Next time you fly, keep your boarding pass. Especially if you collect frequent flier miles. And especially if your airline is playing the codeshare game.

John Hamilton wishes he had. He’s a member of Flying Blue, the loyalty program operated by Air France and KLM. He recently flew on Delta Air Lines, an Air France codeshare partner, and expected to get Flying Blue credit.

He didn’t.

Hamilton explains:

It seems that Air France requires the original boarding passes to recognize my flights so they can give me credit (and protect the 101,000 miles I presently have in their program).

I don’t know anyone who saves their boarding passes, and certainly I haven’t. Delta has been no help as they insist they can’t even send Flying Blue records that show my having paid for and flown their flights.

Delta and Flying Blue insist they cannot communicate with each other to verify my flights and neither will go the extra mile to help me resolve this issue. Having read your columns, I not only mailed both airlines direct but also wrote each of them letters (and copied the US Dept. of Transportation and the Maryland States Attorney General).

Am I being unrealistic to expect the airlines to honor my flights even though I no longer have the original boarding passes?

I don’t think it’s unrealistic. In a moment, I’ll tell you why you should keep your boarding pass. But first, let’s consult the rules.

1.4.6 All claims for retroactive credit should be made within six (6) months of the flight or transaction in question. Retroclaims for Partners should be sent to the Customer Service Centre by regular mail or made on Partners websites in accordance with the procedures as set forth in the FB Communication.

Retroclaims for Airline Partners have to be supported with (i) a copy of the passenger receipt or, in the event of electronic tickets, a document called “journey memo” or Trip Summary and (ii) the original boarding pass. Retroclaims for Non-Airline Partners shall be supported with the original or a copy of contract or invoice.

Furthermore, the Company reserves the right to demand at any time all documentary evidence of the accrual of Miles. Retroclaims can only be made via the Internet for Air France and KLM operated flights showing the AF or KL designated code. No correspondence can be entered into about retroactive credits, and documents submitted to the Customer Service Centre cannot be returned; it is then advised to keep copies.

Confused? Me too.

I’m not entirely sure if Hamilton had a “retroclaim” or not. If he’s a Flying Blue member, he would have almost certainly given his number to Delta when he booked the ticket. Still, the rules say you have to provide “documentary” evidence of a flight operated by an airline partner.

Let’s take a step back and get a big-picture perspective. Here’s a loyal Air France customer, and the carrier should be doing everything it can to make him happy, not throwing the rulebook in his face. We know Delta has an electronic record of his flight somewhere. Why can’t they just fix this for him?

I thought it was worth asking Air France about it. So I did.

Air France credited him with his miles.

For future reference, it’s worth keeping your boarding passes, and not only for collecting miles. If you’ve ever been audited by the IRS, you know that receipts are a good thing.

I keep my passes — just in case.

(Photo: David_Turner/Flickr Creative Commons)