If there’s just one thing we’ve learned this week, it’s that alcohol and booking travel don’t mix. And just in case you had your doubts, here’s yet another case in which booze may — and I stress the may — have played a role, at least according to the airline.
Arnar Hjartarson booked two roundtrip tickets from Minneapolis to Reykjavik through Icelandair.com a few months ago. He thought they were nonstop flights.
He thought wrong.
Upon closer inspection, I found that we would be taking a Northwest Airlines flight into Newark and then switching over to JFK for our Icelandair flight.
The total time between the arriving and departing flights was approximately three hours. I wasn’t familiar with those airports and when I looked them up on the Port Authority, I found that the travel time between those two airports was between 75 to 90 minutes. Considering that we would have to retrieve our luggage, find a taxi, re-check in, and go through security — three hours seemed too little a time.
I called Icelandair and they said they could not help me. I called back again and the representative asked me if I had been drunk when I booked the flight. I told her that I had booked the trip directly through their Web site and with the itinerary that they created for me. Her response was that the laws only required them to give three hours of time between flights and that they would not be responsible if we missed the flight — even though she conceded that there was no way we’d make the flight considering Icelandair’s policy requires you to be checked in one and a half hours ahead of time.
I even offered to take a separate Northwest flight (on my own dime) that would take us directly into JFK giving us plenty of time to change flights. She said they would cancel our entire reservations if we did not check into our original flight.
They basically offered no help, nor apology. Given that we had to be in Iceland, I had to pay extra for a separate flight directly into KEF and on top of that, they charged me an extra $80 per ticket for changing fees! Overall, I paid nearly an extra thousand dollars.
It seems unethical to me that Icelandair would offer flights that even they admit are impossible to be on time for. What can be done about this?
First of all, Icelandair has no business selling a flight with an impossible connection through its site. However, Hjartarson should have checked his itinerary before hitting the “buy” button.
I contacted Icelandair, and here’s what it had to say:
Mr. Hjartarson made an online booking for himself and his travel companion on our Web site. In his haste, he booked travel from Minneapolis to Keflavik via Newark, New Jersey – and purchased the tickets. Mr. Hjartason then called our call center and arranged to have the flights rebooked to depart on our direct flight from Minneapolis to Iceland.
As the fare on the direct flight from MSP was only available in a higher fare category, the difference of $384 per person, was collected – in addition to the $80 per ticket fee to have the tickets reissued. Mr. Hjartarson was advised of the difference in fare and the fees associated for his re-routing and gave his permission for the credit card to be charged.
In his letter to you, Mr. Hjartarson takes issue with our booking engine in routing him via Newark. However, the system is not programmed to question a passenger’s selection in routing. The booking engine offers a number of routing possibilities from which the passenger may choose, and it is not unheard of for a passenger to plan a routing to allow for a meeting in one city while en route to another.
In proceeding with his original booking by supplying his credit card details, Mr. Hjartarson was assenting to the routing, as well as to the terms and conditions of the purchase. Our booking engine will not allow a passenger to proceed with an online booking without selecting the box confirming that they have read the terms and conditions of purchase and accepts them.
Regardless, we empathize with any passenger who finds themselves in a situation in which they made an error in booking – and will always try our best to improve the outcome which we feel we have done in this case.
I agree and disagree with Icelandair’s rebuttal. Hjartarson agreed to the terms and should abide by them. But not everyone knows New York’s airports and can be expected to understand that the ticket they’re buying makes a connection all but impossible. How hard would it be to disallow such a difficult connection in its booking system?
Hjartarson isn’t pleased with the response, either.
Icelandair never provided an explanation as to why they sold me a flawed itinerary and they still haven’t in their response to you. They are blaming me for “making an error in booking.” Basically what they’re saying is, “Yes, we offered you a bad deal but you fell for it, so it’s not our problem!” What Icelandair is doing is just plain wrong.