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The Pure Madness of Pursuing Mistake Fares

Act I

Montreal, Quebec. 

March 26, 2020.

Stuck at home thanks to a rapidly emerging pandemic, I happen to pop into FlyerTalk’s Premium Fare Deals forum to see if there might be an interesting fare deal or two as a result of airlines’ revenue management teams having to work from home.

Lo and behold, I see that Air France is having a “super sale”: US$472.05 for a one-way fare from Algiers, the capital of Algeria, to either Portland or Houston in the La Première cabin.

Now, I’ve booked my fair share of these wild sales before, including a particularly memorable round-trip in Cathay Pacific First Class from Vietnam to North America for US$900 back in 2018. 

But this was no ordinary fare: Air France La Première is known as one of the world’s most sought-after and difficult-to-book First Class products. 

Regular fares typically hover in the region of €10,000 for a flight in one of these fancy seats, and it takes a monumental effort to redeem Flying Blue miles for La Première (you can only book as a Flying Blue Gold elite member or higher, and the redemption rate starts at a whopping 200,000+ Flying Blue miles one-way). 

For all intents and purposes, Air France La Première is considered virtually “off-limits” for premium cabin enthusiasts hoping to score tickets on the cheap… unless you stumble onto an incredible sale like this one out of Algeria.

Online, the usual debates about these unbelievable seat sales raged on. 

Was any chance that Air France would honour these tickets in the first place?

Would you be able to get a refund if it didn’t work out, given that all the airlines were facing a cash crunch at the time? 

How would you even get to Algeria to start the ticket, given that the North African nation was entirely closed to travel and enforced a difficult visa process even during normal times? 

But there’s one enduring truth to these fare sales that seem too good to be true: they never last very long, and you’ve simply gotta get in the game and ask questions later. 

I pulled up the fare on Priceline, lined up a travel date in February 2021 (as far in the future as I could book, given the uncertainty around travel at the time), and pulled the trigger. US$472.05 for Air France La Première. 

I was in the game. 

Act II

Air France headquarters, Paris, France.

April 2020. 

“Zut alors!”

Somewhere at Air France HQ, a supervisor notices that a fare had been filed for La Première departing out of Algeria for far below the usual price. 

The base fare was 34,500 Algerian Dinars (DZD), which is about US$250; throw in the government-imposed taxes and airport improvement fees, and an overall fare no more than US$500 had been booked by hundreds of people.

The supervisor knows that Air France maintains a deliberate air of exclusivity around their First Class cabin, purposefully making it near-impossible to book on miles and rarely offering discounted fares in the first place.

There was simply no way that the unwashed masses could be allowed to step foot into its hallowed halls for the price of an economy class ticket.

The supervisor consults with their superiors and authorizes a mass downgrading of everyone who had booked the fare into business class. Booking references get updated, confirmation emails sent. 

It’s a fair outcome, perhaps, given that US$472.05 is still a decent price for Air France business class – and that affected customers could always request a refund if they didn’t wish to travel.

But it’s a wholly unfair outcome when you consider that Air France had advertised a price and customers had simply taken them up on it.

The airline was now unilaterally and wrongfully cancelling the purchase – but hey, they had the power to do so.

Act III

Air France call centre, somewhere in the United States.

December 2020. 

An Air France customer service agent takes a sip of her coffee.

She’s approaching the end of her shift, and there’s probably time for one more call before she clocks out.

The customer at the other end gives her the six-digit booking reference, and then makes a rather peculiar request: he had originally booked a First Class fare, but now finds that his ticket has somehow been downgraded to business class. 

“It must be a mistake,” he sighs. “Can you please help me reissue the ticket in First Class?”

The agent pulls up the file and starts looking through the history. Indeed, the Paris–San Francisco flight was originally in La Première, but now it’s showing Business. 

The customer carries on: “I paid a lot of money for this fare… I was booked in La Première… it doesn’t make any sense…” 

Cursorily, the agent glances at the base fare that was paid for the ticket. 

DZD34500.

A whole five-figure sum. That must be a big chunk of dough indeed. 

“I can’t deal with an angry customer right now,” the agent mutters to herself. And besides, the reservation system had indeed been acting up in recent weeks, so a glitch like this wasn’t out of the question. 

Class of service. La Première. Reissue.

“It’s done for you, sir.”

“Merci beaucoup,” came the reply.

Act IV

Vancouver, British Columbia.

January–November 2021.

Throughout all of 2021, I anxiously sat on my Air France reservation departing from Algeria, hoping to be able to experience the coveted La Première cabin for myself. 

There was one small problem, though: not only was Algeria closed to entry, but as a non-US resident, I was also unable to transit the US after having transited the Schengen Area (including Paris) in the past 14 days.

Thankfully, Algeria’s continued closure meant that Air France had kept cancelling the initial Algiers–Paris flight, which allowed me to push the booking further into the future in 30-day chunks. 

Each month, like clockwork, I’d receive a notice of cancellation on Algiers–Paris, and I’d be able to push the flight to the next available one the following month. 

As we approached the end of the year, however, Algeria gradually started allowing some flights to operate. Air France’s cancellations were no longer happening quite as reliably, which meant that I’d quickly run out of grounds to keep pushing the date. 

If I wanted to fly La Première for a fraction of the usual price, it was now or never.

Eventually, I managed to lock in an outbound date of December 12, 2021 for Algiers–Paris, followed by December 13, 2021 for Paris–San Francisco. The United States had relaxed their travel ban on the Schengen Area back in November – so this was my chance.

There was just one obstacle left: Algeria was still closed to foreign visitors. 

However, I had read anecdotally online that travellers may transit without visa at Algiers Airport if they had an onward flight booked, even if it was on a separate ticket. 

There was no official documentation to be found anywhere on this, but multiple laborious calls to both the Algerian embassy in Ottawa and Algiers Houari Boumediene Airport confirmed this possibility. 

My Algiers–Paris flight was departing at 2:05pm on December 12. I locked in a flight on Vueling, the Spanish low-cost carrier, for Barcelona–Algiers that morning at 7:20am, arriving into Algiers at 8:30am.

Five and a half hours should give me plenty of time to navigate the mysterious transit without visa process…

Act V

Barcelona El Prat International Airport (BCN), Terminal 1.

December 12, 2021, 5:30am Central European Time.

…or so I thought.

I show up at the airport as early as possible, knowing that I might have to explain to the Vueling check-in agents how the transit without visa works. 

The check-in agent consults her supervisor before letting me know that no such policy exists.

“You need a visa to fly to Algeria,” she says.

I go speak to the supervisor, knowing that there’s not much the frontline agent can do. I meet Vueling’s station manager in Barcelona that day, a portly bespectacled Spaniard wearing a hi-vis Vueling vest. 

“I will check the policy again and let you know.”

He chats on the phone in Spanish for quite a long time, before hanging up and saying to me, “We checked with our head office and you still need a visa to get on the flight.”

I was getting quite desperate by this point, but trying not to let it show.

“It’s called a transit without visa. I’m not trying to enter Algeria! Can you please call your team in Algiers and check with them?”

“No señor,” Vueling Vest replies sternly.

They’ve done their due diligence with multiple sources, and the verdict is clear: I need an Algerian visa to board that flight, and I don’t have one.

At this point, I was kicking myself. All of the other anecdotes of the Algiers transit without visa were between full-service carriers like Lufthansa and ITA.

I was kicking myself for relying on a low-cost carrier of all airlines to help me out with a semi-unofficial immigration policy. 

This was hopeless. It was time to let this avenue go, and follow-up with a credit card chargeback on the fare if Vueling had indeed incorrectly denied me boarding.

Still, I held a valid Air France La Première ticket departing Algiers in a few hours’ time.

Sure, I had no hope of getting to Algiers – but I was still in the game for now.

Act VI

Barcelona El Prat International Airport (BCN), Terminal 1.

December 12, 2021, 9am Central European Time / 3am Eastern Time.

The only play left was to call Air France and somehow persuade them to change the ticket so that it’d begin in Barcelona, rather than Algiers.

Since time was running out, I enlisted the help of my assistant Rachel to call Air France on my behalf, while I mulled over our strategy.

For context, Delta, Air France, and KLM had previously offered a little-known pandemic-era allowance to change the origin of a ticket within a 300-mile radius without any change fee or fare difference. In the past, some holders of these ultra-discounted La Première fares had been able to get the origin changed from Algiers to Valencia or Barcelona as a result.

That was our first plan of action: to convince an Air France agent to move the origin to Barcelona based on this 300-mile flexibility policy.

The North American call centres – which had proven to be the most easily persuaded in the past – were closed at this hour. So Rachel calls the contact centres in Singapore, Japan, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Denmark… but all to no avail.

Some agents are initially willing to try changing the origin, but run into an automated supervisor block when reissuing the ticket.

We assume this is because the flight’s departing in less than 24 hours – but regardless, the ticket still starts in Algiers, and I’m still stuck across the Mediterranean Sea. 

It’s 4am in Toronto, and Rachel needs to sleep, so I take over on calling duties. After trying many call centres around Europe, I eventually discover that Air France Croatia has some of the shortest hold times of less than five minutes.

I start working with a sympathetic Air France Croatia agent, although she too is unable to change the origin of the first flight – a flight that’s departing in less than five hours’ time.

Out of desperation, I ask a question that I already know the answer to: “Is it possible to skip the first flight and just fly the Paris–San Francisco segment?”

At most airlines around the world, this type of practice (technically known as “using the flight coupons out of sequence”) is strictly forbidden. Indeed, the prevailing wisdom is that skipping the first flight leads to the entire ticket being cancelled.

But much to my surprise, the agent pokes around and replies, “Yes, it’s actually possible to do this, but you will need to pay a €1,500 penalty for using the coupons out of sequence.”

I’ve never heard of this policy before, but upon further research later on, it’s indeed embedded in Air France’s General Conditions of Sale:

Now, my mind is spinning.

Would I pay €1,500 to be able to fly Air France La Première straight out of Paris tomorrow? 

Surely I would, right?!

After all, my backup plan for the return journey was to fly Lufthansa First Class via Frankfurt instead of Air France. That itinerary to San Francisco would cost me 100,000 Aeroplan points + $200 in taxes.

When you think about the valuation of those Aeroplan points, it’s pretty comparable to a €1,500 one-time payment – except I can redeem points for Lufthansa First Class at any time in the future, but this La Première ticket was now or never!

(Note that if I didn’t pay this penalty, then the ticket would remain in limbo due to the fact that I had missed the Algiers–Paris segment at the start.) 

I asked my new Croatian friend if she could charge me the €1,500 over the phone and reissue the ticket right then and there. She replied no: the rules are very clear that the “out of sequence penalty” must be paid at the airport.

It was mid-afternoon in Barcelona at this point. As the agent notated my file for ticket reissuance upon paying the €1,500 penalty, I came to a sudden realization.

If I wanted to stay in the game, I needed to get myself to Paris tonight.

I pull up Google Flights to search for a cheap ticket up across the Pyrenees that evening. You’ll never guess which airline came up as the best option.

It was ****ing Vueling. 

Act VII

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), Terminal 2B. 

December 12, 2021, 9pm Central European Time / 3pm Eastern Time.

Stepping off a Vueling flight that I had paid for using my resultant flight credit from that morning’s fiasco, I trudged my way through the snaking hallways of Charles de Gaulle Airport, heading to Air France’s hub at Terminal 2E.

The plan? Show up at the ticketing desk, pay the €1,500 out-of-sequence penalty, and get my flight in La Première reissued successfully for a smooth journey the following day. 

At first, the Air France ticketing agent was very confused by what was going on with my ticket.

He was understandably unfamiliar with the policy around flying coupons out of sequence and the €1,500 penalty, given that it’s buried deep in Air France’s byzantine ticketing rules. 

Still, he saw the memo from the Air France Croatia agent, and was starting to set up the payment terminal and take my money…

…until his colleague walked by, happened to glance at the screen curiously, and asked what was going on.

“Je sais pas, c’est très bizarre, ça…”

The two agents studied the screen quizzically, their brows slowly furrowing, their expressions transforming from curiosity into consternation.

“C’est pas correcte!” 

This isn’t right!

The colleague started scribbling something on a piece of paper, and I watched her as she wrote.

D… Z… D… 3… 4…

Uh-oh.

The jig was up. 

The two agents went into the back to discuss in private, but I already knew what the outcome would be.

About five minutes later, the first agent returns to the desk. He says, “I can reissue the ticket for you to travel tomorrow, but it will be in economy class.”

“Mais pourquoi?” I ask with a blank look. 

Why?

“Because this fare is not a La Première fare.” 

I point out the fact that it does indeed say La Première on the booking reference as it currently stood – but the agent was having none of it.

This was a fare that Air France did not want to honour, so he could only offer me a choice of either accepting the downgrade into economy or leaving the ticket intact in its un-fly-able limbo state.

Once again, I needed to think on my feet.

On one hand, leaving the ticket in the limbo state would do me no good. I’d be back to square one, with less than 12 hours to go until the flight’s departure from Paris the next morning. 

On the other hand, being downgraded into economy would spell the end of my La Première dream.

Or would it?

No, there’s no way it would work…

We’ve persuaded Air France’s phone agents into reinstating in First Class before. Perhaps we could do it again?

It was really the only play left.

Don’t get knocked out of the game.

“Please go ahead and reissue the ticket in economy,” I said. Moments later, the confirmation email arrived in my inbox. 

The class of service? Indeed, economy.

But most importantly, the route?

A singular one-way flight from Paris to San Francisco, with no mention at all of Algiers.

Act VIII

Moxy Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. 

December 12, 2021, 11pm Central European Time / 5pm Eastern Time. 

I need to sleep.

Stumbling into a €89 Moxy Sleeper room at the Moxy Paris CDG, I charge my phone battery and call Rachel to explain what had happened.

“We’ve got 10 hours to persuade an Air France agent to reinstate the ticket in La Première… one last time.”

Rachel’s busy running errands all day, but she says she’ll try to call the North American contact centre as best as she can. 

I set an alarm for 3am, knowing that I needed to be up early. I dream about receiving a confirmation email with La Première back on the ticket. I wake up and check my phone… 

Nothing.

Rachel says she’s called three times, to no avail. The agents weren’t willing to touch the booking, even though some of them noticed that the ticket was indeed booked in La Première for most of its history, and it now showed economy.

Meanwhile, my backup flight of Lufthansa First Class required me to fly out of Paris to Frankfurt at 6:45am.

Dammit, Rachel, we’re running out of time!

“Keep trying,” I tell her as I pack up my bags and head back to the airport.

To be honest with you, I was losing hope at this point.

But we had come way too far to not give it everything we’ve got. 

Act IX

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), Terminal 2B, Gate 40. 

December 13, 2021, 6:30am Central European Time / 12:30am Eastern Time.

As I stood in the priority boarding queue for the Lufthansa business class flight to Frankfurt, I was having a crisis.

What’s wrong with me? I thought.

People dream of flying Lufthansa First Class, and here I am, feeling disappointed – nay, devastated – that I must fly Lufthansa instead of Air France. Have I lost my marbles?

Ultimately, I had already come to accept that it wasn’t going to work out this time. 

Air France’s North America call centre had technically already closed at 12am Eastern Time. Rachel was still waiting on hold for one last call, but honestly, what were the odds that this particular agent would bite?

You win some, you lose some.

I’ll still get to fly La Première at some distant point in the future, and it’ll be all the sweeter thanks to this near-miss. 

I step onboard the Lufthansa A320, put my bags into the overhead bin, and settle into Seat 1A. 

It’s time to let it go.

“Cabin crew, boarding complete.”

I leaned against the fuselage, getting ready to settle in for a nap en route to Frankfurt, and took one last glance at my phone…

No way. Noooooo way.

I check my inbox. Indeed, a sympathetic Air France agent had worked their magic.

I was back in La Première!

My first instinct was to start the online check-in process on the Air France website.

If I could check-in successfully, I’d know that there were truly no issues with the Algiers segment anymore, and that I was good to fly.

I start tapping away at my phone… before a sudden realization hits me. I look up, and then around me, in shock. 

I’ve gotta get the **** off this plane!

The doors to the Lufthansa A320 could close at any second. If the plane took off for Frankfurt with me onboard, then there was no going back! 

I bolted upright, shot for the overhead bins, and dashed out the door and onto the jet bridge. There, I kept tapping away at Air France’s online check-in, all while the Lufthansa crew members shouted at me to figure out what was going on.

“I have to go… I can’t make it on this flight!” I stammer.

The online check-in is slow and laborious.

Upload your negative test and proof of vaccination. I stumble through my Files folder to upload the PDFs.  

Enter your destination address in the USA. I type “in transit”, and then “90210” for the ZIP code.

Choose your seat. Seat 1A. Confirm. 

The circle spins and spins and spins…

…before I’m presented with a mobile boarding pass in all its glory!

“Sir! Sir!” I hear a voice bellowing. I look up – it’s the Lufthansa A320 captain. 

“You have a bag checked onboard? We will need to unload your bag – this is bullsh*t for us!”

I apologize profusely. “I’m so sorry for the inconvenience, but I really must go.” 

The captain escorts me down the jet bridge, quickly mellowing out. “I apologize for saying it was bullsh*t. If it’s personal, I understand.”

After all the events of the past 24+ hours, Air France La Première was indeed personal. 

“No problem. And I’m very sorry again.” I parted ways with the Lufthansa team, heading off to Terminal 2B baggage claim to wait for my bag to be unloaded. 

From there, I embarked on the long walk through CDG once again, this time en route to a different corner of Air France’s hub in Terminal 2E: the exclusive La Première check-in area.

The staff there were initially a bit confused upon seeing my mobile boarding pass. When they had looked at the La Première manifest upon starting their shift that morning, they would’ve seen an empty forward cabin en route to San Francisco. 

The gentleman stepped into the back office and double checked. I held my breath as he looked through his records before emerging from the room.

“Welcome to La Première, sir.”

Later on, as we breezed past the throngs of other passengers through security, my La Première private escort asked: “Did you change your ticket? We didn’t see you on the list this morning.”

Already looking forward to the Alain Ducasse catering in the lounge, the private BMW car transfer across the tarmac, and the ultra-exclusive four-person La Première cabin – all on a ticket that I had rightfully paid for at the advertised price, might I add – I cracked a wry smile. 

“Yes, I had to change my ticket a few times.”

80 Comments
  1. Jeff

    Can’t believe your mouth-breathing audience is enjoying this story.

    You’re a loser for deboarding the Lufthansa flight with a bag checked-in.

    I hope AF and Lufthansa blacklist your bum-ass. lol “prince” of travel.

  2. Agnes

    This is a awesome story, I have read it word by word and imaged the situation in pictures, it’s so entertaining. You make me believe that anything is possible as long as you don’t give up. You have a super assistant Rachel treasure her.

  3. thereisnoaddress

    Oh my… Such an interesting read. This was a rollercoaster ride! Such a thrill to read and so glad to hear that you were able to make the trip and try out AF F! I’m also in awe by how well timed everything was; just a few more minutes on the LH flight, you could’ve missed the chance. And it sucks that Vueling wasn’t willing to help; as someone who got stuck because of conflicting transit policies in August, I can totally feel your frustration 🙁 Also huge props to Rachel for always being so helpful and calling all the airlines :p

  4. KWong

    Hope someday I can also pull together such a feat like what you have achieved. Also kudos to your assistant, Rachel. Without her, it would not have happened!

  5. Troy Hale

    Was this written by Dan Brown?

  6. Daniel

    Best post so far, Ricky. With my luck, my phone would have died on me just after getting the text saying it was booked.

  7. Dale Schreyer

    In a certain time period this would be written as an opera. What a story … !!…

    1. Margot

      I can imagine the opera with a chorus of Customer Service Agents singing: “You cannot make it!”, and Ricky answering: “No, I am still in the game!”

  8. Tim

    Definitely a great story, up until you unboarded the plane at the last second… the captain was right when you swore at you. Clearly its not an easy task to get your luggage off and get everything back sorted, hence his displeasure. What ever tho, you got the blog post and hopefully didnt waste any of those other travellers time or connections!

    1. Margot

      So what? He should miss a rare opportunity, so someone would not be displeased? That was his right to leave the plane if he did not feel like flying.

      1. Jason

        If it delayed that flight and made an entire plan late, there’s a good chance many folks might have tight or missed connections. So yes, this was an incredibly selfish move.

  9. Margot

    It made sense to have the experience even to be able writing that article – should I say a movie script? Your audience enjoys reading exiting stories that involve the adrenaline rush and high reward. You don’t need to be perfect. Just continue writing about your adventures and the educational content as well. Your humour and attention to detail are also appreciated.

    By the way – why do you prefer seat 1A? Isn’t the first row closest to the toilet?

  10. Mike

    I liked this story much better than the one where you ended up quarantined, a much happier ending also.
    I think the valuable lesson (to me anyways) is the fine line you have to sometimes walk between, persistence and not blowing up (which almost never serves you well) at the agents. Keep up the great work!

    1. Ricky YVR

      My mind certainly wandered back to those moments in No Man’s Land a few times during this ordeal. Oh, the highs and lows of 2021 travel.

  11. Lk

    BEST ARTICLE on an av blog ever!

  12. Siddharth Sharma

    Can’t AF be sued for not honouring a ticket?
    Like that was an advertised fare. Considering EU laws are very customer friendly.

    1. Ricky YVR

      Why sue when you can just get them to honour it? 🙂

  13. Ana

    After reading the hotel status-match story and now this, the writers of this blog win for DEDICATION! Wow!

    Did you actually go to Europe for something or did you get yourself there ONLY so that you could fly back???

    1. Ricky YVR

      I also met up with some friends and got to rediscover a few places I haven’t visited for a few years. Oh and I got to review Austrian business as well. But yes – La Première was the main attraction.

  14. Lise Audet

    What an odyssey!! And so well recounted. Never had a flight redemption been so well deserved. I can’t wait to read your report on La Première.

    1. Ricky YVR

      Why thank you Lise… and it wasn’t even a redemption!

  15. Nunzio

    Could guess was not easy day for you, stress and sweat even if cold December probably:), had pleasure to use same error fare mid November and before was big struggle among Edreams and Af representatives, my luck was that ticket always on delta stock and magically when rebooked 3/4 times with Af they couldn’t ever see original price on this tickets just showing 44500 Dz as taxes:). Transiting from Rome with Ita Airlines that no request any Visa nor connecting tickets, upon arrival some scepticism regarding bizarre route to get Portland but then green light to Cdg to enjoy Premiere Lounge from 0800 to 1330 day after, enjoining as much breakfast and Lunch by Ducasse, on board cabin and seats terrific but service no top notch, sad u probably not get much time in lounge to enjoy full experience but still kudos for your win to fly.

    1. Ricky YVR

      Ah, Mr. Transit Without Visa on ITA! I wish my journey were as smooth as yours. One of my few regrets (if you can call it that) was not asking them to make me something from the lunch menu even though I was only in the lounge during breakfast hours. Something to leave for next time. 😉

    1. DenB® YTO

      The Reddit geniuses are great at shade and snipe but only one of their criticisms is even slightly worthy: the last-second deplaning. But ask yourself: what is the actual moment, after which one is obliged to stay on a flight? The plane door is still open. Travel is voluntary. I think it’s unwise to check a bag, because an opportunity such as this can occur, especially if you’re working hard to make it occur! But the act of getting off a plane, while the door isn’t closed yet? Totally 100% legit IMHO. for any discretionary reason, which one is not obliged to explain, to anyone. I’ve done it when the person next to me wore much too much perfume and all F seats were taken. Shade from Reddit? Not news.

      1. ranayot160

        It’s just a total dick move to waste a plane full of fellow travellers’ time like that for such a trivial reason.

        1. An Atomic Al

          Uhh… planes have been delayed for FAR less legitimate reasons than this one…
          Flights do have a degree of buffer involved, and they likely will have made up a little time in the air.

          In fact, you can probably look up the flight involved. Looks like it could have been LH1035 on Dec 13th.

        2. DM

          You and all those reddit commenters must be Saints because you have not done anything selfish ever in life that caused inconvenience to others and hence have earned the right to call out others when they confess to their mistakes… or you all are regular human beings (read: hypocrites) who are unaware of their own shortcomings but are first to point out others’ shortcoming… don’t you find it ironic that the comments in the link above were posted in a thread related to churning credit cards, which itself isn’t in the right spirit of credit card agreements and is a “dick” move on its own…

        3. DenB® YTO

          I don’t agree. If the door is open, the flight isn’t in progress. Nobody is obliged to stay on board. But if pax time will be wasted, in this case it’s because a checked bag had to be unloaded. If it’s unpardonable to waste airline pax time, we’ve got a whole convo we can have on the subject, usually with the airlines themselves playing the role of villain.

          1. Not Impressed

            You clearly have no idea how much coordination, work, effort, money, etc it takes to make an airport run smoothly. This is unpardonable because it is a colossal waste of time, money, energy for all the people who work at the airport for something completely unnecessary. You can hate on the airlines all you want but there are real hard-working people who actually get you from point A to B. I personally don’t care about the amount of money that LH will be charged for a delayed gate departure, but I do think it’s outrageous to have absolutely no empathy for all the hard work that went into getting that flight to arrive on time to its destination.

            We churners are part of a selfish game, but most of us usually adhere to the rule about not hurting the little guy. Most of us don’t abuse mom & pop shops but we all have to remember that airports are not just full of big corporations. There are lots of very hard-working (mostly immigrants) working long hours for terrible pay. So, I hope this gives all of us some pause to think about how our actions affect others.

            1. DenB® YTO

              Too much drama.
              clearly have no idea?
              Colossal waste?
              Outrageous?
              Absolutely no empathy?
              Immigrants working long hours for terrible pay, harmed by Ricky getting off a stationary airplane?

              Ummmm… I’ll leave this thread to cooler heads. Had my say.

              1. Abrar

                Buddy, you are the one out of touch in this one.

  16. Todd

    C’est incroyable! Bravo.

  17. Manu

    Holy F*ck !

    An epic read Ricky. Had no clue all this were behind the screens when we were texting while you were boarding La Premiere.

    One of the best travel blog posts in recent times. Kudos 🙏🏼

    1. Ricky YVR

      That’s what I exclaimed too, right about 6:33am local time. 😉

  18. nouak

    Goddamn I’d pay to see the on-screen adaptation, a true hustler.

  19. andreea

    …. Gee… Thought I was reading an Indiana Jones movie script….

  20. Carlos

    Can’t wait to watch this in a cinema. Who would you choose to play you? 🙂

  21. Glen

    I think like everyone said, best points and miles blog post I’ve read in my years of reading these blogs. And it perfectly illustrates that THIS is why we do what we do!

  22. jyang

    Legend!

  23. Annie

    This is well worth the read! Lesson learn from this:
    – Keep on trying and trying until the very last second (literally)
    – DO NOT CHECK BAG and ready to move anytime anywhere
    – Take any and every option available at that moment
    Now we can’t wait to hear your review of La Première – hope that it was well worth all the stress!

    1. Ricky YVR

      Exactly. Stay in the game. You’ll always get that one last chance.

  24. Oz

    Prince of Dragon Ballz travel. I salute you Sir!

  25. Sean

    What a terrific read. I was on pins and needles the whole time. Enjoyed every word, and now I can’t wait to read your review 🙂

  26. Geo@YQB

    Ricky, you just stressed the hell out of me! One way to start one of my last work days before xmas! Way to persist, but I know there is no way i would have been able to push through like you did. Well done!

  27. RWrubel

    Great story Ricky. Thanks for sharing.

  28. DenB® YTO

    Beautiful story. Can’t find anything in there to make me regret my policy of never, ever checking a bag 😉

    1. Ricky YVR

      Rookie mistake I know, but I truly didn’t believe we had any chance at all at that point. I figured I’d check my bag and make it easier for myself when filming the flight.

      1. DenB® YTO

        If you’d not checked the bag, AF wouldn’t have come through for ya. It’s the Law of Persuasive Kinetics

        1. Ricky YVR

          You’re probably right. Always with the wisdom DenB.

  29. Min

    Well, my heart sure was pumping reading this insane story! Wow!! And you didn’t even have to pay the €1500 AND got 100,000 AP points refunded? For your dedication, effort and resilience here, you need to get upgraded to King of Travel. I know I would have given up immediately at the Vueling debacle 😂

    1. DenB® YTO

      Oh GOD don’t tell him that

  30. Sam

    WOW that may have been the best internet piece I’ve read all year! Did you get refunded for the Lufthansa flight though?

    1. Ricky YVR

      All points and taxes refunded at 6:43am. Turns out Aeroplan’s refund policy of 2 hours before departure isn’t strict at all.

  31. John Bucher

    This is for sure the travel story of the year. The Prince of Travel continues to amaze me and has become the premiere source of knowledge, inspiration and pure fun in the travel community. It really was an exciting read!

  32. Bradley R

    Loved this story, I could see a Prince of Travel movie in the offing!

  33. David

    Amazing experience…but I say not enough stress with COVID that you have to go and make your own? I am waiting for Act X about you getting your Aeroplan Lufthansa points reimbursed or some sort of flight voucher from Lufthansa 😀

    1. Ricky YVR

      Now that you mention it, at some point during Act 6 I had to go to the testing centre at BCN for an antigen test… for one of my two possible US-bound flights the next day.

      All 100,000 Aeroplan points were refunded when I got the Lufthansa agent to cancel my check-in and cancelled online at 6:40am. We only took Ws on this day. 😉

  34. Al

    What a crazy story. I’d say it was pretty exciting reading that!! I guess the motto is: keep trying never give up even to the last second! Beauty

    1. Ricky YVR

      I’ve always known that persistence pays off. I’ve never seen it in action quite like this.

  35. MtheTraveller

    I am sure it was totally worth it, but I am 32 and my heart and brain just couldn’t take the adrenaline rush just reading! Did you collapse after the entire fiasco? 😂

    1. Carmen

      Tenacity always win 👏

    2. Ricky YVR

      I probably spent a whole hour laughing to myself and at myself onboard the La Première flight after my fifth glass of Taittinger Comtes 2007.

    3. MtheTraveller

      and just imagine the END OF THE WORLD you would have had if your LH flight had taken off! 😅

      1. Ricky YVR

        I do not dare imagine how I would’ve felt if Rachel had been on hold for just a few minutes longer… and my Lufthansa plane were already taxiing when I got reinstated in First!

        *kills self*

  36. Nathan

    Man, this was too stressful to read. Next time please just pay the $15,000+ euros and dont make us hang like that. 😋

    These errors do happen though. I was once able to score 4 nights @ $11 USD / night in brand new overwater bungalows at the Moorea Sofitel (regularly $1,350.00 night, and yes I was going there anyways). It was a fight to hold that, but Expedia did. Apparently after succumbing to honoring these prices for me, Expedia.ca actually changed their pricing policies.

    1. Ricky YVR

      We need a Pure Madness tropical version from you, Nathan!

  37. Jules

    Pure madness! Good you were alone and not traveling with P2. Too much stress…. So what’s not clear from your story/timeline: did you have to pay the 1500 EUR in the end for the initial economy downgrade starting in CDG?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Nope! The agent downgraded me to economy and reissued the ticket for no charge. He probably felt like there was no grounds levying a little-known €1,500 fee when I was getting downgraded to economy without mercy.

      As for P2 – maybe an Act 10? 😉

    2. Jules

      Also… what happened to the Aeroplan Lufthansa booking? Were you able to cancel without a penalty?

      1. Ricky YVR

        Here’s a little Act 8.5: Aeroplan publishes a rule that you have to cancel or change your flight at least two hours before departure or the ticket will be forfeited. Since my Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt was departing at 6:45am, I wavered at about 4:45am in terms of whether or not to continue.

        Eventually I told Rachel: “It’s only 100,000 Aeroplan points. We’re going for it.” And we continued.

        At 6:40am, as I got off the jet bridge, I asked the Lufthansa agent to cancel my check-in, and then I was able to cancel online with Aeroplan for a full refund of the 100,000 points & taxes. It seems that at least with Lufthansa, the two-hour rule isn’t well-enforced at all.

        1. Dino

          I assumed you’re 100K SE member so that you can cancel the ticket free.

          I have to say that you caused a delay to all the passengers in the LH flight and that was pretty selfish move.

          1. Ricky YVR

            Nope – I was able to cancel for free because I had booked the ticket within the past 24 hours.

            Was it selfish? Yes. I’ve learned my lesson to never check a bag in this kind of high-pressure scenario again.

            1. Jules

              I was thinking the same thing as Dino but didn’t want to call you out on it. If I was in that LH flight, I would be pissed regardless of whether it ended up arriving on schedule or earlier. But I’m glad you acknowledge a key lesson here and will remind your fellow readers: don’t check bags in any type of potential situation like this…

  38. Abraham

    This was an amazing read.
    Looking forward to the review.

    1. Ricky YVR

      Indeed, I’m looking forward to writing it. La Première was all worth it!

  39. hassan

    Wow! Absolutely incredible read Ricky, you had me on the edge of my seat the whole way! I can’t even imagine how it was for you haha. Looking forward to reading more about your experience.

    1. Ricky YVR

      I couldn’t believe what was happening at the time, and I still can hardly believe it looking back. A story for the ages!

      1. Kara

        I’m trying to watch the Steelers game but I couldn’t stop reading this amazing story!!!!!!!

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