Make the McKenzie Connection!


Help! Chase Ultimate Rewards downgraded my flight -- and then canceled it

Steve Feiertag's flights from Palm Beach to Reykjavik are messed up, but Chase Ultimate Rewards won't help him fix them. Is he about to lose $5,000?

Last year, my wife and I booked a cruise around Iceland. We bought business class tickets from Palm Beach, Fla., to Reykjavik through JetBlue and Icelandair using our Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

However, shortly before we left, Chase erroneously downgraded our tickets to economy class. I discovered the error when I checked our reservation a month before our departure. I contacted Chase and a representative worked to get the business class flights back, and supposedly they fixed this two days before our departing flight.

When we arrived at the airport, JetBlue had no record of our flight. I had to purchase new tickets to Iceland, and we arrived one day late. I have asked Chase to reimburse us for our hotel and extra airfare, but a representative told us we were out of luck -- too bad! Can you help us get the extra $5,000 back that we had to spend on airfare and accommodations?

Steve Feiertag, Royal Palm Beach, Fla.

Chase Ultimate Rewards should have delivered your airline tickets to you as promised. And if it made a mistake -- which you say a representative admitted to you -- then it should fix it promptly.

Your case is complicated. It involves reservations made with credit card points, a replacement reservation for which you paid, and a months-long effort to hold Chase Ultimate Rewards accountable. But ultimately, the company would not compensate you for having to buy new high-priced last-minute tickets, flying in economy instead of business Class, and your loss of non-refundable prepaid expenses.

Your story is a cautionary tale about credit card rewards. They are so easy to earn, but when it comes time to redeem them, suddenly things get complicated. Travelers complain to me that they often feel like second-class citizens when they book a ticket using points as if the company is doing them a favor by issuing a ticket. But it's actually the other way around -- you are doing the company a favor by being loyal to it. Never forget that.

I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Chase customer service executives on my consumer advocacy site, This isn't the first time my readers have run into problems with their Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Last year, I mediated a heartbreaking case involving a customer with a terminal illness. Chase has a strict set of rules that it is reluctant to bend, even when the occasion warrants it.

Bottom line: You may have been better off booking these tickets yourself or with a trusted travel advisor and paying for the flights with real money. A professional travel agent wouldn't have downgraded you and then lost your reservation. (But if it happened, the agent would have quickly fixed it).

You reached out to my advocacy team for help. I contacted Chase Ultimate Rewards on your behalf. It took several weeks to figure out what went wrong, but Chase eventually apologized to you and refunded you every penny of your expenses.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him on his site.

© 2024 Christopher Elliott


Reader Comments(0)