Laurie Holden and her husband flew to Ireland on a ticket booked through Orbitz, but the flight there was on Finnair, and her domestic return connection was on American. Sounds like a codeshare mouthful, right?
But there’s more. The American segment of the Holdens’ return from Philadelphia to Baltimore was canceled without notification, leaving them no choice but to rent a car and make the drive home to Maryland. That wasn’t their preference, but there were no other flights home that day, and the drive was expected to take less than two hours.
The Holdens were out $160 for the cost of a rental car plus gasoline, not to mention the value of the unused segment on Finnair (American). But when it came time for them to be compensated for their inconvenience and unexpected travel expenses, there was disagreement about who would handle the settlement — Orbitz, Finnair or American.
Laurie Holden sent a preliminary inquiry was to Orbitz, whose representative told her to complete a complaint form and send it to Finnair.
Holden received an email response from Finnair, which directed her to the flight’s operator, American.
In Finnair’s words, “Regardless of which airline has marketed and/or sold a flight ticket, the actual operating airline is always in charge of rerouting passenger to final flight destination and for compensations in case of a flight delay or cancellation.”
Is your head spinning yet?
This sleight-of-hand happens when airlines codeshare. In other words, major airlines partner with other airlines by selling seats on each other’s flights but scheduling them as a distinct flight number on the original airline. In this case, Finnair partnered with American to get the Holdens home from Ireland but used a Finnair flight number on an American flight.
But their headache didn’t end with their contact American Airlines inquiry. Holden claims that American would not accept an email complaint and that she had to call the airline. Unfortunately, Holden became frustrated navigating American’s “phone tree” and gave up.
She could have used our executive contacts at American Airlines. But I digress.
Some of our astute readers might have wondered why this situation did not fall under EU 261, which requires European travel providers to provide “assistance and monetary compensation to airline passengers in situations of overbooking, cancellation or delay of a flight.” In this case, EU 261 would not apply because, though Laurie’s tickets were from Finnair, the canceled flight was between two U.S. locations. You can read a full explanation of EU 261 on our website.
Holden did not give up. She contacted our advocacy team, which was able to secure a refund from Orbitz for $40 per ticket, or a total of $80, for the lost airline segment. She was not reimbursed for the rental car and fuel, nor for what she thought would be the full value of the unused segment.
That’s not quite the refund she was expecting, but then, that’s airline math for you.