Let’s Help Out a Honeymooner Stranded by United.. My Advice Is Radically Different from Another Consumer Advocate.

Christopher Elliott John Baker takes on the challenge of honeymooners facing extra costs because United cancelled their flights.

  • They’re supposed to fly home non-stop on United, Antigua – Newark
  • They hate connecting flights
  • United changed their Antigua-Newark schedule. The flight operates 3 times weekly… and now on Saturdays but not on Fridays

United moved them to a flight the next day. Their hotel wants $900 for the extra night to extend their stay.

Elliott’s Baker’s advice to them involves going to Congress.

My recommendation is to take this in two directions. First, she can attempt to appeal to United’s C-suite but based on their past answers, I’m not confident of the result.

Parodi also has the option that I gave April O’Brien. It might be time to take this case into the political arena.

After all, who is more sympathetic than a bride on her honeymoon? She’s also in luck that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has two members from New Jersey while the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee also has a member from New Jersey.

I’d go in a different direction.

They’re entitled to a refund of the return portion of their ticket. That would fund an alternate set of flights home.

American flies non-stop from Antigua – New York JFK on their original date home.

United informed them of this flight change over two months ago. I can’t go back in time to see what flights cost then, and I don’t have details of the fare breakdown on their ticket. But I’d guess that this isn’t much out of pocket on net.

In any case, per rule 24(c) of United’s Contract of Carriage I’d ask them for alternative transportation on the original date of travel and suggest this American non-stop flight.

Alternatively, they could stay somewhere else for their last night. A quick search on Kayak reveals four star options that are much less expensive.

Again, there might have been more options for less turning back the clock two months. But it seems there are still choices without breaking the bank.

Additionally they should inquire with their credit card company about what coverage may apply. Many premium credit cards have coverage for additional costs incurred due to changes imposed by airlines. Just showing the original itinerary, then the actual boarding passes showing travel a day later, might trigger coverage. It could be worth filing a claim.

I would begin with a call to United and escalate the issue to a supervisor. I would recognize that the issue might not be resolved in a single call. In the meantime I would ascertain how much money I would get back if I took a refund from United for the flight segment home, and determine if I was out any money at all just buying new non-stop tickets home on American. If it was a wash, or a modest cost increase, then I’d do that. Otherwise I’d reserve an alternate hotel for the last night.

Unless what I really wanted was the $900 suite and was merely looking for someone else to pay for it. That’s the least likely result here.

I truly hope that the honeymooners don’t get Congressional offices (and oddly not the Department of Transportation) involved in an airline schedule change.

(Update: while the original piece that I linked to was on Christopher Elliott’s blog, it was written by another author. I regret the initial misattribution.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. For once Gary I fully agree…I don’t understand why any politics would be involved. Refund is something that she’ll be able to get easily once she gets to a stateside supervisor and explains the situation.

  2. They shouldn’t bother wasting their time writing to United’s executive office/consumer affairs staff. They’ll respond with a stupid email thanking them for their comment and telling them that they look forward to seeing them onboard a future United flight. Their responses actually make it worse since they never answer your question and basically send you back a canned response. I would try and speak with a reservation supervisor to see if they can do something especially since it was United that changed their schedule. Chances are they won’t be able to rebook them on AA since that is usually something that is done only at the airport. They’ll either have to take a connecting flight or eat the extra hotel costs for the extra night.

  3. Trying to get into AA flight (either by being rebooked,by UA or by getting a refund from UA and buying the return flight from AA) is the only part of your response that makes sense. Otherwise your response is as unhelpful as Baker’s response. What kind of honeymooner finds ruining the luxury once-in-a-lifetime experience of staying in a $900/night hotel by spending the very last night in a $95/night hotel, an acceptable resolution?

  4. With a little extra effort on the passenger’s part, I think United will give them the American flights. But regardless, schedule changes happen all the time. Their insistence on non-stop flights isn’t helping them, because they are not making an initial booking. There was a schedule change, now one has to take what is available. They are not standby passengers and it isn’t hurricane season, so doing a connection shouldn’t be a problem. They are returning from the honeymoon which makes me think that this couple wants an extra night free.

  5. What a total waste of tax money, our money. Congress should just send automatic invoices to anyone who bothers them with it.

    Extra night, get a cheap hotel, ask United to pay for it. Pretty simple and not that hard if it is not a 900 a night suite..

    Hate connections. So what, live with it. It’s not the end of the world to take one. People should really start putting things in perspective. I fly all the time, stuff happens….laugh at it and move on. Live is too short for all this stress.

  6. Yeah, Elliott’s blog is sometimes a little too activist and their “advocates” prefer the whole “there oughtta be a law” route.

  7. United will never pay for their $900 suite. Frankly I’d be surprised if they pay for a $100 room. (I’m not sure I’d even want to stay in a hotel that United was willing to pay for) They should ask for a refund on the return and buy it on American. Take it to Congress? You’ve got to kidding…

  8. This is the very problem with Elliot’s blog. He and staff try to make everything a big political fight to seek things like a $900 suite over the (cheaper for everyone) option of rebooking on AA. His methods are predatory and go beyond consumer advocacy. He always demands special treatment far above and beyond what seems reasonable.

    Gary – I like the AA option and the credit card inquiry. 2 great pieces of advice. For another hotel, it is a pain, and not the best honeymoon end, but acceptable as an option. Heck, I’m surprised the hotel isn’t offering a little flexibility.

  9. Gary,

    The title is a little misleading. By stating ‘Another Consumer Advocate’, are you implying that you are now a consumer advocate yourself?

    I don’t really read Mr. Elliot’s blog or ‘advices’ much, but I believe that he is not for profit and doesn’t have any credit card plugs. So on some days his articles were among the only few that were worth reading on BA when all the other articles were all selling the same credit card. Maybe you can just leave him alone.

  10. But they are not stranded. They have never taken the trip. It doesn’t take place until later in May. They have the option of canceling the whole thing for a full refund because of the unacceptable schedule change. Why don’t they do that? One beach is much like another beach. Honeymoon somewhere else. She was informed of this change in February! C’mon, this lady is the creator of her own problems. Did nobody else actually read the article in question?

  11. they were told of this 2 months prior? and they didn’t do anything about it?
    Stupid people….No wonder they are going to Congress to fight this. Who else would listen to them?

  12. Who stays in a $900 night honeymoon suite except the wealthy, who wouldn’t need a blog’s help?

    Sounds like a fundraising plea for an upgrade.

  13. Would love to know how to get in touch with you Gary re: a situation I’m having with AA. Long story short: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/american-airlines-aadvantage-combined-airline-program/1673381-first-class-award-1-seat-now-unassigned.html

    Booked 2 first class BNA-LGA/JFK-LHR on July of last year, a 5 minute schedule change in March (theoretically) wiped out all seat assignments, now my wife has no seat assignment and AA’s plan is to hope a seat opens up. Unacceptable in my eyes — we had seats for 8 months! –; they could re-route us through Miami on the same plane (77w). Thoughts?

  14. Hi Kevin, I publish an email address here on the blog. Without more info I can only guess as to your situation, seems like first class could be oversold by one but there’s a good chance a seat opens up in the next month. Closer to departure American might be more willing to do something if the situation persists.

  15. You are on a honeymoon. Either a) book a cheaper hotel and enjoy another romantic night in a premier vacation location or b) stay at the same hotel and do same as item a). If you need to fight them for $$ do it when you are back and not running the moment.

  16. You missed a key detail. They are from the Philadelphia area (see where their trip starts).

    So JFK is a grand headache for them. They need EWR or PHL.

    No real good options back without the nonstop involving overnights in Miami.

  17. bgiagg, Elliott’s blog is definitely not non-profit, he makes real money from it. And though this article was written by someone else he should really do better quality control.

  18. The state of consumer protections in the U.S. is horrific. What other industry takes money upfront and then is free to not deliver without taking responsibility for any damage caused? If I pay a roofer to redo my roof on Friday and he doesn’t do it, and my house sustains rain damage as a result, you bet he’s responsible for the damage (and that’s why he’s required by regulation to be insured).

    Government regulation and/or opening airlines to lawsuits is the only way forward. Bending over (your recommendation) is sub optimal to society.

    The other blogger is absolutely correct. No industry ever “self-regulates” in a way that benefits society (see banks pre-2008).

  19. bgiagg – “Mr. Elliot’s” blog is definitely NOT a “not for profit” endeavor. You obviously missed the extensive listing in the rightmost column of the blog, titled, “Our underwriters.” For your easy reference, I have copied it below:

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    refund.me – Helps passengers claim up to $800 per passenger for delayed or canceled flights to or from Europe, including on US airlines. With a success rate of over 94%, they are one of the leading passenger rights specialists in Europe and operate worldwide. Check your flight today!

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