Can this trip be saved? I missed my connection — how about some compensation?

If you miss a connection and your flights aren’t on the same reservation, you’re normally out of luck. But Duane Perry’s circumstances are anything but normal.

He was flying from Philadelphia to Madrid, Spain, on US Airways, and then connecting to a puddlejumper to the Canary Islands. When he made the reservations online, he tried to book the flights together so that his second flight would be protected — in other words, so that if there were an unexpected delay getting into Madrid, he could miss his flight to the Canaries and get placed on the next flight at no cost.

But the system wouldn’t allow him to do that, despite the fact that the second carrier was a Star Alliance member. He had to make two separate reservations. Realizing that the connection time was tight, he asked US Airways if 1 1/2 hours was enough connection time to get to his second flight. A representative assured him it was.

It wasn’t.

Perry’s flight was more than an hour late. Although he was one of the first people off the plane and although he sprinted across the terminal to make the fight, he missed it.

When we returned to the US Airways counter we were told that US Airways has no responsibility, because the connecting flight to the Canary Islands necessarily was booked on a separate ticket.

We ended up spending an entire day in the Madrid airport trying to negotiate the most cost effective way to fly to our final destination, that day.

After an entire lost morning and afternoon, we got a replacement flight, but at an additional cost of $866.97 for two coach seats.

We spent $3,323.60 on our US Airways travel, but nevertheless were treated with polite indifference by the US Airways agents in Madrid.

Even though we missed our connecting flight, because our US Airways flight was more than an hour late, the US Airways agents told us that it was our problem to solve at our own expense.

Perry asked US Airways to refund the $866.97 he had to spend. The airline sent him a series of apologetic form letters, first offering him two $75 vouchers, and then upping them to $150. His repeated appeals were met with the following form reply:

The travel experience you described is certainly not characteristic of the level of service we strive to provide.

With this in mind, I have reviewed both your original request and your additional request. After careful evaluation, I am unable to discover any additional concerns causing me to change the increased compensation issued. Regrettably, we are unable to honor your request for reimbursement of the tickets that you purchased to get to Canary Islands.

Again, we apologize for the difficulties you encountered. Your comments have helped us identify areas where our service needs improvement. Please be assured the necessary steps have been taken to prevent a recurrence.

Mr. Perry, thank you for choosing US Airways. We welcome the opportunity to provide the level of service you expect and deserve on a future US Airways flight.

Talk about a kiss-off.

Related story:   "She actually sounded like she cared"

Perry believes that’s not enough.

US Airways has offered only two coupons with a face value of $150 each, but expiring in a year, and excluding all internet (i.e. best) fares. The exclusion of internet fares renders those coupons potentially worthless.

To add insult to injury, we travelled Envoy Class on US Airways, both ways, and paid $3,323.60 for our US Airways travel. US Airways’ bad advice on connections, very late arrival, and unhelpful service for missed connections in Madrid are clearly no advertisement for US Airways or Envoy Class.

We would like to be reimbursed for the extra $866.97 we paid, if not for a day wasted in the airport.

I would send this to the “case dismissed” file if it weren’t for one thing: Perry tried to book both of these flights together, but couldn’t. He might have tried to work through a travel agent, but he did the next best thing: He sough assurances from US Airways that his connection time was adequate. They were wrong.

(Photo: mel foody/Flickr Creative Commons)


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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