Doug Miller's honeymoon flight to Costa Rica is canceled by US Airways, and he's left with only one option: a full refund. The airline later agrees to reschedule him on a flight the following day, but it won't cover his hotel bill. Is it allowed to do that? And is there anything he can do to make US Airways sweeten the offer?
Q: About a month ago, I took advantage of a Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) e-mail fare alert for a flight from Minneapolis to Costa Rica. The deal seemed too good to be true: $230 round-trip on US Airways.
I booked the flight for my September honeymoon and then went to a website and bid on our accommodations, which I also booked.
A few days ago, US Airways notified me that it had dropped a connecting flight to Costa Rica, and that our only option was a full refund.
I checked the ticket prices to Costa Rica and found that they had tripled. I felt like I was a victim of a bait-and-switch.
I called US Airways, which offered to fly us to Costa Rica a day after we were supposed to leave. But it would involve an overnight stay in Charlotte, which the airline was unwilling to pay for.
I understand that airlines have flight schedule changes, but I also feel that it is their choice and that if they choose to do so, they should be responsible for the consequences. Is there anything you can do? -- Doug Miller, Shorewood, Minn.
A: US Airways shouldn't have canceled your flight. But if it did, it should have offered an alternative flight that suited your schedule, rather than leaving you high and dry for the most important vacation of your life.
Did the carrier and its online travel agent, Travelocity, engage in a bait-and-switch? I can see how you would think so. But flight schedules change constantly, and your rights are outlined under US Airways' contract of carriage, the legal agreement between you and the airline.
Section 8.2 of the contract describes your rights in the event US Airways is unable to accommodate you. Basically, you have the right to a refund, or a flight of the airline's choosing -- but nothing more.
While Travelocity and US Airways did all of this by the book, I can understand why you would be disappointed. I mean, it's your honeymoon.
About your reservations ... you booked a too-good-to-be-true special and bid on your accommodations for your honeymoon. Don't you think that's a little risky? I always recommend working with a qualified travel agent who specializes in honeymoons, because you don't want anything to go wrong on this vacation. This is no time to cut corners.
But let's take the honeymoon out of the equation, and just assume it was a late summer vacation. Between US Airways, with its "customer commitment" and Travelocity, with its "guarantee," I just think this could have been handled better.
A brief, politely written appeal to US Airways would have been my first choice to get this resolved. Phoning the airline probably wasn't the most effective way to fix this. I'm surprised Travelocity just passed along the airline's decision without trying to do more, but in the end I think this was a case for US Airways to resolve.
I contacted the airline on your behalf, and it offered you a $75 voucher to cover your hotel bill during your layover in Charlotte.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the host of "What You Get For The Money: Vacations" on the Fine Living Network. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2010 Christopher Elliott. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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