Krisztina O’Reilly flew round-trip from Cleveland to Budapest, but she missed her connecting flight and had to pay $2,500 for a new ticket to get home.
How did a “free” ticket end up costing $2,500? Who knows?
O’Reilly’s trip was booked with an American Airlines AAdvantage award ticket, given to her by a friend. The return flight to Cleveland connected through London Heathrow, and included a codeshare flight on British Airways. When O’Reilly arrived at Heathrow, she had to obtain a boarding pass and switch terminals. When she got to the British Airways gate, she was told that she was too late to board.
Instead of directing O’Reilly back to American Airlines, British Airways told her she had to buy a one-way ticket from London to Cleveland. O’Reilly didn’t understand and told us through an interpreter, that “English is my second language, and I was very confused, upset and easy to sway.”
O’Reilly contacted both British Airways and American Airlines about a refund. American Airlines said that the ticket contained a code that allowed British Airways to transfer her ticket to another available flight. American Airlines confirmed that British Airways did not need to contact it to reissue the ticket and that O’Reilly shouldn’t have had to buy a new ticket. American Airlines agreed to reinstate the AAdvantage award miles for the unused portion of the trip, but only to O’Reilly’s friend’s account. Returning AAdvantage miles to O’Reilly’s friend’s account didn’t help O’Reilly.
British Airways refused to refund O’Reilly’s money because she had used the ticket. British Airways also said that its London agent made a note on O’Reilly’s travel record indicating that she called American Airlines AAdvantage for assistance, and that the AAdvantage representative told British Airways that O’Reilly had to buy a new ticket because British Airways couldn’t reissue another airline’s award ticket.
American Airlines did not have any notes reflecting this conversation with the British Airways representative. British Airways should have reissued her award ticket on the next available flight without having to contact American Airlines for authority or help.
The notes by the American Airlines agent indicated that when they were contacted, O’Reilly had already bought the British Airways ticket. Once O’Reilly bought the new ticket, O’Reilly was stuck with it. The British Airways customer service and contingency plan provides that it will refund a ticket within 24 hours of purchase if the flight is one week or more from the date of departure.
And, she could have posted questions to our help forums which are staffed by industry experts, and often read by company executives. Our forum advocates may have had helpful suggestions for her.
Our advocates contacted British Airways and American Airlines on O’Reilly’s behalf. They could not reconcile the discrepancy between what American Airlines and British Airways said occurred. American Airlines insists that it did nothing wrong and refunded the unused miles to the original AAdvantage account. As a goodwill gesture, American Airlines deposited 10,000 miles into O’Reilly’s AAdvantage account. British Airways agreed to issue O’Reilly a $500 voucher for future travel. This was not what O’Reilly had hoped for, but it was all that the airlines would do for her.