A lengthy flight delay does not equal a free vacation

We’ve all heard the expression “All’s well that ends well.” But is the opposite true?

Apparently it is for Megan Kroc. Her Apple vacation ended badly. And she wants her money back for the entire vacation.

As Kroc describes it, the last day of that trip was pretty horrible. The family woke up early that morning in time for the 9 a.m. pickup for their transfer to the airport. That didn’t happen.

Upon arriving at the lobby with suitcases and bags, Apple notified us that our 1 p.m. flight could be “five hours late.” Apple could not inform us why the plane was delayed. Initially, we were told that we could bring all of our luggage back to our room, which we did. After eating a quick breakfast, we then were told the heart-sinking news that our flight was pushed back to 11:30 p.m., which Apple still could not even confirm, and there was still no explanation as to why there was a problem. We were then told that Apple would not pay for us to use a hotel room due to this delay, our Apple representative snatched up our key cards, and our suitcases had to be dragged back yet again to the lobby and put into a storage room.

After waiting all day in the lobby, the Krocs were informed that the flight would be canceled altogether for that day.

“Apple finally realized that they would have to do something so we would not have to sleep on chairs in the lobby, so a couple of hours later vouchers finally came through to our hotel so we could have a room to sleep in for the night. Again, our suitcases were dragged back to a different room and we unpacked our dirty clothes.”

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The next day’s flight also experienced a series of delays, but the Krocs finally made it home that evening. However, the relative from whom they’d arranged a ride wasn’t able to wait, necessitating a $60 cab ride.

And, says Kroc, there were consequences at each of their work places.

“My husband, who is the vice president and loan team leader of a commercial bank, missed an entire day of work. I am a teacher and I also missed an entire day of work. Our lost wages alone due to this delay were over $1,000. I received a verbal warning from my school’s principal as it is highly discouraged by my district to take any additional vacation days after our holiday break.”

And so as she puts it, “…after returning from what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation this has been the most stressful week we have had in years.”

Apple offered them a $200 voucher, which they didn’t feel was nearly adequate, but they eventually gave up trying to fight for anything more. That is, until they found themselves on a flight this past January, with folks who were on the same earlier trip.

“We talked with a couple who told us that they received full compensation because their travel agent fought with Apple. The were on the same flight as we were 15 months ago. We unfortunately booked directly with Apple.”

Kroc had read some of Christopher Elliott’s articles, so she reached out to see if our advocates could help.

Our advocates wondered if the claim they heard from their fellow passengers might have been exaggerated, but offered some advice nonetheless.

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They noted that the scathing letter Kroc originally sent to Apple was filled with extraneous information that only obfuscated her main complaint about the flight delay at the end of the trip. And the letter threatened that “the whole world will know about this” if they weren’t compensated for their entire vacation.

As we’ve said to many other travelers, a concise, polite letter has a far greater chance of producing a positive outcome. Sadly, the kind of delay they experienced happens more frequently on vacations like this, because operators like Apple often use chartered aircraft companies, which don’t have access to a large fleet if something goes wrong. But they are careful to cover themselves in the terms vacationers agree to. The terms of service for Xtra Airlines, which provided the aircraft in this case, states:

XP undertakes to transport the passenger and baggage with reasonable dispatch. Times shown in timetables or elsewhere are not guaranteed and form no part of the Contract of Carriage. XP may without notice substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, and may add, alter or omit stopping places shown on the ticket in case of necessity. Schedules are subject to change without notice. XP is not responsible, or liable, for making connections, or for failing to operate any flight according to schedule, or for changing the schedule of any flight.

And Apple’s terms of service state that “All air travel is subject to the terms and conditions of the operating carrier.”

Kroc was advised to resubmit a much more concise, less threatening email, and referred to the forums at our advocacy website with her complaint. Unfortunately, it has been far too long since the original trip for us to advocate this case, and Apple did give them each a $200 voucher.

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Should it have been more?

Did the Krocs deserve more compensation?

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Dale Irvin

Dale Irvin is a semi-retired writer and editor, now living in south Florida after three years roaming around North America in an RV. You can read about those adventures at fabulousfifthwheel.com.

  • sirwired

    Did the bank and the school district actually dock their pay $1k? Because I’m getting the impression that they simply used vacation days they would have preferred not to use, which is not the same thing as actual lost wages.

    (I’ve been stuck on vacation trying to get home before, and my employer was a bit more understanding.)

  • Hanope

    I agree that their last day wasn’t well handled by Apple, but they did get a room covered. I’ll concede they had to pay the extra $60 for the cab fare. But the rest, I would dispute.

    First, I think its a bad idea to plan to return from vacation the day/evening before you return to work. Just like its recommended to have a buffer day of travel before some event, its a good idea to have a buffer day for return. I know when I take a vacation of more than a couple days, I take an extra day off so I can do laundry, grocery shop, and ‘recover’ from the trip/flight. If my flight gets delayed and i lose that day, at least I have it available.

    And the loss of $1,000 for one day of work? I kindof call BS on that. Most school employees I know have plenty of comp time saved up, for when they must miss a day unexpectedly. And it sounds like her husband is in the type of job that similarly doesn’t really dock a day of pay, but just counts it as another vacation day, or a personal/sick day.

    So I think the $200 voucher each was sufficient, imo.

  • Jeff W.

    It would be unusual that their pay was docked and they probably were able to use vacation/sick days. But I do know that school districts do not take kindly to staff taking days off before/after a holiday/vacation break. So I do not doubt that there were repercussions.

    Especially for a school district which has to find a substitute teacher at the last minute.

  • BubbaJoe123

    This is the danger of charter flights – if that plane isn’t going, then you’re not going.

  • Alan Gore

    The travel agent seems to consider a delay on the return trip to be of no consequence. But we’re not all retired and able to take extra days off without having to get back to small children and urgent jobs.

    Apple should at least offer to interline when something like this happens.

  • MarkKelling

    Why did they feel it necessary that they had to “unpack our dirty clothes”??? Pull what you need out of the suitcase and leave the rest in it! Anyway …

    Apple doesn’t control the airlines. A missed flight at the end of the trip does NOT mean a full refund is reasonable. If you work in a job that really will dock your pay for unexpected absence, you should not plan such tight schedule for your trips. Probably you should not schedule this close even if you have a flexible employer. I feel it was nice and even unexpected that they provided the additional night in the same hotel which meant that the family did not have to move.

    What they received was enough.

  • MarkKelling

    Every employer have ever had has been more understating. As long as I was able call and inform the right people I would not be there, all was good.

    Yes, a few times during the days when I was an hourly employee I missed out on a day of pay because didn’t have any additional vacation available, but even in most of those cases I was able to pick up an additional shifts later in the week to make up for it.

  • Having retired from the school system, I was only given 3 personal leave days a year. Beyond that, it was leave without pay. So in my mind, she could have been docked for her pay.

  • The school system I retired from did not do comp time. You had your sick days and your 3 personal leave days – that was it!

  • LeeAnneClark

    I was just going to say the same thing!

    Come on, peeps. A bank Vice President doesn’t get his pay docked for missing a day of work. I’m quite sure he’s on salary.

    I don’t know about teachers…I suppose it’s possible she got docked for her day. But if she’s making $1000 dollars a day, I want her teaching job!

    Sure, it’s also possible she got scolded for missing the day, but unless she works for complete morons, they would have to have realized it was beyond her control. You can’t wave a magic wand and appear where you want to appear.

    So I find their whole argument to lose credibility just because of these obvious exaggerations.

  • LeeAnneClark

    But did you make $1000 a DAY? If so, I bow down to you – I don’t know any teachers who make that much.

    And don’t bother suggesting that the husband’s pay was docked. He’s a bank VP. I have relatives who work at banks – they are on salary. There is no way on god’s green earth he got a lower paycheck because of missing one day.

  • BubbaJoe123

    In fairness, in this case Apple DOES control the airlines. It was a charter flight, not a booking on a regular carrier.

  • Jeff W.

    It was certainly all over the local news and it made the the national news as well, but the Cook County Jail (which covers Chicago) was on lockdown on Sunday — Mother’s Day — because over 30% of the guards (more than 200 of them) called in sick. And 25% of the second shift workers called in on the same day. Similar rates of absenteeism occur on Father’s Day, 4th of July, and the Super Bowl.

    Not saying a prison guard is the same as a teacher (although insert as many jokes as you like — I threw you a softball.) But certain dates are ripe for abuse and the employer may have an issue. And a teacher cannot pick up additional shifts to make up for the work. The kids are there from 8 – 3, teacher or no teacher. A substitute is called or someone is doing double duty.

  • MarkKelling

    I never worked in a job that was that important. Lucky me. I do understand that there are more important jobs than the ones I worked throughout my careers that aren’t as flexible when it comes to time off.

  • thinfool

    As a novice reader of this site may I ask that you cite the actual name of the provider in question. If you do so, I will be able to stop trying to book 2 weeks in Cancun at Apple.Com

  • Jeff W.

    Apple Vacations.

    That apple has been around longer than the other one that sells phones and computers.

  • MarkKelling

    They control the CHOICE of airlines when they book for you. They still don’t control whether or not that airline actually flys the plane. It would be nice if they did have a backup option when the chosen airline has problems, but I would think the cost would soon put them out of business.

  • Annie M

    Why do people think they deserve a full refund (after they enjoyed the hotel for a week) and had a problem the last day? The writer is absolutely correct about Apple using charters and this is the offset for those cheap airfares they can offer. In the future, if you want to try to insure this doesn’t happen, buy regular published airfare on a major carrier. This is not much different than booking with the ultra low cost carriers that may not be able to reschedule a canceled flight for three or four days because they don’t have another flight with enough seats to handle a full canceled one.

  • Kairho

    One advantage to reading these articles the morning after they were posted is that others conveniently have made the point I was going to. The only thing I would add is that as a vice president of a bank, the husband would necessarily be an exempt employee. Thus, on salary and no pay would be lost. I don’t know whether teachers are exempt but, if not, they should be.

    And yes, if an employer is that unempathetic … get a new job.

  • joycexyz

    I can’t imagine their being docked pay. They didn’t purposely give themselves an extra vacation day. At most, they would forfeit a sick or personal day. I do fault them, however, for cutting it so close. That’s one reason why I voted them down. The other reasons are her unreasonable demand for full compensation and her threatening tone. BTW, I hope they called their employers to give them a heads-up about the situation, and not just failed to show up. That would put a whole different light on the employers’ reactions.

  • cscasi

    But, what school system was that? Not all school districts do things the same way, do they?

  • cscasi

    After reading the article and comments, I wonder if they should have gotten travel insurance for their trip? Perhaps they might have been able to get home sooner and with less hassle. Of course, the article does not state where they were on their vacation.
    Glad the other couple who they met again later, got a full refund through the use of their travel agent. Perhaps the Kroc’s might have gotten more were it not for the impolite letter Mr. Kroc sent Apple. But then again, they may not have garnered any more sympathy from Apple.
    Bottom line is, if you have a deadline to get back home (i.e., work) then you should plan your vacations to get you home a day early in order to avoid happenings such as this. Again, travel insurance would probably have helped if there were other flights available that late afternoon or evening.

  • Lindabator

    true – but ther you do not schedule a Sunday return, but a Saturday one, to give yourself enough wiggle room

  • Lindabator

    correct – and the choices she made were hers – she could have chosen flights to get her in a day earlier, giving her that extra day before her work day (say, come back Saturday instead of Sunday) – 3rd party insurance also could have helped by getting her on another flight

  • Lindabator

    She clearly stated she used NO AGENT – she booked directly with Apple Vacations – who are a tour operator (I, as a travel agent, book them on behalf of my clients). But the BS story from that other couple – suspect. I remember we had a very large group on a cruise, and had some very inexpensive rates — but one person chose to book on their own, and then told everyone else they were stupid booking with me as they all paid more. Had to actually get the cruise line to open her folio to PROVE to the group leader this was not true by a far cry – and they fired her for all the trouble!

  • Lindabator

    again – they do not actually fly the aircraft – the airline still maintains the flight, etc — they only have the one aircraft to utilize, however, so any maintenance or mechanical issues (and they happen to everyone) means you get stuck – NOT in Apple’s control

  • Lindabator

    correct – frankly, most charters are not where they make money, and indeed, they may lose or break even on the flights, but they make it up on the land portion, so they know they can entice you to actually take that vacation when it is such a substantial savings

  • Alan Gore

    Apple was who I meant here. It wasn’t stated explicitly, but the article reads as though the flights were arranged through Apple. In that case, it should have been more proactive when faced with a major flight delay.

  • Dutchess

    This is a joke right? Your husband’s company docked a VP’s pay for day due to a flight delay? Your school docked you a days pay because you didn’t return. You’re lying, flat out, I don’t believe you.

    Also, your flight was delayed, it happens. It’s part of travel. Your entire vacation was ruined and deserves a refund because of a flight delay?

  • BubbaJoe123

    There is a difference between Apple acting just as an agent to book tickets on an actual airline, and Apple chartering a plane to fly from A to B on X date, and then selling seats on the plane they chartered.

    Not fundamentally any different than if a carrier wet leases a plane from a third party.

  • BubbaJoe123

    No doubt, but it’s still appropriate to say that, to the extent she holds any party responsible, Apple’s the one to hold responsible.

  • Attention All Passengers

    He’s a VP banker and she’s a schoolteacher and they didn’t know enough to plan their return anything but the day before they go back to work ? Then they lost $1,000 for the day in wages. Wow, if anyone makes $1,000 a day (combined), I’d say they make a minimum of $150,000/year each. She is either exaggerating or lying. Anyone with a brain is not going to risk such “lost wages” etc. by traveling the day before they have to get to jobs. I guess common sense does not apply to such intellects as these.

  • RightNow9435

    Tho her late return was out of her control, some employers tend to blame the employee anyway.

  • Noah Kimmel

    not to be unsympathetic, but then she should have given herself an extra day or purchased trip insurance that could help cover alternate ways home. Things happen, and while it is unfortunate the travel providers don’t take responsibility, it is hardly an unknown possibility.

    By her implication, different people should be refunded different amounts based on how much money they make…

  • Noah Kimmel

    it might or might not have. Travel insurance may have just reimbursed added costs of the delay such as hotel or food. Not all policies cover changing carriers.

    Another big exception is insurance for flights usually covers “part 121” scheduled carriers in the US, not apple vacations packages that use a chartered plane. Apple’s flights operated by Direct, XL, JetBlue, Frontier and others usually operate under part 135 as a charter operation. This makes it not comparable to a retail airline ticket, thus giving the insurance an out as the flight technically is not “scheduled” service. But valid point – they should buy/check insurance policy, perhaps he had some protection in his credit card benefits (chase sapphire reserve, amex platinum, and others have included protections), and to always plan some contingency as travel does not always go as scheduled.

    All things considered, I do agree with your comments. Apple tried to make it right by eating the additional hotel cost. The whole vacation shouldn’t be refunded.

  • Jeff W.

    A VP of a bank may make that amount. A teacher, no. There are some highly paid teachers out there, but if those in the teaching profession making $150k a year, I believe there is another word for them — professors. And professors do not report to principals. Most professors do not make those wages either.

  • TiaMa

    I’ve done my three Cancun trips through Apple with the first one being the only one I used a travel agent for. That was more a chartered flight. My last two I booked with Apple directly and they were all on regularly scheduled flights. Sometimes I paid a little more to get a more convenient flight than the initially suggested cheaper flight. In these situations, I am able to see my flights on the carrier’s website and get text alerts about my flights’ status to keep me informed.

  • Lindabator

    they CLEARLY show that they are charter flights, and that they only have the one flight a day — so you can CHOOSE cheap or CHOOSE best option — for those who it will not be an issue for, it would have been fine – since she knew it WOULD be an issue – should not have booked this way

  • Lindabator

    this is a charter flight – one plane that day, period – which their terms clearly state. most folks know that if your schedule is of major consequence, you build in a buffer, or you know that it will be alright when you choose an option like this — frankly, perhaps she SHOULD have booked thru an agent – not only would she have gotten the same price, but perhaps a better suggestion as to the risks and options

  • Lindabator

    but they CANNOT force any airline to fly in cases like this, which is why they make it clear that this is not a choice if you need flexibility – had she booked with an agent, I am sure they would have informed her the same as I would have — fly back 2 days before work to ensure coverage, or choose another flight option

  • Lindabator

    I book Apple for my clients as well, and if these people had come to me with these restrictions, I would not have booked a charter flight return the day before — sounds like she went for cheap, not what was best, and paid the price. Her choice, unfortunately.

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