By Christopher Elliott Syndicated Columnist
Question: A few months ago I purchased tickets to Lilongwe, Malawi, for church missionary work through a travel agency.
I had two sets of round-trip tickets: One from San Francisco to Cairo by way of Paris on Delta Air Lines and Air France/KLM and one from Cairo to Lilongwe by way of Nairobi on Kenya Airways. Both are alliance partners.
On my return trip, my Kenya Airways flight from Lilongwe arrived late in Nairobi and, even though my connecting flight to Cairo was still at the gate, I was not allowed to board. A Kenya Airways agent said the next flight out was the following day.
Kenya Airways put me up in a hotel and told me that they had changed all of my connecting flights.
I was given something called a “Ticket Reconciliation Needed” form and was told there would be no extra charge. But the next day, Air France/KLM would not honor the form. I had to pay an additional $462.
I have been back and forth since then with all of the airlines, and the best they can offer is a $100 coupon toward a new trip. These changes have cost me a total of $538, when you factor in the hotel accommodations. We have exhausted all resources and hope that you can persuade the airlines to reimburse me for the additional expenses, as well as the extra cost in hotel expense due to the one day delay.
Sue Broxholm, San Francisco
Answer: Something wasn’t right with your tickets. If your reservations had been connected, then you would have been able to continue your flight without being charged more by Air France.
You made your reservations through a travel agency, which should have known that. But when you mentioned that you had two separate sets of tickets, I thought something might not be right.
When I checked with Air France and KLM (they are owned by the same company), it found that the reservations weren’t connected.
In other words, Air France/KLM and Delta wouldn’t know that you missed your Kenya Airways flight. Being in the same alliance doesn’t count; you need to have the same alphanumeric record locator for your entire itinerary.
Normally, a problem like this can be avoided by using a professional travel agent. But even agents can make mistakes, and yours either couldn’t or wouldn’t link all of the flights on your reservation. That made a resolution difficult.
Your story underscores the importance of having a connected reservation. Simply booking tickets through alliance partners is not enough. Their systems aren’t sophisticated enough to know if you are the person making or missing a connecting flight without a common reservation code.
Air France didn’t have to help you, but given the humanitarian nature of your trip, it decided to refund the change fee and hotel bill.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “Scammed.” Read his blog, www.elliott.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
&Copy; 2012 Christopher Elliott/ Tribune Media Services, Inc.