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Travel Troubleshooter: Missed connection required extra fee

  • Article by: CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT
  • December 15, 2012 - 2:41 PM

Q A few months ago I purchased tickets to Lilongwe, Malawi, for church missionary work through a full-service travel agency. I had two sets of round-trip tickets: one from San Francisco to Cairo by way of Paris on Delta Air Lines and Air France/KLM and one from Cairo to Lilongwe by way of Nairobi on Kenya Airways. Kenya Airways, Delta and Air France/KLM are all alliance partners.

On my return trip, my Kenya Airways flight from Lilongwe arrived late in Nairobi and, even though my connecting flight to Cairo was still at the gate, I was not allowed to board. A Kenya Airways service representative informed me that the next flight out was the following day at the same time. Kenya Airways put me up in a hotel for the night and told me that they had made arrangements for all of my connecting flights to be changed to one day later.

I was given something called a "Ticket Reconciliation Needed" form and was told there would be no extra charge, since all the airlines were in the same alliance. But the next day, when I tried to check in for my flight in Cairo, an Air France/KLM representative told me they would not honor the Ticket Reconciliation from Kenya Airways. They insisted that I pay an additional $462 for the flight.

I have been back and forth since then with all of the airlines, and the best they can offer is a $100 coupon toward a new trip. These changes have cost me a total of $538, when you factor in the hotel. We hope that you can persuade the airlines to reimburse me.

A Something wasn't right with your tickets. If your reservations had been connected, then you would have been able to continue your flight without being charged more by Air France.

You made your reservations through a full-service travel agency, which should have known that. But when you mentioned that you had two separate sets of tickets, I thought something might not be right.

When I checked with Air France and KLM (they are owned by the same company), it found that the reservations weren't connected. In other words, Air France/KLM and Delta wouldn't know that you missed your Kenya Airways flight. Being in the same alliance doesn't count; you need to have the same alphanumeric record locator for your entire itinerary, and only then is everything connected.

Normally, a problem like this can be avoided by using a professional travel agent. But even agents can make mistakes. Your story underscores the importance of having a connected reservation. Simply booking tickets through alliance partners is not enough. Their systems aren't sophisticated enough to know if you are the person making or missing a connecting flight without a common reservation code.

Air France didn't have to help you, but given the humanitarian nature of your trip, it decided to refund your change fee and hotel bill.

Christopher Elliott is ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog at www.elliott.org, or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.

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