My flight home from Hawaii was canceled. Why?

airport, terminal, arrivals, departures, cancel, canceled, flight, airline
By | May 26th, 2017

Charlie Williams and his wife were hit with some flight delays on their way to Hawaii. But then they did something that compounded their problems — something that cost them several thousand dollars.

Now they want to know if we can help get their money back.

The Williams’ story is an unfortunate lesson in airline rules and regulations. And it illustrates why it’s important to know what is in that fine print associated with your ticket.

Williams contacted us to help him recoup the $1,200 that he said he was forced to spend on extra tickets because of an error on the part of Hawaiian Airlines. He also wanted us to ask for “two free round-trip flights to Maui” as additional compensation for his trouble.

“Our flight from Denver to San Francisco on Virgin America was delayed because the plane needed to be de-iced,” Williams recalled. “We landed in San Francisco five minutes late. Our connecting Hawaiian Airlines flight had already closed by the time we got there. Hawaiian Airlines issued us two tickets for the next morning’s 10:00 flight.”

If that were the whole story, the only annoyance that the Williams would have experienced would have been the one missed evening in Hawaii.

But his letter went on to describe that “someone” at Hawaiian Airlines gave him the suggestion to try to get on an evening flight later that day on a different airline.

So that is what he did. He purchased two tickets on Virgin America and he and his wife flew to Hawaii. They went on to enjoy a week at their tropical destination completely unaware that anything was amiss with their return flight.

Related story:   Is this enough compensation for a partially flown flight?

On the day before their return home, Williams attempted to check in for their scheduled trip and was startled to learn that they didn’t have one.

He called CheapTickets, the agency that they used to book their vacation package, and was informed that their return flight on Hawaiian Airlines had been canceled by the airline.

Because Williams and his wife had taken that Virgin America flight, they had been marked as “no-shows” on their outbound Hawaiian Airlines segment. This automatically canceled the return portion of their tickets.

Having no other choice, the Williams purchased new one-way tickets back to the mainland and connected with the rest of their air reservations. Those flights had not been canceled because CheapTickets had built their vacation package with several unrelated airlines.

Once he arrived home, Williams began his attempts to retrieve his money from Hawaiian Airlines. He was convinced that their tickets had been canceled in error and that the airline was profiting from its own mistake.


When I reviewed Williams’ paper trail, one thing was immediately clear: Williams and his wife were “no-shows” for their flight to Hawaii. They had accepted a rebooking for their missed flight, but then purchased a flight on another airline. They headed to Hawaii without clarifying what would happen with their other confirmed flights on Hawaiian Airlines.

Of course, it is natural to be angry when you think that you have been taken advantage of, but Williams’ complaint tactics did not help his case. In his letters to Hawaiian Airlines, he demanded reimbursement for the cost of the return flight and new tickets to Hawaii to make up for his wasted time and irritation.

Related story:   No spare tire in my car rental - do I deserve a credit?

His language, at times was a bit salty, and although he redacted the full curse words in his letters, the message was clear.

“I am so pissed off and feeling everyone has us by the ****s so they could take our money, ” he told the airline, in his request for reimbursement.

This type of tactic is not recommended as it usually alienates the consumer from the company from which they are hoping to garner empathy. As could be predicted, Williams’ complaint was not favorably received and resulted in no resolution.

However, in this case, the facts were not on Williams’ side; and I suspect that even if he had written the most eloquent letter to Hawaiian Airlines, he would not have received his desired resolution.

I explained to Williams that in Hawaiian Airlines’ contract of carriage, in the section entitled “Failure to Occupy Space” it is clear what will happen to the remainder of your ticket if you do not fly on any segment:

If a passenger fails to occupy space which has been reserved on an HA flight and the passenger does not provide HA notice of the cancellation of the reservation before the departure, or if any carrier cancels the reservation of any passenger because they failed to provide notice to the carrier, HA may cancel all reservations (whether or not confirmed) held by such passenger on the flights of HA or any carrier for continuing or return space.

Travelers, beware!

This is not an unusual policy. In fact, in today’s world of travel it is standard. Every major airline has similar language in their terms and conditions. If you fail to take any leg of your journey, don’t expect the rest of your ticket to remain valid. It won’t.

Related story:   Avoid visa problems this summer. Here's how.

We could not help Williams because the terms of his tickets were clear. It is unfortunate that “someone” gave him the poor advice to skip a portion of his flight (he did not catch that agent’s name). But he did thank us for taking a look at his case, and we are certain that he will not be caught in this type of expensive debacle again.

Should airlines be permitted to cancel an entire itinerary when a passenger is a "no-show"?

Loading ... Loading ...


  • sirwired

    This isn’t really germane to his problem, but my goodness, what a TERRIBLE set of tickets he got booked on! If a flight arriving all of five minutes late caused him to miss his connection, that was a beyond-insane itinerary.

    I wonder if CheapTickets assembled this themselves, or if the OP actually picked those flights so close together.

  • Hanope

    I thought the same thing, that if being 5 minutes late caused you to miss a connection, your connection was way too tight.

  • DChamp56

    I say they should ONLY be able to cancel your itinerary if they refund your money. Otherwise, you PAID for that seat, whether you’re in it or not!

  • AAGK

    This is not even a fine print issue. 2 free pairs of round trip tickets to Hawaii–absurd.

    Also, Someone that desirous of something free they don’t deserve seems like a person who would confirm the rules before just throwing down thousands on new tickets. Moreover, if there was an earlier Virgin flight to his destination, why couldn’t the airline move him to that one.

  • sofar

    A lot of people don’t know this rule. It’s common knowledge among frequent travelers, but not everyone. I myself learned about it on this very site years ago.

    And what’s REALLY disappointing to me is that an airline employee suggested booking another flight on another carrier without saying, “Oh but if you do that and you booked a round trip, your return leg will get cancelled.”

    Actually that’s not very surprising, because I suspect many airline employees don’t know either. I had a connecting flight from ORD to MKE delayed a few hours due to weather and the gate agent was telling people, “The coach buses are still running! You can go down to the transit terminal and get on a bus and be in MKE in two hours!” I stepped in and said, “But I booked a round-trip ticket, so my return flight will be cancelled because I’d be a no-show for this one.” And the gate agent responded, “No! Why would we do that?” I then educated her on airline policy regarding no-shows and round trips.

  • AAGK

    I agree with you. Sounds like this guy wasn’t in the seat he was rebooked for though so it didn’t refund. I find it unfair that airlines always cancel the return tickets.

  • MarkKelling

    If the written communication is any indication of how this person communicates, I can imagine the following conversation:

    OP: What do you mean we missed out flight! This is ridiculous (etc. etc. etc. on and on insert cuss words where they fit) …

    Airline employee: Well, you can always just book a flight on another airline if you don’t want to wait.

  • MarkKelling

    Well, if the plane LANDED 5 minutes late, it could still have taken 30 minutes to get to a gate and then depending on where they were seated on the plane another 15 – 20 minutes to get off the plane. How fast do they walk? How many terminals separated the 2 flights? Did they have to go through security again if they re checked bags or changed terminals? Many things could have delayed them more.

    But I do agree this is a terrible itinerary if the connections were that close.

  • MarkKelling

    As mentioned in the article, the tickets were on separate reservations, unconnected. So Virgin had no idea they were continuing onward and therefore had no inclination to move them even if there was an earlier flight available to SFO.
    Since Virgin America and Alaska now are the same company, they could have been put on one of the Alaska flights to Hawaii IF Virgin knew of their plans and they arrived early enough to catch one of those flights. But I doubt the OP worked with Virgin and just went off on his own.

  • Lindabator

    they do this to avoid the hack of a hidden city booking – which is against the terms and conditions of a ticket, so if they see you did not take the 2nd of 2 flights, they assume that is how it is booked, and penalize you for it. HAD he gone to them, explained he took a different flight, and cancelled that flight, they would have made a notation in the record, so it would stay valid for the return

  • Lindabator

    didn’t say that – said it was a connecting flight, and as the two are code share partners, that makes total sense. I think they offered their best option, he did not ask if they could move it over to another airline, and then just farted off on his own, leaving them to assume he was a no show

  • Lindabator

    IF you let res know about these changes, they make a notation and keep the return tickets open — have done so MANY times for various clients

  • LeeAnneClark

    Ahhh…so many things to comment on in this story. It’s rich with comment-able details! :)

    First…I have to agree that, regardless of the validity of his grievance, he sure went about it the wrong way. The rude, vulgar language and asking for absurd compensation were a one-two-punch that would have knocked out any chance of his getting anything. I’m sure that was a lesson learned.

    Second…it’s unfortunate that he didn’t understand how the airlines deal with no-shows. However, even without that understanding, it just seems to me it would have been obvious that he should let Hawaiian Airlines know about his flight change. At the very least he should have contacted Cheap Tickets – an agent there could have worked with Hawaiian Air to ensure his return flight wasn’t cancelled.

    Third…I voted no in the poll, because I disagree with this whole canceling-the-return-flight nonsense. Yes, I realize they do it to avoid hidden-city ticketing, but it’s one of those things that ends up hurting people who are NOT attempting to game the system. With all of the complications of air travel these days, compounded by frequent delays, cancellations, code-sharing etc, it’s all too easy for an innocent party to get screwed. Airlines are the only entity I know of that insists you use your entire ticket that you purchased, whether you want to or not. It’s just a money-grab.

  • sirwired

    Yep, terminal switch involved, and the flights are pretty much on opposite ends of the airport. (Domestic D (Virgin) vs. International A (Hawaiian) And there’s no behind-security connector between the two. I wouldn’t allow any less than 2 hours between the flights.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I realize this is why they do this, and many people agree with the airlines’ policies about hidden city booking.

    And I realize that my opinion is controversial – I’ve been spanked big-time when I brought up my views about it. So I’m sure I’ll get spanked again for it here. ;-)

    But I’m gonna say it anyway. I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t know of any other industry or product in which the customer is required to use the entire thing or forfeit the unused portion. If I buy two gallons of milk, I get to consume them as I see fit. If I choose to not drink the first gallon, the store doesn’t have a right to take back the second gallon.

    Yes I realize that analogy will get ripped to shreds – milk and airline tickets are completely different commodities. So how about this one: if I buy a round-trip ticket on a train, and don’t use the first half, they don’t cancel my return half. Same thing on Greyhound. Is there any other industry that sells tickets that requires you use the whole thing?

    To make matters worse, they not only require you use the first half, they require you use the SECOND half! If you buy a round trip fare, use the first half, then don’t use the second, they can penalize you, e.g. by confiscating all of your earned miles, or even cancelling future flights with no refund.

    Yes, I realize that doing hidden-city ticketing results in customers doing an end-run around the complicated pricing schemes the airlines come up with for their fares. But I don’t believe that we should be forced to take flights we don’t want to take,even if we bought them. If a customer finds a way to get a better deal on something, they should be able to! I can’t think of any other industry in which customers can be penalized for using the company’s own pricing to find a better deal.

    I did a hidden-city ticket once: I took my mother on a vacation to Costa Rica. I live in CA, Mom lives in Phoenix. The best deal on a flight from Los Angeles to Costa Rica had a layover in Phoenix. But oddly, the fare from Phoenix to Costa Rica was hundreds of dollars more – even though it was the same plane!

    So I bought us both round-trip from LAX, then flew Mom out here on Southwest (for $60) the day before so she could take the LAX-PHX-Costa Rica flight with me. Then on the way home, when we changed planes in Phoenix, she simply walked away and went home. I was a bit worried about what would happen when she didn’t show up for the second leg of that flight, but…nothing did. I flew on to LA, Mom went home, and we saved several hundred dollars.

    I don’t feel even remotely bad about that. I didn’t steal anything…in fact it’s the opposite – we didn’t even use all that we paid for. Not having Mom on that final leg didn’t harm the airline one bit.

    Let the spanking begin. ;-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    I agree – this sounds to me like what happened too.

  • Don Spilky

    I get WHY airlines do this (to avoid hidden-city ticketing) but if airlines can play the game on refunding one-leg of a round trip at absurdly low valuation, PAX should be able to take advantage of “smartly” booked tickets.

  • LDVinVA

    Similarly, I once cruised to Europe and flew home. A round trip ticket was way cheaper than a one way, so I booked the round trip and was a no-show on the return. Didn’t feel at all bad about it.

  • MarkKelling

    OK, IF it was all booked together, then why didn’t Virgin just put them on the Virgin/Alaska flight to Hawaii that night that they ended up purchasing anyway??? It obviously was not a full flight if they were able to get on it.

    Article states: “CheapTickets had built their vacation package with several unrelated airlines”. this lead me to believe the Virgin and Hawaiian segments were booked as separate flights. Also, the remaining segment from SFO home was not cancelled. If this would have all been one reservation, that segment would have been cancelled when the return on Hawaiian was cancelled.

  • Michael__K

    What a terrible business practice to sell such tickets….

  • Michael__K

    If the res doesn’t even know about their own company’s policy, would you really trust them to make the proper notations?

  • Bill___A

    I don’t think it was a lack of knowing that one rule about the return flight being cancelled. It is a lack of knowing a whole lot of things. Five minutes late and that caused them to miss their connecting flight? Something wrong there. This fellow made one mistake and that was that he should have used a qualified travel agent. What if the airlines went after travelers like this to recoup all the money it costs to deal with their ranting caused by not using a travel agent?

  • sirwired

    So, this is why the rules make sense, even if they DO result in a weird result sometimes (they aren’t being pointlessly customer-hostile, like with the flat-rate change fees (often more than the cost of the ticket), and “That’ll be $200 to fix an obviously mis-spelled name please” fees.)

    – Getting penalized for only using one half of your ticket is because tickets that span a weekend are more likely to be price-sensitive leisure fares, while tickets that do not are more likely to be expensive business fares. They do not want you cobbling together your business trip (which should be expensive) from two leisure fares. (The leisure fares might be cheap enough for this to be worth it.) That said, more airlines are shifting over to per-direction pricing, and Saturday-night-stay-required leisure fares are not as common as they used to be. But yes, for some airlines, they are being completely illogical and stupid about it… (e.g. a one-way being more expensive than a round trip)

    – Getting penalized for not taking your connecting flight has to do with the fact that air travel is priced Origin->Destination. The fact that you might have to change planes in the middle doesn’t make it two flights that are priced separately. Let’s take a trip from A->B->C. X Air might be the only airline with direct flights from A->B, and since travelers like direct flights, they’ll charge a premium price for this, say, $300. But A->C? There might be a half-dozen airlines that’ll do that, but with different (or no) connections. If the competition is especially fierce, they might not even be able to charge the $300 (much less an add-on for the additional leg), and might have to content themselves with $250. Now, obviously they’ll make much less money on that flight that is not only cheaper to the passenger, but obviously has higher costs to boot. But they certainly don’t want passengers paying the cut-rate connecting fares for the high-margin direct flights they are depending on.

    In a weak amount of customer-friendliness, for a first “offense” they’ll usually just cancel the flights you missed. (Or if you ignore the return on a R/T, do nothing.) If you do it again, they’ll kick you out of the FF program. I don’t think they actually back-bill customers, even though they technically reserve the right to. Where they do lower the hammer is on travel agents when their clients do this more than rarely. All sorts of painful things the airline can do then.

  • LeeAnneClark

    My point exactly. I get to decide what flights I want to take. The idea that we should have to pay more for taking FEWER flights just seems wrong to me.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Trust me, I understand all of that. I totally get that they want to price their flights based on origin-destination. But if I am able to find a way to fly where I want to go for cheaper, then…good for me! They don’t get to tell me I have to take MORE flights than I want to take.

    They are the ones who priced their tickets that way. I bought the ticket, and used the part I wanted, and discarded the part I didn’t. I didn’t do anything illegal…I didn’t fly on any planes that I didn’t pay for. I simply chose NOT to take flights that I paid for, but didn’t want to use. Not my fault that they priced their flights in a way that allowed me to find a better deal. Not my fault that the whole airline pricing thing is so complicated. I legally bought a ticket, and legally flew on flights I paid for.

    And it’s not like I’m a serial offender. I’ve only ever found one situation in which hidden city tickets worked for me. But I would not hesitate to do it again in a similar scenario. I’m not going to worry about getting punished. What are they going to do to me? I don’t participate in FF programs, so I’m not worried about losing miles. I book all of my own flights, so no TA has to worry about getting in trouble. I don’t expect them to chase me down as I walk away from the airport instead of taking that final leg, and demand I pay MORE for NOT flying! Not gonna happen.

  • AAGK

    But the res must have been connected somewhere bc the airline sure found the return to cancel. I understand it is allowed to do that and I guess he was unlucky that the connected portion was part of the return. I guess that means part of his return still worked as well. I assumed he made it clear he wanted on the next flight and since he was unable to accomplish that without paying at the airport, then he had no reason to believe it would be reimbursed. If the airline can do it, it just asks for maybe a fee or something but never says, “[B]uy a new ticket and we will refund you later.”

  • AAGK

    That is exactly what happened. I’m not clear on why he thought that he would get that $ back. I imagine they just wanted to get to Hawaii and just paid and then had a post trip hangover where the wasted money bothered them. I relate to that feeling.
    The ticket shouldn’t be a total wash though. He could have preserved some credit. Also, did he inform the airline he would not take the flight the following morning? Some airlines will preserve the credit even if you no show if you call them within a couple of days. There is some sort of system delay loophole. You can sometimes grab that credit before the data reports the no show.

  • Annie M

    The theory is if you are not on the outgoing flight, there is no reason for the return flight. You stayed home.

  • RightNow9435

    Totally agree with your comments 1000% When/if the situation would arise here, I would do the same.

  • MarkKelling

    The flight SFO – Hawaii – SFO was connected because that was all on Hawaiian Air. So they don’t fly to Hawaii on Hawaiian instead took a newly purchase flight on Virgin there. Hawaiian sees they didn’t fly there on their flight so they cancel the return, as airlines do. The OP bought another new one way from Hawaii to SFO. The flight home from SFO was not part of the Hawaiian flights so was not impacted by the changes.

    And if the airline was offering to put you on a different flight, they would do it — not telling or asking you to buy your own new ticket. So I think the OP was just impatient.

  • MarkKelling

    Did the airline fill the seat that mom didn’t occupy? Curious minds want to know.

  • AAGK

    That’s kind of an airline fiction. For all they know, I drove. Someone identified it as a great revenue stream so I get why all the airlines jumped at the concept.

  • sirwired

    The thing is, you don’t pay for “flights”; you are paying for trips.

    in a trip from A->B->C, you didn’t contract for a flight from A->B and a flight from B->C. You are paying for transport between A and C. If you turn it into A->B, you are kinda-sorta a stowaway. (Yeah, not the best term to use.)

    Now, since you aren’t ACTUALLY a stowaway it’s correct that they aren’t going to risk alienating a customer that tries it once or twice (after all, there may be an innocent explanation.) But the practice of cancelling your remaining legs is pretty effective too (since most people book round trips.) (And even if it isn’t common, they CAN bill you; they don’t have to trace you down, they’d just simply bill the credit card used to pay for the flight. Though I imagine their preference would be to simply ban you from the airline before getting to that point.)

    Another thing to keep in mind when trying this is that if there is a re-schedule or cancellation, you don’t get to select your connecting flights. If you were supposed to go from A->B->C, and the airline re-routes you from A->D->C (and you really wanted to go to B to begin with), you are just going to have to cancel your trip and re-book the flight you actually wanted to take (if it still exists.)

  • cscasi

    Or they were slow getting to their connection. Did they stop on the way at the restooms, store, etc.?

  • Tim Mengelkoch

    Don’t use outfits like Cheapo Air

  • Extramail

    I agree with you 110%. On top,of all you said, the airline gets to sell that return leg you didn’t take, thus getting paid twice for that one seat. Why is that any more “fair”?

  • Extramail

    As in most of life, the innocent pay the price for the guilty. How many rules are there in all of life predicated on making sure someone doesn’t “game” the rules? Or are made up because one person found a loophole?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Actually yes! Someone was sitting in Mom’s seat. Don’t know if it was a stand-by passenger, or maybe they just issued this seat to an already ticketed passenger. I didn’t bother asking.

  • LeeAnneClark

    “You are paying for trips.”

    Yeah yeah. I’m sure that’s how the airlines see it. It’s just a mental game. The actual, fact-based reality is that there are planes that fly from place to place, and seats on those planes. How you view what you paid for is entirely in your own mind. I paid for Mom’s seat on two planes – one from CR to PHX, and one from PHX to LA. She didn’t want the second half. And no law says she has to take it.

    Yes, we were well aware that it was entirely possible there would be some sort of re-routing that would end up with Mom having to fly all the way to LA. If that happened, we just would have sent her home from LA on Southwest – another $60. Still would have come out ahead price-wise, but it would have been far less convenient. ;-)

  • AAGK

    Agreed. We don’t know if agent knew the rule or not. The guy took out his wallet and paid- if those flights were covered then he wouldn’t need to pay.

  • jsn55

    This guy had two seats on a flight. He didn’t cancel them, he didn’t show up to board. He didn’t ask any questions, he just met his own needs by booking on another airline. Now he thinks the original airline owes HIM for something? The seats flew empty, resulting in lost revenue. Airlines are not charities, they are businesses.

  • jsn55

    Spanking … interesting choice of words. What is objectionable in your theory? If your return is cancelled, the airline has the opportunity to resell your seat. I understand that they keep your money for the outbound if you don’t show up. Am I to believe that they keep the money paid for your return after they cancel it? This is insane. I must not understand this correctly.

  • joycexyz

    Still, they should have realized the need to be at the gate well before departure time. Either their fault or the fault of the OTA.

  • joycexyz

    No spanking. I think you did the right thing. Why shouldn’t you be able to figure out the most cost-effective way to travel? The airlines shouldn’t be able to control your life.

  • joycexyz

    So much for employee training! We read so much about the misinformation attributed to the agents, you have to wonder if they just walked in off the street. Lesson: Trust, but verify! And I’m positive no agent would sign a statement verifying what he/she just told you.

  • y_p_w

    Not sure what “five minutes late” means. It could mean five minutes late from the scheduled time or maybe five minutes late for the connection.

  • y_p_w

    Amtrak now cancels an entire intinerary if there’s a no-show for all but their “flexible” (full) fare. It can become an issue because sometimes passengers board the train and are reliant on a conductor to come and “lift” the ticket, but occasionally they miss a passenger. It gets crazy because often conductors notice a passenger and lifts the ticket from their list of passengers, but the passenger might not know that and panics looking for the conductor.

    https://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Satellite?SnippetName=IBLegacy&pagename=am/AM_Snippet_C/SnippetWrapper&ibsref=seeTCdetails
    If not canceled before the scheduled departure from the origin (“no show”), the entire amount is forfeited and cannot be applied toward future travel.

    It’s considerably different than their previous policy where anyone could just not show and future legs were still valid, or where a full credit could be obtained for future travel.

    Some recommendations are to book separate tickets for each leg of the trip to avoid having an entire intinerary cancelled if one is late and perhaps makes . However, it is possible to cancel a leg and get credit for it, which would eliminate the no-show.

  • Lindabator

    because someone was unable to purchase the seat at the discounted rate and can only purchase a walkup fare – this means the airlines technically didn’t lose – but someone ELSE did — so they try to make certain fares available to everyone – and then price up from there

  • Lindabator

    then you did NOT fly roundtrip — which means you paid less than a oneway trip costs – since you want cheap flights, there have to be restrictions – or we CAN always go back to regulation times, full fares on ALL flight segments – and then only jetsetters can fly

  • Lindabator

    just meant two separate airlines — and just because you WANT an earlier flight did not mean there was space in YOUR class of service available — there are 12-20 price points in coach class, so you do not always know what is and what is not available for that cost – sounds like she went for cheapest, so might not have been an option

  • Lindabator

    they will keep the return open if informed – no credit involved generally due to change from round trip to one way fare

  • Lindabator

    there is another reason you are not considering – booking a roundtrip to get a cheap oneway – which is another reason to cancel the downline ticket(s). A simple call to let them know he purchased new tickets would have been enough to keep the other tickets intact

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, I know plenty of people who have done that. And again I say, so what? If the airlines are going to price their tickets that way, and we are legally allowed to buy those tickets, why shouldn’t we buy the best deal possible to get from A to B? The fact that we didn’t take that second leg of the round-trip ticket hurts no one – it just left an empty (paid for) seat.

    I wouldn’t hesitate to do that too. :)

    But yes, I fully agree with you that he absolutely should have called to ensure that his tickets remained intact.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow, what a customer-unfriendly policy! I wasn’t aware of this – thanks. I’m actually taking Amtrak to San Diego on Friday, and returning Monday. I need to check my ticket – I have no idea if it’s a flexible fare or not! And YES, I have many times seen the conductor miss people. Checking in tickets on a train is definitely not an exacting process the way it is on a flight. I’d be pretty PO’d if I took the train down there and had my return ticket canceled.

    Damn. I’ve been seeing Amtrak as the best option for getting places that aren’t too far without having to subject myself to a sexual assault at the TSA checkpoint. If they’re going to start acting like the airlines, that kinda puts a damper on that!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes. If you take the first leg of your flight, and then either cancel or don’t show up for the second leg, they will automatically cancel, without refund, any remaining legs on your trip.

    As for why I might get spanked for my opinion – LOL! That just meant that I’ve gotten some angry responses when I posted this opinion in the past. The part that some people find objectionable (well, airline apologists anyway) is that the airline has written their ticket contract specifically stating that hidden-city ticketing is not allowed. So by not taking that final leg, even if it’s the very last leg of our trip, we are in effect violating the terms of the ticket contract.

    My view, however, is that those provisions of the contract are unreasonable and unenforceable. You can’t REQUIRE that someone takes a flight they don’t want to take. In the case of my Mom’s ticket, the leg she didn’t want to take was the final one, so she simply walked away from the airport. Had she bought her ticket ending at that airport it would have cost more, that’s true…but she still bought a ticket that got her to Phoenix, and she didn’t feel like flying all the way to LA. So when she walked away, would the airline be allowed to chase after her and demand that she give them more money because she’s not taking that last let? No, of course not. So…unenforceable.

  • y_p_w

    Well – there are some details that are helpful. One is that for “unreserved” trains (and the Pacific Surfliner between Santa Barbara and San Diego is except around some holidays) are ones where the ticket is basically good on any train on that route (for up to a year) as long as it’s not used or if there are some restrictions from a discount. The ticket maintains its value and I’ve even completely missed a train and got full credit to use for other rides. The theoretical idea is that they might actually sell more tickets than there are coach seats, and in such cases they would be required to seat passengers in the cafe car.

    https://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=AM_Accommodation_C&pagename=am%2FLayout&cid=1248543010831
    Only a few short-distance trains have unreserved coach seating, where tickets are valid on any train unless restricted by the fare paid.

    Amtrak also allows cancellation of a “train segment” before the conductors declare a passenger a no-show. If you completely miss a reserved train, it’s possible to cancel that leg, find alternate means to get to the destination, and use the remainder of the ticket. However, a lot of recommendations are to book round-trip tickets separately to avoid that. There’s generally no cost advantage.

    No shows weren’t an issue 5 years ago, but then they changed it to more of an airline-like nonrefundable ticket policy. However, they still have a far more generous cancellation policy where you can get a refund minus 10-20% or have all the funds available as credit. Occasionally as a train starts selling out, only flexible coach fares might be available.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Good to know! Thanks! I appreciate this info.

    I don’t know if it makes a difference, but I always get business class, as it’s not much money and the seats are more comfortable, and my laptop fits nicely on the tray table so I can work. Being in business class, the conductor always does check our tickets…wouldn’t want someone who didn’t pay for the upgrade sneaking in there, I guess.

    The Surfliner is not the most luxurious train ride around, but it’s way better than driving…or flying! Hey, I’ll do anything to avoid going through the TSA gauntlet.

  • y_p_w

    LeeAnneClark:
    Good to know! Thanks! I appreciate this info.

    I don’t know if it makes a difference, but I always get business class, as it’s not much money and the seats are more comfortable, and my laptop fits nicely on the tray table so I can work. Being in business class, the conductor always does check our tickets…wouldn’t want someone who didn’t pay for the upgrade sneaking in there, I guess.

    Oh. It makes a difference. All Amtrak business class is “reserved” but under a different refund/no-show policy than reserved coach. You can request a full refund up to departure time. After that there’s a 20% refund penalty (I think with a minimum of $5 penalty) but I believe you really have up to the time you’re declared a no-show by the conductors. Once declared a no-show, a business class passenger can still claim the entire value in an eVoucher good for future use.

    If you had a room, a no-show is considered forfeiting everything, just like reserved coach.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow, really great info! I suppose I should go to the Amtrak website and research all this for myself…but you’ve saved me the effort. :) I really appreciate it!

    I’d like to start using Amtrak more often…there’s just not that many places I travel that Amtrak where Amtrak is a viable option. For San Diego it’s awesome – but the only other place I travel frequently that’s within trainable distance is Phoenix, and there’s no direct train to get me there.

  • AAGK

    I always like to think this but I have seen so many letters to this site where the pax said they made this clear and it was canceled anyway. In this case, it sounds like they just booked the Virgin tix without informing Hawaiian so it was inevitable. They may have preserved the credit if they called the following day, after the outbound no show. Airlines sometimes don’t update that quickly and the agent can still get in and make changes. They were excited to get to Hawaii though, which I understand.

  • y_p_w

    I think the best description of business class is that you still have full credit if you don’t show up, you can request a full refund up to the time of departure, and even after that can request 80% of your fare as a refund. They don’t really say what happens if you try to use your ticket on an earlier or later train though. In my experience Amtrak tries to be helpful if you miss the train, and in the case of business class you don’t really forfeit the value of your ticket.

    Unreserved coach is more like a commuter train ticket in some places. It might have a specific time on the ticket, but mostly it can be used any time unless it expires.

  • Extramail

    Doesn’t have anything to do with whether the airline made money twice on one seat.

  • Annie M

    Then why did you need the outgoing in the first place? If you drove, you would be driving back wouldn’t you? If you drove, you could have booked a one way ticket back.

  • AAGK

    Point is, the traveler didn’t change plans, the airline changed them and the pax finds the next most convenient solution. In this case, he chose to buy new tickets and that’s on him. I just dislike the automatically canceled return rule. Of course I respect the airline’s right to maximize its profits,,but we don’t have to pretend there is another logical reason for the rule.

We want your feedback.Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.