Air Europa downgraded us, so why won’t it refund our business class fares?

By | November 21st, 2016

What are airline passengers entitled to when their tickets are downgraded? Jorge Souss and his wife would like to know. They paid for business class tickets on Air Europa, but they didn’t get what they paid for.

A travel agent reserved business class seats for the Sousses on a Barcelona-to-Madrid Air Europa flight. But at check-in, the Sousses were told that the airplane Air Europa had assigned to the flight did not have business class seating. The Sousses were reassigned seats in economy class. And they were not permitted inside Air Europa’s business class lounge.


When the Sousses inquired about being refunded the $200 price differential between business and economy class airfares, they were told to file a claim with the airline.

By telling the Sousses to file a claim with the airline for a refund, Air Europa made an implied promise to issue them a refund upon receipt of their claim. And when a business makes a promise to a customer, whether implicit or explicit, good customer service requires that the promise be promptly fulfilled.

Air Europa’s conditions of carriage is silent regarding liability for downgraded airfares. But it provides that:



  • BubbaJoe123

    This seems like a cut and dried EU261 downgrade claim.

  • Rebecca

    Why should they receive a refund in any form other than cash? They paid in cash, and they didn’t receive what they paid for. That’s awful. It’s also awful that their travel agent didn’t seem to be very helpful.

  • Alan Gore

    Usually the problem with a premium class downgrade is being subjected to airline math, by which 4 minus 2 is zero, in figuring the compensation. In this case, the pax just got the big Screw You.

  • fairmont1955

    If that was in violation of the EU rule then a report should have been filed as well through whatever legal channels possible. Fire from all channels.

  • fairmont1955

    I find it odd they had business class tickets and were denied access to the lounge.

  • Lindabator

    Unfortunately, in cases like these, an agent’s hands are tied as well — if the airline will not offer the client anything, the travel agent has nothing they can do – unless they choose to pay out of their own pocket (which isn’t really fair)

  • Joe Blasi

    Full fair walk up economy class can cost more then business class

  • John Baker

    EU261 Downgrade claim… Its actually more. If that doesn’t work, credit card chargeback for not providing the service specified.
    EU261 gets you more money so start there.

  • mbods2002

    Why didn’t the Elliott advocates suggest a EU261 claim? Does this sort of downgrading not qualify? I don’t get it….

  • Alan Gore

    Of course it would, but the only valid fare basis to use for compensation is economy class that was reservable at the time of the business class purchase.

  • Bill___A

    If the airline will not comply with European law, they should not be allowed to fly in Europe.

  • Randy Culpepper

    “By telling the Sousses to file a claim with the airline for a refund, Air Europa made an implied promise to issue them a refund upon receipt of their claim. ”

    While I agree the Sousses were treated poorly and should receive a refund of the fare difference, the above statement is absolute nonsense.

  • Michael__K

    Unless the passenger lives in Spain, do any of the for-profit-by-commission EU 261 litigators handle downgrade claims? I can’t find any that do.

    He can try a complaint to the Spanish National Enforcement Body.

    If Air Europa continues to ignore him, he can also try a refund complaint with the US Dept of Transporation. ( http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm ) That would force Air Europa to at least respond to him, even if the DOT has no specific authority over the flight in question.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    If they have a lot of time, a small claims court case could be fun, if the court allows it. Just sue in Florida (Air Europa serves Florida), make sure the company is served the complaint, and when they don’t show up, get a judgement. When they don’t pay, arrange with the local sheriff to seize one of their planes. I bet they’ll pay then.

    See http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2012/03/04/would-you-try-to-seize-a-777-over-an-unpaid-lost-luggage-claim/

  • BubbaJoe123

    They should at least pay back the commission. Otherwise the TA is profiting from the client’s loss.

  • Mark

    They were not being unreasonable by asking for cash.

    This is a very simple, straightforward EC261 claim. It’s a short segment, so they are each entitled to 30% cash refund of their airfares.

    This shouldn’t be an example of ‘Case Dismissed’ – the Sousses should be filing an EC 261 claim. You don’t even need legal advice to do this – there are plenty of template letters online that they could use.

    Disappointing how both Elliott.org and their TA have abandoned them on this – there are very clear-cut legal rights that aren’t being adhered to.

  • Lindabator

    TAs don’t make commission on airline tickets – so unless they charged a fee they want to refund, there is nothing to pay back. And the TA didn’t do anything wrong – airlines control the flights/schedules/changes at the airport – they had been reassigned new flights, just those had their own issues

  • The Original Joe S

    CHARGEBACK! Let the slimey buggers come to the USA to pursue a lawsuit!

  • BubbaJoe123

    So, you’re saying that TAs book airline tickets for the pure joy of doing it? The TA certainly got paid something.

    The customer had the TA book them in business class. They didn’t get business class. The job of an agent is to manage a relationship, not just when things go well.

  • Lindabator

    new tickets were not business – so no lounge access

  • Lindabator

    NO – I clearly stated they collect a fee – but as in MY CASE, my clients only pay $30 for a booking fee – so what do you expect us to pay when an airline wrongs them? Full ticket price? And when a plane is changed to one of a different configuration NOT offering 1st class, they can either take the change, or wait for the next flight with a 1st class seat – MY clients know to contact me immediately, and I can assist them in these cases. These clients did not do so, so how is the travel agent on the hook after the fact????

  • BubbaJoe123

    1. At very least, refund the $30 booking fee.
    2. You’re presumably aware that the choices you present (“take the change, or wait for the next flight with a 1st class seat”) aren’t comprehensive when we’re talking about Europe, in which case statutory compensation comes into play.
    3. Regarding contacting you immediately, this flight could easily have been at 1 or 2 in the morning US time – are you on call 24/7?

  • Rebecca

    I agree this is not a circumstance where it should come out of the agent’s pocket, it certainly wasn’t any error of their own. I just got the impression the agent didn’t really go bat for the client – one email or phone call isn’t sufficient. I may be wrong,and if so I stand corrected. I like to think most agents would make a bit more effort. In fact, I’m sure they do.

  • Rebecca

    The point I was trying to make was not that the agent should reimburse the difference. It certainly wasn’t their mistake. Like you pointed out, there is statutory compensation. I got the impression the agent didn’t go the extra mile here. I got the impression the agent asked once and that was it. I may be wrong, and I’ll always admit when I am, but I think most agents would advocate for their client just as CE would.

  • Lindabator

    1 – I only agree if I SCREW up
    2 – same options may be in place, which is something I could assist with
    3 – YES we are a 24 hour service – and have dealt with issues all hours of the day or night
    4 – HAD this been the only option (downgraded), I at least have a sales rep I can contact to get the client compensation or a future travel credit with, which is why working with a travel agent is a better bet

  • Lindabator

    I didn’t see the agent even contacted when the change occured – if we are unaware, its hard for us to advocate for you

  • Lindabator

    We do – I got the takeaway from this that she contacted the airline directly, and never went back to the agent, which would be hard to blame them for not assisting if they are unaware. I have gotten refunds on nonrefundable tickets, credits for unhappy clients, and yes, take those 24 hour calls. You are right – we see YOU as the client, and advocate ONLY for you! :)

  • BubbaJoe123

    “1 – I only agree if I SCREW up”

    So the airline gets paid, you get paid, and the client is left holding the bag?

    “4 – HAD this been the only option (downgraded), I at least have a sales rep I can contact to get the client compensation or a future travel credit with, which is why working with a travel agent is a better bet”

    Except, in this case, the TA seems to have failed to deliver the product he/she charged for: a business class flight BCN-MAD, or at least a refund of the premium paid for business class.

    Booking through a TA is an insurance policy – you pay extra to have someone who will work for you if things go wrong. If everything goes right, there’s no value to the $30 fee. In this case, something went wrong, and the TA hasn’t made it right, nor refunded the fee.

  • Lindabator

    1 – WHY on earth should any agent have to pay for something NOT in their control???? 4 – yet again – if you do NOT CONTACT your agent, they are not psychic, and cannot guide you if they do not know there is a problem. We are GOOD not GOD

  • BubbaJoe123

    “1 – WHY on earth should any agent have to pay for something NOT in their control????”

    Why should the customer? The agent’s getting paid to fix it if something goes wrong. Something went wrong, and the agent has failed to fix it, so the agent shouldn’t be profiting.

    “4 – yet again – if you do NOT CONTACT your agent, they are not psychic, and cannot guide you if they do not know there is a problem. We are GOOD not GOD”

    They DID contact their agent! From the article: “Their travel agent filed the claim with Air Europa.”

  • LonnieC

    Wow. They were sold a Cadillac, paid for a Cadillac, were promised a Cadillac, and were then given a Smart car. And when they asked for a fair refund, were told to take a hike. And this isn’t actionable?

  • Lindabator

    1 – so if YOUR client is unhappy, and it is out of your control, YOU should pay? Don’t think so. 4 – AFTER the fact is not the time to call your agent – and filing a claim does NOT mean you are eligible for a refund, and that IS up to the airline. Again, she could have contacted a service rep for the client, and should have, but more options available BEFORE you agree to what the airline offers — once you accept it, OUR hands are tied

  • BubbaJoe123

    1. I stand behind what I recommend to my clients. If the product isn’t what I told them it would be (even if that’s not directly my fault), and I can’t fix it, I absolutely refund my fee.

    4. The refund is NOT up to the airline. EU261 mandates downgrade compensation here. Period. The pax is entitled to compensation. Period. If the agent won’t take responsibility in such a cut and dried case, what good is the agent?

  • AAGK

    I disagree with the notion that directing a customer to the proper refund/claim request procedure implies any guaranteed outcome whatsoever. If this were true, pax would inundate these online portals.

  • Lindabator

    BUT only the airline can refund – and although I see no problem with refunding my fee when I make a mistake, or to make a client feel whole, it is not something I would give them should they NOT use my services BEFORE the problem, and then expect me to fix something they chose to do — my folks know to call me FIRST (and if they do not like the options, I work with the airline to see what I can do, but we are not magicians who can make the airline put a larger aircraft in service just for them). You seem to think the agent is at fault when they were not contacted until AFTER the fact – we sell a product to you, which means WE do not have your money, and coming to us after the fact means our hands are tied as well. Too bad you think someone who had no control over the situation would have to pay – just ridiculous

  • jsn55

    Another example of empowering your employees. Few people would not understand Air Europa’s inability to give them biz class seats, it happens. Had the agent just put them in exit rows and escorted them to the lounge, none of this would have been a problem. It’s a short flight. And short-sighted management.

  • PsyGuy

    File for EU261 compensation, this is easy, if they refuse take it to law.

  • PsyGuy

    Thats old school thought, TA’s don’t make commissions on flights anymore ever since the internet and online portals to flights opened up. The TA is basically booking the flight as a courtesy as part of a package. Some full service agencies will charge an issuance fee of $20-$50 for booking air only.

  • PsyGuy

    There isn’t anything within a TA’s power in this case. They cant create a class of service or cabin when there is an equipment change.

  • PsyGuy

    I’d rather have a smart car than a Cadillac.

  • PsyGuy

    It wouldn’t likely be made permanent, the bank card would likely say sorry you flew on the plane.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Commission or fee, same difference. The TA shouldn’t be profiting from this.

  • PsyGuy

    Why is the TA a charity? No, they really aren’t the same difference. Commissions come from vendors, fees are self generating. Someone has to pay for the lights, the rent, the computers, the internet, and still feed their families.

  • BubbaJoe123

    The TA isn’t a charity. They have to get paid. Whether the airline pays them, and charges a higher fare, or the consumer pays them directly, is the same difference. Both are a revenue flow to the TA.

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