Q: I visited Scotland with my family. It was an amazing trip, except for our return flights, booked through Orbitz.

The first segment of our outbound flight from Los Angeles to London was delayed. American Airlines rebooked us on another flight from London to Glasgow through its code-share partner, British Airways.

The night before our return flight, I was shocked to learn that our tickets had been canceled. Somehow, British Airways thought we had been a no-show for our outbound flights. It automatically canceled our returns. To get home, we had to rebook new tickets with Air France, which cost $8,500.

I would like this amount refunded, plus maybe something extra for the stress and anguish. Can you help?

A: Your flights to the U.K. should have been smooth and uneventful — not the chaos you describe. This is easily one of the most complicated cases in recent memory. Let me try to untangle this no-show flight case for you.

American Airlines caused the first problem when it delayed your first flight from Los Angeles to London. It looks like it failed to notify British Airways that you would be on the next flight to Glasgow. Unfortunately for the traveler, airlines automatically cancel the remaining itinerary when you’re a “no-show.”

It looks like Orbitz tried its best to fix the problem but couldn’t. This case is even more maddening because American Airlines has a code-share agreement with British Airways, which is supposed to mean you’re dealing with the same airline. Instead, American and British Airways played a game of pingpong, bouncing you between their customer service departments as you tried to get this fixed.

I can’t believe anyone allows airlines to operate a code-sharing agreement like this without some accountability. To think that you might be on the hook for $8,500 for new plane tickets is just absurd!

After a lengthy investigation, my advocacy team got to the bottom of it. It looks like American Airlines erroneously processed changes to your ticket. That sent the wrong message to British Airways — that you’d missed your flight — and it automatically canceled your return tickets.

Your case is an important reminder for the rest of us that if you miss a segment of your flight, you can’t just continue your itinerary. Your airline will cancel the rest of your flights because it assumes you’re a no-show, and it won’t tell you about it.

American Airlines offered you four $100 flight vouchers for the trouble. Orbitz kicked in another $200 in vouchers. British Airways refunded you for your return tickets and cut you a check for the money you had to pay out of pocket to fly home.

 

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit consumer organization. Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org.