Is this enough compensation? Sorry, your kids have the wrong ticket

By | July 5th, 2011

Like any good father, LeRoy Villanueva tried to cover all of his bases when he put his two children on a plane from Paris to Los Angeles recently. Most important to him was buying the required unaccompanied minor service, which would allow his kids to fly without an adult.

“I asked British Airways if I could buy the tickets at a third-party travel agency and pay the airline separately for the unaccompanied minor service,” he says. “A phone agent told me that I would have to purchase two adult fares from the online travel agency and then afterwards — at least 48 hours before departure — pay British Airways’ unaccompanied minor Service fee.”

He verified the information by phoning the airline a second time; again, it offered the same choices.

But the airline left out an important detail.

Villanueva explains,

When I contacted British Airways before the flight, they told me that the fare that I got from the online travel agency was not valid because it was a bulk discount fare and needed to be a “published” fare in order to qualify for the unaccompanied minor service.

This was the first time any BA rep informed me of this rule. BA told me that the only way to pay for the unaccompanied minor fee was to have the travel agency issue me a new ticket with a published fare.

I contacted BA customer relations but they told me that there was nothing they could do. I wrote to them, letting them know that they misinformed me about the requirements for their unaccompanied minor service. I even suggested that they charge me the difference in price for a “published fare” but again, they wouldn’t budge.

By the way, British Airways’ traveling with kids page doesn’t mention any of these ticket restrictions, either.

Villanueva asked his travel agent about the ticket. His agent insisted the ticket was a “published” fare, and contacted the airline on his behalf. British Airways turned it down, too.

Requests to the Transportation Department have also gone unanswered.

Villanueva had to cancel his tickets and buy two new ones, incurring $400 in penalties.

I feel I am paying for BA’s mistakes. I think they should not charge me cancellation fees and if we were living in a perfect world, they would at least send me some travel coupons for my troubles. At this point, I’m only hoping to avoid cancellation fees. Any advice or help would be much appreciated.

I agree that British Airways should have informed him of the additional ticket requirements when he called the airline. It’s also unclear to me why the UM option wouldn’t be available on every ticket. To me, that sounds like another way of forcing concerned parents to buy a more expensive ticket.

I contacted the airline on his behalf. British Airways refunded $1,625 of the $2,037 he paid for his tickets through his travel agency. Neither of us are quite sure why the airline is pocketing $412, but something is better than nothing.

Is it enough? Or should British Airways have refunded the initial ticket purchase and credited him the fare difference, maybe even thrown in the UM service at no extra charge?

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