7 Airline Errors That Could Ruin Your Trip (and How to Fix Them)By Mirela Necsutu, Mon, Sep 23, 2013
That relaxing dream vacation gets a heck of a lot more stressful when your travel plans go awry. Especially, if you have no idea how to fix the problem.
Your reservation is lost, your schedule’s been changed or the airline has bumped you off the flight – all of these things that can wreak havoc on your getaway. That’s why it’s best to be prepared.
Read on to learn about 7 airline mistakes that could trip up your trip and what you can do to fix them.
Things That Go Wrong When You Book by Phone
When booking your tickets over the phone with a live agent, there are two pesky problems that can screw up your travel plans, especially if you’re traveling overseas.
1) Your tickets show the wrong date.
This happens far more often than airline agents would like to admit. If you get to the airport and only then realize that your date is not correct, you’re out of luck and will have to purchase a new ticket if you want to travel that day.
Your best preventative medicine for this ailment is to request an emailed copy of your itinerary as soon as you complete the over-the-phone booking. Check it over thoroughly. Most reservations can be cancelled, or voided, within 24 hours of booking. By cancelling the reservation you might lose the original fare, subject to seat availability, but you are free to book a new ticket with correct dates.
Benefit: If you catch the error a week or more before your flight, you may find that a friendly airline agent will help you make the change for free.
Bummer: Only airlines, not booking sites, may make such changes for free and they are not obligated to do so, since change fees apply to all reservation changes, including rebooking invalid dates. Unfortunately, most airlines have a $200 change fee or more. Airlines make significant money on charging change fees and they have no way of knowing whether you in fact made a mistake while booking or you simply changed your mind.
2) Your ticket shows your name spelled incorrectly.
If you’re traveling domestically, you can sometimes squeak by with a slight difference in spelling. However, if you’re traveling abroad, most airlines and countries will require that the name on your ticket matches your passport EXACTLY.
There are two main reasons why correct name spelling is absolutely critical with airline tickets. The first reason is TSA Secure Flight rules that require matching passenger names against government watch lists.
The second reason is credit card fraud prevention that is based on matching the passenger name to the cardholder name. Changing the passenger name after the reservation invalidates the previous match to the cardholder name, thus exposing the airline to chargeback liability.
Bummer: Most or all airlines have implemented locks on passenger names, meaning that names on an existing reservation cannot be changed at all. This means that your agent is allowed to note the reservation by acknowledging the name misspelling and advising the check-in agent to permit boarding based on the misspelled name.
Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that the check-in agent will actually permit boarding based on the earlier note. Such a method is generally acceptable for very minor name changes, up to 3 letters.
When your name is spelled incorrectly beyond the unofficial 3-letter rule, you likely face significant penalties to fix the problem. The airline may asses change penalties or even cancellation penalties when significant name changes are required.
Benefit: To avoid both of these phone-booking problems, your best bet is to spell everything out letter by letter, even if you have a very common name. Also, when they repeat the details back to you, write them down and request the reservation copy via email. You will then be able to see right away if your dates, destinations or names are incorrect. Paying extra-close attention while booking over the phone can alleviate almost every operator error.
Things that go wrong when you book online
To ensure that you have the correct dates of travel and that your name is spelled correctly, another good strategy is to skip booking over the phone and instead reserve your flight online. Often, you can find the same or better deals than what the airline has to offer on travel search sites, like Fareboom. However, just like every part of travel, there are still a few things that could muck up your plans.
3) Your reservation is lost.
Bummer: When you book online, there is a slight chance that your reservation will never make it into the airline’s system. Be sure you get a confirmation email of your purchase and look for the airline record locator that is the airline-provided reservation code. Make sure you receive your electronic ticket numbers and flight itinerary by email or download this information from the airline website.
Benefit: It is a good idea to call all hotels, airlines, car rental companies and any other booking companies to confirm reservations at least one week before departure. This will ensure that the booking has gone through successfully, and you’ll still have time to fix things if there’s a problem.
4) You have too short of a connection.
When you book online, travel itineraries typically show how long your connection time is. If it is less than an hour, choose a different itinerary unless you know the airport well. There are far too many variables involved in air travel that make anything less than an hour very stressful.
Bummer: For example, your next flight will begin boarding at least 30 minutes before takeoff. If your first flight runs 30 minutes late and you have to race from one concourse to another in a mega-airport like Atlanta or London Heathrow, you’ll wish you had the extra padding in your schedule. We suggest a minimum layover of about an hour and a half to two hours to travel stress-free.
Benefit: Most travelers don’t realize that their international flight reservation is protected against delays when a single fare is used in one direction of travel. This is how most tickets are issued. We hear from our travelers time and time again that airlines fail to put them on the next available flight immediately, and try to blame the travelers themselves for booking delayed flights with shorter connecting times.
Fortunately, the law is on your side when it comes to delays with itineraries that involve at least one international flight. Montreal Convention Article 19 requires the ticketing airline to put you on the next available flight immediately and/or pay for damages caused by the delay.
Food and lodging costs are most commonly covered by the delay rule. Do not expect the airline to upgrade you to business class as a result of a delay although you can certainly ask and you might get lucky.
International route scenarios where the connecting airline is different from the onward airline are covered too. The airline whose ticket you hold, technically called the validating carrier, is responsible to get you to the destination quickly, regardless of which airline is actually responsible for the connecting flight delay.
Things That Go Wrong When the Airline Makes Changes
Flights get changed often. Sometimes, flights have time changes or switch to a different aircraft. Typically you’ll be notified by email, text or phone call (depending on what you marked as your preference during booking), but sometimes people get lost in the shuffle and trouble can arise.
5) Your flight schedule is changed.
Schedule changes include flight delays, earlier flights or even cancelled flights. You will typically be contacted and informed of this change as soon as it has been made. However, if you don’t hear about the change, what should you do?
To ensure that you have the latest information before you travel, check the airline website about 72 hours before departure and verify the up-to-date schedule, or contact your travel agent. On the day of departure, use the Real-Time Flight Info on your airport’s website. Changes involving flight-number changes require ticket reissues, while other changes might require you to work with the airline or agent to modify the itinerary further to meet your requirements.
Bummer: When changes are under four hours you have to accept them without recourse, while bigger changes give you the option of cancelling the itinerary for a full refund or requesting significant changes to your itinerary’s travel dates to meet your modified travel plans.
Benefit: Flight schedule changes over four hours are technically referred to as involuntary changes and they are protected against delay per Montreal Contention Article 19, giving you plenty of options when negotiating with the airline (international itineraries only).
6) You’re bumped from your flight.
Bummer: Airlines oversell flights on a regular basis. They expect that a certain number of customers will not show up for the flight for one reason or another. If they are able, they will offer cash incentives for people who are willing to take a later flight. If they can’t, they will simply bump you.
If you’ve been bumped, try not to get angry with the gate agent. They are your best friend in this situation, even if their employer did just screw you over. Politely ask for their help in booking a later flight. If there will be more than a two-hour delay before you can get on your next flight, consider asking for an airline credit or perhaps a food voucher to compensate you for your trouble. The key is to be kind, but firm.
Benefit: One excellent benefit airlines must follow, according to USA.gov: “If the airline is not able to get you to your final destination within one hour of your original arrival time, you may be entitled to a maximum of $400 compensation ($800 compensation on international flights within four hours of your original arrival time).” Though your compensation is dependent on you having a confirmed flight, the length of the delay and price of ticket, you could get a free ticket or a check, valid for cold hard cash.
Things That Go Wrong When You Arrive at Your Destination
When you arrive at your destination, you just want to get out of the airport and head home or to your next resting place. Unfortunately, one more airline error can make for a sour arrival.
7) Your luggage doesn’t arrive on the same flight you do.
Bummer: If your luggage doesn’t arrive on the same flight you came in on, you’ll need to go to the airline’s baggage counter and report your luggage as missing. From there, you can either wait for it or head to your final destination. Only wait if there is another flight coming in soon that may have your luggage. Otherwise, leave your contact information and you can either pick up your luggage when it arrives or have the airline drop it off where you are staying.
Benefit: To prevent this from being such a drag, consider taking only a carry-on suitcase and a personal item. If you absolutely can’t pack it all in a carry-on, bring at least the essentials with you in your personal item. Bring all medicine, some toiletries, a change of clothes and any valuables in your tote and keep it with you.
All of these airline errors happen from time to time. But by following these preventative measures, and making a few adjustments, you can save hours of frustration.
Remember, Fareboom is always there to back you up. If we can’t fix your problem, we’ll direct you to someone who can. Your trip doesn’t end once you’ve booked with us. We’re there from start to finish.
Have you ever encountered an airline error that caused havoc during your trip? Share your story in the comments below and make sure to follow us on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.