How much compensation is a malfunctioning airline seat on LOT Polish Airlines worth?
Judy Miller wants to know. She would like a cash payment after being forced to sit upright for nine hours. But she was offered a voucher and a discount off a future flight — on another airline.
Miller’s story is a literal and painful example of the hazards of booking airline tickets through third-party sites, as well as a reminder of the need to clarify what form of compensation you will accept in settlement of a complaint. Had Miller done this, she might have received compensation she found satisfactory.
Her story began an hour after takeoff on a flight from Warsaw to Chicago on LOT, on which Miller paid $1,500 for a business class seat through Expedia. At that time, she found that her seat would no longer recline. She was forced to sit upright for the remainder of the flight. Although the flight attendants tried to repair her seat, they succeeded only in moving it into a slightly-reclining position with the footrest unaligned with the seat.
“When I asked the flight attendants to make a report, they filled out one of their LOT forms and refused to give it to me unless I signed it and accepted 9,000 United miles or 20 percent off a future ticket on LOT,” she says. “I objected but took the miles as I wanted the report. At current value, I believe the miles are worth about $135, which is nothing.”
As United had nothing to do with Miller’s unhappy experience on LOT (the flight was not code-shared), she found the offer to be far short of what she had hoped for.
Miller then complained to Expedia, but she wasn’t happy with its response either. She apparently didn’t make any requests for specific forms of compensation. Expedia offered her a $200 voucher for use on a future flight. This was unacceptable to Miller, who had hoped to receive a cash refund for half of her airfare.
At that point, Miller asked our advocates for assistance in getting more compensation.
We suggested that Miller post in our forum about her case. Our advocates advised Miller to use our contact information for Expedia to write concise, polite letters to its executives, beginning with the primary contact and allowing each person a week to respond before escalating to the next higher-ranking executive. They also pointed out to Miller that she needed to be specific about what resolution she was asking Expedia to provide:
You need to specifically ask for what you want. Otherwise the situation devolves into the frustration of them lowballing you, and you saying “unacceptable.” The only thing that back and forth will get you is being labeled “difficult,” and then ignored.
Our advocate told Miller that her case was not one which we would be able to help her through direct advocacy. As our FAQs note, we don’t mediate cases involving airline seat comfort issues. In addition, we haven’t had any success in reaching out to LOT Polish Airlines on behalf of passengers who request our assistance.
But we think the $200 voucher offered by Expedia is in line with compensation for similar problems. We’re putting it to our readers: