Charlie Williams and his wife were hit with some flight delays on their way to Hawaii. But then they did something that compounded their problems — something that cost them several thousand dollars.
Now they want to know if we can help get their money back.
The Williams’ story is an unfortunate lesson in airline rules and regulations. And it illustrates why it’s important to know what is in that fine print associated with your ticket.
Williams contacted us to help him recoup the $1,200 that he said he was forced to spend on extra tickets because of an error on the part of Hawaiian Airlines. He also wanted us to ask for “two free round-trip flights to Maui” as additional compensation for his trouble.
“Our flight from Denver to San Francisco on Virgin America was delayed because the plane needed to be de-iced,” Williams recalled. “We landed in San Francisco five minutes late. Our connecting Hawaiian Airlines flight had already closed by the time we got there. Hawaiian Airlines issued us two tickets for the next morning’s 10:00 flight.”
If that were the whole story, the only annoyance that the Williams would have experienced would have been the one missed evening in Hawaii.
But his letter went on to describe that “someone” at Hawaiian Airlines gave him the suggestion to try to get on an evening flight later that day on a different airline.
So that is what he did. He purchased two tickets on Virgin America and he and his wife flew to Hawaii. They went on to enjoy a week at their tropical destination completely unaware that anything was amiss with their return flight.
On the day before their return home, Williams attempted to check in for their scheduled trip and was startled to learn that they didn’t have one.
He called CheapTickets, the agency that they used to book their vacation package, and was informed that their return flight on Hawaiian Airlines had been canceled by the airline.
Because Williams and his wife had taken that Virgin America flight, they had been marked as “no-shows” on their outbound Hawaiian Airlines segment. This automatically canceled the return portion of their tickets.
Having no other choice, the Williams purchased new one-way tickets back to the mainland and connected with the rest of their air reservations. Those flights had not been canceled because CheapTickets had built their vacation package with several unrelated airlines.
Once he arrived home, Williams began his attempts to retrieve his money from Hawaiian Airlines. He was convinced that their tickets had been canceled in error and that the airline was profiting from its own mistake.
When I reviewed Williams’ paper trail, one thing was immediately clear: Williams and his wife were “no-shows” for their flight to Hawaii. They had accepted a rebooking for their missed flight, but then purchased a flight on another airline. They headed to Hawaii without clarifying what would happen with their other confirmed flights on Hawaiian Airlines.
Of course, it is natural to be angry when you think that you have been taken advantage of, but Williams’ complaint tactics did not help his case. In his letters to Hawaiian Airlines, he demanded reimbursement for the cost of the return flight and new tickets to Hawaii to make up for his wasted time and irritation.
His language, at times was a bit salty, and although he redacted the full curse words in his letters, the message was clear.
“I am so pissed off and feeling everyone has us by the ****s so they could take our money, ” he told the airline, in his request for reimbursement.
This type of tactic is not recommended as it usually alienates the consumer from the company from which they are hoping to garner empathy. As could be predicted, Williams’ complaint was not favorably received and resulted in no resolution.
However, in this case, the facts were not on Williams’ side; and I suspect that even if he had written the most eloquent letter to Hawaiian Airlines, he would not have received his desired resolution.
I explained to Williams that in Hawaiian Airlines’ contract of carriage, in the section entitled “Failure to Occupy Space” it is clear what will happen to the remainder of your ticket if you do not fly on any segment:
If a passenger fails to occupy space which has been reserved on an HA flight and the passenger does not provide HA notice of the cancellation of the reservation before the departure, or if any carrier cancels the reservation of any passenger because they failed to provide notice to the carrier, HA may cancel all reservations (whether or not confirmed) held by such passenger on the flights of HA or any carrier for continuing or return space.
This is not an unusual policy. In fact, in today’s world of travel it is standard. Every major airline has similar language in their terms and conditions. If you fail to take any leg of your journey, don’t expect the rest of your ticket to remain valid. It won’t.
We could not help Williams because the terms of his tickets were clear. It is unfortunate that “someone” gave him the poor advice to skip a portion of his flight (he did not catch that agent’s name). But he did thank us for taking a look at his case, and we are certain that he will not be caught in this type of expensive debacle again.