Dave H. passes along the story of a woman whose paid first class ticket was mistakenly voided as she sought to board a flight home from Punta Cana.
Karen Smith of Milford was on vacation with her family in the Dominican Republic.
On their way home April 12, she printed out her first-class boarding pass and had it scanned by both security and US Airways agents at the Punta Cana boarding gate.
Then something went wrong. She was pulled out of the line just as she and her family were about to get on the plane. They took her boarding pass. They said they needed to give her a “flight coupon” back at the counter. They made her stand at the counter so long that the flight took off with her husband and three children aboard and all their luggage. She had no possessions except her purse. They did not rebook her on another airline and said they had nothing available on US Airways except a flight that would get her home in two days. The counter closed. As night fell, they left her in the lobby. She had to go on her own to a hotel, then pay nearly $1,400 the next day to get home on Delta Air Lines.
What happened? What could she have done? And how you can avoid similar problems like this in your own travels?
Here’s what what know about what happened.
This woman had booked an Expedia ticket for first class travel outbound on Delta, returning on US Airways. On the outbound,
Delta had to make an adjustment to Smith’s ticket at the gate, but — and this is the part that is not supposed to be possible — somehow voided out the entire e-ticket including the US Airways return portion — even though the change did not show up in the US Airways reservations system and the passenger had no way of knowing about the problem.
We’re not told exactly what the change was. Whatever happened, the screwup occurred only on her ticket and not with other members of her family. My best guess is that they had to change flights somehow, and the Delta agent didn’t rebook her correctly.
Here’s the rub, though, and what seems the most strange to me. Apparently she “was able to print out her US Airways first class boarding pass, get it scanned, and nearly board the plane when US Airways agents, noticing for the first time the lack of a valid underlying ticket, pulled her from the line.”
This has happened with some regularity over at United, where I’m familiar with agents accidentally canceling future flight segments when making changes during irregular operations, or they’ll leave the old segments in the reservation and when the passenger doesn’t take them the onward segments automatically cancel out.
In this story the situation was made even more complicated by the two airlines involved.
My best guess is that it was a Delta ticket (although this is not necessary to the story), where the Delta agent did something which left the ticket out of sync with the reservation.
It’s strange though that US Airways let her check in without the ticket in sync but I suppose with their computer system I suppose it’s not all that surprising.
I’m not clear, then, how US Airways would have caught the problem once there was a boarding pass issued. And the problem itself should have been fairly obvious, and not that difficult to fix, although certainly time consuming.
I was traveling on an American-issued award ticket, where the Dragonair agents couldn’t see the ticket attached to the reservation. I gave them the ticket number, and then they needed to call Phnom Penh to get help in re-associating the ticket with the reservation. In that case Dragonair hadn’t been able to issue a boarding pass until the ticket became associated.
I had a similar issue about six months ago on an Orbitz-issued ticket for travel on American and Alaska Airlines. American had re-issued the tickets, confirming upgrades, but left the ticket out of sync with Alaska. The only way we managed to fix this in time for travel was by American’s printing out a paper flight coupon and attaching it a boarding pass for the Alaska segment. And then I wound up misconnecting, getting the entire ticket re-issued, but I still had a paper coupon for the return segment on Alaska.
I turned up at the airport early, found I had two reservations on the same flight, and neither one synced to a ticket. But knowing the problem it was a 5 minute fix.
My general advice is to show up at the airport early if
- You cannot check-in online.
- And doubly so if you are traveling on more than one airline.
- And if your earlier flights had suffered travel disruptions which caused you to be rebooked for travel which didn’t match the original ticket.
It’s not uncommon for instance if you have to grab a connecting flight for the agent doing the rebooking to associate the wrong flight coupons with the new flights.
All that said, though there seem to be some missing details in this story, I wouldn’t have anticipated this error (other than, perhaps, checking with US Airways that there was still a ticket associated after Delta had made a change). Once you have a boarding pass you are generally fine, no indication of a need to be at the airport early. And I believe that missing details prevent diagnosing this case further.
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