There’s a saying in journalism: If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.
In other words, believe no one.
I wish I could have offered that advice to Pravin Shah a little sooner. He’d booked his round-trip flights from Chicago to Berlin through ExploreTrip, an online travel agency, but something — he’s not exactly sure what — went wrong.
Although his online agent confirmed Shah’s flights all the way back through to Chicago, the United Airlines transatlantic leg on on his return flight had mysteriously vanished. That can happen with codeshare partners sometimes. (But let’s not go there today.)
And as I look at his case and the resolution I’m reminded that in this day and age of codesharing, interlining and ant-consumer antitrust exemptions, you can trust no one.
“I had called ExploreTrip before leaving and had been assured that everything was fine,” he says. “But when I consulted the Brussels Airlines website, there was no Brussels-to-Chicago flight.”
With only a few days before starting his return trip, Shah suspected he and his family would be stranded in Brussels unless he got help. And ExploreTrip continued to insist that all was well, even though it obviously wasn’t.
I’m not going to make you read until the end of this story to find out what happened. After our advocacy team got involved, his agency rebooked him on a return flight the next day. It’s still unclear how, exactly, the last leg was dropped. Chalk it up to a codesharing mystery. (I promised I won’t go there, and I won’t.)
“But I am sure your help was crucial,” says Shah.
So why am I writing about Shah’s case? Is this really the first time a flight leg disappeared? Nope.
But there are a few lessons for the rest of us. When you fly, check with your travel agent but verify with your airline. If one disagrees with the other, your agent should fix it (after all, that’s what you pay an advisor for). If you can’t do that, you need to get the airline — or an advocate — involved.
Shah did the right thing by double-checking the flight on the airline site.
Truth is, you can’t believe anyone anymore. That’s why I started this story with one of my favorite journalistic proverbs. No one can be trusted.
Double- and triple-check everything, get it in writing, and make sure everyone agrees. Let your OCD flag fly! Otherwise, you could end up like Shah did, enjoying the waffles and cherry beer in Brussels on a 24-hour layover.
Actually, come to think of it, that’s not a bad place to be stuck.