I couldn’t make my connection. May I have a refund, Airberlin?

By | December 15th, 2016

John Kozlowski’s son Alexander and a traveling companion missed their flight out of Berlin, so they paid the change fee to book a later flight. They never had a chance to make the connection.

Question: My son Alexander and and his traveling companion Tanner had a problem getting to the airport and missed their 7:05 a.m. flight to Milan in order to connect to a flight to Sevilla, Spain.

When they arrived at about 8 a.m. at the airport in Berlin, they spoke to a representative at Aviation Handling Services, which handles bookings for Airberlin, and were each charged $177 plus a $35 change fee for a new flight to Milan.

The new flight left at 9 a.m. but was delayed until 9:30 a.m. on that day. The agent sold them the ticket between 8:15 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. The problem is that Airberlin’s policy requires check-in at least 30 minutes prior to the original flight time, but it turns out that this flight was actually operated by codeshare partner Alitalia, and their policy is that check-in is required at least 40 minutes prior to the original flight time, which would be 8:20 a.m.

Because of this timeline, the boys had virtually no chance of making their flight. They first went to the Airberlin check-in kiosks, and were told that they needed to go to the Alitalia check in kiosks instead. By the time they got there, it was too late and they were not allowed to check in. Alexander and Tanner were forced to purchase new tickets on another airline for 300 euros each.

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While trying to resolve this, Airberlin pointed us to Alitalia and Alitalia pointed us to Airberlin. So I’m writing to you to see if you can help. — John Kozlowski, Ellicott City, Md.


Answer: It’s always upsetting when you miss a flight, and I’m sorry to hear that a stressful situation became even more so in this case.

The agent from Aviation Handling Services should have been familiar with check-in requirements for all of Airberlin’s codeshare partners and not booked Alexander and Tanner on this flight. This may have resulted in a missed connection and they would still have been on the hook for the additional cost of a new routing. But at least they wouldn’t have the headache and additional expense of this incorrectly booked ticket.

Your paper trail shows that you initially reached out to Airberlin. In their response to you they noted that since the flight was actually operated by their codeshare partner Alitalia, you would need to make this request to them. But when you contacted Alitalia, they referred you back to Airberlin.

We created links to airline executive contacts on our advocacy site, including Alitalia and Airberlin, specifically to address the kind of runaround you experienced. This example also illustrates why it’s so important to plan to arrive early for your flight, especially when you’re flying from an unfamiliar airport.

Because the tickets in question were issued on Airberlin ticket stock, Airberlin would need to issue any refund, so we contacted them on your behalf. Airberlin agreed that a ticket shouldn’t have been issued for a flight that closed before Alexander and Tanner had time to arrive at the gate. We’re happy to report that the airline has offered full refunds to Alexander and Tanner.

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  • jim6555

    Air Berlin should have immediately issued refunds when they were first notified of the impossibility of getting on the flight after the change fee and additional airfare were paid. Instead, they tried to blame Alitalia for a problem that was not Alitalia’s responsibility. A consumer advocates should not have had to get involved in this matter.

  • ctporter

    When I first read the headline and then saw that the passengers arrived late at the airport I was unsympathetic for the poor planning on the passenger’s part. But wow, for once it really was an issue that was not a result of the passenger actions, instead it clearly was the ticket agent’s fault. Glad you were able to get the issue resolved between the two airline for the benefit of the passenger!

  • PsyGuy

    An example that ticket agents and counter agents aren’t always right.

  • Annie M

    Finally a story of someone who really needed and deserved your help. Glad there was a happy ending.

  • Mel65

    Glad this worked out, but am i the only one curios about “had a problem getting to the airport and missed their 7:05 a.m. flight to Milan” which started the whole debacle to begin with? If they didn’t allow wnough time or got lost or overslept, etc… my sympathy quotient diminishes considerably.

  • Extramail

    They took responsibility for arriving at the airport late by agreeing to purchase new tickets, including paying the change fee. My sympathy quotient actually went up because of that. The problem they had was being sold tickets they couldn’t possibly use and having to purchase a third ticket. Glad it got resolved though it shouldn’t have taken a consumer advocate to do it.

  • Mel65

    True, I hadn’t thought of it that way.

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