Case dismissed: Airlines “steal” from us — why can’t we steal from them?

You don’t have to be a regular reader of this site to know that airlines are trying wring more ancillary fees from their customers. Or that customers are fighting back.

But do two wrongs make a right?

Consider today’s “case dismissed” file, which comes to us by way of a reader named Michael. I’m not going to publish his last name. You’ll see why in a minute.
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Is this enough compensation? Orbitz calls off its collection agency, but …

Ah, the perils of being your own travel agent.

Polly Pedersen knows about them all too well after she tried to book airline tickets from Philadelphia to Detroit on Orbitz.

“A screen came up saying ‘technical difficulties,'” she says. “So I thought, “OK, they’re having problems with their site. I’ll book elsewhere.'”

For future reference, it’s not OK to book elsewhere when you get an error message as you’re buying an airline ticket. You have to make sure the reservation didn’t get made. Otherwise you could end up with two tickets for the same flight.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Help! I’ve got two airline tickets in the same name

Question: Please help a mom who is an inexperienced traveler. I recently booked three tickets to fly from Chicago to Panama City, Fla., for my two sons and me, through Bookit.com, an online travel agency. Somehow, my name has been listed twice instead of my 16-year-old son’s name.

At first I thought it was because he was a minor. But then I called Bookit.com and they said this was not the case and that my youngest son could not travel on a ticket that had my name on it.

I have called the airline, Delta Air Lines, and the online agency to try to resolve this, without any success. Delta says Federal Aviation Administration regulations prevents them from changing the name but they say Bookit.com should be able to do it. Bookit.com says Delta is refusing to change the name. Any suggestions or advice would be welcome and appreciated. — Beth Anderson, Tinley Park, Ill.

Answer: You would think that an online agency would have safeguards to prevent someone from booking two tickets on the same flight under the same name. Or at the very least, the agency or airline would see this obvious mistake, and fix it without citing a nonexistent law.
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Is this enough compensation? A partial refund for my dogless flight

Barbara Hilliard’s dogs didn’t make their KLM flight from Nuremberg, Germany, to Dallas via Amsterdam. Neither did she.

Turns out the plane was swapped out at the last minute — a so-called “equipment change” — and there was no room for her pets. “They told me they had no place to put the dogs and I would have to secure another way to get the dogs to Amsterdam and then they would fly them to Dallas,” she says.

Hilliard was unhappy. Not only because she’d made several phone calls before her trip to make sure her dogs could fly, but also because her only option was to buy an expensive ticket on Lufthansa to make her connection. She thinks KLM and its codeshare partner Delta Air Lines, through which she booked the tickets, should refund the price of her new ticket and pay the dogs’ freight, too.
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Frequent flier program changes you can root for

If you’ve ever asked what the fuss over frequent-flier programs is about, then you know that the answer can be complicated.

Airlines love them because they’re worth billions of dollars in business. They also mean the world to many passengers, because at a time when airline amenities are evaporating faster than jet fuel spilled on a hot tarmac, perks such as upgrades and preferential treatment are just about the only things that make air travel tolerable.

So when two major airlines recently decided to upgrade their loyalty programs, they caught this skeptic’s attention.

Delta Air Lines has eliminated the expirations on its frequent-flier miles. And Southwest Airlines has completely revamped its legendary Rapid Rewards, adopting many of the features of competing incentive programs.

The response from customers offers fresh insights into the volatile relationship between air travelers and airlines, but it also presents us with new opportunities to fly smarter.
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Can this trip be saved? Stranded 12 hours on the tarmac after earthquake

Not all of the survivor stories coming out of Japan in the wake of the tragic earthquake involve tsunamis or exploding nuclear reactors.

Jiyong Kim, who was on his way from New York to Seoul via Tokyo on Delta Air Lines, endured a ridiculously long tarmac delay. He wants to know if he’s entitled to anything for having to spend an extra 12 hours sitting on the ground in Hokkaido.
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What would you do? Help, Delta Vacations has me in a holding pattern

Ever since Ruth Harris tried to book a vacation to Hungary through Delta Vacations last month, she’s had nothing but trouble.

First, a phone agent booked the wrong dates, she says — something she discovered only after Delta sent her an email confirmation.

“I have been trying to get it fixed since then,” she says.

Harris spent an hour on the phone with Delta, but was eventually told she had to speak with someone at Delta Vacations to get her dates corrected. She tried to go online to switch dates, but couldn’t. She suspects that one reason for the runaround is that she’s paying for the flights with vouchers that she received when she was bumped from a previous Delta flight.

So she went back online. The email correspondence between her and Delta would probably inspire Franz Kafka to write another novel if he were alive today.
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Is this enough compensation? Missed my connection because of an emergency landing

Close calls are the narrative glue of aviation journalism. Where would we be without stories of near-misses, mechanical failures and emergency landings?

We might be less understanding of Sean Norton’s problem. His Delta Air Lines flight from Philadelphia to Paris had to divert to Ireland on Nov. 19, causing him to miss a connecting flight. He wants to know if Delta helped him enough, given that a mechanical problem is a controllable circumstance.

This isn’t an easy case, and you’ll see why when we get into the details. But first, we have to acknowledge that things could have been much worse. Delta Flight 196 could have gone down, in which case I’d be hearing from Norton’s next of kin.

How far should an airline go to fix a schedule that’s disrupted by a mechanical failure?

Delta’s contract of carriage doesn’t address emergency landings, so the airline has a lot of discretion in addressing the issue.

Question is, did it do enough?
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Can this trip be saved? Help, my airline wants more miles

Glenn Valentine wants to use his frequent flier points to get from Orlando to Sao Paolo, but Delta Air Lines wants too many miles for the trip.

“The system wanted an additional 50,000 to 100,000 Skymiles [for one leg],” he says.

That’s not uncommon. Other airlines, notably the old Continental, had a double or nothing program for frequent fliers trying to redeem their miles.

Is it right for an airline to keep asking for miles? Should I step in and ask Delta to drop its demand?

Before I continue, a few notations about “Can this trip be saved.” Just because I’m asking the question doesn’t mean I don’t already know the answer (although that doesn’t necessarily apply to this week’s case).

Also, the fact that I’m asking if a trip can be saved doesn’t mean I’m in any way endorsing a case. It only means that I’m asking for your opinion.

Back to Valentine.
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