Missing her connection cost this traveler $2,500! Can we help?

Krisztina O’Reilly flew round-trip from Cleveland to Budapest, but she missed her connecting flight and had to pay $2,500 for a new ticket to get home.

How did a “free” ticket end up costing $2,500? Who knows?

O’Reilly’s trip was booked with an American Airlines AAdvantage award ticket, given to her by a friend. The return flight to Cleveland connected through London Heathrow, and included a codeshare flight on British Airways. When O’Reilly arrived at Heathrow, she had to obtain a boarding pass and switch terminals. When she got to the British Airways gate, she was told that she was too late to board.

Instead of directing O’Reilly back to American Airlines, British Airways told her she had to buy a one-way ticket from London to Cleveland. O’Reilly didn’t understand and told us through an interpreter, that “English is my second language, and I was very confused, upset and easy to sway.”

O’Reilly contacted both British Airways and American Airlines about a refund. American Airlines said that the ticket contained a code that allowed British Airways to transfer her ticket to another available flight. American Airlines confirmed that British Airways did not need to contact it to reissue the ticket and that O’Reilly shouldn’t have had to buy a new ticket. American Airlines agreed to reinstate the AAdvantage award miles for the unused portion of the trip, but only to O’Reilly’s friend’s account. Returning AAdvantage miles to O’Reilly’s friend’s account didn’t help O’Reilly.

British Airways refused to refund O’Reilly’s money because she had used the ticket. British Airways also said that its London agent made a note on O’Reilly’s travel record indicating that she called American Airlines AAdvantage for assistance, and that the AAdvantage representative told British Airways that O’Reilly had to buy a new ticket because British Airways couldn’t reissue another airline’s award ticket.

Related story:   American Airlines refunded only half of my ticket -- where's the rest?

American Airlines did not have any notes reflecting this conversation with the British Airways representative. British Airways should have reissued her award ticket on the next available flight without having to contact American Airlines for authority or help.

The notes by the American Airlines agent indicated that when they were contacted, O’Reilly had already bought the British Airways ticket. Once O’Reilly bought the new ticket, O’Reilly was stuck with it. The British Airways customer service and contingency plan provides that it will refund a ticket within 24 hours of purchase if the flight is one week or more from the date of departure.

O’Reilly could have tried escalating her complaint by contacting British Airways and American Airlines executives. We list company contacts for American Airlines and British Airways on our website.

And, she could have posted questions to our help forums which are staffed by industry experts, and often read by company executives. Our forum advocates may have had helpful suggestions for her.

Our advocates contacted British Airways and American Airlines on O’Reilly’s behalf. They could not reconcile the discrepancy between what American Airlines and British Airways said occurred. American Airlines insists that it did nothing wrong and refunded the unused miles to the original AAdvantage account. As a goodwill gesture, American Airlines deposited 10,000 miles into O’Reilly’s AAdvantage account. British Airways agreed to issue O’Reilly a $500 voucher for future travel. This was not what O’Reilly had hoped for, but it was all that the airlines would do for her.

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Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from Elliott.org, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight.

  • Dutchess

    I voted that it was enough because she should have tried to calling the place where she purchased her ticket BEFORE buying a new ticket. AA could have and would have rebooked her on another flight since they caused her to miss her original flight.

  • Grandma

    I am a little confused. The only AA affliated flgihts between BUD and LHR are BA flights. She had to transfer from a BUD- LHR BA flight to an LHR-CLE BA flight. Why did not she get her second boarding pass at BUD? Yes, she had to switch terminals at LHR, but her original ticket had to have enough time for this transfer. If not, then BA had to reaccomodate her to a later flight regardless if it was award ticket or not.
    I assume the main problme might have been the communication problems. (She mentioned her limited English.)

  • Jenny Zopa

    British Airways is a joke. A $500 travel voucher will barely cover their inflated “taxes and fees” on a ticket.

  • Bill___A

    Once again the traveler pays because the airline does not know what they are doing. These alliances have been around long enough that there should be documented procedures of what to do and how to escalate. American Airlines: Maybe you think you didn’t do anything wrong, but it was your responsibility to get this passenger home. She didn’t choose British Airways as a partner, American Airlines did. American Airlines should pay BA for the ticket, fix the procedural problems that were incurred here, and then BA should fully refund the passenger.

    This is called taking ownership of a problem, which was not done in this case.

  • Bill___A

    These programs are aimed at the general public, the airlines should have dealt with this.

  • Annie M

    “British Airways also said that its London agent made a note on O’Reilly’s
    travel record indicating that she called American Airlines AAdvantage
    for assistance, and that the AAdvantage representative told British
    Airways that O’Reilly had to buy a new ticket because British Airways
    couldn’t reissue another airline’s award ticket.”

    And that wasn’t good enough for American? Yet another ridiculous customer service error made by American and they refuse to own up to the error. Did they think the BA agent who thought enough to mention that in the record was lying?

  • Alan Gore

    Airline agents love it when a person not fluent in their language presents with a minor problem. It’s their opportunity to screw the pax over for an unnecessary new ticket. Change fees are so last year.

  • KanExplore

    A ticket should have been issued by BA in London for the next available flight as a matter of routine, as long as this was one itinerary. I’m just wondering though. Did the friend actually book this as one reservation, or was there a round-trip between Cleveland and London and a separately reserved ticket between London and Budapest? That would explain why she didn’t get the second boarding pass with the first, and why there was a problem with a rebooking. As a side observation, flying BA trans Atlantic is one of the worst possible ways to use AA miles with their insane “carrier imposed fees.”

  • Michael__K

    EC 261 governs all flights from Budapest or London. The passenger has at least a right to be re-routed on the earliest available flight at no extra charge (and to receive incidental expenses for meals, lodging, and emails or phone calls in the meantime).

    Barring “extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”, the passenger is also owed 600 EUR compensation if they arrived at their destination 3+ hours later than scheduled as a result of the delay.

  • Attention All Passengers

    Poor compensation. British Airways was wrong and could have easily booked her on another flight (their airline). I ask, is there even ONE airline employee who can think out of the box, use common sense and find a way to get someone to their destination without a quick “NO”, “pay more money” reply ??????

  • Mel65

    Ugh. These are the cases that drive me crazy! The OP isn’t entitled; she doesn’t want more than she deserves; isn’t asking for an exception to rules based on being “special,” and seemingly did nothing wrong other than trusting the gate agent to give her accurate information.

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