26 October 2016
It's not always a straightforward matter exchanging flight mileage for air tickets. Photo: Bloomberg
It's not always a straightforward matter exchanging flight mileage for air tickets. Photo: Bloomberg

Problems exchanging air miles for tickets spark complaints

Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog said it received 26 complaints last year about difficulty exchanging flight mileage for air tickets. 

The complaints blamed the airline companies for denying passengers the tickets they wanted or causing them problems by inadequate service, am730 reported Thursday, citing Hong Kong Consumer Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han.

One complainant said he exchanged his mileage in April 2013 for a round-trip ticket to Taipei.

He scheduled the trip in October that year, but the airline told him in September the ticket had expired in June and he would have to pay an extra US$120 to extend its validity.

Having failed to get a positive response from the airline after multiple complaints, he was forced to cancel the planned trip.

After the council intervened, the airline agreed the passenger could still use the ticket.

Another complainant said he tried to exchange mileage in hand for three round-trip tickets a year ahead of a planned trip to Sapporo, Japan, on February 14 this year.

The airline told him it had to put him on a waiting list. However, he said, there were still plenty of seats available at the time he booked the tickets.

He filed a complaint to the council, asking whether the airline had intentionally limited the supply of exchangeable seats.

The airline later allowed him to exchange the mileage for tickets on another route.

It said the number of free tickets obtainable by exchanging flight mileage is subject to change based on multiple factors, including the expected number of passengers, the popularity of routes and whether the travel is planned for the high or low season.

The council said the source of the problem was that the airline’s policy on the exchange of mileage for tickets is not transparent enough.

However, Wong advised consumers they should understand the details of the rules regarding such exchanges before planning their trips and try to book their tickets as early as possible.

The council received 42 similar complaints in 2013.

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