SAA is stealing your Voyager miles.

27 May

SAA is stealing your Voyager miles, selling you something that doesn’t exist. It’s beyond a matter of poor customer service. It’s theft.

Trying to book a ticket with SAA Voyager...

Trying to book a ticket with SAA Voyager…

I have booked 2 South African Airways Business Class awards to Europe, but no seats are available for the next 360 days.

On 11th March I tried to book an SAA Voyager award. The FlySAA site offered Business class Mileage Keeper and Economy Class Mileage Keeper etc, without any clarification other than Limited Availability compared to ‘Any Day’ awards which are 3 times more expensive in Voyager Miles.

Firstly the site hung up during the transaction. I had to redo the transaction about 4 times. It never actually completed. Only because I noticed that my mileage balance had dropped, did I have any inkling that the transaction had happened.

I received no email confirmation. I then called the Voyager call center to confirm that the award had actually been awarded. I was assured it had, and I would get an email confirmation the following day. So I waited. Two days later, still no email. So I called again. The operator confirmed the award again and said she would send the confirmation email.

Nothing. I called again on the 18th. Again was told it would be emailed. Again nothing. So I resorted to writing. I had no idea that there was any urgency, only that you had to use the award within 6 months of it being issued.

On the 8th of April, I sent an email request to Voyager. Nothing. On the 19th of April, another email request. Nothing. These were sent to and I eventually did receive a reply to these emails. On the 5th of May for the first one, and on the 6th of May for the second one.

However, by now I had lost patience, so I called the call centre again and asked them to book the tickets. I explained that I was flexible in dates, preferably leaving early September and returning 3 weeks later, but leaving essentially any time in September, would be fine. The operator said no flights are available. So I said to try the following day. She had, she tried to find a flight from the 1st of September till the 9th of October, with absolutely nothing available. I was now highly unhappy. I then requested a supervisor and got put through to Pasela.

I explained to Pasela, that over a month and a half of delays from Voyager had now put me in the situation of having no tickets available. She told me, I should have booked with the call center and that I didn’t need the Voyager award number to book it. How I am supposed to know that, I have no idea. Essentially she blamed me for any problems.

She then told me I could have booked online. I said, you can’t book online, because 1 – I don’t have a voucher number, and 2 – You can’t book to Paris. She said you can. She just argued with me on the phone like a scene in Monty Python. 

After a 20 minute argument, she said the best she could do was wait list me. I said, that doesn’t help. How do I book accommodation, when I don’t know if I am going to be there or not? ‘Oh, hotels can refund you.’ The summation of that conversation was being waitlisted on a flight, and I was told to phone them every 2 days to try and confirm the seats.

Wait-listed is one step closer. But I thought, perhaps if I could speak to someone face to face, I might have better luck. After a day of trying to find the offices, I eventually go to the Icon building offices and meet a very nice lady. Who works for SAA. Not Voyager. There are no Voyager offices. Despite Despite what their website says… Fine. Can you please try and find us seats to anywhere in Europe with this award?

We then spend an hour and a half as she checks every day in September on every Star Alliance operator and NONE come up. NONE!!! Ignoring the fact that the retarded system makes you check each day and airline separately. So I ask her to please check 1 year in advance from that date for a flight. No seats available.

Well… OK, what if we scrap the Business Class and take Economy? Well, you could, but because it is 30 days past the award date, you would lose the extra miles that business class used. …

So as it stands, the way I see it, SAA has stolen 180 000 Voyager miles, selling me an award for something that can never be redeemed. Considering, that best case scenario, you earn 1 mile for R6.50 you spend, thats R1 170 000 in cash spent over the years. It’s beyond a matter of poor customer service. It’s theft. The irony, is that the SAA Voyager program, is a Loyalty program. And right now, thanks to the Loyalty program, I feel like only ever flying any airline other than South African Airways. And calling the call centre every two days? You know what that does? The operator sends a request to the controller. That’s it. 10-15 minutes of time, every two days, so someone can click a button. How about you just put all the waitlists in a queue?

So, if you have had similar issues, let me know, cos I’m pretty sure this is against the Consumer Protection Act, specifically clause 35.4.c.

the sponsor of a loyalty programme, or a
supplier who offers or holds out a willingness, to accept any loyalty credits or awards as
consideration or in exchange for any particular goods or services, must—

(a) ensure that the supply of those particular goods or services available at any
time is sufficient to accommodate all reasonably anticipated demands for
those goods or services in exchange for loyalty credits or awards;
(b) not limit or restrict capacity to supply those particular goods or services in
exchange for such credits or awards on any basis other than that it applies to
such a supply in exchange for any other form of consideration;
(c) accept any tender of sufficient loyalty credits or awards as adequate
consideration for the price of those particular goods or services if, at that time,
it has capacity available for supply in exchange for any other form of

If I could buy a seat for cash, they have to give me one for miles… Who’s with me?

UPDATE: Apparently, they seem to have found some seats for the flight overseas. Amazing. And all it cost was 10 emails, 17 phone calls, 1 blog post, 22 tweets and 1 Hellopeter complaint. Now if we can just get home…

13 Responses to “SAA is stealing your Voyager miles.”

  1. AG Kent (@Kenty7p5) May 27, 2013 at 10:17 AM #

    In reply to your question about similar issues, YES! I am in precisely the same position and have run the gamut of attempts you have, even resorting to going to the airport to the Voyager counter in an attempt to get seats, ANY seats, ANY time to ANYwhere in Europe, never mind the Paris destination I would desire. It is a false promise in the extreme, and totally misleading, on purpose. Fraud comes to mind too, in addition to the CPA, because to my mind this is a co-ordinated pre-planned method to deny the consumer, or as we are euphemistically referred to by SAA Voyager, the “Voyager Member”, the actual product on offer for the value received. At worst, SAA should be forced to return the value taken for use by the consumer. If any business takes one’s money for goods or service and fails to render the service or deliver the goods, keeping the money/value is surely fraudulent.

  2. Hennie May 27, 2013 at 6:25 PM #

    Christ that sucks. But a little birdy told me that anything SAA touches turns to shit, so it should hardly come as a surprise in all honesty. Perhaps worthwhile to now only fly BA or Virgin and rather rack up loyalty points with them. SAA is already stealing tax money, so I don’t really see why we should pay them anything more.

  3. Dax May 27, 2013 at 8:06 PM #

    Bro, we’ve known the Voyager programme is a farce from day one. I tried to use my points for an overseas flight a little while ago and although the tickets were free, the taxes cost only a little less than just getting the same flight on another airline!

    Luckily there is a solution. You can now spend your Voyager miles through the Legacy Lifestyle rewards programme ( 180 000 miles will give you R14 400 to spend at a wide range of partners I reckon it’s a better deal, and start flying with another airline.

    • WannabeBond May 29, 2013 at 3:25 PM #

      Sorry Dax, the bots thought your comment was spam. I’ll have a word…

  4. Stacey Vermeulen July 9, 2013 at 12:26 PM #

    Get an ebucks & FNB account – SAA miles are not worth it! The taxes are a rip off & you can NEVER get the flights you want…

  5. Isabel Grobler November 6, 2013 at 10:24 AM #

    I am having the same problem. No seats available for the next year. What can I do?

    • WannabeBond November 6, 2013 at 10:59 AM #

      The best success I had was actually chasing them up via Twitter, @flysaa. I eventually got the tickets approved a month before the flight.

  6. Sheena November 3, 2014 at 6:05 PM #

    I have the same problem, redeemed 2 awards to North America, phoned as we want to go in July, there are no seats – any advise please?? Also cannot make any other arrangements for accommodation etc because might not get a flight. Does anyone know who I can talk to?????

  7. Alejandro G. Ritacco November 11, 2014 at 7:37 PM #

    I thouht was the only one frustrated, seems like not, I forgot last flight to book the miles and tried to do it later, ” 72 hours” after the flight!!!, was the answer that I’ve been waiting for nearly one and a half month, forget, not doubt SAA is stealing us, what can we do?, if it’s possible try other airline, if not . . . , I’m sorry.

  8. Bruno Ragghianti December 29, 2014 at 10:21 AM #

    Noticed that the quantity of voyager miles needed to Australian destinations doubled in the last 6 months. The airport taxes also doubled rendering this reward programme now a “rip off” programme. That’s your reward for being a loyal supporter of SAA. Absolute RIP OFF without justification or explanation. Agree with the other posts that this is plain theft. Considering suing SAA.

  9. Bruno Ragghianti March 21, 2015 at 8:30 PM #

    Further to my previous comment the miles needed to European destinations have almost quadrupled. SAA has become an airline not worth supporting. Seems that the “route” to take in dealing with these thieves is through the consumer protections act.

  10. Patrick Leclezio July 13, 2015 at 5:07 PM #

    Some time ago Voyager classified their redemptions as Mileage Keeper or Anyday. The former gets you approximately the same as value as the previous unclassified miles, whilst the latter is considerably devalued. As an example in the past I would spend 40k miles on a flight to Mauritius, it now costs 120k odd via Anyday. I don’t know the numbers obviously but in my experience seats allocated to Mileage Keeper are almost impossible to secure, which means that you are forced to take the Anyday award. Any miles that you were holding before the reclassification thus have in effect reduced in value by two-thirds. This is theft, pure and simple. And given the number of people affected it might be worthwhile for someone to instigate a class action lawsuit.

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