Can this trip be saved? Airline promises to refund hotel room, then reneges

By | January 24th, 2011

Back in October, Sandy Antiporda and her husband flew from San Francisco to Venice on Delta Air Lines. But a scheduled stopover in New York became a layover when their plane had engine trouble.

A Delta representative assured the Antipordas their vacation would be saved. The airline paid for a hotel at JFK and upgraded the couple to business class on their transatlantic flight. It also verbally promised to reimburse them for one night of their nonrefundable room in Venice, which was an extraordinarily generous offer.

But the check never arrived.

“When I sent a letter to Delta requesting reimbursement, I never heard from them,” says Antiporda. “Then I sent an email. They gave us each $200 travel vouchers, and finally they gave me an additional $148 travel voucher all of which expire in one year. We never wanted any travel vouchers. We just wanted to be reimbursed for our hotel in Venice, which was about $148.”

Can this trip be saved?

Let’s have a look at Delta’s contractual obligations to the couple during the delay. It’s outlined under the airline’s International Conditions of Carriage, the legal agreement between them and the carrier. Rule 95 says the airline owed them meal and hotel vouchers, which it offered, but makes no mention of business-class upgrades. That appears to be a bonus.

The $200 travel voucher and the $148 travel voucher are also extras.

Delta’s contract is mum on the subject of reimbursing passengers for lost vacation days, too. The email reply from Delta seems to reiterate that the airline has no contractual obligation to the Antipordas to cover their Venice hotel.

Related story:   This is not a blog

If there was any type of exception being made to our policy of only paying expenses at the customer’s current location, then it should have been documented in the record by a supervisor with an authorization.

However, while we will pay for hotel, meals, and those types of expenses while the customer has to stay overnight, we do not pay for other expenses at the destination.

So according to Antiporda, a Delta representative promised her a check for $148, but Delta has no record of making such an offer. In retrospect, maybe she could have asked for the offer in writing, or at least requested that the representative make a notation in the system that the offer was being made.

I think Delta has already gone a long way to compensate this couple, including offering them a business-class upgrade — the value of which far exceeded their $148 hotel — and travel vouchers. It would have been cheaper for Delta to just cut the couple a check for $148 and forget the upgraded seats and vouchers.

Still, a promise is a promise. If someone said they’d cover their room in Venice, then they should do it. Right?

Stories like this are a reminder that when any company goes “off the menu” with an offer, you need to make sure you get it in writing, or at least record the name and phone number of the representative who made the offer. Otherwise, it could end up being your word against theirs.

I’m conflicted about this one. I think Delta has tried to make things right with the Antipordas, although maybe it didn’t do all the right things.

Related story:   Bad airline service? Try complaining to the Better Business Bureau

What do you think? Should I mediate this case?

Survey says: no.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.