Who’s responsible for my missed connection?

Jeff Emerson missed his flight from Minneapolis to Washington last month. He didn’t make his connection to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and didn’t arrive as scheduled in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, where he was supposed to start work as a summer volunteer.

The story of Emerson’s delay is fascinating — maybe a little infuriating, too — for anyone who’s flying this summer, particularly internationally. It raises an important question about who takes responsibility for delays that are beyond a passenger’s control.

Emerson is a student at Luther College, a private school in Iowa. Through Orbitz, he’d booked a one-way ticket from Minneapolis to Tanzania via United Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines. The ticket was issued by Ethiopian, which means that it got the money from Orbitz and set the fare rules.

You can probably guess what happened next. A college student flying to Africa on a one-way ticket is bound to set off all kinds of alarms with the TSA. Sure enough, an agent pulled Emerson aside and questioned him, causing him to miss his flight. “Even though my passport is legitimate and my answers proved to be the truth, the agent could not remove me from a 24-hour no-fly list with the TSA,” Emerson says.

If you’re wondering about the 24-hour “no-fly” list, hold that thought.

Emerson tried to rebook his ticket for the next day, but United, the carrier on the Minneapolis-Washington leg of the trip, couldn’t help him, because it didn’t own the ticket. He needed to contact Ethio­pian. And that airline wouldn’t simply let him board the next flight for Addis Ababa. It wanted him to pay another $1,640 for a new ticket. He’d paid $1,082 for his original ticket.

That’s when Emerson contacted me. He’d already appealed to Orbitz for help, and it agreed to waive its $30 rebooking fee. He’d also spent days bouncing among Orbitz, United and Ethiopian, and he was becoming increasingly agitated. Why, he wondered, wouldn’t Ethiopian simply rebook him on the next flight?

I contacted Ethiopian, and it said it couldn’t do that. Actually, it needed him to buy a new ticket because of Ethiopia’s visa requirements, which state that inbound passengers must have a round-trip ticket. But it was willing to waive its $400 change fee, a representative said. Ethiopian’s position makes perfect sense from an airline’s perspective. After all, rebooking him at no cost would mean forfeiting the revenue it might get from a paying passenger on the same flight.

I asked Orbitz whether it could do anything. It circled back with Ethiopian and managed to negotiate a full refund on Emerson’s ticket. He rebooked his flight, paying about $200 more than his original fare.

Almost a full week after Emerson began his journey to Africa, he arrived in Tanzania. But he found the overall experience upsetting. Shouldn’t airlines be required to help a passenger who’s left behind because of a security delay? “I understand some of their reasoning — that the delays were not directly caused by their airline — and I know airlines don’t have to do something in every single case,” he says. “But I just don’t get it.”

A Department of Transportation spokesman says that technically, Ethiopian and United acted correctly. “Since the missed flight was not the carrier’s fault, DOT rules would not require the carrier to reschedule the passenger at no additional charge,” says Bill Mosley, a department spokesman.

The TSA doesn’t require airlines to help passengers who are held up. “Re-accommodation is between the airline and the passenger,” a spokesman told me. The TSA doesn’t compensate passengers who are delayed for security reasons, either. But for years, airlines have helped travelers by letting them take the next available flight. It appears that those informal agreements extend only to domestic airlines.

“I was an innocent victim of the TSA’s security measures,” Emerson says. “I also feel that I am entitled to some compensation for my loss of time, and the condescension I’ve had to deal with, largely on the part of Ethiopian Airlines.”

What about that 24-hour “no fly” list? A spokesman for the Terrorist Screening Center, a branch of the FBI that maintains the watch list of passengers who aren’t allowed to fly, told me that there is “no such thing” as a 24-hour “no fly” list. “If you’re on the list, you can’t fly — period,” he said.

But Emerson’s long journey to Africa raises a broader issue: For years, airlines have invoked “reasons beyond our control” as an excuse to deny passengers essentials such as a hotel room when a flight is held up because of weather, or a meal when air traffic control keeps a plane on the ground over lunch. Passengers are disappointed but generally understanding.

When the tables are turned, however, and passengers miss a flight for reasons beyond their control, airlines are reluctant or unwilling to be accommodating. It’s difficult to regulate an entire industry into seeing things from the customer’s perspective. But should that stop us from trying?

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.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • http://twitter.com/marylandterps Dave M

    Here is the bigger question: Does TSA security work? No, because if it did it would not matter whether I have a round trip ticket or not! How does a piece of paper that says I will fly back to the USA make the flight safer? It doesn’t.

    Either TSA groping, x-raying, & stip seaching works or it does not. This is just another case of security theater.

  • http://www.deltapoints.com/ DeltaPoints.com

    Not knowing the full routing etc. of this trip, it is hard to give specific suggestions. But in general, there are so many disadvantages of booking via 3rd party sites. Ethiopian Air Lines is a member of United’s Star Alliance.   http://www.staralliance.com/en/    Had Jeff joined United’s frequent flyer club, then booked via United and then had this issue, I have a feeling the results could have been much different.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JWIDK73REHGADBHYLCUC3FBV7Y Bob

    Why did he buy a one-way ticket in the first place when Ethiopian visa requirements are holding a return ticket? While the delay wasn’t necessarily his fault, I’m not surprised that he was flagged/noticed based on his travel patterns.

  • http://www.blackchickontour.com/ Terri Lundberg

    Wow!!  This is a hard one.  I don’t know that the airlines should be held responsible for TSA.  I feel for him.  First mistake was booking with Orbitz (or any third party), it’s hardly worth what ever little money you may have saved should you have problems down the road.   I’d like to know why he would book a one way ticket.  Didn’t he plan on coming back?   With that stated, I think he should be compensated.  However, I don’t know who should do the compensating.  Maybe in the end the culprit is Orbitz.  Since he booked the ticket through them don’t they have some responsibility to inform him that Ethiopia’s visa requirements state that he has to have a return ticket?  

  • Elmo Clarity

    “I contacted Ethiopian, and it said it couldn’t do that. Actually, it needed him to buy a new ticket because of Ethiopia’s visa requirements, which state that inbound passengers must have a round-trip ticket.”

    If that is truly a requirement for entry into Ethiopia, did Orbitz clearly state this at the time of purchase?  If Orbitz did know about this requirement, why did it let him purchase a one way ticket?  In this case, it sounds like the problem was caused by either Orbitz not relying the information it should have or allowing an invalid ticket to be purchased.

    It wasn’t stated in the story but when he bought the second ticket, was it also a one-way ticket or a round trip this time?

    As for…”What about that 24-hour “no fly” list? A spokesman for the Terrorist Screening Center, a branch of the FBI that maintains the watch list of passengers who aren’t allowed to fly, told me that there is “no such thing” as a 24-hour “no fly” list. “If you’re on the list, you can’t fly — period,” he said.”, sounds like TSA make up the rules as you go to justify your illegal actions.

  • Alan Gore

    I think this case rests on: if the OP had booked directly with Ethiopian, would it have informed him of the round-trip requirement for a visa to that country? Most countries have the same restriction, filed under something like “to avoid the foreigner becoming a public charge.”

  • Miami510

    The accumulated wisdom that I personally derive from reading
    stories on this Website tells me that the savings of money one gets from
    dealing with the various booking agencies isn’t worth the potential for

    I’m thinking of using only the airlines.  In that way the traveler isn’t dividing the responsibility, making resolution of problems focused on one entity.

    As a side note: there have been occasions where, for efficiency in finding what carriers fly a particular route, I’ll make inquiry
    with one of these “middle handlers.” 

    Then I call the airline directly or go on line directly to Website of the
    airline.  In many cases I find the price for the flight no different.

  • SoBeSparky

    Airline has nothing to do with security and should bear no responsibility.  Why would an airline have any responsibility when passenger clearly did not check in with sufficient time to begin the flight under the circumstances?

    Too many holes in the story presented.  

    Whenever travelling internationally, one must have all paperwork in place and ready to present as needed.  Some places need round-trip or continuing journey travel arrangements.  Others want to know where a person will be in a foreign country, all contact info, and the passenger must show confirmed arrangements.  The TSA apparently wanted to know why he was traveling by himself, one way, to Tanzania.  Where was his paperwork and why wasn’t all this presented at the beginning of the security examination?  

    We do not know how much time he allowed, what exactly went on in the security check and subsequent interrogation.  Was he cooperative?  Did he immediately present paperwork of his summer volunteer work?  What travel advice did the volunteer agency give him, or did he bother to ask for a solo trip to southern Africa? How was he dressed and how did he present himself?

    At any rate, airlines bear as much responsibility for security delays as they do for highway traffic jams, holiday travel lines and a passenger unprepared to travel internationally.

  • Rose Arnold

    Whoa, I think we are not paying enough attention to this so called “24
    hour no fly list.”  Presumably, from the TSA’s perspective, that is why
    the OP could not make his original flight after the screening was
    complete.  If an agent tells you that you can’t leave because you were
    placed on a 24 hour no fly list and there really is no such list,
    somebody’s head should be on the block. 

    And yes, it may have been wiser to have arrived at the airport earlier (24 hours earlier?), to book  round trip, to do it directly with the airlines, especially a domestic airline, and to take other steps to prevent this kind of situation but we are all newbies in this travel world at some point.  It takes time,  a good deal of experience, and lots of hours reading articles like Elliott’s to successfully navigate the gougers and
    the pretend cops.  So give the kid a break and, as far as Orbitz and
    Ethiopian Airlines are concerned, a pox on both their houses.

  • Extramail

    I’m surprised Chris didn’t say he should have used a travel agent given all the parameters of flight this guy had to meet, including a visa.

  • backprop

    “First mistake was booking with Orbitz (or any third party)”

    Except that Orbitz negotiated the full refund from Ethiopian on his behalf. 

    Otherwise, I too would be concerned with how the rule was presented.  There is nothing obvious on the Ethiopian embassy site about a return ticket. Unofficial sites indicate that proof of a return ticket is “frequently asked for” which would set off alarm bells for me.

    This raises another concern about fly-by-night “volunteer” organizations that rely on free labor from kids.  I think they need to take some responsibility in this too.

  • EvilEmpryss

    Wow!  I encountered a similar issue from the opposite direction when I came back on my flight from Spain this week!

    The whole flight was loaded and ready to go when uniformed security came aboard and calmly escorted a passenger off the plane.  We spent the next hour at the gate watching the baggage handlers (as the captain informed us) removing the passenger’s bags for security reasons. In the grand scheme of things we weren’t delayed that long, only an hour, but it occurred to me that with a few hundred people on that flight, *someone* was going to miss a connection.

    Who was responsible for the associated costs of that delay?

    I could see the airlines dodging responsibility right off the bat: security issues were not their fault.  But if it was a security issue, I couldn’t see airport security footing the bill, either.  The passenger who got himself removed?  How do you hold him accountable?

    I know, I know, if you have travel insurance, it’s not a problem (I think), but what if you don’t?

  • ExplorationTravMag

    He was told he was on a “24 hour no-fly list” so it wouldn’t have mattered if he had gotten there 1 hour early, two hours early or 10 hours early – he still would have been on the same non-existent 24 hour no-fly list.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    24 hour no-fly list?  That one set bells off in my head right away…  Truthfully, the Federal Government (TSA) should be held accountable for this but I think we all know what would happen should he contact them.  All the OP would get back from them is the sound of crickets.

  • SoBeSparky

    This is where the story gets murky.  Apparently, according to the traveler, he was on a “24-hour no-fly list” after his security stop and the interview process.  

    However, if you Google this term, you will find no references whatsoever to such a list.  I find it hard to believe such a list exists, even in the fantasies of TSA personnel.  So was it created just for him?  Or did this screener create the list out of thin air?  Or did the traveler get the story garbled along the way, nervous and under pressure to catch his flight?

    He clearly was subject to more intensive examination under the SSSS program, Secondary Security Screening Selection.  This program is well known to professional travel agents to warn their customers of buying a one-way ticket to a remote destination.  A professional travel agent also might have pointed to the U.S. State Department travel advice about Tanzania.  “There is a underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.”

    PPP here.  P*ss poor planning.

  • $16635417

    It is up to the individual traveler to be aware of and comply with visa requirements. It’s possible a traveler IS eligible to purchase a one way ticket and Orbitz would not know one way or another. 

  • ExplorationTravMag

    This whole trip was doomed from the start, I believe due to the inexperienced traveler making these “best-laid” plans.  My guess?  He won’t make this mistake twice.

  • Asiansm Dan

    I only have a suggestion. Next time, fly directly to Europe and make a connection to Africa there (via BRUSSELS or AMSTERDAM there are more convenient choice of African destinations) and may be the issue of “one-way ticket to Africa” is avoidable. I used to take one-way ticket to Europe (from USA) and never had an issue.

  • TravelingSalesman

    My niece and her extended family are permanent residents in Indonesia. They are bush pilots flying missionaries in the interior and live in a compound of more than 100 people who are missionaries and provide services.  They look at a flight from the US to their home as an open-ended block of time.

    Forgive me if I’m a little unsympathetic, but I live in Realvill.

    This poor kid was traveling in a manner that would confound the most experienced international traveler.  I believe his biggest error was the ONE-WAY ticket.  I no longer fly beyond US & Canada, and I wouldn’t try to fly SFO to LAX on a one-way.  Even as a badge-carrying “officer of the court,” with a valid US passport, I’d expect to sit in TSA custody at least half-a-day and have my artificial knee removed by their supervisor.

    I feel sorry for the young man who wanted to go somewhere and do good, but I think it’s his fault for not living in the real world.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Even 3 days ahead would make no difference. Still 24 hour embargo beginning from his departure time. Sound absurd this incident. Poor guy with a volunteer will.

  • Bernard Rappoport

    If an airline’s tariffs allow for a one-way ticket to be sold, they are implicit in the deceit.   Naturally they want everyone to buy a r/t, so they can gouge then $300+ to make a return flight change.  Anybody can print up a template showing a r/t booking….do you really think that anyone calls the airline to see if they are really booked on the 0300 Christmas Day?  These are just overpaid political hacks abusing their authority as part of The New World Order in their quest to make this Amerika with a K.

  • $16635417

    It sounds like some key bit(s) of information is lacking here. I am trying to figure out the sequence of events. Did he check in at the United ticket counter in MSP? If there was a problem, that would have been the first place an issue arose, or did he make it past the checkpoint to the gate? Was his flight set up for secondary screening at the gate and then he was stopped at that point?

    Usually TSA does not get involved in CBP issues. I don’t want to assume from the article, but was the OP traveling on a US passport?  If not, is his passport from a country in that area of the world that may receive more scrutiny than others? From what I can gather, a US passport holder does not need to obtain a visa prior to travel and can obtain one in Ethiopia, and a RT ticket does not appear to be required either. (In most cases.)

  • $16635417

    Some people can travel on a one way ticket and some cannot. It is up to the traveler to know if it applies in their situation. This is an entry requirement set by the destination country and if the airline incorrectly allows someone to travel, then they are responsible for the costs to bring the traveler back and the associated penalties.

    For example, as a US passport holder I may be refused entry to the Dominican Republic as their entry requirements clearly state ticket for return or onward travel is required. My friend had a Dominican passport and can purchase a one way ticket. 

    So, in this example, it is not an American policy, but a Dominikan.

  • NTWales

    I voted yes.  Especially depending on who this agent who pulled Emerson aside was and made up this 24 hour no fly list.  The TSA does not call themselves agents: they use the term “officers” (just as wrong, though).  If it really was an agent, could it have been an airline agent (ticket agent or gate agent) after all?  And if it was the TSA (and either sloppiness in Chris’ writing or the rare actual TSA/DHS agents the likes of whom have visited Chris’ home), then this sort of abuse of authority will be more likely to stop when it starts impacting airlines’ bottom lines because of the passengers who need to be reaccomodated or refunded.

  • jayne bailey holland

    I travel internationally 2-4 times a month, and several countries request a return ticket to obtain entry. If you travel to the Bahamas, you have to have a return ticket, if you are not a resident there. He should have researched visa requirements. I’m surprised the  people he was to work for didn’t tell him.

  • $16635417

    Seriously? A US passport holder and won’t travel SFO LAX on a one way?

    I travel constantly on one way tickets within the US and have never had an issue, pre or post 9/11. I also have pointed out when they are not following procedure or making it up along the way and call the “BS” card. Never been stopped, detained, questioned…etc. 
    Latest one was they wanted something other than my driver’s license, I refused. They said that since my license was not from their state, an adjoining state or the destination I was traveling they could not accept it. She “threatened” to call a supervisor to which I responded “Whatever it takes.” Before the agent could explain to her superior, I went on the offensive about the BS I was being fed. I was quickly apologized to, and brought to the front of the screening area to make make up for the time lost waiting.

    I even forgot and left my belt on, to which they said “no problem” as I was in the “stripper machine”.

  • Rosered7033

    And it’s possible that had he used a TA, lot of the confusion and delays could have been avoided, and any fee he would have paid to the TA would have been offset by the increase in fare he ultimately had to pay (not to mention the delay & hassles).

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    ” I’d like to know why he would book a one way ticket.  Didn’t he plan on coming back”

    While this is unlikely if the ticket was booked through Orbitz, it is possible to book what’s called an “open return” or “open ended” ticket.  It is a round-trip fare, but you don’t book the return at the time you book the outbound flight.  You’d be surprised how many people use these types of tickets when flying internationally – most international carriers flying to Asia, for example, will allow you to book these, though you usually have to call the carrier directly.  These make sense when you’re going for a project of indefinite duration, or otherwise just aren’t sure exactly when you’re coming home.  The fare is usually a little higher, but it can be cheaper than a change fee + fare difference if you buy a regular discounted roundtrip fare and have to rebook.

  • Asiansm Dan

    SSSS is random and doesn’t make difference. I got once awhile but no extra verification nor getting pulling aside. And I used to travel one-way.

  • TravelingSalesman

     True enough Mike, But YOU are an experienced traveler. 

    This poor young man had stars in his eyes about going far away to do something good for humanity and had NO STINKING IDEA when they were yanking his chain and when they were doing their job.

    They found a victim who didn’t have 10% of the travel smarts you have.

    As to me not going on a one-way ticket, I hate the confrontations I’d need to have, so I avoid them.  I’m old enough now that I can drive, savor the trip, and get there a day or two later.

  • l2y2

    This story goes back to the same problem we see time and again in this column. People using an online travel service to save money and the having a problem with their arrangements. Why didn’t he make his plans directly through a US airline, such as United? He may have been given information he needed about the round trip ticket requirement. Or, he should have used a travel agent, with expertise in international flights. Why do people make such complicated flight plans on their own, online? I feel for the kid, but, clearly, he should have sought help from an expert.

  • SoBeSparky

    If you read the compendium of reports (Wiki, FlyerTalk, etc.) over the years on SSSS rather than generalize from personal anecdotal experience, you will find that part of SSSS is random and part has specific triggers.  

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    The story doesn’t make a lot of sense on a lot of levels. 

    First, Ethiopian Airlines raised a stink about needing a round-trip ticket due to Ethiopian visa regulations.  Which would be fine – except it appears the OP was flying to Tanzania, not Ethiopia.  Unless he was going to be staying in Ethiopia for a while before continuing his journey, it seems very, very odd that you would need a roundtrip ticket due to visa regulations in a country you aren’t even visiting, except for transiting through the airport.  Either the person at Ethiopian was confused, or they were feeding Orbitz and the OP misinformation to deny a refund.

    Second, the whole thing about the “24 hour no-fly list” just sounds bizarre.  I certainly wouldn’t put it past a smart a** TSA agent to feed the OP some BS about a nonexistent list just for the fun of it, but what I find more likely is that the OP just misunderstood what he heard in the heat of the moment, when he must have been in an understandably frazzled state. 

    If I had to speculate, it sounds like the counter agent and/or Ethiopian Airlines raised a (perhaps questionable) visa issue with the OP, and wouldn’t let him fly because of the lack of a roundtrip ticket.  Maybe this was a legit problem, or maybe the airline staff made a mistake.  If this really was a case of a misunderstanding of visa requirements on the part of either UA’s or Ethiopian’s airline staff, then they should take responsibility for the mistake and pay up.

    Of course, the point is effectively moot, since the OP was able to rebook for only $200 out-of-pocket.  That’s not a terrible outcome, considering Ethiopian could have stuck to its guns and demanded the whole $1,600 or whatever.  I would count my lucky stars and move on.

  • $16635417

    I agree that he is most likely inexperienced. In another post I had questions, for example is he traveling on a US passport.

    I was mainly commenting on your statement about LAX-SFO. I’ve never been questioned about a one way ticket though. As for NOT flying, I don’t let TSA put a damper on me, but when time allows, I also enjoy getting away from a plane. 

    I needed  to get a car from Florida to the Mid-Atlantic area last fall. Took Amtrak’s auto train and enjoyed the time spent on it with my daughter without having to drive. A lot of people have Amtrak horror stories…mine was that the train was too early arriving and the staff was not there to unload. 

  • JenniferFinger

    Yes, it could have been a TSA agent getting off on jerking the guy around.  If there’s no 24 hour “no fly list” and he wasn’t on the regular no fly list to begin with, he shouldn’t have been held up by security.

    He himself probably booked through Orbitz at the suggestion of the organization he was volunteering with.  It would be nice if they took some responsibility, but I think they would declare that it was entirely the responsibility of their volunteers to get there on their own time and dime, 

  • judyserienagy

    Unless it can be proven that the passenger contributed to the delay by not checking in or arriving at security early enough, airlines are the only entity that can take care of the passenger who is detained by TSA.  They should just do it, causing someone to run around in circles for a week is terrible and the passengers have no resources except the airlines’ figuring out how to get them to their destination.  Of course, the TSA could always charter a private jet in these instances.

  • Alan Gore

    The TSA agent you lipped off to could just as easily have locked you up out of spite and forgotten to tell your relatives. Not only does the Constitution not apply in airports, but I don’t think they observe the “one phone call” convention. A young kid with few social connections is not going to feel like risking it.

  • Alan Gore

    Years ago when I set off for a four-year work assignment in an Asian country that also required a return ticket, I booked directly with the airline so I could buy an open return. In those days it was still possible to do this without going Business or FC. Today’s overseas worker should probably have his sponsoring organization handle the booking.

  • http://www.blackchickontour.com/ Terri Lundberg

    I regularly fly internationally back and forth the the Middle East.  A lot of times I don’t know when I will return or I know there is a high probability that I will change my departure date.  For this I purchase a refundable ticket that allow changes.  

  • http://www.blackchickontour.com/ Terri Lundberg

    True.  However, that was after Chris got involved.  I wonder how many other clients they’ve left hanging because their cause didn’t catch the eye of a consumer advocate?  

  • http://www.blackchickontour.com/ Terri Lundberg

    I fly on one way tickets up and down the west coast (SAN, SEA, and LAX) when I’m in the States and have never had TSA question me about it.  

  • http://www.blackchickontour.com/ Terri Lundberg

    SSSS is random and specific. I used to travel quite a bit non-rev and interestingly enough my ticket always had the SSSS on it (after 9/11). It kinda pissed me off considering that my husband flew for the airlines at that time. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    Another, “use a TA or you’re stupid” rant.

    Presumably the volunteer organization, which probably has tons of American college students each year, should know the rules.  It is reasonable for the OP to  rely upon its expertise.  Beyond that, the only issue here was the crazy TSA

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Thank you for saying what I was thinking about the Ethiopia/Tanzania disconnect.  Nairobi (Kenya) was a much closer airport.  Mind you, I know *nothing* about booking flights to African countries.  Transiting Ethiopia and Kenya to get to northern Tanzania just doesn’t make sense to me, and if the OP had had evidence of another flight out of Addis Ababa, he shouldn’t have run afoul of Ethiopian regulations.

    But what do I know?  I live in landlocked Nebraska!

  • Ann Lamoy

    The last time I had to travel one way (when I loved from the East to West Coast and it was cheaper to ship most of my stuff via POD and then fly myself), it was $250 cheaper to buy a RT ticket and not use the return trip than to buy a one way ticket. Otherwise, I would have bought the RT ticket. This was in August of 2002 so not quite a year post 9/11. They were still using plastic forks and no knives at all on the meal service. (and you still actually got free meals. Imagine that)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II


    I have to respectfully disagree with your entire post.  His itinerary was straightforward. Not sure what is confounding about it.

    The one-way ticket issue is outdated.  Its no longer a flag.  I travel from SFO/SJC to LAX on one way tickets for the flexibility.  I haven’t had an issue yet.  And I do it routinely because I practice in Southern California Courts. I’ve been making that run since 1991.

  • Sadie_Cee

    I feel for the OP and do sympathize with him for the situation in which he found himself after he had missed his flight.  This was my reason for voting that the airline should have accommodated him.
    If any of the travel experts here knows of a country in the world that admits a ‘tourist’ on a one-way ticket, please let me know.  If there is an airline that would accept such a person as a pax without a return ticket, I would also like to know.  Not having a return ticket raised a flag with our friendly TSA and they would have been derelict in their duty if they had not subjected him to a secondary search.
    If the OP was journeying to Tanzania as a volunteer in a recognized international program, the sponsors should have made his travel arrangements for him or given him specific written instructions for him to complete them on his own.  They could have done so and he did not read the instructions carefully.  It happens!
    I agree with @Exploration TravMag that this trip was doomed from the start.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    FT is primarily personal experiences and the Wiki article is woefully out of date.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     My guess, and its just a guess, is that the OP wasn’t sure what day he would be returning and didn’t want to pay a change fee, assuming that was even an option.

    And I agree, I think the Orbitz has a responsibility to inform him of the generally applicable visa requirements much as airlines inform you of close connections, overnight flights, etc.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    In fairness to the volunteer organization, that’s not unusual.  My church works with volunteer organizations globally, and they all have opportunities for volunteers of all ages, not just college students.  College students just have to advantage of a long summer vacations and youthful enthusiasm.

    If the organization is well run, it will provide all of the information that the kids need regarding visa, vaccination shorts, etc.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    Well, for one he was going to Tanzania, not Ethiopia.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    Requiring round trip tickets is not unique to TSA.  For example, some car rental places will allow you to use a visa/mc debit card only if you present proof of a round trip ticket.

  • adg479

    How does a college student pay for round trip airfare from Minneapolis to Tanzania on a “volunteer” salary?  Maybe TSA did this kid a favor…he can now attempt to find a serious job for the summer that might actually advance his career after college.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5CI3K5KXUU5EBF5AYPSR7ZNERY Helio

    I’m Brazilian, and to travel to USA, I need to have a visa.  I traveled to your country several times during the last decade, via several airlines (UA, AA, JAL, TAM, Continental, etc), and I don’t rememeber seeing a remark or note advising about visa requirements.  It may be in the fine printing, but I really don’t remember.

    But I believe that the passenger is the ultime responsible for his trip.  He needs to double check himself everything.  In this case, I cannot believe this guy doesn’t know how to use internet to look for information.  It seems he was very efficient to find Chris and ask for help.  He could save these problems if he had done some (even a lot) research earlier.

    I don’t know… maybe because I need to do a lot of research to make sure I won’t have any problem with my “TSA” or my destination “TSA”, I never had this kind of problems.  In my last trip, I traveled with my IRS/income report, to make sure I won’t have problems with Spain customs.  An example of a kind of problems I belive americans will never face.

  • ChrisFromSFO

    ADG, why do we care? As far as I can tell, he did not ask for any special consideration because he was volunteering… Which is a nice break from all the people who ask for a special break because they scheduled chemotherapy for a cancer they already knew about, wanted to be with their dog weeks after his surgery, visiting their aunt’s best friend’s daughter-in-law, etc. More kids should be doing what this one did (although they should also work with a real travel agent before booking tickets to Africa).

  • ClareClare

    I don’t know why we’re going in circles here about Orbitz Ethiopian United.  The OP apparently showed up for his flight on time and everything was in order–and then got screwed by the thugs at TSA, who invented an imaginary rule that caused all this mess!

    How is this NOT 100% the TSA’s fault?  Who the **** told this poor kid about the non-existent 24-hour list?!  THAT’s the issue, pure and simple!

    In the meantime, I’m shocked at how well Orbitz resolved this–as best they could–by working with Ethiopian.  I would’ve assumed that they would leave the poor guy high and dry.  Must have been some unusual planetary alignment that day or something.

    If he’s game, maybe he should sue the TSA for the $200 differential he had to pay, out of principle.  I know, I know, the TSA will haughtily claim that they are exempt from all liability.  BUT the specific issue here is that the OP was given absolutely, blatantly FALSE information by some TSA jerk and suffered directly because of it.  Let’s hear Fuhrer Pistole tell us in writing that “TSA procedures were followed correctly here.”  Ya think? 

  • TonyA_says

    A damn good reason to use a damn good Travel Agent
    Ok, enough of these travel vending machine malfunctions.
    It’s time to get smart about these things.

    Let’s assume the OP is an American citizen and will travel MSP-IAD-ADD-JRO one way. Here is what a good travel agent does. S/he uses timatic and pulls the Visa (or Health) information.

    (SEE NOTE 32358)
    USD 50.- AND USD 200.-.

    Well the OP did not have an onward ticket (beyond Tanzania). Sorry.

  • TonyA_says

     Did you bother to check United’s one-way fare and compare it to ET’s ??? I am sure you did not. Why do you think it will make a difference if Tanzania requires VISITORs to have a return or onward ticket? Here are the one-way fares from MSP to JRO. Now you know why he chose ET.

    **  MONEYSAVER  FARES  ** LOADED 23JUN 16:31EDT/23JUN 20:31GMT
      ADD TAXES                                                   
              * TICKETING FEE MAY APPLY – SEE >INFO TKTFEE (      
              * SEG/PFC CHARGES MAY APPLY                         
     LN A/L  F.B.C.  USD   OW       RT    EFF     LTK   AP MIN/MAX
      1 ET   BOWUS      999.00          23MAY12    –     –  – / – 
      2 ET   SOWUS     1199.00          23MAY12    –     –  – / – 
      3 ET   YOWUS     1250.00  2500.00 23MAY12    –     –  – / – 
      4 US   Y         3621.00  7242.00  1APR08    –     –  – /12M
      5 LH   Y1        3765.00  7530.00 19JAN12    –     –  – /12M
      6 UA   Y1        3765.00  7530.00 19JAN12    –     –  – /12M

    Lowest base fare for United is $3765 plus tax. Compare that to ET’s $999 plus tax.

  • TonyA_says

    I respectfully disagree with you.
    Knowing what this kid was up to (staying a long time in Africa), I would have recommended he bought a FULLY UNRESTRICTED one-way ticket OUT OF Africa to a European city that welcomes AMERICANS. Amsterdam offers a non-stop solution but it will cost $1769.90. However, that is fully refundable so you can get your money back later. Frankfurt also has one at $1489 but with a stop at ADD.
    I know how this works since I have [US citizen] customers who need the same kind of tickets for other countries.
    They need PROOF of onward or outbound ticket so they simply buy a Y class one-way outbound from that country to anywhere Americans are fully welcomed.

    Correction : to be specific the fares I quoted are M Class Cancellable and changeable without a penalty. They aren’t fully refundable since you need to buy a ticket in the future to go home to the States.

  • Joe Farrell

    but its not up to the TSA to enforce Ehtiopias visa rules.  . .

  • Joe Farrell

    Why does TSA care about people LEAVING the country for any destination?  If you are leaving you are not a threat- check the guy for weapons and bombs and send him on his way. . . .

  • Joe Farrell

    Terrorists don’t fly first class. either  . . 

  • $16635417

    Therein lies the difference between how I deal with the TSA. I never “lip off”. In this case I explained the problem to the supervisor before she could and never was put in a defensive mode, hence a good offense is your best defense…and I knew I was being fed a load of BS so knowing the rules helps as well.

  • crash025

    Y tickets aren’t always refundable without a change fee. Trust me on that. Leftouthansa will screw you over on that.

  • TonyA_says

    we do the same for most non-american citizens or residents.

  • TonyA_says

    true but the one i’m quoting is cancellable or changeable without a fee. it is not fully refundable but at least you can exchange it for a ticket home later. fully refundable are almost a thing of the past.
    Btw, what you say about LH is true.

  • TonyA_says

    The airline could be fined by Tanzania for transporting a pax with insufficient paperwork.

  • SoBeSparky

    Yes, true, and that is the point.  We have several sources based on many experiences versus one person who “knows” it is random based on his singular experience.

  • SoBeSparky

    That is your take.  Another take, commonly noted in these comments, is that we have a neophyte international traveler who used the internet for tickets and apparently received no honest and reality-based warnings and advice about buying one-way international tickets.  He should have appeared at the airport three hours beforehand (airline recommendation).  He should have had all his back-up paperwork in order.  

    It is a dangerous world out there.  Getting on an international flight to a remote location is not similar to heading to the 7-11 for Coke. Real, live, local travel agents make a living helping customers like this.  (I am not and never have been a travel agent, nor do I even know one anymore.)  

  • SoBeSparky

    How fleeting are our memories.  Almost 50 years ago, the beginnings of common airline hijackings were flights to take passengers to a unscheduled foreign country.  “Take me to Cuba” was the common request.

    Remember, the passengers on 9/11 had their planes hijacked.  It did not matter what the planes’ destinations.  We should care anytime a plane goes up in the skies.  Gravity rules.

  • $16635417

    Yes…but I was replying to Wayne Denton who seems to indicate that a one way fare is deceitful. If your situation allows for a one way, you can buy it and travel on it…that is why they are published.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    TSA-what a joke.

    Another one of their stuff ups.

    The biggest problem in the USA is that mob called government !!!

  • $16635417

    For US Citizens? Mexico, Canada, UK all allow for one way travel as evidenced in Timatic by the lack of the requirement that onward/return travel is required. I believe most airlines use a version of Timatic, in fact Delta publishes their’s for customer use here: 

  • Daizymae

    Yet another example of TSA’s lies and abuse of American citizens.

  • MarkKelling

    Many countries also require you have a return ticket before they let you in.  I don’t know about this specific situation so I can’t state specifically it is required, and if it was how was the original ticket purchased?  

    And the TSA doesn’t know if your ticket is round trip or one way anyway when you pass through security and I have never seen the name checker sitting there with a no-fly list when checking my boarding pass.  Something seems to be left out of the story.

  • MarkKelling

    Fully refundable is impossible to get on UA these days.  Surprised me to no end when I bought a full fare 1st ticket DEN SFO and it stated “non refundable.”  So what’s the use with full fare tickets anymore?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     Good point

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     He’s a student, I suspect that he didn’t have the money to have $1400-$1800 just laying in the form of a ticket.

    Q: Does Tanzania require proof of return ticket and can it be in the form of two one ways or must it be a single PNR

  • TonyA_says

    Interesting. The endorsement should state REFUNDABLE according to the fare rules of Y fare for Den-Sfo on UA.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    Parents, working during the year, savings…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    Is the  relevant portion the last line about return/onward tickets?  I’d be curious about the use of the word “could”  does that mean that there are times when extry is possible?

  • $16635417

    The 9/11 ones did.

  • TonyA_says

    any onward tkt is fine. doesn’t need to be one pnr.

  • TonyA_says

    sometimes they don’t check.-:

  • $16635417

    Right, I had that in my earlier post at one point, but I may have edited it out for space. The airline is responsible, so the United “agent” in MSP should have alerted the poster to the visa problem at check in. (As TonyA points out the Tanzania rules come into play as well.) I am also confused where TSA comes into play.Which agent is being referred to? Is it possible the facts have become muddled? Everyone seems to agree the OP is an inexperienced traveler.

    BTW, this particular response is to those that wonder why he can buy a one way ticket on orbitz.

  • $16635417

    But, if they do, and then deny entry…the airline is responsible for the return journey.

  • TonyA_says

    plus fine

  • MarkKelling

    Not Y (coach). A (first) class.  

    I was surprised because F & A class have always been with no restrictions.  My A said “non-refundable changes allowed at any time.”

    I look closer now before purchasing.

  • $16635417

    Not if he booked on their website, it doesn’t know if you are eligible to travel in to Tanzania on a one way ticket or not. That is the responsibility of the traveler to research before purchase. 

  • Sadie_Cee

    Thanks for the hint re Timatic.  I read it carefully but while passports, visas and customs requirements were mentioned, there was nothing about ticketing per se.  Even with your example elsewhere on this blog, your friend with a Dominican passport was entering the D.R. with a one-way ticket.  He had citizenship rights.  He was not a tourist.  I still don’t have examples of countries that admit tourists without a return ticket.  I will keep looking.

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    Yes, Tony, and this is great information – but the story indicates that Ethiopian Airlines flagged him for a problem with an ETHIOPIAN visa, not a TANZANIAN visa.  It appears he may well have had a problem there, but what really confuses me is Ethiopian claiming he needed a round-trip ticket to enter Ethiopia on a transit visa.  He had an onward ticket to Tanzania, which seems to meet the requirements for one. 

    So somewhere in this story, there is a misunderstanding.  Either the OP misunderstood that his problem was with Tanzania and not Ethiopia, or Ethiopian Airlines provided misinformation (perhaps they didn’t fully understand the itinerary) that he couldn’t travel to Addis without a return ticket (when he did in fact have an onwards ticket).

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    I am also not 100% convinced that the TSA really DID tell him he was on a bogus “24 hour no fly list”.  Like I said, I wouldn’t put it past a jerk agent to mess with him like that, but I find it more likely he was confused and misunderstood the real reason, which was that the counter agent denied him boarding because he had a problem with his documents to enter Tanzania.

    If the TSA really did make up a BS reason like that, though – then yes, they absolutely should have to pay up (good luck getting them to do so, though).

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JWIDK73REHGADBHYLCUC3FBV7Y Bob

    fwiw, if you check in online you pretty much never get SSSS, and if you do, you can just edit it out of your boarding pass before printing.

  • $16635417

    Compare the requirements of Mexico to those of the Bahamas, for example. You will see that the Bahamas has a statement that it does require proof of return/onward travel. Since it is not included in Mexico’s, one way travel is allowed. 

    This would make sense, since it is entirely possible to fly into Mexico, take a bus to a border city, and walk back into the US.

    The DR example was in response to someone who believed airlines were being deceitful in allowing a one way ticket to be sold. The example I gave in my response was to indicate that there are certainly examples of when a one-way international fare could be applied. Yes, the DR passport holder does not need a RT ticket, so that is one example where that fare could be utilized.

  • TonyA_says

    The vending machine can easily prevent this. They need to add 2 checks and warnings –
    1. If you TRANSIT a country that requires a Visa then you should be warned.
    2. If you VISIT a country that requires an onward or return ticket you should be warned.
    The warning can be as simple as a pop up window with a generic message. It does not have check the pax mationality or residency.

  • $16635417

    I know JetBlue has this feature. Go to their website and try to book a one way internationally. (I chose JFK-SDQ) You get a message that says warns you that proof of a return ticket may be required. (Actually, return or “onward” travel is more correct, but still better than nothing.)

    You’re right, if JetBlue can do it, the OTA’s can add the coding.

  • Joe Farrell

    What about when an airline shuffles its airplanes around – taking an airplane that is on-time and uses that airplane to fly another flight – and shifting its delays to the last flights of the delays to the west coast . . . 

    is weather the reason for that delay?  Or is it for the airlines convenience – even though someone would have gotten a weather delay but not you until the airline decided to take your on-time airplane scheduled to fly your route and shift it another flight?  Thereby creating a delay on your flight that did not otherwise exist.  

    Is that a weather delay for you? 

  • Joe Farrell

    how is this relevant to my reply?  I thought I said check him for bombs and weapons . . ..

  • Asiansm Dan

    Good Idea. But I belong to the old batch and hate the idea Airlines or Hotel cut services and make us work for them. I don’t see the security agents treat me differently. By the way I scarcely access to printer.

  • bodega3

    Agents have student fares they can get and the change fee can be as low as $25 with the carrier  These fares must be booked with certain companies, not with the carrier.  This young man took a risk by booking online and why????

  • TonyA_says

    STA and S.Universe wouldn’t probably sell him a one-way ticket knowing where he was going.

  • bodega3

    I can’t second guess this young man’s reasoning, but one ways are obtainable to many destinations.  I have sold roundtrips for less than a one way and their change fee was only $25 and no add collect provided the same booking class was avaiable.  The return is good for 1 year.  He was a student so he would be returning back AND he needs an onward ticket upon arrival in Tanzania.

  • Michael__K

    Small problem here with using a TA to get visa rules: a normal visa for Tanzania would not be suitable for someone doing volunteer work.  You NEED to go through the sponsoring organization.

    A recurring problem encountered by U.S. citizens is that volunteer activity – even if the traveler is paying for the volunteer opportunity – is prohibited on a tourist visa. U.S. citizens traveling to Tanzania for short- or long-term volunteer projects should review their status with the sponsoring organization before entering the country.


    We don’t know which organization he volunteered with, but here is one organization’s FAQ answer addressing visas:

    Please note that a work permit is required to volunteer in Tanzania.  The cost of the work permit is $550 USD.  If you have a work permit you DO NOT NEED A VISA.  We work with immigration to get you the work permit prior to your departure.  When you enter the country just show your work permit at immigration and you will be permitted to enter the country.  We can be fined up to $400 USD for having volunteers without work permits.


    Presumably the OP’s work permit was in order or he wouldn’t have been admitted the following week…

  • kakeyte

    Sorry but if this 24 hour no fly list does not exist, I need to know what time he showed up for the flight & how long the TSA actually spoke with him. I think it’s safe to say that one way tickets are always considered somewhat ‘suspect’ even before the concerns about terrorism, many countries had/have requirements about not admitting people with no return trip booked.

  • pauletteb

    I voted Yes, but I wouldn’t have much sympathy for someone who arrived close to departure time and then got pulled out for additional screening. This used to happen all the time to my step-mother, who would spend hours online trying to find the “cheapest” fares and frequently purchased one-way tickets, which got her flagged in the months following 9/11. She also is always running late, so when she (for some reason, not my dad) got pulled out for additional screening, they missed their flights on more than one occasion.

    I always factor the possibility of delay, for any reason, into my schedule.

  • Michael__K

    The article reads that it was 100% TSA.   And I’m pretty certain TSA claims the authority to delay any passenger for as long as they want to to satisfy any suspicion they have (even if the suspicion proves to be unmerited).

    The only United agent referenced in the article would have been the one who referred him to Ethiopian Airlines.

    (And the OP wasn’t travelling to Ethiopia; he was travelling to Tanzania.  And he wasn’t travelling as a visitor.  He needed a work permit, not a visa.  And that was probably in order since it didn’t come up in the story and he eventually made it to his volunteer gig).


  • Michael__K

    If the OP was following all the rules (and there is no indication that he wasn’t) then this is all grandstanding from 20/20 hindsight.

    If you’re TSA, you don’t need a formal “24 hour-no fly list” if you have agents with the authority to delay a passenger for as long as they want to satisfy any sort of (unmerited) suspicion.

    There is an underlying threat from terrorism (and I could be questioned and delayed) every time I ride the subway.   Does that mean it’s “p*ss poor planning” if I ever take the subway when I absolutely need to get somewhere in the next 24 hours?

  • Michael__K

    What indication is there that he didn’t appear at the airport 3 hours beforehand?  

    What indication is there that he didn’t have his paperwork 100% in order?

    Why would you assume otherwise with no inside knowledge beyond what’s spelled out in the article?

    There are dangerous areas in the U.S. too.  If the OP was headed to a semi-abandoned tough neighborhood in Detroit, would you blame him for not using a travel agent?

    FYI, I wouldn’t call KIA a “remote location.”  It’s a very significant tourist destination.

  • $16635417

    The posts contains some points that are not fully explained. (See my previous post in another thread.) It does not specify that it was a TSA agent or airline agent that pulled him aside and when. It is difficult for me to assume that it is 100% TSA related with these inconsistencies. (But it may end up being a TSA officer “gone rogue” against TSA SOP’s.)

    I later noted also that while the OP was not going to Ethiopia as a final destination he IS connecting there and subject to whatever rules apply…most likely a transit visa. (The work permit may be needed in Tanzania, depending on what country his passport is from. Some countries allow ‘humanitarian’ travel to be permit and visa free.)

    I also pointed out that I cannot assume he is a US passport holder, so an exact determination of the problem is difficult to ascertain. For example, if he were holding a passport from Somalia, he may have been subject to closer scrutiny at departure as well. 

  • Michael__K

    Chris clearly thinks it was TSA.

    The OP very clearly states it was TSA.

    I don’t see why you feel the urge to second-guess them.

    TSA doesn’t dispute that they held up the passenger, just that they do not have something formally called a “24-hour no fly list.”

    Do you dispute that TSA has the authority to delay a passenger for as long as they see fit (even 24 hours) while they investigate any suspicions they may have?

    What passport the OP holds is immaterial; I see no claim anywhere that he did not have a valid passport or papers.  

    Should passengers who have satisfied all legal requirements pay more if something about them is “suspicious” to a security officer?

  • $16635417

    So when was he pulled aside?

    I never said I dispute the authority of the TSA, what I am having a problem with is following the chain of events.

  • Michael__K

    Article doesn’t say but the TSA security line seems like a good bet.

    Your reference to a TSA officer “gone rogue” implied to me that you didn’t think they could legitimately delay the OP for 24 hours.

  • $16635417

    I would think it is possible as well that he was pulled aside at the main checkpoint, but could it have been additional screening at the gate? or was his PNR inhibited from check in at the counter? All these provide clues as to what happened. This information could provide a huge clue. 

    By “Gone Rogue” meaning maybe a TSA officer made up a non-existent policy term to keep the kid from traveling for whatever reason.

    Was there a security threat in the region we don’t know about? Perhaps this kid fit some sort of profile based on things we don’t know about him and rather than risk sending him on his way, they wanted to see if he came back the next day. Intelligence of a finely tuned effort by to disrupt air travel may have flagged him.

    The point we agree on is that something happened, but I sense something is out of the ordinary and lacking in the narrative. 

  • Michael__K

    @mikegun:disqus “…This information could provide a huge clue.

    All of the questions you ask are for our curiousity.  And the answers might be quite interesting.

    And I can practically guarantee that TSA won’t disclose — not to the OP nor to Chris nor to us — what goes into their decision to impose such a long involuntary delay on a passenger.

    Clearly the one-way ticket contributed to any suspicions.  I think it’s useless to speculate what else (if anything) made the OP suspicious to the TSA.  We have no reason to believe that the OP did anything improper.  

    The primary question Chris asks is highly appropriate: who should pay for the costly consequences when a passenger is delayed extensively by authorities because of security suspicions that ultimately prove to be unfounded?

  • Michael__K

    started a new thread

  • Amy Alkon

    I love that the TSA morons wait till somebody gets to the airport to wonder about him. International airplane tickets are not bought 20 minutes before the flight takes off. But, this is moronism pretending to be security. 

    P.S. Per the rat who tried to appropriate a slightly off version of commenter Lisa Simeone’s name (comment now deleted), Lisa Simeone is a hero for her work exposing the TSA for what it is — a jobs program for unskilled workers, a pretense of security, and obedience training for the American public so we’ll be docile and polite in the face of having our rights yanked from us. 

  • 2000bsp4

    I am Jeff’s brother and have a few additions to clarify the story. Jeff is an extremely travelled individual for his age, having made multiple prior trips to Europe and Africa (including Tanzania).   He has a US passport and had the required visa for Tanzania.  He is a well-dressed typical college student from rural Iowa.  He was doing volunteer work for a school-sponsored program, which paid for his transportation to get there and left Jeff with few choices on how it was purchased.   Jeff wanted to spend a few weeks vacationing in Europe after his time in Tanzania, but his school would not pay for his vacation travel. Therefore, the school bought the one-way ticket to Tanzania and Jeff bought a separate ticket leaving Tanzania to go to Europe, then eventually back home. He showed up to the airport hours before his flight, with plenty of documentation showing his summer plans.  Somehow, the TSA had prior knowledge of his unusual itenerary and met him at the check-in counter for questioning.  The TSA agent told him that they would need to further investigate his plans and he would have to wait atleast 24 hours to check back to see if he was cleared to fly.

  • bodega3

    You bought a discounted first class ticket and yes, that comes with restrictions that a full F fare doesn’t have.

  • RonBonner

    If a TSA screener misapplies TSA screening procedures and causes a person to miss a flight then that individual TSA employee should be held accountable and be required to reimburse the traveler for all cost associated with the incident.  Doing such would put the burden squarely on the shoulders of those people who make mistakes or don’t know policy.

  • Lindabator

    But it wasn’t the TSA who required a roundtrip ticket, but Ethiopia requires it per their visa requirements – think you misunderstood that.

  • Lindabator

    Connecting thru Ethiopia – rules still apply. 

  • Lindabator

    No – YOU are responsible for checking that – different requirements for different folks – what if you were originally FROM ethiopia – you wouldn’t need the visa, nor a return ticket.

  • Lindabator

    Because not everyone buying that ticket have such a requirement – I book clients who are originally FROM ethiopia – they do NOT have the same restrictions, and yes, they now live and BOOK here in the US.

  • Lindabator

    Right – but TSA can question WHY he did not have a means of return – it raises a red flag on travelers.

  • Lindabator

    But transit thru Ethiopia bears the traveller to their visa laws – which requires a return ticket, for most US travellers at least.

  • Lindabator

    However, he would have had the SAME problem of not being allowed to transit Ethiopia once he arrived – and much more of a headache and cost at that point.  TSA probably SAVED him from all that here (and I can’t believe I said that!)  :)

  • Lindabator

    No return ticket – paperwork NOT in 100% order.

  • Michael__K

    Ethiopian embassy says otherwise:

    *If you arrive at Addis Ababa Bole International airport and have to wait a few hours for a connecting flight, providing you do not leave the airport or pass the Immigration Desk you will not require this visa. If you leave the airport for any length of time between flights you will require a transit visa. 

    Furthermore, even if a transit visa were needed, it is obtainable at ADD for U.S. citizens and the requirements specifically state that you don’t need a return ticket if you have:

    a confirmed flight ticket for the onward destinations from Ethiopia

    (which is also consistent with common sense)

  • Michael__K

    Really?  Do you have a source for your claim that a return ticket is required for onward transit?

    Again, the Ethiopian embassy website states otherwise:


    If you arrive at Addis Ababa Bole International airport and have to wait a few hours for a connecting flight, providing you do not leave the airport or pass the Immigration Desk you will not require this visa. If you leave the airport for any length of time between flights you will require a transit visa.

    Even if the OP needed a transit visa:

    When submitted, each completed application form must be accompanied by:…a copy of your return ticket if you are travelling on a tourist or business visa, or a confirmed flight ticket for the onward destinations from Ethiopia, if you are travelling on a transit visit.

  • Lindabator

    CAN YOU READ????  Never said they needed a visa – said that per their visa laws, they require a return ticket.

  • Michael__K

    Can YOU read?

    OP had a confirmed flight ticket for an onward destination from Ethiopia.  

    End of story unless you dispute the content posted by the Ethiopian embassy.

  • bodega3

    He only books online and you know that online tells you all you need to know so why use a TA?

  • bodega3

    Good grief MIchael, you are arronying.  It is very clear in what she wrote.  You just like to argue.

  • Michael__K

    You claim a return ticket was required?

  • bodega3

    Sorry that Michael can’t figure it out.

  • Michael__K

    U.S. Department of State recommends that Tanzania volunteers go through the sponsoring organization.  But what do they know.

    Care to cite which Ethiopian rule the OP failed to comply with?

  • Michael__K

    And keep in mind, according to @2000bsp4:disqus   it was the sponsoring organization which bought the ticket.


  • flutiefan

     no, when he checked in with the airline at the airport, he came up on the list, meaning the airline could not issue him a boarding pass. this all happened prior to trying to pass through security.

  • flutiefan

    yes, because it was ultimately a weather issue/delay that caused the swap in the first place.
    please don’t yell at me, i’m just answering your question.

  • flutiefan

    “Passengers are disappointed but generally understanding.”
    ha!!! i call BS!!!

    “When the tables are turned, however, and passengers miss a flight for
    reasons beyond their control, airlines are reluctant or unwilling to be
    accommodating.”  so if there’s a car accident and the highway to the airport is shut down, the airline should pay for passengers to get on new flights? i know most do so out of courtesy if the passenger arrives in a reasonable amount of time, but why should that be regulated? what about DOT or Highway Patrol or someone else passing out the compensation?

    “Shouldn’t airlines be required to help a passenger who’s left behind
    because of a security delay? “I understand some of their reasoning —
    that the delays were not directly caused by their airline — and I know
    airlines don’t have to do something in every single case,” he says. “But
    I just don’t get it.””
    so he knows that the airline had no part in him missing his flight, but he “doesn’t get it” why they won’t accept responsibility? really?  (see: highway example above). and i guess he’s the special snowflake case that should be taken care of.

  • Rosered7033

    Yes, and that is precisely what is so maddening to the customer who loses at the end. Thursday, mechanical issues forced our MIA-STL AA flight to be delayed over 4hrs while the plane was being worked on. Ultimately, we were instructed to go to another gate at the other end of the concourse for boarding, & when we got there, the group due to board THAT plane were sent to OUR original gate, to board OUR original plane, which made me wonder why they put us through that exercise – was it just to give us something to do while they worked on the plane? Last year, my group and I were due to return home from Jamaica, but because the charter co. had mechanical issues, our plane was diverted to another city and we got to wait until the next day for our flight. Sandals was nice enough to transport us back to the resort so we didn’t have to sleep at the airport, but transportation back early the next morning was on us – and was not a pittance.

  • http://tsaoutofourpants.wordpress.com/ Jonathan Corbett

    As some who’s missed 3 flights in the last year due to TSA assholery, I can say that: US Airways reaccommodated me for free and with no-hassle, American Airlines did so after writing to their customer service, and United Airlines would not assist.  Needless to say, US gets much more business from me, while UA gets no more.

    Airlines need to stand with the passengers in solidarity against TSA abuse, whether by TSA policy (body scanners & groping) or an individual deciding he wants to paw around in grandpa’s ashes.