Airlines pass buck on bad fee on codeshare flight

Question: I traveled to Europe on a codeshare flight between Delta Air Lines and KLM. Before I left the United States, I carefully checked the size and weight restrictions for my two bags on both the Delta and KLM websites, because I’m an artist and I needed to take rolls of paper with me. I made sure my bags complied.

The trip from Portland, Ore., to Copenhagen, Denmark, went off without a hitch; I paid $50 to check a second bag. However, on the flight from Toulouse, France, to Portland, Ore., I had to pay 200 euros for the second bag.

When the gate agent saw my second bag, she declared it “too long,” she never measured it. Although the flight was on KLM, the airport staff worked for Air France. There was no KLM or Delta presence that I could find in that airport.

When I landed in Portland, I immediately sought a Delta agent and had the bag measured. That agent put a note in the file that the bag in question was within their size limits.

I called Delta’s customer service line the next day, but instead of issuing the promised refund, that agent told me to write a letter to their office.

Since then, I’ve been bounced between Delta, KLM and Air France about my refund, ending with a denial from Air France. Can you help?

Deborah Bouchette, Hillsboro, Ore.

Answer: You shouldn’t have been charged 200 euros for your checked bag. That may have been the Air France policy, but you were flying on KLM, and as you say, its rules were different.

It’s too bad you didn’t take this trip before the new federal regulations went into effect that say the baggage rules of the first carrier apply to your entire flight.

A quick, polite email sent to the Transportation Department would have generated a speedy refund from Delta.

But you were trapped in a codesharing nightmare from which there seemed to be no escape.

You bought a ticket on Delta, but the flight was operated by KLM and the airport staff in Toulouse worked for Air France, another Delta codeshare partner. To make things even more complicated, Air France and KLM operate as separate airlines.

A difference between Air France’s policy and KLM’s tripped you up.

Delta punted to KLM, which in turn passed the buck to Air France.

I contacted Delta, which, unsurprisingly, referred the matter to Air France. After some more back-and-forth, the airline agreed to refund the 200 euros it erroneously charged.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “Scammed.” Read his blog, www.elliott.org or email him at celliott@ngs.org.

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

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