As fans of US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards know, and people who recently applied for a personal or business card during the recent Summer Olympics promotion will soon find out, the third-party travel provider US Bank uses no longer allows multi-city itineraries to be booked online through their travel portal, although such tickets can still be booked over the phone at no additional charge.
Booking premium-cabin tickets is possible to do online, although you need to be extremely careful while doing so, and under most circumstances I think you'll be better off booking such tickets over the phone as well.
Here's how I found that out while making a first class reservation over the weekend.
US Bank allows you to search for "business class" flights
When conducting a search for flights through US Bank's travel provider, you can no longer search for multi-city itineraries, but if you select "Advanced Search" you can search for "Business Class:"
Check your search results carefully for class of service
Here's the first search result for a "Business Class" flight between Washington and Lexington, KY:
There's something that should be immediately suspicious about this search result, but which I missed the first time: there are 9 seats available. What Delta Connection flight has a First Class cabin with 9 or more seats?
The answer is revealed when you expand the flight details:
This flight books into the "W" Comfort+ fare class, not into the correct "P" First Class fare bucket.
The key takeaway here is that this is your one and only chance to see what cabin you're booking into: on none of the subsequent checkout screens is the class of service listed.
"Business Class" search results are all over the place
At first I thought this was a Delta-specific situation, in which you can book Comfort+ but not First Class seats online.
But no! Here's a flight correctly pricing out in Business class between JFK and LAX:
Basically it seems like a combination of sloppy programming on the part of the travel agency and the exploding number of fare classes and cabin configurations by the airlines. On 3-cabin aircraft you can book into the Business cabin, and on 2-cabin aircraft you might be booked into First class or Comfort+ depending on what fare classes are available and on how the online search engine is feeling that day.
You can change flights within 24 hours for $30 (or free)
After realizing I had mistakenly booked a flight in Comfort+, instead of First Class, I called US Bank's travel agency, QualityRewardTravel, at 1-866-814-1293. After waiting on hold for 5 or 10 minutes, I explained the situation and gave my Agency Record Locator to the phone agent. She told me that within 24 hours of booking, flights could be changed or cancelled for a fee of $30.
I told her I was calling because their website had made a mistake, and that I wasn't going to pay to fix it.
After asking her supervisor, she made a "one-time" exception and changed the flight into First Class for free, noting that the flight cost the same number of points as my original reservation.
Make multi-city and premium-cabin reservations over the phone
Multi-city Flexperks reservations already have to be made over the phone, but I would suggest that any premium cabin flight involving a connection should also be booked over the phone, since the flight search results do not show the class of service available on each leg. It seems likely that they show itineraries where business or first class seats are available on only some of the flights. Alaska Airlines is notorious for doing this in their search results, although they at least alert you when you select a mixed-cabin itinerary.
Of course, when the cabin you want simply doesn't appear in the online search results, you'll also need to call to book.
One of the great things about US Bank Flexpoints is that they allow you to take advantage of price compression, when nonstop, more convenient, or premium cabin itineraries cost the same number of Flexpoints as inconvenient or economy class flights. However, US Bank's travel agency doesn't make it as easy as it should be to take advantage of that key feature of the program.