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Travel Troubleshooter: Multiple airlines dropped the ball

  • Article by: CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT
  • September 6, 2013 - 1:38 PM

Q: I booked a flight from Dayton, Ohio, to Shanghai through US Airways, and things went terribly wrong with my ticket.

The first two of the three segments of my trip were on United Airlines. The United agent at the Dayton airport had great difficulty printing my boarding passes and eventually informed me that she would have to issue a paper ticket.

When I checked in for my return flight in Shanghai, I was told that I did not have a reservation on the Air Canada flight. I showed the agents my e-mailed confirmation from US Airways and the agents informed me that there was nothing they could do.

Ultimately, I had to buy a new ticket for the very flight I was confirmed on, at a cost of $2,450. I hated to take this action, but I was essentially stranded in China.

Once I arrived in Toronto, a US Airways agent confirmed that I had been booked on the Air Canada flight all along. I have written every airline involved in this problem since then, asking for a refund. But so far US Airways has refunded me only $16.79. Can you help?

 

A: Airline codesharing — which is what you experienced when you booked a US Airways ticket but ended up flying on United and Air Canada — is a common practice with questionable benefits to passengers. Basically, it allows a carrier like US Airways to sell flights on another airline while claiming them as their own.

US Airways sold you a flight from Dayton to Shanghai, even though it doesn’t fly that route. (That’s a discussion for another day.) If it isn’t going to operate the flight, it should at least take responsibility when something goes wrong with that ticket.

As I review the correspondence between you, United, Air Canada and US Airways, I find a round of finger-pointing, stalling and otherwise irresponsible corporate behavior. In the end, I contacted US Airways and it took weeks of back and forth between the airline and Air Canada to figure out what went wrong. But eventually, they did. You’ve received a refund from Air Canada — and an apology from US Airways.

 

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.

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