Can this trip be saved? My airline tickets were canceled against my will

By | March 21st, 2011

As far as most airlines are concerned, if you cancel your tickets, your options are pretty simple: You have a year to use them. Or you can let the credit expire, and they keep your money.

But life isn’t always that simple.

Lauren Tse and her two daughters were looking forward to flying to South Florida to see her mother last Christmas. But when they checked in for their flight, they discovered their tickets — which were gifts from Lauren’s mother — had been canceled.

Their airline, US Airways, offered a ticket credit — minus the $150 change fee and fare difference. But they had to pay another $4,000 to fly to Florida for the holidays.

Who canceled the tickets? That’s a good question. Loretta Mineo, Tse’s mother, has two theories.

In August, my PC was broken into, and letters were sent out in my name.

Comcast sent me a release form so that they could look into the matter, which I did. I reported it to the local police so all of this in on file.

OK, theory #1: Someone broke into Mineo’s PC after she booked her tickets and canceled them.

But why? That brings us to theory #2.

My daughter is going through a divorce and there is only one person who has access to her PC. Her ex sits with the children while she is at work.

So maybe the ex-husband found a way into Tse’s PC and canceled the tickets? That’s possible. He, or someone else with a motive to cause mischief, might have also hacked into Mineo’s PC, for all we know.

Related story:   Can airlines continue to extract $2 billion a year in change fees from us?

But that’s just speculation.

Mineo sent a brief, polite email to US Airways, explaining the circumstances and asking them if she could re-use the tickets for next Christmas, which would have necessitated the airline extending its ticket credit.

US Airways asked for a copy of the police report she filed, which she sent. She hasn’t heard from the airline yet.

I’ve seen airlines help customers when a family situation prevents them from traveling. Here’s a case where Delta offered flight credits when a wedding was called off suddenly.

What do you need in order to cancel an airline ticket? A name and a record locator would probably be all that the perpetrator required to cancel the flights, although he (or she) might have also had access to credit card numbers and passwords. That’s more than plenty to foil the Tse family’s vacation plans.

From the airline’s perspective, this is a black-and-white issue. Someone canceled the flights, and it’s just offering the same thing it does to other passengers — a ticket credit that expires after a year.

But from Mineo and her family’s point of view, this is … complicated. They didn’t cancel the tickets, and there’s an ongoing criminal investigation into the matter. Shouldn’t US Airways bend a rule and let them fly next Christmas?

Most of you voted for me to mediate this case. I’ve contacted US Airways on her behalf, and I’ll have an update soon.

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.