Stranded in Turkey and my travel agent couldn’t care less

By | December 17th, 2016

Chanquelle Mitchell-Harros is excited to find a low airfare for her trip to Turkey — until her flight home is canceled. The problem: her name.

Question: I would like help securing a refund of airline tickets. When I first purchased the ticket from International Travel Network (ITN), I was definitely happy that I didn’t have to pay as much money as I thought on my trip to Europe.

However, my happiness level plunged when one week before my flight out I received a “schedule change” email from ITN that said: “We have been notified by the airline about a change in your schedule. Please contact us at your earliest convenience for possible re-protection [sic] options.” Super general, right?

I called them immediately and was told by a customer service agent that they’d call back once they had a full understanding of what was going on. They discovered that my flight back to the States was not confirmed. I waited a day and nothing.

I called and pushed the urgency of sorting out this matter before I fly out. I had to fly back on Aug. 25 because my employer, the United States Air Force, needed me back before Saturday the 26th. The agent I spoke to had a three-way conversation with the airline and stated that my flight was confirmed and there was nothing further to be done on my part. I checked the e-ticket afterwards and it stated that I was “waitlisted,” but was confirmed for the flight.

Fast-forward to the day that I was flying to Turkey, and a customer service agent named Kaiser attempted to contact me about an urgent matter regarding my flight back. There was an issue with the length of my name and the character limit for the airline.

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When I was able to call him back during a stopover, he told me that I needed to go to the Air Canada desk in order to cancel my flight back, it could be rebooked. There was no way for me to do that as I was already at my gate and boarding was in five minutes.

An Air Canada agent advised me to wait until I landed in Istanbul, and then I would be able to sort out this issue. But there was no Air Canada desk in Istanbul. So I called Air Canada customer service. They stated that the simple fix would be for ITN to send over new booking information without my middle name and they’d reissue the ticket with the correction. I emailed Kaiser this. No response. I called and it went straight to voicemail.

I called the general customer service line and apparently they could not help me without Kaiser’s assistance. He never got back to me and it was extremely difficult to get in contact with him.

The day before I was supposed to fly out I got another schedule change email at 2 a.m. I called immediately and was told that my flight was in the process of being cancelled and a refund would be initiated. I was then told that if I was in a rush to fly out, I would need to buy a whole new ticket back.

I then called back ITN and was bounced between customer service and sales several times because no one knew what to do. I was assigned a new customer service agent, Newton, who proceeded to repeat the same thing, that a refund was being initiated and there was nothing further he could do. (He actually said, “I don’t know what else you want me to do.”) I was literally stranded in Turkey and he could care less. At least that was the tone that I was getting from him. He then forwarded me back to sales to buy a new ticket. An extra $1,000 for a one-way ticket back. — Chanquelle Mitchell-Harros, Vacaville, Calif.

Answer: Chanquelle Antoinette Mitchell-Harros. What a lovely name. And yes, a very long one. But we agree that your long name shouldn’t have cost you $1,000.

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Your paper trail reveals that while your travel agency booked your trip with Air Canada, one of the flights was operated by a codeshare partner, and that airline’s reservation system wasn’t designed to accommodate a name as long as yours. And oddly, that ultimately resulted in the reservation for your return trip being canceled. Which meant you were faced with reporting late back to your job with the Air Force if you didn’t purchase a new ticket for almost $1,000.

You carefully detailed how your travel agency seemed completely unable or unwilling to assist you. And that your multiple attempts to contact the agency to discuss a refund were met with the same runaround you received in the midst of your travel dilemma.

A bit of advice though. We noted that some of your correspondence with the travel agency and the airlines included language that bordered on belligerent, and that may have hindered your efforts to reach a resolution. Your frustration was more than justified, but you often get better results when you show that frustration in a more measured way in your communication.

We reached out to International Travel Network on your behalf, and are happy to report that they have agreed to refund the cost of the new ticket you were forced to buy.

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