Ah, the perils of airline codesharing! That’s the questionable but widespread practice of claiming another airline’s flight is yours. And it doesn’t always benefit the passenger, as Brad Albing will tell you.
Albing and his wife were flying from Cleveland to Paris by way of Montreal on Continental Airlines, which at the time was operating as a division of United Airlines.
Their schedule called for a departure at 6:10 p.m., arriving in Montreal at 7:31 p.m., with a connection on another Continental Airlines flight leaving at 8:55 p.m.
“We arrived at Cleveland Hopkins more than two hours early and checked in with a Continental employee who issued our boarding passes for Cleveland to Montreal,” he says. “We asked for boarding passes for the Montreal-Paris leg and he told us to get them in Montreal. We asked if we would have enough time when we got there and he said yes.”
The Albings’ flight landed in Montreal at 7:55 p.m., but it turns out the cut-off time for boarding the Paris flight was 7:51. Oh, and PS, the connecting flight wasn’t operated by Continental at all.
It was during this sequence of events that we learned that Air Canada was operating the second leg of our flight. We were advised that there is a 60 minute cutoff before departure for international flights.
We therefore couldn’t check in and get boarding passes.
Thus, we were denied boarding.
Since there was no Continental Airlines representative to assist them in Montreal, they phoned the airline to ask for help. A representative offered to rebook them on a flight that left two days later, but said they wouldn’t be offered a hotel voucher or meal vouchers in the meantime. Instead, they should submit their receipts.
In an attempt to salvage as much vacation as possible, we asked for any alternative. The rep suggested a flight to Brussels the next day via Newark.
We accepted that. We flew from Montreal to Newark. Then from Newark, we were flown to Brussels and then took the TGV to Paris.
Talk about a circuitous route!
When they returned, they contacted United Airlines (Continental) by email and told it about the problem. They received a form response.
“Continental said that it was sorry that things worked out as they did and that Continental did make good by getting us to Brussels,” he says. “And they hoped to see us on a future Continental Airlines flight.”
The Albings decided to escalate their complaint. They felt Continental should take some responsibility for allowing an Air Canada codeshare flight to be booked with a tight (possibly illegal) connection and that it didn’t give them enough information about their connecting flight. They appealed their case to a Continental manager, in writing.
Here’s the response, which came by way of United Airlines:
In reviewing our current policies, [our representative] advised you correctly regarding compensation/reimbursement.
Allow me to explain: Although Air Canada is one of our partners, the through check-in process is not always possible.