Missed their honeymoon, but whose fault is it?


shutterstock_130173155From time to time, a case crosses my desk that leaves me a little cross-eyed. Melissa Davenport’s does all that, and more.

Let’s get a few things out of the way: There’s a lot about this honeymoon-gone-wrong story that we don’t know. I’m relying on you to help me figure which missing pieces we need to collect – and ultimately, if this case is even fixable.

But based on what Davenport says happened to her daughter Amanda and her new husband, Dan, I think it’s remarkable that they’re still married.

The couple had been planning their honeymoon for a while. But life got in the way of their big vacation. The first winter after they were married, they couldn’t get away because they were still in college; the second winter, Amanda was serving in Afghanistan.

“So you can imagine the anticipation and excitement when it was finally time for them to go,” says Davenport’s mom.

Since they were not experienced travelers, the couple hired a travel agent to help them book a Carnival cruise from Port Canaveral. Their flights on United Airlines were from Sioux Falls, SD, to Orlando.

“They arrived at the airport in plenty of time, but at boarding learned the flight was overbooked and they did not have pre-assigned seats,” Davenport recalls. “Remember, novice travelers here. Why their agent neglected to get them seat assignments, I don’t know.”

Are the red flags flapping in the wind yet?

“The gate agent told them there was a flight with space available at a different gate, so they agreed to try that. When they arrived there, the second gate agent said that flight was also full and turned them away. They returned to the first gate, but of course their flight had departed, taking their luggage with it,” she says.

And here’s where things get really interesting.

“United offered to send them to the Bahamas to meet their cruise at a later date, but they had no way to confirm those arrangements with Carnival and no luggage,” she says. The luggage had been checked and was en route to Orlando. So the couple declined the offer, and gave up their honeymoon.

Then things went from bad to worse. United paid the required involuntary denied boarding compensation for their flight. But somewhere between the travel agent, United and Carnival, the couple was reclassified as a voluntary denied boarding – meaning they had agreed to give up their seats in Sioux Falls – and Carnival pocketed their entire cruise fare.

“In the meantime the kids have basically given up,” says Davenport. “By the time they heard their trip insurance was worthless, they were well into their busiest season at work and had no time to pursue this further. They handled the disappointment well, joking about the snow-white beaches of Minnesota — snow being the key word — and have pretty much just let it go.”

But Davenport doesn’t want to let it go. She heard about me from her sister and wants to see if I can get some or all of their honeymoon back.

I’d like to help, but I’m not sure how. Surely, part of the responsibility for making sure this couple gets boarding passes and other paperwork requirements out of the way rests with their travel agent, but according to Davenport, she didn’t bother to answer her phone when the couple was stuck at the airport and subsequently blamed the newlyweds for leaving their gate, which caused them to miss their flight.

How about the airline? A review of Davenport’s account suggests that United may have been legitimately confused. There was one available seat, and when the couple refused to take it, it may have interpreted that as a voluntary denied boarding situation, at least initially.

Carnival would have referred the matter to the couple’s travel insurance, but I’m not surprised the policy was “useless.” After all, United offered to send them to the Bahamas and if they were marked as voluntary denied boarding, then their insurance claim wouldn’t be honored.

So what now? Should I circle back with Davenport for details? Contact her daughter? And where do I go first – to their agent, airline, cruise line or insurance company?

Or do I let this one go and chalk it up to a hard lesson learned?

Should I mediate Davenport's case?

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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 . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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