We gave up our seat on Spirit but they gave us nothing

Markus Mainka /
Markus Mainka /
Sarah Dragswiek and her family give up their airline seat in exchange for a promise of a refund and a voucher for a new ticket. But when the airline refuses to keep its word, what can they do?

Question: My husband, two-year-old son and I recently flew from Chicago to Phoenix on Spirit Airways. Before we took off, a flight attendant approached our seat to tell us that there was a problem with one of the seats, and that another passenger couldn’t use his seat. We were offered a refund of our son’s ticket and a free round trip voucher if we would hold our son on our lap in order to free a seat for the gentleman whose seat was not usable.

We agreed to this, and the flight attendant and gate agent (who had boarded the plane to help resolve the situation) told us that we should talk with the gate agents when we landed in Phoenix to claim our refund and free voucher.
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No “comfort” seat on TAM — and no refund

Chris Parypa Photography /
Chris Parypa Photography /
Nathan Pearson and his son are bumped into two uncomfortable airline seats on a 10-hour flight from Brazil back to the United States. And now the upgrade fee they paid is missing in action. Will they ever see that money again?

Question: I recently flew from Sao Paolo to New York on TAM with my son. We had purchased “comfort seats” for this flight, for $75 each, and were assigned seats 27C and 27A. When we boarded the flight, we found that these seats had been double booked, and other passengers were already in those seats, with valid tickets.

There were no other comfort seats available, although both business and first class were mostly empty.

Following very long discussions with a flight attendant, we were informed that we were to accept “regular” coach seats far back in the plane, and that we would receive a refund for the $150 we paid for the comfort seats.
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What to do when your lie-flat seat doesn’t lie flat

Peter Zvonar/Shutterstock
Peter Zvonar/Shutterstock

OK, I’ll admit that I poke fun at the “entitleds” behind the curtain as much as the next guy wedged into one of those sardine-class airline seats.

Oh, those elites whining about the temperature of their Chardonnay or the service that isn’t sufficiently obsequious. To have their problems!

And honestly, I wouldn’t even mention the following case unless the airline in question had started making so much noise about its superior comfort and friendliness, especially in the front of the cabin.

No need to sit through the entire video. Take it from me: It’s slick, it’s inspiring and there’s absolutely no way they filmed that in actual economy class seats.
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Kicked off the plane for having a few pre-flight G&Ts

While Mike Murray waited with his two nephews and cousin in the first-class lounge to board his United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Washington, he consumed three gin and tonics in two hours.

And why wouldn’t he? The drinks in the lounge are included in your membership, and it’s almost a six-hour flight. Nothing like a G&T or two to make you fall asleep, right?

That’s exactly what happened to Murray, who’d given up 40,000 miles and $1,200 for his upgrade to first class. It wasn’t the only thing he would give up that day.

After Murray fell asleep shortly before takeoff, he felt a tap on his shoulder.
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Looking for a better airline seat? There’s a site for that

If you fly, chances are you have a story to tell about an uncomfortable airline seat.

Vicki Morwitz does. Hers involves a long-haul plane trip, a minuscule economy-class enclosure and a circuitous routing that deposited her at her destination feeling exhausted and irritated.

So when a friend invited her to test a new online booking site that evaluates airline seats for their comfort, she had to try it. “I care about fares,” says Morwitz, a business professor who lives in New York. “But I also care a lot about the travel experience.”
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Airline seat fees separate mom from five-year-old twins

Ever since airlines added new economy-class seat reservation fees, they’ve insisted that the new charges would not lead to families with young kids being separated.

And I believed it — until I heard from Vicki Wallace.

Wallace was flying from Philadelphia to San Diego on US Airways recently, when the fees led to her being separated from her five-year-old twins, she says.
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Someone urinated on my airline seat — is this enough compensation?

Anything can happen on a plane. Anything did happen to Rita Auth when she boarded a recent flight from Dallas to Tucson.

“The previous passenger had urinated on my assigned seat and the crew failed to notice it,” she says. “I found out by sitting down and feeling the moisture on my pants.”

I’m not writing about this case for the shock value, although I’ll admit there is some. I’m not even going to mention the name of the airline (not too hard to guess) because I think every airline would have handled this one in exactly the same way.
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Why lying is wrong — even when an airline does it

To the airline apologists who rushed to the defense of an industry that lies by pretending other companies’ products are its own — a clever trick called “codesharing” — I have just one thing to say: meet Lisa Waters.

She had booked a roundtrip flight on American Airlines from New York to London. At least that’s what she thought.

Turns out the flight was operated by American’s codeshare partner, British Airways. Waters claims she paid $120 for “preferred” seats, which on the site, looked pretty decent.

“Then we got on the plane,” she says. “These preferred seats were behind the wall of a toilet. So for nine long hours we heard flushing, door opening and closing, people standing in line to get to the one of only two bathrooms in coach. I could not even sleep.”

On the American Airlines website, it didn’t note the toilets. But on the British Airways site, she says, they were clearly highlighted, and she would have never paid extra for the seats.

That’s one of the many perils of airline codesharing, which I called bald-faced lie in my last column. Many of you disagreed, saying codesharing allowed you to fly to more destinations, collect more award miles, and get better service.

Each of those arguments is provably wrong.

But before I get to that proof, let me tell you what happened to Waters when she complained. She figured that since some of the “benefits” of the AA preferred seat gotten lost in translation, the airline would be eager to refund the $120 she’d paid.

She sent a brief, cordial email to the airline.

“While many customers have found this service to be a convenient option, we know that each of our customers value different parts of the overall travel experience, and all of our Your Choice travel services are optional,” it replied. “This allows us to keep our fares low, while offering the individual products and services that our customers value.”

American refused to refund the fee.

“I feel deceived,” she said.

The codeshare confusion she describes is fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. In fact, Waters may have simply misunderstood the preferred seating option on her airline’s site. (I found it difficult to duplicate her problem online, but even so, she shouldn’t have been so easily confused, at least the way she describes it.)

It gets more interesting when baggage is lost and codeshare partners start to play the blame game, referring the complaint to each other until the passengers gives up in disgust. It’s also problematic when each airline “partner” has different luggage allowances or ticket rules, and chooses to apply them to its own advantage.

It’s relatively easy to get lost in a “no-man’s land” between codeshare partners, where no airlines are willing to take responsibility for anything. (Think I’m kidding? I’m handling a nightmare case right now involving three codeshare partners and a missing refund. No one is willing to pay up. Talk about a wild goose chase.)

Before I end my rant on the evils of codesharing, let me address a few of the myths that I found in the comments of my previous story on the subject.

Myth: Codesharing gives you access to more destinations.

Fact: No it doesn’t. The airline you’re booking a ticket with is still flying to the same number of cities. Its codeshare “partners” are serving the rest and allowing your airline to claim those destinations as its own. That is a lie.

Myth: Codesharing allows you to collect and redeem more award miles.

Fact: Oh really? Try redeeming your hard-earned frequent flier points for a flight and tell me how that goes. Unless you’re super-flexible or have an encyclopedic knowledge of programs and codeshare partnerships, you’re going to feel like a sucker for having bought that argument. It’s worthless scrip.

Myth: Codesharing improves service.

Fact: No it doesn’t. Codesharing allows your airline to offer substandard service and blame a partner airline for its own incompetence.

Bottom line: Lying is wrong, even when airlines do it, and even when they say it’s for the good of their passengers.

Especially when they say it’s for the good of their passengers.

Because see, when governments allows airlines to lie … er, I mean, codeshare, they do something else that passengers hardly notice: They stop competing. Less competition means higher fares, and the only ones who benefit from higher fares are the airlines.

Think about that the next time you book a flight that’s “operated by” a different airline.

Are new airline fees anti-family?

Kids, to the end of the line! / Photo by nivek hmng - Flickr
If you didn’t know any better, you might think that the airline industry crossed yet another line just before the Memorial Day holiday, the traditional start of the busy summer travel season.
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Ridiculous or not? A game of musical chairs no one likes to play

John Koehn planned his cross-country trip from Washington to Medford, Ore., with his wife and three-month-old daughter carefully. He booked their flight a year in advance to make sure they could sit together.

And then, just a few months before the trip, everything fell apart.

When Koehn logged on to the United Airlines website to check his reservation, he discovered his flights had been changed, along with his seat assignments.
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Can this trip be saved? Angry birds – and angry passengers

This is a picture of two flight attendants on American Airlines flight 590 from San Diego to Chicago on Mar 20th. They’re playing Angry Birds on an iPad in the galley.

I don’t have a problem with that. But Calvin Michael does.

He couldn’t find two seats together in economy class before his departure, but at the airport, American offered two “upgraded” economy class seats in row 7, 8 or 9 for $39 each. He decided it was worth it, and ended up with seats 8B and 8C.

That’s when the trouble started.
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