100,000 miles, $194 and a one-week delay — and you offer this?

To fly from San Francisco to Paris last month, Kenneth Cook forked over 100,00 miles and paid a $194 fee 10 months before his scheduled flight. The routing wasn’t ideal — it sent him via Denver and Frankfurt, but for that, he was getting choice seats in the front of the plane.

The least he expected was the see his luggage at the end of the journey, and that if he didn’t, the airline would take care of everything.

It didn’t.
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Ridiculous or not? Airline wants my bank account information

British Airways lost Jean Perrotti’s luggage, and it stayed lost for six days. But that’s not why she contacted me.

“Aside from the fact that they are asking for information I already sent to them, they are also requesting my banking information,” she says. “Their reason is that if they decide a settlement is due, the fastest and most secure way to settle my claim is by bank transfer.”

Perrotti wants to know: Is it OK to give the airline her bank account number?
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Is this enough compensation? Sorry, your kids have the wrong ticket

Like any good father, LeRoy Villanueva tried to cover all of his bases when he put his two children on a plane from Paris to Los Angeles recently. Most important to him was buying the required unaccompanied minor service, which would allow his kids to fly without an adult.

“I asked British Airways if I could buy the tickets at a third-party travel agency and pay the airline separately for the unaccompanied minor service,” he says. “A phone agent told me that I would have to purchase two adult fares from the online travel agency and then afterwards — at least 48 hours before departure — pay British Airways’ unaccompanied minor Service fee.”

He verified the information by phoning the airline a second time; again, it offered the same choices.

But the airline left out an important detail.
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Ridiculous or not? When a “fuel surcharge” costs more than an airline ticket

When Walter Nissen signed up for a British Airways Chase Visa card recently, he thought he’d be jetting off to London after earning just 50,000 miles.

He overlooked one little detail: A glance at the fine print revealed he’d have to pay an extra $400 in fuel surcharges.

“We’re not talking a few dollars for mandatory government taxes and fees,” says Nissen, a computer scientist from Livermore, Calif. “Their secret surcharge goes right into British Airways’ pocket. That’s dishonest in my book.”

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What would you do? Where’s my $7,369 refund for a canceled flight?

Taking your money is a lightning-fast procedure for an airline (indeed, for any business accepting credit cards). A minute after you’ve pushed the “buy” button, your credit card account is debited.

But it doesn’t work as quickly when the money is going the other way. Just ask Paramjit Bhatia, who has been trying to get a $7,369 refund for two roundtrip tickets from Kansas City to London on Dec. 22.

“I had to cancel my travel plans on account of a blizzard that shut down Heathrow Airport around Christmas,” says Bhatia. “A travel advisory issued by British Airways issued guidelines for travelers to either a full refund or re-book the flights for a later time.”
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What would you do? They confiscated my $70 bottle of cognac, and I want it back

Editor’s note: This is the second installation of a new feature, “What would you do?” Here’s how it works: At 7 a.m. Eastern time, I present a case and ask you how you’d solve it. You can take a poll or sound off in the comments. At 5 p.m., I’ll reveal the poll results and tell you how it was fixed.

Liquid and gel restrictions have never been particularly easy to follow for air travelers, especially when they’re on an international trip. Is it 3-1-1? Or 1-3-3? Can I bring a drink on a domestic flight within Europe?

Those are the questions Sofia Romano pondered while sitting in first class on a British Airways flight from Los Angeles to London recently. She’d been eying a bottle of cognac from the duty-free cart, and a flight attendant assured her the beverage would make a smooth transfer to her Glasgow flight. So she plunked down $70 for a bottle of Remy Martin.

But when she tried to board her flight to Scotland a few hours later, the security agents had other ideas.

I was stopped by security and told that I would not be able to take the bottle of Remy Martin with me. I showed them my receipt, plus the fact that I just came from my flight, and they said that whomever had “packed” the bottle should have packed it in a plastic bag that was sealed with the receipt inside the bag.

I told them that I just disembarked from this flight and again showed them the receipt that the only place I could purchase this item was on board. They told me that the cabin crew member “should have known” what to do.

Oops. The security guys were right. There goes a perfectly good bottle of cognac, down the drain.

Now what?
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Hey British Airways, your template is showing! (And how ’bout a refund, while you’re at it?)

Here’s a funny story with a happy ending from a cruise passenger whose British Airways flight was canceled earlier this year during a strike. Larry Cook and his wife arrived in Southampton last May but their flight to Paris had been called off because of the work stoppage.

“The purser found this out for us but I was unable to contact British Airways while aboard ship due to overload on their Internet site,” he says. “We jumped in a cab for Heathrow Airport and borrowed the drivers cellphone but we were again unable to reach British Airways by phone due to overload problems.”

Instead of heading to the airport, Cook decided to take the train to Paris and try to get a refund for his flight. Under Rule 10 of its contract of carriage, British Airways will refund tickets for flights it cancels.

Cook formally requested a refund a few days later, and he also submitted some of his incidental expenses arising from his diversion to the train station and asked for the airline’s “consideration.”

The airline’s response? Nothing. And that’s where this case gets interesting.
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Airline strike: “What is their responsibility?”

I’ve been getting quite a few questions like Joyce Fishman’s lately. She’s afraid her airline is about to go on strike, leaving her stranded.

She writes,

We have reservations on Spirit Airlines for a family celebration of our 50th anniversary. Our trip is to begin on June 14. The pilots are planning to strike on June 12 if no agreement is reached.

I have contacted Spirit as to their responsibility to protect us in the event of a strike. Each time I get the company line, “Spirit intends to operate through the process” and “Spirit will try to take care of all customers”.

What is their responsibility?

Can you find out anything more than I have been able to? Your help will be much appreciated.

There are actually three airline strikes or potential strikes in the news. Let’s start with Spirit.
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Two change fees, one airline ticket — and no help

Question: We are planning a trip to France and Scotland this summer with my sister and her family. We originally booked flights in February from France to Scotland through British Airways. We then had an unexpected change in our work schedules, necessitating a change in the flight date.

The original booking for my family had a 50-Euro change fee per ticket, plus any fare differential. Every time we called to get a fare quote, we got a slightly different price.

Unfortunately, my sister and I got our wires crossed. She had received a call directly from the airline in Spain, where she lives, but there was no indication that the change by my sister had been done while I was on the phone here, making the same change at the same time. She was charged about 200 Euros, and I was charged $331US. My change “overrode” her change in Spain.

We immediately called British Airways when I discovered what had happened, and they requested I send a fax to their refunds department in New York, which I did immediately. They contacted us almost two weeks later to say this had to be sent on to France. We have now sent several additional letters to the U.S. refunds office as well as the address they gave us in France, and we even tried sending a letter to the main office in England, but we are still waiting to hear from them. Is there anything you can do? — Janice Sinclair, Minneapolis

Answer: How odd. A careful reservations agent should have caught this, but more importantly, there should have been safeguards in the system to stop this kind of double change from being authorized.
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Labor disputes at American Airlines and British Airways put travel plans at risk

Amanda Scheerer’s honeymoon plans included renting an apartment in Barcelona’s historic La Barceloneta district, visiting the Salvador Dalí museum and touring several famous Spanish wineries.

They did not include a strike by British Airways.

But last week, the trade union representing the airline’s cabin crew announced that it would stage a work stoppage this weekend and on selected days later this month to protest working conditions. “My husband and I were supposed to fly from Chicago to London and then on to Barcelona this Saturday,” said Scheerer, a copy editor who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind. But British Airways canceled her flight from London to Barcelona, putting her vacation in jeopardy.

Stateside, there’s also some concern about a possible industrial action. Last week, American Airlines flight attendants asked for federal approval to end contract talks, potentially setting the stage for the first strike at a major U.S. airline in almost five years. Crew members are negotiating a new contract and hoping to reverse some of the cutbacks they agreed to after 9/11.

“It’s an interesting moment in labor relations for the airlines,” said Jonathan Cutler, an associate professor of sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and author of “Labor’s Time: Shorter Hours, the UAW, and the Struggle for American Unionism.”

It may also be an interesting moment for airline passengers. Travelers such as Scheerer are likely to see the few remaining airline services further decimated during a strike — if they’re able to fly at all.
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Should British Airways follow its own ticket rules? It’s not brain surgery — oh wait, it is brain surgery

If you’re holding a nonrefundable airline ticket, the rules are clear: You can get credit, valid for a year from the date of your booking, by informing the airline before your trip.

That’s what British Airways’ ticket rules say (see Rule 3b2).

What if you fall ill? Rule 3b3 stipulates:

If, after beginning your journey:

* you become ill
* your illness prevents you from travelling on your next flight within the validity period of your ticket; and
* you want us to extend the validity period so that you can continue your journey;

you must give us a medical certificate. The certificate must:

* state the facts relating to your illness and
* confirm the date you will be fit to travel again (‘the recovery date’).

BA may extend the validity period until either the recovery date, as long as there is a seat available on the relevant flight in the class of service for which you have paid the fare.
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One year later, still no refund

Question: I need your help getting a refund for tickets I bought from British Airways for my father and me to fly from Philadelphia to London last year. Before we left, my father became ill and I contacted the airline to cancel our reservation. Shortly thereafter, he died.

British Airways requested a copy of my father’s death certificate, which was sent to them. So far, despite several notes to the airline, I have received a refund only for the tax paid for the tickets.

British Airways has sent me a thank-you note for contacting them and advised me they would forward my mail to a handling agent. They indicated I would hear further from them once the case is completed or additional information is required. It’s been more than a year since I booked the tickets. This is certainly a situation that requires an ombudsman. What can be done? — Julianna Lipschutz, Philadelphia

Answer: I’m sorry about your father. British Airways should have refunded your tickets right away. But it didn’t have to.

If your tickets were nonrefundable, as most are, and you canceled your reservations, then British Airways only needs to return your taxes and fees. It could be worse: Many domestic airlines give you nothing when you cancel a nonrefundable ticket. After all, it’s a nonrefundable ticket. (Some domestic airlines refund taxes and fees, but most of them don’t.)
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