25 A.M., just 35 minutes to departure.

Things Go South 

By now, even with my limited knowledge of Spanish, I knew something was amiss beyond a card verification.

The senior check-in agent was explaining that after speaking with Delta, they were not able to take control of the ticket. This essentially meant that while I paid for a ticket through Delta, my ticket was in limbo — stuck somewhere in codeshare purgatory left to remain forever.

This agent explained that my only option was to purchase a new ticket on the spot. She didn’t have any power to override the system and since there was no ticket anyway (on Aeromexico’s end), her hands were tied.

The cost? Over $1,000. Ouch. I winced, but there was no time for dilly dallying. It was now 5:30 A.M., and the window to even get on the 6:01 A.M. flight to Mexico City was quickly closing.

An Aeromexico Connect Embraer E190 jet landing at Mexico City international airport. Image by André Du-pont, Mexico Air Spotters via Wikimedia Commons.

I grimaced, whipped out my card, and purchased the $1,000 ticket. The agent was sympathetic and explained that I should write in to Delta to rectify the situation. Clearly, she was putting blame on the codeshare parter and not on her employer, Aeromexico.

What Went Wrong With My Delta Codeshare? 

It makes sense that Aeromexico would pass the blame to Delta. Either way, however, what doesn’t make sense is how two codeshare partners — with a “joint cooperation agreement,” the “first transborder alliance,” AND also part of the SkyTeam alliance — failed to communicate with each other to properly ticket a passenger’s reservation.

Airlines love to boast about codeshare partnerships benefiting passengers, but it was mighty unhelpful in this case.

delta aeromexico

Bottom Line

While I am fortunate enough to have the resources to work to get my money back (and worst case, involve Amex), much of the general flying public might not.

Also, many people don’t have the means to outright pay for a new ticket on the spot and/or are savvy enough to chase down the airlines for a refund. And that could mean the difference between going home and being stranded.

Aeromexico blamed Delta, and I’m sure Delta will blame Aeromexico once I reach out. In my experience, when issues arise with codeshare flights, both airlines fail to be accountable and the loser always ends up being the customers.

While I’ve always wanted to book a ticket on the spot at an airport counter, this wasn’t the situation I envisioned…

Let’s see how this turns out.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

13 comments
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13 comments

Delroy L January 22, 2020 - 2:53 pm

So how was the problem resolved? Did Aeromexico refund you or Delta reimburse you?

Reply
Chris Dong January 22, 2020 - 5:48 pm

Waiting to hear back from Delta, I just took this flight this morning

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George January 22, 2020 - 7:25 pm

Same thing happened to my parents this fall, but with an extra bit. They booked an LX/LX outbound, LH/LH return flight, and the first LX leg (9:55 PM from EWR) was canceled a month ahead of time. Swiss allowed them to switch to an earlier UA/LH combo with a shorter connection time, and all seemed fine (better for some, as it’d mean getting there earlier; not for them, as it required taking an extra half day off of work). When trying to check in online, UA said they’d have to do so at the airport, as they were “holding a paper ticket.” They called UA, who said that was wrong, the ticket was in their system, and they’d be fine to check in. Of course, that ended up not being the case – they couldn’t check in, and had to call Swiss. Swiss put them on the next *A option out, LH/LH, with departure/arrival times similar to the original booking. So the whole thing only cost them the half day off and a couple extra hours at the airport.

I’m surprised you didn’t call Delta yourself and try to get yourself onto a later flight.

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chris January 22, 2020 - 5:53 pm

Neither Delta nor Aeromexico is in the clear.

Few years ago I traveled from ATL to XIY, with layover at DTW and PEK, all purchased through Delta. When I landed at PEK, China Eastern told me there is no ticket for the last leg. Luckily I was able to get them to call Delta and issued a ticket.

In hindsight, the last leg ticket disappeared a few days after issued, I should have known something was wrong at that point, even when the agent told me its normal (I called delta, but didn’t insist on getting it investigated). In your case, the sign of trouble is probably when ticket wasn’t actually ticketed.

Aeromexico is also a disaster, last time I flew to CDMX on aeromexico, their mobile boarding pass would not scan at TSA check point. We had to re-check in for a different boarding pass. How a big company like aeromexico couldn’t produce an accurate boarding pass is beyond my comprehension.

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Luis January 22, 2020 - 6:23 pm

Never trust Aeromexico. Last time I used an award ticket was for a flight out from BKK that didn’t exist. The two of us arriving at the airport to learn that the flight we were booked in didn’t exist. Aeromexico offered to fly us back in coach if we dropped the claim. After calls, emails and half my liver, we got the miles back. That is it. No wonder why AM is so unhappy about Emirates arrival in MEX, competition is never welcomed with this awful airline

Reply
eponymous coward January 22, 2020 - 10:29 pm

“ While I received a confirmation number, I did not receive a ticket number in the email. I didn’t think much of it since perhaps the triggered email from a phone reservation just looked a little different.”

So, obviously you’re new here, because until you actually have a ticket number you don’t actually have a ticket. So you get this $300 flight with a 4 hour segment in lie flight business class, you pay with gift cards, and you never bother to check that a ticket number was ever issued.

Ok then.

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Chris Dong January 23, 2020 - 5:54 am

Here’s the thing — there was a Delta ticket number. According to Aeromexico, it just couldn’t be released to them. Why a ticket could not be released is what Delta is investigating. In fact, when I go into Delta.com and check “my wallet,” I can clearly see my receipt with the ticket number attached.

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Sloubi September 17, 2020 - 8:31 am

If you bought it from Delta you will always have a Delta ticket number, they will be the “validating carrier” (or “plate” etc.). The coupon(s) in this ticket can be any airline, here AM. If they have a problem of coupon stuck, not sure why they do not solve the problem between themselves… a Delta help desk (at least the supervisor) should be able to do that?!).

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Andrew January 22, 2020 - 11:39 pm

I’m surprised you overlooked the lack of a ticket number. As someone who books award tickets regularly, it’s well known to always check for the actual ticket number. Delta’s website and mobile app has an easy link to check for your eticket number under “receipt”. It’s been there for years as far as I can remember….

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Chris Dong January 23, 2020 - 6:06 am

Yep rookie mistake to overlook it initially but there was actually a ticket number under the receipts in the “My Wallet” section of the Delta app.

I clarified the post to make it clear it was ticketed, just “lost” somewhere between Delta and Aeromexico. Delta is looking into it.

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Mike January 23, 2020 - 11:53 am

Lucky you had credit and were traveling solo. This would’ve been a huge problem for a larger group without the financial means that scaled as well. Still keep us posed. Am interested to hear if you keep your 5000 MR and Delta cuts you a check.

Any idea if there was even a slim chance of having this worked out at all if you had arrived at the airport earlier? or was everything sounding pretty hopeless even if you arrived with more time for the agents to try and fix?

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Kevin January 23, 2020 - 9:04 pm

I had a similar situation about 10 years ago on a United/Spanair itinerary from IAD to Barcelona. Upon checking in online with United I got a United boarding pass for the leg from IAD to Madrid but could not get a boarding pass for the Spanair flight from Madrid to Barcelona. I called United and they directed me to call Spanair. Spanair told me to call United. Even when I arrived at IAD the United agent told me to check in with the Spanair counter when I arrive in Madrid. I knew this was headed for trouble. Luckily I had printed out my itinerary because Spanair had no record of my ticket when I arrived in Madrid. I showed them my printed itinerary which eventually about 10 Spanair staff members stood around looking at and discussing in Spanish. I had no idea what was going on. Eventually they HAND WROTE me a boarding pass and let me board the flight which thankfully had room for me.

Reply
Sean January 24, 2020 - 4:52 am

The Delta/Aeromexico alliance is absolutely shambolic. I see the main issue as being antiquated IT systems that have been poorly integrated, backed up by customer service staff who are not well trained and just don’t seem to care (mainly on Aeromexico’s side but also Delta is pretty abysmal).

I’m a Delta Diamond on a long term work assignment in Mexico City but I’ve decided this year to do everything possible to avoid Aeromexico and this terrible partnership/alliance. Let’s hope United is better organised.

Reply

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