Katerina Naumenko, a medical student in Grenada, had to shell out an extra $742 when she missed a connecting flight in Port of Spain, Trinidad. She and three classmates were delayed in customs. But American Airlines didn’t seem to care, charging her a change fee plus a fare differential to catch the next flight back to the States.
Why not cut a college student some slack?
The delay was not due to any violation, it was a routine Swine Flu check. After being sent on a never-ending quest by the American Airlines terminal, information desk, and airport security, I finally arrived back at the American Airlines terminal, where I was told that I had to buy another ticket. I had explained the situation to them and they still insisted that I had to purchase another ticket. Feeling trapped and exhausted, I bought the ticket and got a a hotel room.
When I finally arrived home, I filled out a customer service discrepancy report that I found on American Airlines’ Web site and received a less than satisfactory response. In short, I have been told that the unused portion of my original ticket was already taken from the cost of my new ticket.
I don’t understand why I wasn’t put on stand-by and why after explaining it to customer service I received a vague response. What portion did their calculations remove or am I to believe that $742 is the new cost of customs in Trinidad?
Before we go any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: If your ears perked up when you heard “Grenada” and “medical student” then you know your American military history. Naumenko is enrolled at St. George’s University, of U.S.-invades-Grenada fame near the end of the Cold War.
I asked American Airlines about this case, and heard back from the carrier almost immediately. A review of Naumenko’s flight records suggests she booked her tickets from Grenada to Trinidad separately, so the reservations weren’t linked. They couldn’t have been, because her connection time was too short.
Unfortunately, she did not meet our check-in requirements for Port of Spain. We cannot be responsible for customers not getting to the ticket counter on-time — no matter what the reason.
Ms. Naumenko did requested to be on the next available and she did agree to pay the additional fee. We did accommodate her request and exchanged her ticket. However, I’m a little confused that now she is requesting a refund of the additional collection that she agreed to pay. See Passenger Name Record note from agent below:
H-ATTN NEXT AGT
H-THE PAX MISSED HER FLT TODAY AND WANTED TO RETURN
H-TO SYR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
H-SHE WAS ADV BY THE AGT THAT SINCE SHE MISSED HER FLT
H-OR NOSHOWED THE TKT BECOMES INVALID
H-SHE WAS ALSO ADV IF SHE STILL WANTS TO USE THIS TKT
H-THE FARE DIFFERENCE AND CHG FEE WILL APPLY
H-THE COST TO MAKE CHG WAS USD664.56 WHICH SHE
H-AGREED TO PAY USING INTL CC
H-PLEASE ASSIST HER WITH MANY THANKS
I asked American if the “flat tire” rule would apply, and was told maybe — if Naumenko had phoned the airline an hour before her flight to let it know of her delay. She didn’t, according to its records.
Still, American isn’t entirely unsympathetic.
As a show of good faith, we will refund her change fee of $150. A customer relations rep will get in touch with her in a few days to let her know. Hopefully, that will help ease the pain of missing her flight, regardless of the situation.
I’m not sure that’s the resolution Naumenko had hoped for, but it’s a teaching moment for the rest of us. If you make reservation, be sure it’s linked (a travel agent can do this). That way, if you miss a connecting flight, the airline should be able to put you on the next flight at no charge.
Otherwise, you’ll have to pay a missed flight penalty.