This Virgin America companion ticket credit is unusable

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When Ellen Spertus receives a promotional code for a $150 companion ticket on Virgin America, she discovers that it’s unusable because of the airline’s blackout dates. When she tries again, she receives an error message, saying the code has been used. Now what?

Question: I recently received a $150 companion ticket promotional code as a benefit of my Virgin America Visa Signature card, for which I pay an annual fee. I tried using the code to book travel back in December, but was unsuccessful because of blackout dates.

I tried using the code again for travel this summer, but Virgin America will not honor the code because it says I already used it. But I haven’t used it. The Virgin America workers who refused to help me acknowledged that I didn’t get the discount, but they claimed I used up the code just by entering it. It’s maddening!  Can you help me get the $150 companion ticket? — Ellen Spertus, San Francisco

Answer: Those companion-ticket offers aren’t always such a great deal, as you found out. Not only do you have to pay an annual credit-card fee, but you also must contend with blackout dates and other restrictions. There’s no telling how many travelers like you applied for a card, only to never use the benefit.

Your promotion came with significant limits. For example, you had to book travel by July 17, 2017, and to fly by July 31, 2017. You also had to buy your ticket at least 14 days in advance of travel. Plus, you had to use the Virgin America Visa Signature card to purchase the ticket.
But that’s not the real problem. You didn’t use the $150 code, but the system registered it as having been redeemed. Virgin America should have fixed this promptly. It’s difficult to say why it balked.

Sometimes, when a voucher shows itself as “redeemed,” the company assumes there’s some funny business going on, which is to say, either the customer isn’t telling the truth or someone stole the code. Either way, the airline sees it as not being its problem.

But this also could be a function of Virgin America’s merger with Alaska Airlines — perhaps a glitch that happened when the systems were being combined.

It doesn’t really matter; Virgin America should have made this right. When it didn’t, you could have appealed to someone who could help you — I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the airline’s executives on my consumer-advocacy site.

I contacted Virgin America on your behalf, and it restored your $150 as a ticket credit.

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