If you have to ask if you were wrong, you already know that the answer is yes. This certainly was the case for Tiara Sampson — or it should have been.
Sampson’s story should be a warning to all travelers: Expect, and be prepared for, the worst — including delays on all legs of a trip. But if your travel company has delivered you from one location to the one specified on your ticket, then it has fulfilled its contract with you and is entitled to full payment.
Her story begins with her return trip from Honolulu to Las Vegas, paid for with a Chase debit card, on Allegiant Air. When she arrived at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, she was scheduled to take a bus home to Tucson, Ariz.
Unfortunately for Sampson, her flight from Honolulu was delayed by three hours and did not arrive in Las Vegas until midnight, causing her to miss her bus connection, which had departed an hour before.
Although an Allegiant employee assured Sampson in Honolulu that agents of the airline would be able to assist her with accommodations or compensation in Las Vegas, she found that Allegiant’s counter was closed and no airline employees of the airline were available to help her. Sampson also told us that an airport employee offered her $300 to commit a lewd act.
Having no money for a hotel, Sampson, who told our advocates that she is a “broke college student,” called Chase and asked for a chargeback of the entire cost of the flight. Chase’s agent processed her request and credited her account for $367.
“I know it’s unorthodox but I was desperate,” says Sampson. “I felt Allegiant was at fault so I would have asked for compensation regardless.”
The next day Sampson found that her Chase account was overdrawn. After visiting a branch of Chase, where the teller could find no trace of the credit, she called Chase’s customer service and was told that the agent who had processed her chargeback request had placed an “emergency memo credit” on her account instead, which is meant to expire at midnight. The representative to whom she spoke placed another “emergency memo credit” on the account, which expired that midnight, leaving her account once again with a negative balance.
Several weeks later, Chase followed through with a complete chargeback and fully credited her account for the $367 Allegiant airfare. But Chase reversed this chargeback, responding to an inquiry from Sampson that “Allegiant had fully provided expected services.”
According to Sampson:
I am aware that I cannot be compensated for a crappy time. However, I have read that I have the right to “withhold payment” if dissatisfied with the service or service is not delivered as agreed after making a good-faith effort with the merchant, which I have. Still, I know it’s a long shot. I have read that airlines are not legally obligated to provide accommodations for late flights, but the Allegiant rep did tell me that they would.
Unfortunately for Sampson, airline contracts with passengers don’t work that way. (Contact information for Allegiant Air is available on our website.)
Allegiant Air’s contract of carriage provides that when flights are delayed,
If Carrier delays, cancels, or fails to operate any flight according to Carrier’s published schedule due to a cause beyond Carrier’s control as identified … below, or if Carrier voluntarily changes the schedule of any flight, Carrier will, at the request of a passenger confirmed on an affected flight:
- transport the passenger on another of Carrier’s flights on which space is available at no additional charge; or
- in the case of a delay, cancellation, or failure to operate any flight due to a cause beyond Carrier’s control as identified … below, and provided in the case of delay that the delay is significant, refund the unused portion of the passenger’s fare … or
- in the case of a schedule change made voluntarily by Carrier, and provided the schedule change is significant, refund the unused portion of the passenger’s fare. …
Except to the extent provided … above, Carrier shall not be liable for any failure or delay in operating any flight due to causes beyond Carrier’s control, including but not limited to, acts of God, governmental actions, fire, weather, mechanical difficulties, Air Traffic Control, strikes or labor disputes, or inability to obtain fuel for the flight in question. Carrier shall use its best efforts to notify all affected passengers promptly of planned schedule changes and service withdrawals.
Carrier will attempt to transport passengers and their baggage promptly and as scheduled. Flight schedules, however, are subject to change without notice, and the times shown in or on Carrier’s published schedules and advertising are not guaranteed. … Carrier cannot guarantee that passengers will make connections to other flights of its own or those of other airlines. …
Carrier shall make eligible refunds according to the original form of payment.
We don’t know the cause of the delay. If the cause was the result of an error of Allegiant’s part, then it should have compensated Sampson for the cost of a hotel. But if it was because of weather difficulties or other factors over which Allegiant has no control, then regardless of what its agent told her in Honolulu, Sampson had no right to compensation from Allegiant.
Allegiant Air’s contract of carriage, which is an adhesion contract that applies to all passengers and is not subject to renegotiation by any individual passenger such as Sampson, makes clear that the airline does not guarantee that flights will arrive on time or that passengers will be able to make connections. (Although the contract addresses only airline connections, presumably it does not guarantee that passengers can make connections to other means of transportation.)
The contract of carriage also clearly indicates that only unused airfares can be refunded. In addition, chargebacks should only be used as last resorts, after all other means of getting help have failed – and only if one is actually entitled to a refund. Since Allegiant did transport Sampson from Honolulu to Las Vegas, Sampson was not entitled to a refund of her airfares even though her flight arrived late.
After Sampson’s chargeback was reversed, she asked our forum members for help with her case. Specifically, she wanted to know if she was wrong to request a chargeback of her airfares. The forum advocates categorically agreed that she had filed a false chargeback, which was an act of bad faith (aka “friendly fraud.”)
Sampson took our forum members’ responses graciously, acknowledging that “I guess it’s time to pay for the consequences.”
On that note, we add her story to our “Case Dismissed” file.