Here’s why it’s important to read those confirmation emails

Reading confirmation emails

Barbara Smidt booked two tickets to Australia to celebrate a special birthday with her husband. But as they were excitedly putting the final touches on this trip, they were shocked to discover that United Airlines had no record of Stephen Smidt ever having a ticket. So what do the confirmation emails say?

This case highlights the importance of carefully reading all airline correspondence within 24 hours of receipt. It also is a reminder of the critical difference between a confirmation number and a ticket number. The latter will clear a traveler for take-off. And the former? Not necessarily.

A missing ticket

“In September, I booked two round-trip business class tickets using miles to fly from Boston to Sydney for my husband and me,” Smidt recalled “After calling United yesterday, I was told there is no flight for my husband. I have his itinerary email with his confirmation number.”

The panic that Smidt was experiencing was clear in her email to our advocacy team. She had invested time, effort and money into this trip — and now the entire journey was in a precarious state.

“I’ve called United many times to rectify the problem, but no one seems to be able to help me. Our flight leaves in two months!” She pleaded. “Can you please help me?”

Can this trip be saved?

Of course, our advocacy team loves to straighten out problems, and we hoped that we could save this trip.

To determine whether our team can take on a consumer’s problem, we always request a paper trail which includes all relevant information about the case.

As part of her paper trail, Smidt sent her confirmation emails from United — the ones she told us would prove that her husband had been issued a ticket.

Unfortunately for Smidt and her husband, these emails proved something else — and the news wasn’t good.

The details of the confirmation emails

What Smidt was calling a confirmation of her husband’s ticket, was an email from United that included a confirmation number, or record locator. This number is proof that a reservation has been created, but it is not proof of a ticket being issued.

And across the top of that email was an important notice that Smidt had evidently neglected to read:

Thank you for choosing United: We are processing your reservation and will send you an E-ticket itinerary and receipt once completed. This process usually takes less than an hour, but in rare cases it could take longer. If you didn’t receive an E-ticket itinerary and receipt email within 24-hours, please contact the United Customer Contact Center

The E-ticket number is proof that the reservation is confirmed and that a ticket has been issued.

Smidt did not receive an E-ticket or receipt for her husband’s flight — ever. And, having never read the message, she did not follow up with United until 3 months later when she received a schedule change notification for her own flight.

The unfortunate facts

When my colleague, Dwayne Coward pointed out the message from United in her own evidence, Smidt checked her husband’s United account and confirmed that the miles were never withdrawn. And she had not been charged the taxes for the ticket.

The inescapable fact was clear — her husband never had a ticket.

Each week our advocacy team receives many requests for help from consumers who have failed to read confirmation emails from airlines and third-party booking agents in a timely manner. And as a result, they have found themselves in problematic and expensive situations.

The critical 24-hours after purchase

Twenty-four hours is the magic number to correct most problems with tickets (misspellings, incorrect dates and the like) without paying a fee. And when a consumer fails to check their confirmation emails within the first 24 hours, things can go wrong — and you can guess who takes the financial hit.

Most of these problems can easily have been avoided by promptly and carefully reviewing those confirmation emails.

Smidt’s case was no different. There was a problem that may or may not have been easily resolved by making that call to United — 3 months ago. But when she did not respond within 24 hours, her husband’s reservation was deleted.

United’s response

Smidt went back to United and asked what could be done. The replacement flights that United offered her were quite expensive.

And then, as the Smidts were considering their options, it seemed that the universe was conspiring against them. Smidt’s husband learned from his doctor that he was not medically approved for such a lengthy flight at this time.

So for now, their special trip will be shelved.

We’re sorry that we couldn’t be more helpful to the Smidts. And we hope that sometime in the near future they will be able to enjoy this much-anticipated journey to the Land Down Under.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.