When a ticket change goes awry, will I be stuck in Amsterdam?

By | December 21st, 2016

When is an e-ticket not an e-ticket? Liz Fouksman found out the hard way.

Question: I originally bought a ticket traveling on Oct. 3 from Johannesburg to Boston via Paris, returning on Oct. 15.

Seven days before the flight I changed the ticket at KLM’s website to travel instead on Oct. 4 from Johannesburg to Boston via Amsterdam. I paid 1,961 South African rand for the change with my credit card, and later checked my online transactions and saw that the charge was reflected there.

I received by email a confirmation of the change, which clearly states that I did not need to reconfirm my ticket. What I thought was my ticket was attached with the new date and an invitation to check in online for the flight to Amsterdam the day before.

I also called both KLM’s U.S. and South Africa numbers to ask for a vegan meal and to request a seat. Both call centers confirmed that I was on the flight to Amsterdam on the 4th.

However, when I arrived at the airport to check in, I was told that I was not issued a ticket number for that flight, and that their system still had me flying the day before on my original flight to Paris!

I was sent to the KLM ticket desk, and despite showing my confirmation and emailed ticket, no one could help me. In the end, under extreme stress and nearly missing the flight, I had to purchase a new ticket. The total has been billed to my U.S. credit card as $552.

I have already filed a complaint three times on the KLM website and have had no response at all, not even a confirmation of receipt. Today I called KLM, and then spent two and a half hours on the phone, being shunted between different lines. In the end I spoke to a Delta Customer Support supervisor who told me that there was nothing she could do to help me, and that I must wait thirty days. She was rude, unprofessional and unhelpful.

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I found this experience deeply disappointing and very stressful. I am a frequent flyer, and I have never encountered this with any other airline. My faith in KLM and its professionalism has been severely shaken. I will also note that the man who was helping me at the KLM ticket desk in Johannesburg told me that he has seen the same problem several times before. He also tried to call the KLM tech help multiple times while he was helping me, and could not get through, something he noted also happens frequently. That it happened once, to me, is unacceptable, but that this is a repeated occurrence is unthinkable in a major airline like KLM. — Liz Fouksman, Johannesburg, South Africa

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your unpleasant experience with both KLM and its codeshare partner, Delta Air Lines.

It seems clear from your paper trail that the error was on their part, and they should have quickly and politely made it right. We found it particularly telling that when you finally boarded your flight, the vegan meal you’d requested was waiting, making it clear that at least part of the reservation system was expecting you aboard. Our advice? Always reconfirm. Even when your airline says it’s not necessary. Especially when it says it. You can never be too safe!

Here’s another case where our list of contacts to airline executives may have helped you resolve this on your own. We list executive contacts for KLM and Delta on our advocacy site.

We reached out to the airlines on your behalf, and we’re glad to hear they contacted you and have agreed to refund the cost of the additional ticket. But you shared with us that in your communication with the airline you’d also asked for some sort of additional compensation, “In light of the deeply unprofessional and unpleasant nature of this experience.”

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And given that the error in this case was clearly the airline’s, we agree that would have been a nice gesture on their part.

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