Missed their honeymoon, but whose fault is it?

shutterstock_130173155From time to time, a case crosses my desk that leaves me a little cross-eyed. Melissa Davenport’s does all that, and more.

Let’s get a few things out of the way: There’s a lot about this honeymoon-gone-wrong story that we don’t know. I’m relying on you to help me figure which missing pieces we need to collect – and ultimately, if this case is even fixable.

But based on what Davenport says happened to her daughter Amanda and her new husband, Dan, I think it’s remarkable that they’re still married.

The couple had been planning their honeymoon for a while. But life got in the way of their big vacation. The first winter after they were married, they couldn’t get away because they were still in college; the second winter, Amanda was serving in Afghanistan.

“So you can imagine the anticipation and excitement when it was finally time for them to go,” says Davenport’s mom.

Since they were not experienced travelers, the couple hired a travel agent to help them book a Carnival cruise from Port Canaveral. Their flights on United Airlines were from Sioux Falls, SD, to Orlando.

“They arrived at the airport in plenty of time, but at boarding learned the flight was overbooked and they did not have pre-assigned seats,” Davenport recalls. “Remember, novice travelers here. Why their agent neglected to get them seat assignments, I don’t know.”

Are the red flags flapping in the wind yet?

“The gate agent told them there was a flight with space available at a different gate, so they agreed to try that. When they arrived there, the second gate agent said that flight was also full and turned them away. They returned to the first gate, but of course their flight had departed, taking their luggage with it,” she says.

And here’s where things get really interesting.

“United offered to send them to the Bahamas to meet their cruise at a later date, but they had no way to confirm those arrangements with Carnival and no luggage,” she says. The luggage had been checked and was en route to Orlando. So the couple declined the offer, and gave up their honeymoon.

Then things went from bad to worse. United paid the required involuntary denied boarding compensation for their flight. But somewhere between the travel agent, United and Carnival, the couple was reclassified as a voluntary denied boarding – meaning they had agreed to give up their seats in Sioux Falls – and Carnival pocketed their entire cruise fare.

“In the meantime the kids have basically given up,” says Davenport. “By the time they heard their trip insurance was worthless, they were well into their busiest season at work and had no time to pursue this further. They handled the disappointment well, joking about the snow-white beaches of Minnesota — snow being the key word — and have pretty much just let it go.”

But Davenport doesn’t want to let it go. She heard about me from her sister and wants to see if I can get some or all of their honeymoon back.

I’d like to help, but I’m not sure how. Surely, part of the responsibility for making sure this couple gets boarding passes and other paperwork requirements out of the way rests with their travel agent, but according to Davenport, she didn’t bother to answer her phone when the couple was stuck at the airport and subsequently blamed the newlyweds for leaving their gate, which caused them to miss their flight.

How about the airline? A review of Davenport’s account suggests that United may have been legitimately confused. There was one available seat, and when the couple refused to take it, it may have interpreted that as a voluntary denied boarding situation, at least initially.

Carnival would have referred the matter to the couple’s travel insurance, but I’m not surprised the policy was “useless.” After all, United offered to send them to the Bahamas and if they were marked as voluntary denied boarding, then their insurance claim wouldn’t be honored.

So what now? Should I circle back with Davenport for details? Contact her daughter? And where do I go first – to their agent, airline, cruise line or insurance company?

Or do I let this one go and chalk it up to a hard lesson learned?

Should I mediate Davenport's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • omgstfualready

    Please find out more from the agent. That is, in my opinion, the root. This type of story is where you belong!

  • polexia_rogue

    i think the travel agent f-ed up.

    something similar happened. when i was in the air force my parents (Californian) agreed to pay for me and my husband to come home for Christmas. his mom (wisconsin) was of course pissed. my hsuband gave her a chance; if she paid for San Francisco- Madison tickets, we would take a side trip, visit her, then return to San Francisco.

    She did not want to giv emy husband the money; she gave his brother the money and his brother “accidentally” bought us STAND BY TICKETS. (he probably pocketed the rest.)

    So similar to the article, we checked in bags and went to the gate only to be told we had no seats. or “no assigned seats” which could be misinterpreted to mean “don’t worry, just take any seat”.

    But no, we had no seats. We jumped in to the “OMG I AM SO SCREWED line” as soon as a gate agent appeared. all i had to say was “we have checked luggage.” and we were given priority over those who had stand by and no checked luggage. (maybe that was just luck.)

    my point, I BELIEVE their travel agent was looking to get them the cheapest price and accidentally bought them stand by tickets. just my theory.

  • bodega3

    United does not have standby fares. At one time, there were standby fares, but those have been gone for a long, long time.

  • bodega3

    There are a lot of questions to be asked.
    1) How were the tickets obtained? Through the cruise line or through the TA’s GDS?
    2)At the time of the airline reservation, were the passengers advised about seat assignments?
    3)Were seats ever obtained?
    4)It appears they were traveling on the day the ship departed. Why?
    5) How far out, from the day of departure did the passengers book their cruise and air? Basically, was it last minute, a few weeks out or well planned out, months in advance?
    6) What type of insurance did they have? 3rd party coverage? Cruise line insurance? Did they insure both air and cruise?

  • Stanley Wester

    A few Things. If you are booked under the same booking, the Airlines does not board one and exclude the other. So if even one was denied boarding, it has to be considered an Involuntary Denied Boarding.
    Also If United paid them the Involuntary Boarding compensation, then it is evident that happened. There would be a Voucher or Receipt to that effect.
    Some times the flights are blocked by the Airlines and free seating is not allowed until check-in or you need to purchase ‘comfort’ seats before. Under regular circumstances having no seat is not an issue as you can get good offers if the flight is full. But in this case, since there was a Cruise connection, then a pre-seat is vital. So yes, it was a very poor call by the travel agent if that is what happened.
    United should have called out to those who were willing to give up the seat and usually within minutes there will be 5 – 10 volunteers. Some like the perks that are offered for voluntary giving up the seat for a few hundred dollars and a confirmed seat on the next flight. Did United follow that procedure? Only the travelers can let us know.
    While the travel agent may have screwed up, the airline did screw up too. Carnival is a beneficiary of an unintended consequence of all those actions and inactions.

  • California_Dave

    Military veteran, delayed honeymoon, inexperienced travellers….begging for a human interest, corporate compassion story.

  • Justin

    What a mess. Law of physics. It’s never a matter of when something will go wrong but How and Why!

    Couple did everything properly. Hired a travel agent. Acquire Trip Insurance. Try to work with airline and cruise line. A systemic breakdown in communication from all parties.


    1) Couple needs to contact attorney General regarding the travel agent’s misconduct.

    Your Assistance:

    1) Reach out to United’s Brass & appeal for a reclassification of the couple’s status to involuntary
    2) Resubmit claim to travel insurance and contact Top Brass
    3) If all else fails, contact Carnival and appeal to Brass for a Full Refund or Voucher.

    No Luck?

    Couple heads to small claims against the travel agent.

    Good Luck.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    A slightly different take.

    Forget the Attorney General unless there is some reason to believe that the travel engaged in some illegal or otherwise unlawful activity.
    If the travel agent screwed up, before taking him/her to court, the OP should try to resolve it amicably either through an errors and omissions insurance policy or a direct reimbursement.

    Only then should small claims be utilized.


    A lot of people are starting off blaming the agent. I would start there but certainly wonder about other things as well. And I see why you say there are a lot of missing details.
    Lots of questions here, starting with the travel agent. Did the agent book the tickets or did the honeymooners do it to save a bit? I presume the agent did but double-check that one. Were seat assignments available at the time of booking or was the plane showing full–a sign that the plane is probably oversold? The travel agent did not answer the phone when called–what times were the calls made? Did they call before business hours or did they have the agent’s cell phone? And travel agents cannot issue boarding passes–that is done on line from the airline website.
    What is plenty of time before the flight? (That line always makes me wonder as I have used it myself when cutting it close before travel.) What exactly went on with UA?
    How were they checked in, given boarding passes when seats were not available and their luggage boarded on the plane? Something is a bit off with that if the passengers were able to board without seat assignments. Very seldom happens especially on the commuter planes out of that airport. (Been there and done that one.) Ask to see the boarding passes.

    Was this a weekend cruise only? Is that why they did not want to go on to the Bahamas?
    And finally, why did the travelers give up so quickly in terms of trying to get their money back. Two people in their situation, especially the novice travelers we are told they are, would probably not give up on getting their money back that easily. Did they file an appeal with their trip insurance carrier? (Agent could have and should have helped with an appeal.)
    At first I thought “bad travel agent” but the more I re-read this the more questions I have. Too many things have scant details here. I would start by contacting the actual travelers and then begin looking at the travel agent and United. I especially would like to know if seat assignments were available at the time of booking and also how they boarded a plane with no seat assignments.
    Some of this can be excused with the “inexperienced traveler” description, but after an initial rush for me to blame the agent, I realized more questions keep popping up. I am sure the agent bears some responsibility but unsure how much of it until the other questions are answered.

  • BillCCC

    I wouldn’t even try to unravel this without the TA’s side of the story.

  • maryannk

    I agree – I want to hear more from the TA. Normally, I don’t have pity for inexperienced travelers because of the wealth of info available on the web, but they hired a TA presumably because they were inexperienced, so they should’ve been prepped a little better.

  • Justin

    Hi Carver,

    The Attorney General option is on the table, because the Travel Agent denies all culpability. While we cannot establish whether the actions are accidental or gross negligence, the fact the agent refuses to assist in a resolution creates suspicion. The Agent’s sole job is to insure bumps and bruises are minimized throughout a trip. Otherwise, the OP might as well allocated the money elsewhere and skipped the TA.

    Rest of my suggestions, I assume we’re in agreement?

  • John Baker

    Oh boy … where to start on this one…
    First, I’m always suspect when accounts come to you second hand. By my reading of the story, the entire account is second hand (daughter told her and she told you). When something this crazy happens, I wonder if the kids aren’t telling mommy something.

    Second, the planing on this trip is really circumspect. Rule number one for flying to a cruise is NEVER fly on the day of sailing. Rule number 2 always give yourself a chance at a second flight itinerary to make it. Rule 3 If you ever have to get somewhere, make sure you have a seat assignment even if you have to pay for it. I don’t know a TA that doesn’t know and follow these rules. Its possible that advice was ignored and that’s why the kids are walking away.

    I think step number one is to talk to the kids. Get their version of the story and ask them if they want you to pursue it. After all, it is their money and not mommy’s.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I would not handle this case until you speak with the travelers themselves. I have real issues with Mommies and Daddies trying to solve Honeymoon cases.

  • sirwired

    I missed that… yeah, things aren’t adding up very well; it makes sense to get the story from the source, not second-hand.

  • TonyA_says

    Please name the travel agent. You already mentioned the airline and the cruise company. Why are you giving the travel agent a pass? They can come here and defend themselves.

  • TonyA_says

    Yup I agree. That ‘s what a good travel agent does.

  • Justin

    Follow the bread crumbs and see where one’s lead. Like the idea.

    Sometimes, people are willing to cut their losses, don’t want the headache, or unsure where to turn.

    Here’s a recent story:

    The elderly and young are easy targets. I was at my grandparents and the phone rang. Some scam artist pulled their name out of public records. Claimed to be all sorts, including their grandchild or the grandchild of a friend. I wasn’t sure.

    My mom not knowing better talks to the person, and hands the phone to my grandfather. My mother is very hard headed and stubborn. I outright demanded to be given the phone and took from grandfather.

    I began questioning the person. Who is my grandfather? What’s you name? I got to the question, what’s my grandfather’s wife name =). O, O I got the wrong number. Click!
    Guy was calling up elderly trying to scam them (Social Security, Credit Cards, etc). I didn’t bother *69ing.


    People are gullible, trusting, and inexperience makes being taken advantaged of very easy. My mom nor my grandparents had any idea what was going on. I hate to say it, but my mom probably would have handed out the kitchen sink.

    These people aren’t seasoned travelers. Attempts at having an enjoyable trip were thwarted, the pieces of the puzzle scattered, and efforts at financial recovery doomed. Out of inexperience, the young couple didn’t know where to turn. Gave up. Found Chris and here we are now.

    “Young and Elderly”.

  • Cam

    Yeah, someone stuffed up somwehere. Find the person and that company can make it right.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Fascinating story. Hard to believe 20% of poll respondents don’t want to know what exactly happened. Even if you didn’t want to help the couple out, I’d think everyone would be interested in the details of what went down.

  • Lindabator

    No standby tickets anymore – for a long time.

  • Lindabator

    AMEN! These are the questions we need addressed to even go any further! :)

  • commentfromme

    They honeymooners may have held separate tickets, which is perhaps how one of them could get boarded, but not the other, and how the luggage go on board. I did not think luggage could fly without the owner, so this is very confusing. I dont think you have the full story.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Attorneys General offices are so short-staffed they struggle to stay on top of legitimate, large-scale, ongoing scams. They wouldn’t touch a case like this…and as a taxpayer, I’m glad for that as it would be a terrible waste of resources. I hope these folks can be helped but that’s not the way to do it.

  • Mark Cuban

    This entire situation was caused by their travel agent. Sue them in small claims court. Use the money top take out local ads against the TA.

  • emanon256

    Wow, this one deserves mediation. I always complain about travelers who are over demanding and really don’t deserve anything and are still demanding something. But this case is the opposite. These travelers were semi-screwed (Could have still caught the cruise) and didn’t care or want compensation. They need your help!

    I think the TA is where to start. Why would the TA book them a connecting flight the same day of their cruise? Isn’t it best practice to book a day in advance, even with a direct flight? And I have not met a TA yet that doesn’t give me advanced seat assignments.

    I also recommend talking to the couple themselves to get a first hand account. It may not have gone down the way Mom described.

  • http://www.pcmag.com/ Sascha Segan

    I agree with everybody below who says that the travel agent is clearly the missing piece. These naifs did what everyone suggests, which is to hire a travel agent to help them negotiate complex arrangements. You need to find out where and how the TA fell through.

  • RG

    This is exactly the kind of traveler who needs you the most.

  • Eileen

    The travel agent is not being square here. Something is missing, and my hunch is it is on her end.

  • Mark Cuban

    “”..to contact attorney General regarding the travel agent’s misconduct”

    Wow, what a colossal waste of time.

  • Mark Cuban

    The turnip truck is missing a few bushels

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The rest of the suggestions are great.

    The Attorney General option, I hate to say it, is a terrible idea. The Attorney General is only appropriate if there is some reason to believe or at least suspect illegal or otherwise unlawful activity.

    [W]e cannot establish whether the actions are accidental or gross negligence,

    Neither accident nor gross negligence gives the Attorney General, or any other law enforcement agency jurisdiction in this matter. In fact, that entire nuclear option of involving law enforcement in a civil matter, would get an attorney disciplined by the State Bar for merely threatening it.

  • Steven Scholnick

    There are so many issues here. Sounds to me that the travel agent booked the flights through Carnival, which is mistake #1.

    I don’t think you should mediate this one until you hear directly from the traveller. We are getting all this information third-hand.

  • Janet Geuy

    I just want to know what happened to their luggage, Did they get it back? Did the airline return it to the originating airport? What became of the luggage? As for the rest of it, seems to be that the travel agent did a very poor job, did not communicate, and then did not answer calls…were it me, I would be on the travel agent for information, answers and restitution.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I think its a big difference between naming large corporations vs. individuals.

  • J D

    Also, what does she mean when she says they got there with “plenty of time?” I’m sure some people’s definition of plenty of time is different than what they really need.

  • Justin

    The glaring problem that’s being glossed over is the TA’s failure to respond.

    If Chris picks up the phone today and the TA jumps in to answer, I agree. The attorney general is useless.
    What I wonder is if the TA isn’t doing his/her job, keeping people’s money, and the OP’s problems are an isolated incident.

    Therefore, gross misconduct is grounds for negligence, correct? Avoidance makes me suspicious. If I screwed up or did my best, I’d pick up the phone.

  • Justin

    Unless the TA has a history of misconduct… See response to Carve. Did the TA screw up unintentionally or are we dealing with systemic failures?

  • Justin

    See above replies.

  • Taylor Michie

    Chris needs some more information before he should choose to mediate this case, IMO. I think that firsthand accounts from the travelers (not the mom) are necessary, and the travel agent needs to also be consulted.

    It seems like it would be the agent’s job to follow up in circumstances like this, and coordinate between United and Carnival to ensure that everything is still in order. I’m kind of shocked at the TA in this case, as it seems like there were a handful of mistakes made that a is paid *not* to make: no seat assignments, flight on day of cruise departure, no backup itinerary. Either the agent is really incompetent, or the kids aren’t telling mom something.

  • Justin

    +1. There’s the “Truth” and there’s the TRUTH. I doubt Chris wants to open himself up to journalistic misconduct by not fully investigating the story. Right now he wasn’t able to reach the TA for comment.

    Thus we are left with a “He Said / She Said”. There’s a fine line between naming an Organization (United Airlines, Delta, etc) and Tom Jones from Springfield, USA. You better have proof Tom Jones was guilty.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    We can look at it from a million angles. The answer is still the same. The Attorney General is not your personal attorney nor private collections agency. That’s why you hire one or both. Negligence, gross misconduct, etc. are not grounds for an Attorney General’s Office to intervene. The Attorney General would lack power to do anything.

    Nothing in here even remotely rises to anything other than a simple civil matter.

  • Justin


    Defer to my remaining points =).

  • patseacruiser

    Not enough information at all. For all you know the couple didn’t want to pay to purchase seats. Maybe they didn’t get to the gate in time. Too much mis or missing information here.

  • TonyA_says

    Ok then name the agency if you don’t want to name the individual.
    You can tell the IATA number that is displayed in the ticket.
    They may have an ASTA member id or a CLIA number somewhere.
    Someone has to be more accountable.

  • TonyA_says

    I could not say it any better or clearer than this. Bravo!

  • Don

    Is ignorance of normal circumstances the ticket for a “do over”? Overbooking, delayed flights, assigned seats are all what goes on today. How about “I had a flat tire on the way to the airport?”. That does not get a “do over”.

  • TonyA_says

    Two dogmas you will see often repeated here ad nauseam.
    (1) next time use a travel agent :-)

    (2) better buy travel insurance (not the one offered by cruise line)

    Well they followed both religiously and still they failed to take their honeymoon trip (no mention of bad weather).
    After so much advise I have read here in this site, tell me why the lovebirds would not have been better off just buying the whole thing – air, cruise, protection from ONE SOURCE – the cruise line itself directly?

  • KT

    I read nothing that indicates the travel agent is at fault. It ia VERY common nowadays for airlines to hold back seats for pre-assignment and requiring airport checkin. That happens more than having seats open to select from. So that’s not his or her fault. All they can do at that point is recommend passengers get to the airporte early enough as seats are first come first serve. Who knows how early these people arrived and again if seats were not open, not the agent’s fault. I’m wondering how did bags get checked if the flight was oversold? I’ve never in all my years had a check in agent take my luggage and send me to the gate to hope for a seat. I have been turned away by check in agents before though. And they never mention calling their agent for advice before leaving their gate and heading to another so how do we know what, if anything they were advised to do. Novice travelers or not these people were caught in a crappy situation and need to just accept that they screwed up and stop blaming everyone else. The bit about the insurance makes me believe either they really messed up their own trip or there are huge chunks of story missing. Wouldnt we all love to sue someone else when things don’t go our way. The saddest part about this story is that this author loves to blame agents for everything and will find a way I’m sure to drag this one through the mud to make himself look like a hero.

  • Sylvia Mason

    I believe that it all starts with the Travel Agent in not obtaining assigned seats for the couple. As a result, the Travel Agency should be held responsible for the events that followed. The Agency should provide the couple with the exact vacation that they had orginally booked since the Agent had failed to get assigned seats. If the Agency doesn’t want to do this, I would then provide them with “free” advertisement, but not the kind of advertisement they want. I would let everyone of my relatives, friends, colleagues, etc. know NEVER to use this AGENCY AGAIN!

  • Candy Harrington

    I think you should only agree to mediate if the couple agrees to talk with you so you can hear the whole story directly from them. You are getting the details secondhand, and I think that puts you at a disadvantage.

  • Pooh

    Luggage is screened and loaded on domestic flights regardless of passenger boarding.

  • Daddydo

    Please Mediate ( I never thought I would say this ). There is a ton of missing information that you may not know or have provided. Hopefully this will assist in your mediation.
    Carnival is one of the only “common” cruise lines that provide discount air. . Did the agent book the air or did Carnival? If Carnival made the arrangments, then the agent had to be pro-active to get the airline record locator from Carnival to book seatsassignments. If Carnival did the air to save Melissa money, then they could not fly to Florida on the day before which any experienced traveler knows to do. Problem – Carnival air is not generally confirmed until 30 days out, so getting those assigned seats may be nasty. We usually encourage premier seats if no regular ones are left. Always have a seat assignment of some nature if possible. That takes away another excuse that the airlines use with unsavy customers.
    Now we can dicuss the airline. If Melissa checked in under normal airline regulations, they should never had been bumped! The FAA mandates that the airline ask, nay bribe volunteers to get off. Our deserving honeymooners fell into the “we just conned you” catagorey; they are the perfect couple that the airlines thrive on to bump. They were newbies to travel, they were nervous, they trusted the airline. Having seat assignments would have been nice, but has bearing on the bump regulations. The airline got out of a sticky situation by compensating Melissa, they accepted and there goes the insurance.
    Now for the travel agent. Not answering your phone? 90% of today’ businesses have caller ID. Our office has home phones, cells, and texting all given to the client. We are called 15-20 times a year, that is why you have a travel agent! Was the agency an ASTA or ARTA member? I would file a complaint to assist in a full refund with either association or the BBB of their city.
    Melissa, good luck with this. I think that you need to persue all avenues of compensation, starting with the Airline and FAA, then the travel agent. It appears to me that Carnival did nothing wrong.

  • vacaygirl

    Kind of like these people the OP, you either did not confirm 24 hours in advance, you got to the airport later than you should have, or you got bumped in preference of some mileage club customers. Good luck with the family though.

  • vacaygirl

    They didn’t do “everything” properly if they decided to fly the same day their cruise left.

  • Justin

    The BBB is an absolute joke. BBB is nothing more than a “Pay your Dues” organization and respond to a complaint. The BBB has no authority to force the TA into any binding agreement. The TA need reply it’s not my fault and BBB accepts the issue as a response. Might flag case unresolvable.

  • vacaygirl

    Well, of course they will “touch it”, they are bound to. They will send a letter to the airline and TA, maybe even the cruise. However, as long as the airline and the TA has the slightest possible plause in their response, then the SAG will quietly close it and tell the pax no evidence of intentional wrong doing was found.

  • KennyG

    I may be off base here, but I am somewhat surprised that the airplane they were supposed to have been on departed without them on board, but with their luggage. I am under the impression [perhaps mistakenly?] that if a passenger does not make it onto the plane, their luggage must come out of the planes belly. Carriers typically do not fly with luggage from a non-flying passenger. If this is still the case [ I have seem many of my flights held up to retrieve bags out of the belly] then there may be pieces of this story [since we have not heard from all parties] still missing.

  • Justin

    True. Chalk the lapse to inexperience. Did the TA guide the couple through the process? TA is hired to make sure couple understands their full duties and responsibilities.

  • vacaygirl

    Really? Just like that? Sue them, or someone or anyone? No wonder this country is so overloaded with law suits. Ads against the TA? Wow, you sound a little bitter.

  • vacaygirl

    There could be a very good explanation for all of this. Maybe the TA specifically told pax to go online 24 hours in advance to pick out their own seats? Maybe the TA (GASP), even STRONGLY suggested they go a day early to avoid just this scenario. When they would not take her advice, and wound up screwed, why would she pick up her phone? Would you? I am not a TA, but I know how hard some of them work, only to be ignored. I say you need to get both the passengers and the TA’s stories before you waste any more time on this. I am a bit suspicous that the travelers are taking it so easily, could it be they WERE strongly warned that this is exactly what could happen, and they didn’t listen? Now they are just too embarrassed to pursue?

  • vacaygirl

    Isn’t that a bit like presumed guilty until proven innocent? Why would anyone throw the agency under the bus so quickly? For all we know that TA begged them to go the day before, warned them to get to the airport hours early to avoid being bumped, etc.

  • vacaygirl

    For all we know the TA begged them to go the day before. Even with assigned seats, you can still get bumped.


    We do not actually know much about the travelers as this is a third hand story. I do not take this at face value simply because they would not have been allowed to board a flight without a seat assignment. Maybe these college educated “kids” are as dumb as their relative makes them out to be, but I doubt it.


    There is simply no way these two travelers checked in and got to the gate without knowing they had no seat assignments. At the very latest that would have been done when they arrived at the airport and checked in their bags. That is when they would have been told and given options if any were available. The agent needs to explain why seat assignments were not done in advance and why he/she did not recommend leaving a day before the cruise. But it still defies belief that these two got all the way to the gate without knowing they did not have seat assignments. They would have been given a seat request card rather than a boarding pass. And that would have been explained where even naïve, inexperienced college graduates or current students could understand this. Chris should start by talking to the actual passengers rather than listening to a second or third hand account. And then go to the agent.

  • tom65xke

    The TA should have done a lot more for this young couple. That’s why they went to a TA and paid the TA’s fees. We use a TA on all our trips and I know she wouldn’t have let this happen. Ours not only gets us seats but checks back to see if she can get the seats improved, makes sure ahead of time that we filed out the cruise line requests for information etc. A good agent would have been ahead of this. The United gate agent takes a good part of the blame too, should have helped, called the other flight/gate to clear it. Carnival seems to br the only one who did not screw up

  • tom65xke

    We were all inexperienced once but…in the 60’s when I started traveling the gate agents etc always took the time to explain what was up and helped solve problems not make more. Sometimes the web has too much information for a first timer to absorb

  • tom65xke

    The last time I remember stand bye fares was in the late 60’s

  • tom65xke

    my experience is you write one nice letter, they ignore you or blow you off, small claims form the next stop. 50% of the time the small claims paperwork itself gets the refund

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Thanks for dissecting the points to pursue a little more clearly. I hadn’t run across your analysis in any of the other comments.

  • Justin

    We know the one story but half the truth. We’re missing comments from the TA, United, Carnival, and Insurance Company.

    Hard to fill in the blanks when the 3rd parties are uncooperative.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Sometimes they blow you off, sometimes not. You’ll never know unless you try.

  • Kirtsch

    Sort of unrelated comment, but I think the behavior of this couple (as reported by the mother) after their disappointing experience is commendable! All too rare in this generation. Perhaps, the young women’s military service affected their perception of what is really important in life. Bravo!
    I do hope you can help them. Their deserve a honeymoon

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t think they will even touch it, unless the complaint lays out a potential claim for fraud, or some other wrongful act within the purview of the Attorney General’s Office.

    There must be a remedy that they can provide otherwise its law enforcement strong-arming.

  • Mark Carrara

    I am not sure that is 100% correct. The upper Midwest, (WI and MN) have very tough consumer rights laws, WI’s AG was involved in a travel agent case involving Rose Bowl tickets and travel. The couple live in MN so I would look into help. However I would make that a later option not the first.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree. I don’t think its appropriate to name a small business under these circumstances.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Judealou

    The people affected didn’t even contact you! Momma, while likely well-intentioned, needs to butt out.

  • Lindabator

    But that was a case of multiple persons being defrauded – that would be under his perview – a case of this caliber would not be.

  • Lindabator

    But we cannot FORCE a client into doing what we suggest

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    As Lindabator corrected stated, it was multiple persons being defrauded out of a major sporting event, with all sorts of unsavory operators and practices. At least 600k was involved. Not analogous.

    Unlike this situation, the circumstances there made a prima facie case of fraud.

  • Mark Carrara

    I am beginning to wonder about the ‘travel agent’. Is this person a real TA or just someone who claims to be a TA and works out of their house. I think this would be an interesting case for Chris. I would lover to find out the details and results.

    IMHO the only one with no blame is Carnival. It does not appear the couple contacted them in fact the story says “. . . but they had no way to confirm those arrangements with Carnival”. While Carnival is not perfect, in this case what are they to do? A couple does not show or contact them, and it does not appear they ever contacted them, even after the event.

  • Lindabator

    But as a travel agent I cannot FORCE them to take my advice, either. I think Chris needs to get the story from the couple, rather than 2nd hand, and it might clear things up enough to get the true story here.

  • Lindabator

    Not every flight HAS seats available to pre-assign, and even less with free ones nowadays. Even booking directly with the airline doesn’t guarantee a pre-assigned seat. Never has (trust me, I worked for the airlines, and heard people complain all the time)

  • LFH0

    In hindsight, yes, it may have been better for them to have dealt directly with the suppliers. But if someone doesn’t know what they’re doing, it can be helpful to have a professional who knows what he or she is doing to navigate and advocate. Unfortunately, the agent here may not have been competent.

    As for insurance, the ability to purchase a policy that assigns certain risks to someone else does not permit responsible parties to disclaim their liability for messing up (putting aside so-called “no fault” automotive insurance).

    I use a travel agent when (1) I want to get some of the incentives (e.g., complimentary upgrade) that a travel agent might be able to dole out to its customers, or (2) I want to “bend” some of the rules that a carrier will not bend when dealing directly with a customer. I have never purchased travel insurance because I have always been willing to accept the financial risks myself.

  • LFH0

    Was this travel agency a small business? Suppose it were Liberty Travel?

  • Lindabator

    Thank you! I cannot tell you how many times I feel like I am talking to a wall when I try my best to guide a client – which is why I have them sign a waiver when they refuse to follow my suggestions (especially when I KNOW there will be a problem). Chris needs to get the full story here, before all these folks throw the agent under the bus.

  • Lindabator

    But not always able to get seats at the time of booking, although I keep a list of those I need seats for, and keep playing with the reservation till we can get them. We don’t know enough about this, though, to assume the airline screwed up either – for all we know, they checked in too late, and were given a choice to standby, which did not work out. Then they didn’t like the choice of the Bahamas, so not much the airline can do for them at that point.

  • wiseword

    Go after that stupid travel agent.

  • Sylvia Mason

    Hi – Here in Canada, I have never been affected in regards to a pre-assigned seat. Here we have to pay an additional fee to obtain a pre-assigned seat. In that case, I guess I’d be going after the airlines. I know I’d be really mad if what had happened to them, happened to me, and someone needs to be held accountable.

  • Lindabator

    And if it was the passenger, should someone else be held responsible?

  • TonyA_says

    Why does the size of the business matter?
    Care to tell me what your logic is?

  • TonyA_says

    Why should travel agency get preferential treatment here in this website? Seems to me Carnival and airlines are always guilty until proven innocent. I can’t see why the same does not apply to travel agencies?

  • TonyA_says

    Or the TA can be selling via a huge consortium.
    Enough of this over protection of TAs in this site.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Can’t speak for Carver, but here’s my logic: what if the TA is not at fault here? If it’s a small agency or agent, the negative publicity is going to be what people remember, not how the case gets resolved. CE doesn’t always post follow ups right away. United, Carnival – they’re big, they screw up, but people still use their services; a little negative publicity isn’t going to bankrupt them.

  • TonyA_says

    This …

    she didn’t bother to answer her phone when the couple was stuck at the
    airport and subsequently blamed the newlyweds for leaving their gate

    Not a good sign at all.

  • TonyA_says

    Using same logic since I rarely see CE follow up cases that closely (unless his contacts actually answer him), and assuming the agency is at fault, then we may never know who this lousy agency is. They will continue to do business screwing the next customer.
    There are a lot of lousy reviews in TripAdvisor for small hotels, and in Yelp for restaurants – are they all closed by now?

  • emanon256

    I agree. Chris needs to get the whole story.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I guess I would give the agency the benefit of the doubt for right now, since we don’t have a complete story. For right now, mind you . . .

    Also, I seem to recall that CE has some editorial direction that prohibits him from naming certain businesses, but requires him to name other names, such as those whose cases he writes about. Sounds vague as all get out and I apologize, but I do distinctly remember a fairly recent story where we all said, “Why’d you name the OP?” and CE said that his publisher/editor/whomever required him to do so, since that story was published in another place as well as here. Sorry to be so unhelpful.

  • emanon256

    I would love to hear the story on this form the TA and from the couple themselves. However, it does sounds like the TA dropped the ball based on that claim.

    When I was on a complicated international itinerary, I called my TA and she answered and worked her magic. We were actually in a tough spot because she made a mistake, and she went above and beyond to fix it right away. She had booked our 6-May ticket for June 5. Easy mistake to make (6-5 in Tahiti is 5-6 in the states). We didn’t realize this until the hotel tried to confirm our flight the day before we were to go to another island, and realized it was a month out. There was no space available the next day and our agent arranged for a helicopter transfer at her expense.

  • emanon256

    I’m wondering how did bags get checked if the flight was oversold? I’ve never in all my years had a check in agent take my luggage and send me to the gate to hope for a seat. I have been turned away by check in agents before though.

    This has been SOP for years. In my 6 years of weekly flying for work, I have checked bags on oversold flights scores of times, and waited for a seat at the gate. It happens every time I book a last minute trip. I also regularly see other passengers check their bags and go to the gate for seat assignment or re-accommodation. Its pretty normal for a substantial number of people to not show up, and the airline doesn’t know until they close the flight.

  • emanon256

    That’s not the case for US domestic flights. It is the case in most situations for international flights.

  • emanon256

    When they would not take her advice, and wound up screwed, why would she pick up her phone?

    Because they are paying customers. My customers don’t always take my advice, but when they need me I am still here for them, even if they didn’t take my advice and now need my help as a result. It’s called doing the right thing. If the TA went out of her/his way to screw the customers when they needed help because they didn’t take the TAs advice, than I think its even worse than giving them bad advice to begin with.

    I do agree 100%, we need to hear the TAs story, and the actual customers story.

  • TonyA_says

    Your experience. Amazing!
    I would think the reason why you hire a travel agent is to have someone advocate and go to bat for you.
    Now the customer is going to a consumer advocate to go after the person who should have been advocating for them in the first place :)
    Who needs this kind of travel agent?

  • emanon256

    I read it as they already knew they didn’t have pre-assigned seats, however it was at the gate where they learned the flight was oversold. As far as checking bags and getting to the gate with no seat assignment, that’s pretty normal. I traveled weekly for a little over 5 years and that was par for the course with almost every last minute booking. And in many of those cases the flight was oversold. i usually still got on once they got someone with a seat to volunteer.

  • sirwired

    That’s one thing that has often bothered me about Chris’s deference to small-time agents. Large agencies (who Chris rarely hesitates to name) likes their money just as much as Mom & Pop likes theirs. There’s no reason to think that a story naming Expedia will hurt their business (on a dollar-for-dollar basis) less than a story naming Mom&Pop.

  • sirwired

    Carnival and United got named here before any kind of investigation was done, why not the travel agent?

  • sirwired

    I can understand not naming a person, but why not name the agency? Why should it matter what size the agency is? Large agencies like their money and reputation just as much as small ones, why should this site treat them differently?

  • Cheryl Lynn Hawley

    United is required to ask for volunteers. Why on earth would an agent make his/her job 1000x harder by involuntary bumping a passenger when someone is willing to give up their seat for a voucher? Involuntary bumping compensation is much more that voluntary. You may get $400 for volunteering but you get upwards of $1000 for invol.

  • TonyA_says

    After doing this job for quite a while I have to say it is time to move on.
    Those who have knowledge and skill are better off simply providing advise instead of doing booking and fulfillment roles. Many consumers can simply DIY the buying but where they really need help is figuring out what is the best option for them to buy.

    If the couple bought everything (including insurance) from the cruiseline, then all they need to do is call the cruiseline’s help line and tell them to go figure how they can get to the cruise on time. No finger pointing needed.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s a fair question. I’m assuming that because they kept saying travel agent not agency, it was small. That’s admittedly an assumption on my part.

  • Sylvia Mason

    If it was the passengers fault, then the passenger should not be asking for any assistance.

  • Cybrsk8r

    That’s irrelevant. The flight was over-booked. They could have gotten there two days early and it still would have been over-booked.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Sure. At this point, we don’t have the full story. If it turns out that the TA did nothing wrong, still, the reputation damage could be severe. By contrast, if its American Express Travel, the reputation damage is minimal.
    Thus it’s a balancing off equities. One one hand, the so called public’s right to know, on the hand, the reputational damage to the agent or agency particularly if they are exonerated.

  • J D

    It’s completely relevant. When the airline is bumping people off of a flight, they tend to bump those who show up after others have checked in. The earlier you check in for a flight, the more likely you will get on that plane.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If the agency is small, then its almost like naming the owner.

  • Annie M

    Sylvia, if it was a last minute booking sometimes there are no seats to be assigned. What the airline may have had left were seats that had a surcharge to them and perhaps they didn’t want to pay for that, thus you would be assigned your seats at check in. Airlines have seats left they don’t put out on the website to book, such as bulkhead seats and assign them at the airport. And that is not the fault of the agent. We don’t know if the agent recommended flying in a day before, if the agent advised the couple to do their online check in 24 hours before and whether the couple arrived early enough for their flight. I also am surprised that they got to the gate without a seat assignment at check in.

    Chris, you need to speak to the couple themselves and the travel agent before going any further. I’d like to know where this couple found this travel agent and who booked the air. If they found the agents through one of the very highly discounted cruise sellers, you may find exactly this type of travel agent who makes so little selling the cruise that they don’t service their clients when things go wrong.

    But we don’t know that. We don’t know if the agent was in his/her office when the couple called. There is too much we don’t know except the Mom’s interpretation on what happened.
    Without speaking to both of the original sources, the story can possibly have been very different than what actually occured.

  • Annie M

    Perhaps the couple didn’t want to pay for a hotel the night before the cruise and that’s why they flew in the same day.

    There is more to the story than meets the eye and unless Chris speaks directly to the couple and travel agent, we’ll never know the truth.

  • Annie M

    If they went to a cruise discounter, this can be the kind of service you get. A good travel agent is exactly what inexperienced travelers need, but you better be careful where you find an agent. They are supposed to be advocates.

  • TonyA_says

    Real Agents versus Glorified Booking Clerks

    I feel sorry for these people. They lost the cruise, airline ticket, insurance money and the IDB compensation. Wipe out. I hope they did not have to pay the agent a service fee :)

  • jpp42

    We don’t have proof they didn’t ask for volunteers. I suspect finding volunteers is a lot harder these days. Flights are so full that finding space on another flight in a short time is extremely difficult, particularly around holidays – you could be stuck for days. The airline “funny money” from the vouchers has so many restrictions that it can be near-worthless for some people (particularly if it’s just “two round trip tickets” rather than an amount of money – you’ll find those tickets are only good for Tuesdays in February). Savvy travelers know this and aren’t exactly queuing up to give up their seats!

  • Chris Johnson

    If the travel agent was worth anything, they would have advised them to be booked on a flight to Florida the day before the cruise departed. Of course, the agent may have done just that and the couple couldn’t or wouldn’t follow the advice. Chris – I hope we can hear an update on this case.

  • TonyA_says

    Really? What is so bad about Carnival’s Fly Aweigh program (together with their Travel Protection package)?

    Program Benefits

    Carnival’s Fly Aweigh® program takes care of your flight arrangements from the moment your trip begins until the moment it ends. Our travel professionals are committed to ensuring guests who purchase our air program meet their cruise, even when travel interruptions occur. This includes making alternate travel arrangements when necessary.

    Our travel protection ensures each guest is accommodated on flights that will provide a timely arrival to the embarkation port or the next port of call when they experience delays resulting from weather conditions or other flight delays. In the event the available flights do not arrive in time for the ship’s departure, guests will be flown to the next port of call and we will arrange hotel and/or ground transportation services at no expense. In other words, Carnival takes the worry out of air travel, to ensure our guests can enjoy a memorable vacation.

    Seems to me this was exactly what they needed without the use of a local “travel agent”.

  • Travelnut

    Happened to me last April on UA. Didn’t get my seat assignment until I got to the gate.

  • AH

    their luggage has been sent to orlando without them, they can’t contact the cruise line to even find out if they would be allowed to board the ship in the bahamas if united did fly them there – and even if they did get to the bahamas and were allowed to board the ship, they would have no luggage! i can totally see why they would have declined that offer.

    no luggage and a very “iffy” situation as to what their situation might be in the bahamas.

  • AH

    yeah, why would the TA blame the couple for leaving the gate when the gate agent had told them the flight was full, they couldn’t board, but they could catch another flight at another gate. the TA wasn’t answering phone calls to give any advice, but blames the travelers after the fact?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I can’t speak for anyone else, I don’t assume that Carnival and airlines are guilty until proven innocent. For me, its simply the size/nature of the business. A small business is often indistinguishable from the owner(s). That makes them effectively individuals in my mind.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I must respectfully disagree.

  • TonyA_says

    I did a quick look at GDS for UA flight schedules FDS-MCO and Carnival’s Cruise schedules.

    – Carnival’s ship sails at 4PM, the manifest is closed 90 minutes prior, boarding is stopped 30 minutes prior.
    -Travel Time From Orlando Airport to Port Canaveral Is 1 Hour / 46 Miles
    – Must arrive MCO no later than 2PM to get luggage and take shuttle to port

    There is only one UA flight that will make this:

    1*A#UA3270 FSDORD- 550A 731A * ERJ 0E
    2*A#UA 206 MCO- 835A1212P 320 0E

    The later connecting flight is a bit late ..
    3*A#UA3270 FSDORD- 550A 731A * ERJ 0E
    4*A#UA1505 MCO-1042A 212P 8 739 0E

    Tell me, what kind of travel agent will suggest this flight?
    No possible backup. This requires perfection.

  • TonyA_says

    I call that a career limiting move.

  • y_p_w

    A seat assigned at the time of purchase doesn’t even guarantee that the passengers won’t get bumped when an “elite” needs to fly.

  • TonyA_says

    Whose money? Mommy’s? Was this a gift?

  • Londoner1936

    6 May (or May 6, as commonly used in US) is 6-5-xx in any other part of the world except the US; and one would think any travel agent would know that. In fact, most European date notations would say 06-05-xxxx. While we cannot expect the US to change its system of date notation, those dealing with international travel ought to know this. And Tahiti is part of France, something else the agent should have know.

  • Jill Fuller

    Those of you who didn’t have seats until you got to the gate must have not checked luggage. There’s no way you wouldn’t get seats if you stopped to check luggage at the front counter before going through TSA to the gate. And there’s tons of times an agent advises people to take a flight the day before but they don’t want to pay for a hotel. Many times you can’t get seats ahead of time… but if you are booked, the gate agent will offer incentives until you get your seat assignments in the case of an oversold flight. And saying the TA “didn’t bother to answer her phone” paints a picture that is probably not at all accurate. Sometimes you just aren’t at your desk! Or you’re at lunch, or at a doctor’s appointment. Sometimes people make stupid decisions and want to blame someone else. Those of you who want to crucify the TA without even knowing the truth are probably those exact type of people.

  • omgstfualready

    Well said.

  • omgstfualready

    I can see it happening even with a seasoned TA, sometimes you just don’t think. Great it had a positive outcome.
    I work with non U.S. locations and have reverted to specifiying month by name in my correspondence to leave no room for these errors. Often I’m looking for historical data so I try to also include the day of the week.

  • Alex Stanley

    As a corporate travel agent, I don’t deal with cruise lines, but I do deal with the airlines all day long. United, in particular, seems to rarely have seat assignments available to anyone other than their elite frequent flyers. So, to blame the travel agent without this bit of info is not fair. Was the agent part of an office of agents or an independent? For them not to answer the phone when called, is insane. Most agencies have an after-hours service to assist travelers in trouble. I hope Chris takes this one on… I think he would win.

  • emanon256

    I wish the US would change their system. It’s annoying to me to be the only one who does it this way. In my particular case, my agent was based in Indiana and booked almost 100% domestic travel, so I understand the mistake, and she made up for it and then some.

  • Lindabator

    Thank you – you blast Expedia, they have thousands of other clients in line to book. You blast a small agency incorrectly, they can close shop before business comes back. Shame on Tony – I am all for getting rid of those agents who give us all a bad name, but we need ALL the facts, not this 3rd hand story before we crucify the agent, who it may just turn out did nothing wrong at all!

  • Lindabator

    But we don’t know what happened – I’ve had phone service go out, and a client could not reach me, but since they had insurance, they could call them and get the problem fixed. Things CAN happen – its not a matter for the “off with their heads” attitude – Chris really needs to get the real story from the people it happened to before we get on our soapboxes.

  • Lindabator

    But the passenger did not – her MOTHER did!

  • Lindabator

    Or a change of aircraft type – ALWAYS screws things up!

  • Lindabator


  • Lindabator

    Too true! I even track flights when the weather gets bad, just in case there WILL be a problem with a stubborn client’s flights. That’s what a good agent does.

  • Lindabator

    Not true – they can check their bags without pre-assigned seats – the seats can be assigned at the gate. But yes, we need to know much more before we blame the travel agent.

  • Daddydo

    The BBB in Ohio and WV is outstanding in helping to resolve legitimate issues between the public and a business. I have a good respose when I have used them. And the =y are very Proactive to follow up. I use them 2 -3 times a year with 99% effectivness.

  • Bill___A

    Nail the travel agent to the wall. They should have been advised to fly to allow for delays and next day replacement flights, etc. to allow for changes/delays/problems. I had a travel agent not take ownership of a problem about 15 years ago because they weren’t doing their job, and I don’t generally use them ever since.

  • bodega3

    Well aren’t you in the holiday spirit. Until more facts are known and the actual passengers and agent spoken with by Chris, let’s not get all excited about where the blame should be placed. Sorry you had a negative experience. But you get that in any business, so move on.

  • Bill___A

    Okay, once Chris investigates, then nail the travel agent to the wall. I didn’t have “A” negative experience. They seem to have many troubles, including the ability to match hotel night stays with flights. Although there are some good travel agents out there, the bad ones are not culled from the ranks. Merry Christmas.

  • Bill___A

    I see my response seems to have gotten nuked. Fair and balanced discussion that.

  • vacaygirl

    “Is this person a real TA or just someone who claims to be a TA and works out of their house?” REALLY? Did you just say that? If you work out of your house you must be fake? Ouch! Careful, those words can land you at the wrong end of many a qualified, home-working travel agents wrath.

  • vacaygirl

    The folks at the bag check in have no responsibility to tell you the flight is oversold. It is always policy for them to check your bag and send you on your way to the gate and let them tell you the news…as they gate agents are also the ones who can reroute you or help you.

  • http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/ Lisa Niver Rajna

    I agree this story pulls on my heartstrings. Novice travelers or not–their travel agent should have booked them seats. The airlines should NOT have said they voluntarily gave up their seats. Seems there may be blame to go around but this couple should get a HONEYMOON! Carnival should let them go again and the airline owes them flights! I hope you get them their trip back!
    We Said Go Travel