Is it fair to deny boarding to passengers, cancel their return tickets, and then keep the fares they paid?
Molly Bukovec doesn’t think so. Neither do we.
Bukovec and her fiancé booked a flight from San Francisco to Buenos Aires on Aeroméxico with a layover in Mexico City. When they checked in at San Francisco International Airport, the agent checked their bags and checked them in for their flight to Mexico City with no problem.
The Argentina page of the U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website advises that “prior to arrival in Argentina, U.S. citizen tourist and business travelers must pay a $160 reciprocity fee.”
But somehow this information escaped Bukovec and her fiancé, because they had two very unpleasant surprises awaiting them.
When Bukovec and her fiancé arrived in Mexico City, they arrived at the gate for their connecting flight to Buenos Aires, but were denied boarding.
According to Bukovec, the gate agent in Mexico City told them that they “did not have proof of payment of a reciprocity fee required to enter Argentina.”
Bukovec and her fiancé were forced to purchase entirely new tickets to continue their flight to Argentina. To add insult to injury, Aeroméxico also canceled their return tickets because they had missed a leg of their journey. In total, they had to spend an additional $4,000 in order to continue to Argentina and return home.
Bukovec asked our advocacy team to help them get that $4,000 refunded: “We would like to know if we have grounds for a complaint because the airline failed to ensure we had sufficient documentation to get to our final destination when we checked in at SFO.”
It wasn’t fair of Aeroméxico to cancel their return flights after denying Bukovec and her fiancé boarding — and then keep their ticket fees for the original flights. That reeks of corporate greed.
Yes, Bukovec and her fiancé should have known about the reciprocity fee, paid it, and had sufficient proof of that payment in order to enter Argentina. Without it, Aeroméxico had no choice but to deny them boarding. But its agent in San Francisco should have made that clear to Bukovec and her fiancé when they checked in.
Bukovec’s case poses a powerful lesson about the need to check — and double-check — that you’re in compliance with all documentation requirements when you travel.
Takeaway? When traveling abroad, always ensure that you have all documentation necessary to enter and leave your country of destination. This information can be found on the U.S. Department of State website; if you are using a travel agent to book your trip, your agent should also provide you with this information. Otherwise, like Bukovec, you can find yourself paying out-of-pocket to the tune of thousands of dollars in additional fees, not to mention encountering delays along the way.
Luckily for Bukovec, her story has a happy ending. Our advocacy team responded to Bukovec’s request for help. And Bukovec notified us that in response to our inquiry, Aeroméxico has agreed to refund the cost of the replacement tickets Bukovec and her fiancé had to purchase.