Did Viking offer enough for my missed connection?

Barbara Shurr’s European riverboat cruise was “wonderful” — until the very end.

That’s when she and her husband boarded a flight back home that they should have never been booked on, turning their dream cruise vacation into a nightmare.

“The flight home was from Budapest connecting through Rome to O’Hare to San Francisco,” she says. “The problem was they only gave us an hour to connect in Rome. This is an illegal connection since you need two hours to connect, and there was no way we could get between gates in different terminals in just one hour.”

The Shurrs had booked her entire vacation, including her airline tickets, directly through Viking River Cruises. She trusted the cruise line to make reservations that she could, you know, actually use.

When she received her documents, Shurr noticed the tight connection time in Rome, and contacted Viking.

I told a representative I wanted to change the flights, and she said cost $400. She tried to connect me with the reservations department, but she couldn’t get through.

She told me to try again later, which I did, but still couldn’t get through.

I assumed that Viking air dept was professional and knew what they were doing, so I finally gave up.

You know what happened next, right?

I’ll let Shurr tell us in her own words.

When we got to the Alitalia gate in Rome, we were there 20 minutes before the flight, and the gate agent told us the flight was closed and we would have to take the flight the next day.

We went out to the ticket counter, and they wanted to charge us $6,000 for the next day’s flight. I managed to talk them into honoring our tickets for the next day, but they would not pay for a hotel room or any food.

After we finally got home, I called Viking and they said, “Call the insurance company.” Which I did.

I filled out the claim form which said not to expect a response for four weeks. After 5 weeks I called them and was told the claim had been denied because the planes were “on time.”

She phoned Viking, explaining that she’d tried to get them to fix the problem before her cruise, and that her claim had been denied on a technicality.

Viking offered a $500 cruise credit, but that doesn’t begin to cover her out-of-pocket expenses, which total $1,213 for a hotel, rebooking her domestic flight and a cab ride to the airport.

“I would like to see Viking take responsibility for their air department error and reimburse us,” she says.

That sounded reasonable, so I contacted Viking on her behalf. A few weeks later, I heard from Shurr, who said a customer service representative had contacted her to apologize and offer two more $500 cruise credits.

She’s unhappy.

It’s empty gesture on their part which costs them nothing, and makes me mad.

The only way these vouchers are any good is if you take another cruise on Viking, which would end up costing us another $8,000 at least.

Why would we want to spend all that money for $1000 credit?

Why, indeed?

Here’s the bottom line: If Viking booked these airline tickets, then it should have made darned sure they were legal connections. It appears that at least two mistakes were made on these reservations: First, the illegal connection times; and second, the reservations don’t appear to be linked. (If they were, then they wouldn’t have had to pay for their domestic flight changes.)

The only fault I can find with Shurr is that she didn’t insist Viking address this obvious problem before she left. The rest, as far as I can tell, is on Viking.

Is its response to her, and to me, appropriate? I’m not so sure.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • bill0321

    I bet Viking focused on their airline contracts AND did not pay attention to the airline and flight times/ connecting times.

    Most people  are aware of the crazy strikes in Europe and do their best to at least figure 3 hours with connections/ flights

    I am also rather surprised that Viking was not available to the clients…. This is definitely NOT good customer service for their product.

    Viking Cruise Line participates with the Virtuoso Luxury Consortium
    and this definitely is a horrible reflection.

    Viking needs to own up with a cash payment

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    I would definitely have been worried about the connection, too much to abandon the quest to get it fixed prior to the trip. Once on board, did the OP talk to someone? There must have been a sales agent on board. Just leaving it to a hope and a prayer on the day she flew back to the US seemed irresponsible when it was all but guaranteed she’d not make the connection.

    I think Viking was remiss about selling an illegal connection (which is why they broke it up into two segments so that it would go through? which makes it all the more reprehensible). The OP deserves her expenses back in cash, not vouchers.

  • djp98374

    Is such a connection “Illegal” in europe????

    If so then is this covered under the EU regs???

    If it is covered by the EU regs…then could she have a case???

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5KOZI6MFVHYMCJDSDVVZR4ZVNE JessicaJ

     It’s not ‘illegal’ in Europe because it technically wasn’t a connection – she simply showed up late for the second flight because she didn’t get there in time. EU regs don’t cover that (and even if they did, it would be the airline’s fault, not the one who bought or sold the ticket).

  • Kip Hartwell

    If I am reading correctly, the customer tried to get this fixed first and alerted the travel agent to the potential problem.  The agent should have fixed it and had ample time to fix it.  This is clearly their responsibility and even $2000 in vouchers is not enough.  Would you accept a %25 off coupon?  No.  Just because they list the cash value does not actually make it cash.

  • Raven_Altosk

    No, she didn’t receive enough compensation or even enough consideration from Viking. She appears to have done everything right and $2000 in cruise funny money is a joke.

    She deserves a cash refund for the money she had to lay out to get home–and a big stinkin’ apology.

  • Andrew Churchill

    Chris- Did you actually look up the published Minimum Connection Time (MCT)?  
    I’m seeing a published 60 minutes for Domestic-International (DI) at FCO which would make connection this “legal” in ticketing terms.  There do seem to be a few exceptions, but without knowing the first airline (article says the second was Alitalia) we can’t be sure.

  • lost_in_travel

    There are a few things I don’t understand on Viking’s part – why should there have been a cost to change the flights ($400 was mentioned) before hand when the passenger noticed the too tight connection?  Why didn’t their own agent who could not get through to reservations, twice on calls from passenger, have sent a message to reservations to have them call the passenger?  Was the European connection unlinked or was the American connection?  Either way, why was anything unlinked?  As a TA, they were certainly not protecting the passenger.  What happened to their luggage?  Not a word in the letter so I assume they had to retrieve it in Rome so at least they had clothes and toiletries for the night, but if the connection was unlinked, the luggage might have been left behind if they had gotten onto the plane.  Viking dodged a cost for missing luggage.  Viking was also very lucky that the passenger was able to advocate for herself and get Alitalia to honor the ticket the next day, again saving a large expense.  Seems to me that Viking is very lucky that the cost is only $1,213 and should pay up in cash quickly.  And give them credits as good will in case they later decide the river cruise was enough fun to do it again – when they get their own plane tickets.  Viking is the loser here, it sounds like they had a pro-active customer that they blew off, and who had a good trip (no complaints) except for the avoidable airline mess Viking was warned about.  No one to blame but Viking.  Everyone makes a mistake sometime, but it is how it is fixed that really shows one’s class.  Viking is wrong and needs to fix this now.

  • emanon256

    I voted no to this one, they owe her everything she is out.  I always thought Viking was reputable, but then again, I always book my own travel or use an agent I know personally.  I am shocked Viking would book her into two separate itineraries to get around a connection rule.  I also am shocked they would just book it without the OP knowing what they are booking until after the fact.  Then the fact that they refuse to change it is even worse.
    I am totally with the OP, the funny money costs Viking nothing and required her to give them more money.  I am proud of the OP for only asking for her out of pocket expenses to be covered and not a 100% refund as some people do.  Good for her, and she truly deserves nothing less than her out of pock expenses to be covered. Shame on Viking.

    According to the travel tool I use, the minimum connection time for International-International in Rome is 45 minutes. That seems a little unreasonable to me.

    I still think Viking should pay, as they booked two non-connected itineraries, which means the outbound gate agent had no way of knowing the passenger was coming in bound on another flight. It also means if she misconnected, she had no onward protection, thus having to re-book herself and pay for changes herself.

  • sirwired

    I cannot imagine why Viking is stonewalling on this one.  They booked an illegal connection; they are the ones that need to pony up.  If the traveler can find documentation that that connection is illegal in Rome, I don’t see that Viking has a leg to stand on.

    Now, if the connection WAS legal, then it’s on the airline to pony up.

  • Julie Sturgeon

    1 hour is a legal connection in Europe. I’ve had them even tighter on many flights over there — one was just 40 minutes in Budapest for myself, and yes, they had to hold the plane while I ran through the terminals. Unfortunately, that’s the way they run things overseas (mainly because their custom process isn’t as complex as ours), so I don’t know that Viking had other choices to select from.

  • Julie Sturgeon

     From how I read it, she didn’t go through an agent. She was working directly with the supplier, Viking.

  • Julie Sturgeon

     Two layovers in that distance is quite common. Many travelers from the Midwest have to make two connections to get to their European destination. They didn’t break it up into two segments at all.

  • sirwired

    “Classic” cruise air is kind of strange.  You pay for your flights many months in advance, sometimes before airline schedules have been set that far out.  The final price of your ticket isn’t fixed, but the cruise line tries to keep it where they said it would cost.  You do not choose carriers or routing.  If there is an overnight layover, you are responsible for paying.

    Once you receive your tickets (1-2 months before your trip) if you do not like what you have been assigned, you pay an “Air Deviation Fee” (the $400); that entitles you to an expanded menu of air options.

    This whole bizarre setup sort of makes sense for large cruises or tour packages that might charter a flight or move a lot of people (at a discount) from point A to point B.  And maybe it made more sense in the past for reasons I cannot fathom.  It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for a River Cruise operator.

    For instance, a cruise line operating Alaska cruisetours might be able to get a good discount shuttling people from Seattle to Fairbanks; well over what could be achieved by passengers booking their own one-way Seattle to Fairbanks ticket.

    The industry recognizes that this is a complicated way of doing things with poor customer sat, and some lines are moving towards just acting as a booking agent for whatever flights you want; some of them just provide an automated booking website, just like Expedia, Orbitz, whatever…  You pick your flights and carriers and pay the listed price.  You may end up paying more in the end than the old way, but I guess they figure you won’t blame the cruise line for high airfares.

  • emanon256

    Chris said the flights were not linked.  They were two separate bookings, not one through booking.   Connections are very common, but if they are booked separately, there is no recourse if the passenger misconnects.  If it’s a single booking, the airline has a record of the passenger traveling through.   

  • emanon256

    Actually on looking at my travel tool, it says the minimum connection time is 45 minutes:
                         DD  DI  ID  II  
    FCO               045 060 060 045
    That’s actually surprising to me; I would allow much more time.  I would have made sure to have at least 2 hours, but that’s just me.
    I think the real problem is that Viking booked two separate itineraries.  In your case, you had a through ticket, so the airline knew you were coming and knew to hold the plane.  In the OPs case, they didn’t know she was coming.  It was a separate ticket, and if she miss connects, there is no protection.

  • TonyA_says

    Disclosure: Travel Agent talking here …

    First of all the routing BUD-FCO-ORD-SFO is bizarre. All my clients will fire me if I route them this way. Budapest to SanFran is easily doable with ONE connection in FRA or MUC or AMS or ZRH or LHR. Shame on the booking agent for making this idiotic routing.

    Second, the “standard” minimum connection time between an international-to-international flight in FCO is only 45 minutes.

    Third, there is no proof provided in the story that SEPARATE tickets were involved. There was not even a complaint about the inability to check through baggage in Rome. If indeed separate tickets were involved, it would be CRUCIAL to the story.

    Fourth, they said they missed their connection in FCO from BUD. They were leaving Rome bound for Chicago on an Alitalia flight… I assume they are talking about:
     AZ 628  FCO ORD-1000A 140P  764
    If that is true then what did they take from BUD to FCO ?
    According to my GDS only one flight from Wizz Air would make sense:
    1.7     W62339 Y                 BUDFCO  625A 810A     320   0  (SUNDAY)
    2.15    W62339 Y                 BUDFCO  645A 830A     320   0  (MON and FRI)

    That said, I cannot find an INTERLINE Agreement between AZ and W6 on my GDS. So a separate ticket would indeed be necessary, and baggage cannot be checked through. Perhaps the OP should tell us what airline and flight they took from BUD to FCO.

    When one buys a PACKAGE (including AIR) from a cruise line, it would be reasonable to assume that the flights are in good order. If the OP wanted to get stuck in Rome (which is not a bad idea for some), then perhaps they could have just gone to Kayak and purchased the tickets on their own. But they did not because they were RELYING on the cruise-line’s EXPERTISE to get them the right airline tickets. It is obvious that VIKING failed.

    Finally, it would be nice to see the dates VIKING ACTUALLY ticketed  (air) the passenger. If the tickets were done AFTER all the calls from the OP complaining about connection time then something smells FRAUDULENT in my opinion. Many tour operators only actually ticket customers about 30-60 days prior to departure. So to tell you that it would cost hundreds of dollars to change and airline ticket when possibly NO tickets have been issued yet sounds like a scam to me.

    This case should be a wake up call to cruise passengers. Consider booking your own air tickets. Just arrive at least a day prior to the cruise’s embarkation and returning the day after disembarkation.

  • TonyA_says

    SFO is not inland or somewhere in the Midwest. SFO is an INTERNATIONAL GATEWAY CITY. Lots of options to make ONE CONX from Budapest. Look at your GDS!

  • TonyA_says

     Viking is also acting as a TRAVEL AGENT of the airline.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZEOHOFHCFC5AWC6WPMNFZRBQWY KathyJ

    Christopher, I’m wondering what factors make you not so sure that Viking did enough. I see nothing in the story to make me think they have even begun to do the right thing. Vouchers are marginally OK when it’s something not really under the control of the company (noisy cabin neighbors, for instance). What you describe is in a whole other category and needs direct reimbursement.

  • TonyA_says

    FCO Minimum Connection Time (MCT) has EXCEPTIONS.
    You need to know what the OTHER airline was, the one that flew from Budapest.
    Nevertheless the STANDARD Intl-to-Intl MCT for FCO is 45 minutes.

  • TonyA_says

    I did a voluntary reroute (change) yesterday on Air France, Alitalia and Delta. Penalty cost is only $250 (plus difference in fare if any). $400 is EXCESSIVE. An additional $50 service fee is standard in the industry.

  • john4868

    I’m really lost on this on… Was it a connection or two separate itineraries? It makes a difference
    since MCTs wouldn’t necessarily apply to two separate bookings and the OP would have to check in again. If it’s a single ticket, then Chris has unfairly categorized this as an “illegal” ticket which it isn’t since the MCT was met.

    Either way Viking owes them cash not scrip for their out of pocket expenses on the itinerary they booked.

  • TonyA_says

    I agree 100%. She was screwed by Viking, pure and simple.

  • TonyA_says

    I agree, Shame on Viking. What good are the vouchers? She can’t use those to pay for the credit card bills on expenses she paid in Rome, etc.
    Viking should reimburse her for ALL her out of the pocket expenses.
    And that’s the minimum. Plus they should also give her a gift (the voucher) for her troubles.
    Viking should now be included in the BUYER BEWARE group.

  • TonyA_says

    Very Many!

    1*S#KL1972    BUDAMS- 620A 835A     737 0E
    2*S#KL 605       SFO-1020A 135P     M11 0E

    1*A#LH1343   BUDFRA- 655A 845A     733 0E
    2*A#LH 454      SFO-1015A 145P     744 0E

    1  #UA9023   BUDFRA- 655A 845A  *  733 0E
    2  #UA 901      SFO-1215P 338P     744 0E

    1*A#LX2251   BUDZRH- 935A1120A  *  100 0E
    2*A#LX  38      SFO- 105P 525P     343 0E

    1*A#LH1677   BUDMUC-1255P 210P     320 0E
    2*A#LH 458      SFO- 355P 815P     346 0E

    1*O#BA 865   BUDLHR- 815A1005A     320 0E
    2*O#BA 287      SFO- 225P 620P     744 0E


  • WaldoLydecker

    Does it make a difference that the first flight Budapest-Rome was not domestic?  Or are flights within the EU considered domestic? 

  • sirwired

     The $400 isn’t an airline change fee, it’s a cruise air deviation fee.  It allows you to pick flights other than the really cheap ones the cruise air department has chosen for you.  The fare difference and any airline change fees are bundled into that price.  (Although you can be pretty sure you won’t be able to pick a flight that’s TOO expensive.)

  • TonyA_says

    Looks like only the LABEL is different. But, that’s exactly what they are doing – a voluntary reroute in flights.

    Anyway, you and I understand what Viking is really doing and it’s no good for the passenger.

  • jerryatric

    SIMPLE I for one will never use Viking.
    There are other companies dealing in these type cruises. I have been on OAT with no problems. AND I could contact & make changes.
    The least Viking should have done is offered a $1200 for the trouble.
    On OAT as TonyA mentioned they don’t book airlines until about 45 – 60 days before departure.
    The more I read about cruising today the less likely I am to take a cruise.

  • TonyA_says

    There’s not enough FACTS in the story to discern a MCT violation.
    However, VIKING constructed the route so they are responsible UNLESS they can prove the flights were late AND connected (meaning they were on the same PNR). But not answering the OP calls is enough for me to raise a big red flag.

  • SoBeSparky

    See how easy it is for the reputation of a top-rated international tour company to be trashed?  Several people at Viking should be summarily fired.  

  • Spanky_McF

    Lazy Lazy Lazy.  This is why you should book your plans independently and yourself.   Another TA shrug.

  • TonyA_says

    And buy travel insurance separate from the cruise :-)

  • Julie Sturgeon

     I did miss that detail near the end. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dave-Champagne/100000751290818 Dave Champagne

    Again, if I PAY you in cash, I want CASH back. If I pay with credits, give me credits back.
    That should be a LAW!

  • ClareClare

    How many times have there been posts on Chris’s columns to the effect that “you shouldn’t have tried to do this yourself, you should have let a qualified travel agent handle it for you.”

    WELL… that’s exactly what this OP did, and we see how it worked out. No wonder people try DIY-options and get tangled up in Expedia and Priceline knots (among so many others). If all TA’s were competent, the DIY companies would be less successful. And Chris would have had to write about something else today.

    If Viking isn’t reading today’s column and frantically trying this very minute to contact the OP to both settle AND apologize… small-claims court should be the OP’s next stop. Assuming that she brings all the documentation with her to the courtroom, it should be an easy case to win.  

  • Charles B

    “This case should be a wake up call to cruise passengers. Consider
    booking your own air tickets. Just arrive at least a day prior to the
    cruise’s embarkation and returning the day after disembarkation.”

    Excellent advice. Also get your own TA to do the bookings if you want the professional assistance. In every case I’ve checked, it’ll also be cheaper than the cruise-provided rates, often even including the extra overnight stays.

  • TonyA_says

    I think Bodega is from the Bay Area (SFO) and probably could have sold the Viking Cruise for the same price [as Viking], booked a lot better airline tickets [probably much cheaper than Viking], booked a decent hotel in Budapest before and after the cruise at a “wholesale” price, and then get a “true” travel insurance package from a firm like TravelGuard.

    What is the point of booking direct from Viking if the same cruise can be sold by a travel agent for the same price? The TA can then get you better flights and will probably not charge extra service fees because you will get the cruise, flight, hotel, insurance from him/her.

    Sometimes DIY is not the best route.
    Disclosure: I am a proud TA. But I will help people who want to DIY.

  • GNRMatt

    The OP should start a dispute with their Credit Card company and try to get their money back that way.  If the vendor (Viking) won’t reimburse her for something that is clearly their mistake, the best thing to do is to just take away the original payment from them.  I’ve had to do this in the past with an airline that screwed me over and I got a full refund from AMEX.  Just make sure when you put in the credit card dispute, ONLY put in the facts.  Don’t make it a laundry list of irrelevant complaints or things like “emotional distress”.  

  • sirwired

    That strange routing is par for the course with Cruise Air.  The cruise lines (or the commercial agency they contract to) buy big ‘ol buckets of consolidator tickets and then assemble them like a jigsaw puzzle to get passengers from point A to point B.

    The best explanation I’ve found for how the process works is here:


    By the way, the example in the post above concerns a domestic cruise air routing… using cruise air would be silly for such a trip. However, on international trips with consolidator fares, cruise air can save quite a bit, at the cost of your itinerary being a crapshoot.

  • emanon256

    “Sometimes DIY is not the best route.”

    And a good agent will tell you when DIY is the best way.  For a lot of the travel I do, the agent I work with almost always tells me it’s better to do it myself.  (Domestic flights, hotels with corporate contract rates).  I still have her book the hotel when it’s commissionable, and I do it when it’s not.
    But there are also times where she can get a better rate, or the same rate with extras.  For example, Mrs. Emanon and I are going to a resort in 2 months, and our agent found the same rate we did, but it also includes a $100 resort credit and free breakfast, our rate didn’t.

  • $16635417

    Before passing judgment, would it be possible to find out:

    1. The specific routing with airlines and scheduled times.
    2. If the reservation truly WAS (not “appear” to have been) two separate reservations?

  • bodega3

    How far in advance did the OP book this cruise and air, as she said she only ‘noticed’ the connection when the documents arrived.  Normally when you book, you get an itinerary.  If it was a case that they didn’t wish to pay an air deviation, where they cherry pick their flights, at 30 days out the flights are booked.  Normally at that time, you receive notification of the flights booked.  Why would you wait until you received documents to know your flights?  If you book this yourself, as the OP did, what followup did she do with the cruise line when the air could be obtained?

    As mentioned, there are details missing.  If two separate tickets were issued, did they present both tickets in BUD so their luggage would be checked through?  This doesn’t just happen and a detail missing which makes me wonder about two PNR’s. 

    I haven’t had a cruise line book any air for clients in a decade or so.  At 30 days out you get what is left based on availability, therefore, lousy flight schedules.  Making a change to the cruiseline’s air can be made the day it is booked, before they ticket it.  So the OP should have been on the phone with the cruise line on the day they said they would be obtaining the air to make sure all was fine and not waiting until days before travel.  You take on this responsibility if you are booking things yourself. 

    If TonyA has checked the GDS and says 45 minutes is the legal connecting time (I don’t have my GDS up to check) then where does the OP and Chris get the two hour ‘legal connect’ information from?  If all this is a legal connect, then what the cruise line is offering is reasonable and generous, since it is not required.

  • TonyA_says

    Exactly what I do with for clients.
    To me the RELATIONSHIP is more important than arguing who will book what.
    When I tell my clients to book the flight directly with the airline (or hotel or car, etc.) they respect me more and they come back again and again.
    Essentially a client looks at the TA as a source (hub) for information. If the TA is good and can offer great value, the client will also book from him/her. Otherwise, thank you for the information. :-)

  • SooZeeQ

    When Mr. Elliott had his column on USA Today, it always ticked me off that there did not appear to be a travel insurance company that EVER held up its end of the bargain and paid for anything.

    What one SHOULD travelers use to be covered and not waste precious money on their premiums for zip???

    Barbara Shun is right – the voucher system is NOT a generous offer, it is a scam to get the traveler to use them again.

  • TonyA_says

    Any TA who is worth their weight in salt has access to so-called consolidator “bulk” fares (which is simply Private/Negotiated CAT 15 or CAT 35 fares).

    This is nothing special, I deal with these bulk fares day in, day out. But there are issues – some alliances do not take credit card payments for bulk fares to Europe. Also, the difference in bulk and published fares are no longer that big. The biggest advantage is that most bulk fares are released much earlier (than their published fare equivalent) so tour operators can book customers on cheap fares way ahead of time.

    The strange behavior of cruise air might very well suit their own profit-center’s needs but are not necessarily beneficial to the passenger (as this case proves).

  • bodega3

    If ther cruiseline didn’t screw up, but was trying to sooth a complaining client, this is a good offer.  If the client doesn’t travel, they are not out anything.  As a business owner, I get it.  The offer is a goodwill gesture. 

  • bodega3

    As of right now it doesn’t appear that the cruise line did anything wrong, so this is a goodwill gesture.  It certainly isn’t a scam.  Try running a business, not working for one and see the other side.

  • Kathy Rappaport

    The air departments of cruise lines are notorius for doing this;  I recently had a one our connection at Charles DeGaulle and just made the connection because I had to not only re-clear security  but change terminals;  I actually stopped at a ticket desk to tell them that I could be delayed because of the length of time to go between the gates;  In any case, I like to have a space of time and will no longer book without paying a custom air fee so that I can select my flights myself.  

  • DavidYoung2

    Not sure if it needs to be cash, but Viking needs either to offer cash or enough credit that the OP is satisfied.  Either way is fine so long as the OP feels the deal is fair.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Did she book through an agent or directly with Viking? An agent would have caught this error in 5 seconds. Viking looks at the cheapest way that they can transport people and that is it! I correct their errors monthly and never have a surcharge. When the error was discovered, action had to be taken immediately and the heck with the air department being busy; you just stay on hold until it is corrected. Viking massed up, but the clients were too un-educated to deserve a refund.

  • IGoEverywhere

    She did not use a travel agent and was not interested in holding for the air department. You can not be that liberal to trust things will work out.

  • IGoEverywhere

    I read things quite differently. Viking has a contract for various airlines and is not considered a travel agent. The local cruise lines could give a rip as to the flights that they book; it is always referred to insurance or tough luck.

  • TonyA_says

    Oh  my goodness, it’s worse than I thought. In that case, the passengers should just shop around for a competent TA. They are getting the wrong impression thinking that just because the buy from the cruise line, they are getting the same quality as dealing with a TA.

  • TonyA_says

    The thing that got my ears to  stand up here was the fact that the cruise rep told the OP she could not get in touch with the (air) reservations department. Why??? Maybe Travelagentman is correct, that Viking simply contracts out the air tickets. In that case, what kind of quality control is there? Maybe none.

    The other thing that got me here is why a more than 2-segment flight from BUD-SFO was necessary when there are many 2-segment flights? Also the route BUD-FCO-ORD-SFO almost guarantees cutting across multiple Airline Alliances (something a bit crazy nowadays).

    Personally, I could not put a (single) ticket for this specific route together without the pax staying overnight somewhere. Maybe others can.

    I don’t think this is an issue of minimum connection time from a technical perspective since MCT assumes a THROUGH CHECK IN of both passenger and baggage.

    IMO something else is wrong here since the airline (Alitalia) was not too helpful to reaccommodate them from the get go. Also the insurance company said the flights were on time. Nevertheless, the too many loose ends here makes me point my finger to the one that sold the airline ticket – Viking. I don’t think it is reasonable for customers to expect garbage (BUD-FCO-ORD-SFO) from a company like Viking.

  • TonyA_says

    Maybe I have the wrong GDS or I don’t know how to use one, but I could not even get my GDS to do BUD-FCO-ORD-SFO with AZ nonstop FCO-ORD. I wonder how Viking did this? Maybe I need some training from them :-)

  • TonyA_says

    I think what Chris is trying to say is that one will need about 2 hours to connect between an “unspecified carrier” from Budapest (BUD) to Alitalia International (to ORD) flight in FCO because the flights were on separate tickets.

    The terms minimum connection time (MCT), legal connection, and separate tickets should not be used together. All bets are off when one has separate tickets.

    This article could have been a lot less confusing had we know which airline was flown from BUD-FCO and whether that flight was on a separate ticket.

  • TonyA_says

    A couple of loose ends need to be clarified:

    Malev used to fly MA400 depart BUD 725AM, arrive FCO 905AM.

    Remember Malev went belly up only last February, so it’s possible the OP took this early Malev flight to Rome and tried to connect with AZ628 departing 10AM. If these connecting flights were on the same ticket, meaning INTERLINED, then the connection would have been “legal” since the FCO Minimum Connection Time for intl-to-intl is only 45 minutes.

    It is possible to have many flights booked in ONE PNR (Reservation) and have the flights ticketed SEPARATELY.

    A GDS will not stop an agent from booking (seemingly unrelated airlines’) flights so your itinerary looks complete. However, due to fare rules and restrictions, lack of eticketing agreements, or to MINIMIZE fares, the flights within one PNR can be ticketed separately (meaning flights will have different e-ticket numbers and plated by different airlines). In other words, do not assume that just because you see the flights in one PNR/itinerary, it follows that they are all connected and interlined together.

    Separate tickets are ‘technically’ not using interlining (unless the airline checking you in and those after agree to check you and your bags through all the way).

    It is important that passengers flying multiple-segment and open-jaw flights, or when airlines from different alliances are used, to inspect their documents carefully and check which airline issued which e-ticket. If you want a smooth INTERLINE THROUGH CHECK-IN (IATCI) for yourself and your bags, make sure ONE AND ONLY ONE AIRLINE ticketed the whole journey.

  • TonyA_says

    Sirwired, I took some time to read their website.  Nothing is said about FLIGHT CHANGE FEES.
    The air deviation fee is something else:

    Deviate to an alternate destination city or stay extra time before or after your cruise or cruisetour.


  • TonyA_says

    Oops, wrong. Sorry.

  • sirwired

     I really doubt it was a $400 flight change fee.  (“$400 for the new flights” is very different from “a $400 change fee”.)

    They likely started with Viking Standard Air, which is traditional cruise air.  (i.e. a pile of whatever bargain consolidator-rate airfares Viking has pieced together.  Cruises get decent prices for consolidator tickets because of the direct-from-airline large-ish volume they drive.  This is why they have a limited selection of gateway cities… drives more volume on specific flights.)

    If you don’t like your routing, stopovers, whatever, you pay $50 a head (the Air Deviation Fee, a.k.a. Viking Air Plus) plus fare difference, whatever that is; in this case the total came to $400-ish.

    Sounds like a booking fee + fare difference to me.  Not a $400 change fee.

  • TonyA_says

    Also after further digging, I am now seeing the possibility that the BUD-FCO could be an Alitalia codeshare flight from Malev (before Malev stopped operating on 2FEB12). If that is true, then the BUD-FCO-ORD could easily be on one Alitalia ticket and then the ORD-SFO was simply an add-on (to the Alitalia ticket).

    So now, I want to see proof of separate tickets. I want to see why they were not checked in at BUD all the way through to at least ORD. If they were, then so what if they got to the gate 20 minutes before scheduled departure? AZ would have known this and rush them through.

    Still a lousy routing BUD-FCO-ORD-SFO but they (Viking) probably got a good bulk rate from Alitalia.

  • TonyA_says

    Bodega, I am now inclined to think something else (weird) happened here. There is a big possibility that her ticket was an AZ CODESHARE (on Malev) from BUD to FCO and connecting to AZ FCO to ORD. If that is the case, then MALEV should have checked them through all the way to ORD or SFO. If they were checked through then even if the arrived at the gate in Terminal 3 about 20 minutes before scheduled departure, AZ would have helped them since all they need to do is board the aircraft.

    So now I am wondering why they were most likely NOT checked through from BUD. This is the main problem and there is a lack of information why it happened.

  • TonyA_says

    No Kathy, it’s the airlines that are notorious for joining together flight segments that are so close to the Minimum Connection Time. By the way, CDG (at least for Air France) has INCREASED its MCT to 90 minutes between Terminal 2 gates. It used to be only 60 minutes. Maybe they heard all the grumblings from passengers.

  • Bill Armstrong

    The fact that something happens pretty much means viking did something stupid.  The passenger tried to correct it, and Viking only wanted more money.  Fortunately, the passenger was able to get the airline to allow the ticket to be used the next day.  I dont’ think the insurance company should cover Viking’s inability to book a trip properly.

    A credit on a future trip is not cash.  The hotel cost cash.  The passenger already had to pay.  Viking should be required to refund each and every cost the passenger incurred, in cash…and there should be some punitive damages for “pain, stress and suffering” too.

  • andi330

    The problem with offering credit on a future purchase, regardless of industry, is that the business owner is arrogantly assuming that the upset customer intends to continue to patronize them. It is also something that is, in my experience, something fairly unique to the travel industry. Other businesses offer credits yes, but not like this, and usually not on products that cost as much as travel does. A cruise is not cheap. Many people may only take one in a life time as that big one time adventure that they’ll never be able to afford again. Offering a credit on a future use is something that the travel industry likes to do because they know many of the people they give it to will never use it, so it ultimately costs them nothing. 

    The article indicates that the two plane tickets were not linked in the system, which is what ultimately caused the OP to miss her connection. If they had been linked, the plane likely would have been held for them to board, because the airline would have known they were coming. Since there were 20 minutes until take-off the OP may have missed boarding by less than 5 minutes. Viking booked the tickets, and they should have made sure the itineraries were linked so that this wouldn’t happen, even knowing (as we do now) that the amount of time for connection was legal.

    If Viking did link the tickets, then they should be helping the customer prove that the tickets were linked, so that the customer can seek compensation from the airline instead. They acted as a travel agent for the customer by booking her plane tickets, they should have to help her clean up any messes just like a regular agent. The fact that they are offering a “goodwill gesture” instead of doing this indicates to me that they know the missed connection was caused by their mistake and they are hoping the customer will take a credit and go away, rather than take responsibility for the financial hardship they caused this customer.

  • bodega3

    I want to know why the OP didn’t know of the flights booked until the documents arrived.  I always get an itinerary by email as soon as the air is booked. 

  • bodega3

    There are too many missing factors right now to say the cruise line, as you put it, did something stupid.  It appears that they booked a legal connect.  If indeed that was the case, the cruise line is being very generous with a discount on a future cruise IMHO.

  • bodega3

    This tactic of future credits is used in all type of businesses and is a goodwill gesture for the customer to try them again.  The offer isn’t admitting they did anything wrong.  We all know the saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. 

    We don’t know if there was an OSI message sent notifying the two carriers of the two PNR’s.  I do this all the time when two carriers can not or should not be ticketed together.  Are you a ticketing TA?  If so, then you know that when you place all segments in one PNR and run the ticket as one, the most restrictive rules apply to the entire PNR.  It is often to the travelers benefit to not do this.  We also don’t know all the carriers and if they could be ticketed together. 

    As of right now, it doesn’t appear that there was any mistake made.  Prove it if you can.  With the information provided, this was a legal connect.  I have stated more times that I can count, a legal connect isn’t necessarily a reasonable connect but so often we don’t have many options if the segments are married by the carrier and this is becoming increasingly the case for a low fare.

  • TonyA_says

    According to Viking …
    Flights can be reserved up to 320 days prior to departure, and flight schedules will be released 75 days prior to departure. While airline reservations are made when deposits and Passenger
    Information Forms (PIFs) are received, Viking River Cruises air
    department generally issues airline tickets 45 days prior to departure.

    According to OP …
    When she received her documents, Shurr noticed the tight connection time in Rome, and contacted Viking.

    So, did she know about the tight connection 75 days out or 45 days out? At what point did she complain? If the latter, them it was too late to fix it without penalty.

    Of course my assumption is that Viking sold an INTERLINED ticket connection with a legal MCT. (Based on my new research, I am inclined to believe they did sell a Malev flight which was INTERLINED to AZ and had 55 minutes connection time – 10 minutes over the 45 min. MCT.) If this is correct, then her complaints were either too late or IRRELEVANT.

    However, it is the lack of automatic reaccommodation in FCO and the US domestic return flight segments that bugs me. (Note, she bought a new domestic ticket.) Something is wrong! Lots of IFs, too many.

  • Keystonetraveler

    I have traveled several times a year for many years. More often than not when I travel on a cruise (or an escorted tour), I purchases my air independently of the cruise. However, sometimes there are some good prices from the cruise company and I will make my purchase with them. But I first go on the Internet and find the itinerary I want. Then my TA will request that itinerary. In most cases, my request is honored. I’ve saved money and I am happy. Note that some companies make a charge for such special requests, but they are typical minimal and usually not levied if the flights cannot be booked.

    Some companies do not take specific requests and may or may not come up with an itinerary or airline that I like. Usually, I can reject the booking if I don’t like it without any charge as long as I do so within 24 or 48 hours. Then, I can book what I want on my own.

    I always check the practices of the company before I try to book with them. My one experience with Viking was the least satisfactory one I have had with any company. I had traveled with them previously, but had booked my own airfare because I was spending some extra time in Europe. So, the next time I wanted to travel with them, I explored also booking the air with them. First, they would take no special requests. Second, if I didn’t like what they
    came up with, there would be cancellation fee ($300, I think) if I did not accept what they came up with. Third, I felt the person I dealt with was rude. The result: I booked a different trip and have never gone back to Viking.

  • TonyA_says

    Regarding your Viking experience, when they tried to charge you the $300 – was this BEFORE any tickets were actually issued? They can simply make RESERVATIONS without ticketing them. (Note some airlines will EXTEND the ticketing period for a longer time.) Then at some point later they will ticket the reservations.
    If this is the case, then the $300 was too much, since if no tickets have been issued yet, then the are no airline penalties to pay for.

  • lorcha

    This is really frustrating to me, because there are obviously some extremely knowledgeable and talented TAs who post here who know exactly how to get this type of trip done right for the traveler, but I have no idea how to find one that is local to me! 

    I’ve tried a few times, but all I got were dufuses who had no expertise over my just going out to Orbitz, and then tried to hard-sell me to buy all kinds of unlicensed travel protection plans and other “value adds”. Thanks, but no thanks.

  • lorcha

    I think the jury is still out on this one as to who dropped the ball. If Viking was in the right, how come the traveler couldn’t speak to someone about the air?

  • lorcha

    Heheh. I love it. When the TA effs up, it’s “This is why you should book independently,” and when the traveler effs up, it’s, “This is why you should us a TA!”

    Hopefully that was the point you were trying to make, and I just missed it. :)

  • lorcha

    “Insurance” carrier states flights were on time.

  • CherylAE

    I think for most people, a Viking Cruise is a trip of your life, not an everyday occurrence!   I agree with cash or a considerably higher credit.

  • TonyA_says

    I read that, too (but would like to see some proof); so the next issue is whether the flights on same ticket (or INTERLINED)?

    IMO they were. I think the OP was on AZ7525 a code share of Malev MA400 (now defunct and not operating airline).

    If both are true – inbound flight on time AND the OP was on AZ7525, then VIKING sold flights with ‘legal’ connection.

    If MALEV failed to check them THROUGH in Budapest, then that is NOT really Viking’s fault.

    Remember there are a lot of IFs in my statements. But the one thing I am sure of is that the route is lousy BUD-FCO-ORD-SFO. If an agent really cares for his customer, s/he would have sold something a lot better (see options on my other post).

  • Keystonetraveler

    This is what they told me would happen if they made a reservation. They said that if I did not like the reservation, I could cancel it but there would be the cancellation charge. That is when I decided to not make a reservation with them and booked a trip with someone else.

  • TonyA_says

    Wow that’s pretty nasty! A reservation is FREE. Does not cost me much (except perspiration) to do one. I can understand why they would charge to change a TICKET because of airline penalties, but a RESERVATION without a ticket, naah.