If you though your last trip was bad, you might want to talk with James Liu before complaining about it.
He just had an frustrating experience with United Airlines, which started in Columbia, SC, and was to have ended in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. But he never made it that far. In Chicago, a United representative told him he couldn’t continue to China because he didn’t have the right transit visa.
But it turns out his paperwork was in order. And although Liu was eventually sent back to Columbia, his luggage took a different route — first flying to China and then taking its time getting back to the States. United offered a half-hearted apology and some compensation. But is it enough?
Problems like Liu’s are relatively rare, and they aren’t specifically addressed anywhere in United’s contract of carriage, the legal agreement between you and the airline. Airlines can be held responsible for allowing passengers to board an international flight when they don’t have the right paperwork, so gate agents often err on the side of caution when determining who can, and who can’t, fly.
Unfortunately, airlines don’t always have the most up-do-date information about visas in their system. In Liu’s case, the most authoritative information came from the Chinese embassy, which confirmed he was, indeed, good to go.