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

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By Christopher Elliott

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?

Question

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.

Answer

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.

How to resolve Chase Ultimate Rewards flight issues

If you have a flight problem with Chase Ultimate Rewards, here are the steps to resolving it:

Review the terms and conditions

Make sure you understand the rules and restrictions associated with your reward ticket. Check the airline’s fare rules, routing restrictions, and any blackout dates that apply. Also, review the Chase Ultimate Rewards program rules to ensure you’re redeeming your points correctly. 

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Contact the Chase travel center and explain the situation 

Be sure to mention that you booked a flight with Chase and they did not deliver the merchandise. Note that Chase works with CXLoyalty to manage its travel portal and handle fulfillment, so you may be talking to CXL representative.

Ask for a resolution (and you may also request points as compensation)

If the flight was canceled or there was a ticketing issue, ask for a refund or compensation in like with the Department of Transportation, EU regulations or other relevant aviation consumer protection rules. Depending on the situation, Chase may also be able to give you an injection of reward points or refund your money to make up for the trouble.

If all else fails, call customer service

If you are having trouble getting your points or money back, you may need to call customer service for help. Some points-related issues are difficult to explain in an email. But always be sure that you get a record of the resolution in writing. (Note: Chase also has a fairly well-developed chat function on its site. Just visit the Chase website, click on “Contact Us,” and select “Chat Now.”)

The steps to resolving a problem with flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards are similar — but not always the same — as those booked with an online travel agency or directly through an airline. Being aware of the small differences can clear a path to a faster resolution.

Contact the airline directly

If you’re experiencing issues with your flight, such as a delay, cancellation, or seat selection, it may be better to contact the airline. Your carrier has more control over these aspects of your flight than Chase does. Here’s our list of airline contacts.

Your Chase Ultimate downgrade is a cautionary tale

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, Elliott.org. 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. (RelatedShe blamed Chase for draining $2,730 from her account, but it was a cash flip scam.)

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.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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