Erik Szabo is “livid.”
Last spring, he was schedule to fly from Los Angeles to New Orleans for Jazz Fest and to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. He’d booked a package tour, which included airline tickets, hotel and car rental, through Hotwire.
“When I showed up at the airport for my US Airways flight, I was told that my reservation was for a United Airlines flight,” he says.
Ah, another case of codeshare confusion? Yes, but that’s not all.
Szabo picks up the story,
I trekked all the way to the United terminal — which, by the way, is the longest possible distance from US Airways at LAX.
When I got to the United kiosk, I was informed that my reservation number was invalid, and they refused to help me.
Finally, I convinced one of United’s people to call Hotwire to clear up the confusion. She dialed and handed the phone to me.
Hotwire then put me on hold for a whole hour. When they finally returned, they gave me a proper reservation number, which United was able to verify. However, by that time my flight had already departed, thanks to the hour on the phone.
You can imagine what happened next.
Since it was Jazz Fest, there were no other flights to New Orleans, and he had to cancel his volunteer vacation, he says. Hotwire refunded his rental car, but wouldn’t reverse the hotel charge and deferred to US Airways for the ticket.
I then tried to resolve the issue with US Airways for the airfare, but they would only repeat their policy that “tickets are non-refundable and may be used within one year of purchase with a $150 re-booking fee”.
Are you kidding me? They effectively canceled my reservation without cause or notice and now want to charge me an additional $150 per ticket? What kind of re-negotiation tactic is that?
I thought Szabo had a strong case for a full refund, so I contacted Hotwire on his behalf. Here’s its answer:
After looking into this further, it seems like this unfortunate conclusion was a result of code-share issues as well as a few additional considerations. Here’s more background on what we found through our research.
Mr. Szabo booked a code-share flight, meaning he booked through US Airways, but the flight was operated by United. Code-share bookings are relatively common in the airline industry, and state clearly that a flight is “operated by X airline” both before and after purchase, regardless of who the flight was booked through. However, it’s always very important to still review itineraries carefully.
In looking at the notes in the system, it appears that the reason Mr. Szabo was unable to initially check in with his United flight was due to a late arrival. Whether that was caused by the delay from going to the US Airways terminal first or just because of a late arrival in general isn’t clear, but the end result is unfortunately the same.