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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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