Airline makes a costly mess of honeymoon vacation in Fiji

Question: My husband and I recently flew from Mexico City to Fiji for our honeymoon. One leg of our flight between Los Angeles and Fiji was canceled by United Airlines.

We booked tickets on a different airline for that portion of our trip.

Due to bad weather, our return flight from Fiji to Los Angeles was delayed 24 hours, and we missed our connection to Mexico City on United Airlines. As soon as I knew we would be missing our flight I called a United representative, who rebooked us for a flight the next day.

I paid a $150 change fee per ticket. I understand this charge and am fine with this transaction.

Here’s my problem: Somehow, my mother’s card was automatically charged $869 for two tickets from Los Angeles to Mexico City. I asked about how the charge got on my mother’s card in the first place, since I had used a different card for the original purchase and that I was required to pay the $150 change fee at the airport.

The response was that my mother’s card must have been presented at the ticket counter or provided over the phone. The only place it could have come from was United’s system.

Can you help me sort this out?

Robin Griffith, Mexico City

Answer: What a mess. United shouldn’t have charged your mother another $869, but after reviewing your itinerary, it shouldn’t have billed you for a $150 change fee, either.

When United canceled the Los Angeles-Fiji leg, it refunded the value of that ticket. You rebooked another ticket on your own. Had you linked your tickets through the same reservation number (a travel agent can do that) then United wouldn’t have charged a $150 change fee.

I’m not sure why United charged your mother’s credit card, or how that was even possible. I know that while you were honeymooning in Fiji, United was having some problems with its reservations system, which may explain the mystery ticket.

The key to resolving a problem like this is documentation. Keep all your receipts and boarding passes so that if there’s an erroneous charge later, you can prove you were billed incorrectly.

This is particularly important when you’re dealing with a cancellation or some deviation from your intended schedule. That’s when things can go wrong.

I contacted United on your behalf. It refunded the $869 charge to your mother’s credit card.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “Scammed.” Read more travel tips on his blog, or email him at

&Copy; 2012 Christopher Elliott/ Tribune Media Services, Inc.

More in Life

After long search, public house finds a home in Snohomish

For more than two years, Scott and Loni Wetzel tried and failed to open Center Public House.

State’s merlot second only to cabernet sauvignon

The red grapes grown in Washington make a sturdy wine, with tannin structures that often rival cab.

Snohomish native is band kid turned genre-bending jazz star

Aubrey Logan is coming back to the Triple Door in Seattle to share her jazz-meets-pop music.

Student photo contest winner captures a weary moment

“The Baker,” by Emily Sanger of Edmonds-Woodway High School, was shot at the Pike Place Market.

Longtime musician sees growth in Everett music scene

Karl Blau is one of more than 60 acts slated to perform at the Fisherman’s Village Music Festival.

‘Love, Simon’ updates ’90s teen movies with gay protagonist

Its pleasant nature makes it bland but enjoyable, in the tradition of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

Small artworks create big impression at Edmonds gallery

The show features 174 works by 69 artists, none larger than 2½ inches wide by 3½ inches tall.

Egg hunts and more planned in Snohomish County

Eighteen events will take place this week and next.

Beer, wine, spirits: Where to grab a drink in Snohomish County

Foggy Noggin 8th Anniversary: Bothell’s Foggy Noggin Brewing, 22329 53rd Ave. SE,… Continue reading

Most Read