Another lost honeymoon. Who is to blame here?

Jason Clements and his new wife planned the perfect honeymoon in Ireland, including tickets from Phoenix to Dublin via Philadelphia on American Airlines and British Airways, purchased through the online travel site CheapOair (a brand of Fareportal). They even purchased trip protection insurance. But they didn’t get to take the trip – or receive a refund for their airfares.

Clements wants to know who is responsible for his lost honeymoon and whether he can get back the airfares and other costs he forfeited. His story is a reminder to always make sure that all details of a booking are correct before confirming it, and to do so in advance of your trip, not when it is under way.

Clements’ story began when he checked his booking from CheapOair, as he and his wife were on their way to the Phoenix airport to begin their honeymoon. At that time he discovered that his name was listed on his reservation as “Jay Clements” rather than as “Jason Clements.”

Don’t worry, CheapOair’s agent reassured him. Clements could have the ticket corrected at check-in at the Phoenix airport.

Except he couldn’t. Both American Airlines and British Airways informed Clements that CheapOair would have to correct the ticket. And neither airline allowed him to board his flight to Philadelphia.

Clements then called back CheapOair. Its agent told Clements that CheapOair could not correct the ticket, but it could sell him a new one for $2,000. Then, on a subsequent call, it upped the price of a new ticket to $2,500 – after both American Airlines and British Airways again refused to help, insisting that it was CheapOair’s error to fix.

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By this time, Clements’ and his wife’s baggage was on a plane bound for Philadelphia – without them on it. They canceled their honeymoon and returned home.

“I have never worked with a company with so little compassion for someone with an urgent matter,” says Clements.

Clements asked CheapOair, American Airlines and British Airways for a full refund of his airfares. Although he claims that a British Airways agent told him he could expect a refund, he did not receive one from either airline or from CheapOair. He also found that his situation was not covered by his trip protection insurance.

Clements then turned to our advocacy team for assistance in securing a refund of his airfares. (Executive contact information for all three companies is available on our website.) He also initiated a chargeback.

But was it the airlines’ fault or CheapOair’s fault that Clements wasn’t able to go on his honeymoon?

Certainly CheapOair and the airlines should have gotten Clements’ name right on his tickets. But Clements should have made sure that his name was correct before confirming his booking with CheapOair — and should have contacted CheapOair to correct the error immediately upon discovering it. But the first time he contacted CheapOair to check his booking was on the way to the airport – far too late in the booking process.

CheapOair’s terms and conditions provide that for instances of human error,

If any of our agents make a mistake in the booking process we shall make reasonable attempts to rectify these errors at the time of occurrence. CheapOair stands committed to providing compensation up to a maximum of the entire service fees that CheapOair has collected for that booking in addition to a $50 coupon as redemption towards purchases from CheapOair within 12 months in the future. You must notify us of errors within 24 hours of receiving your itinerary. Beyond this 24 hour period, CheapOair will not be responsible for these errors.

It also indicates that

Most of our airline tickets, hotels, pre-paid car rentals, vacation packages and service fees are non-refundable after 24 hours of booking. … All cancellations must be done over the phone only. We can accept refund requests only if the following conditions have been met:

  • you have applied for a cancellation and refund with us and if the fare rules provide for cancellation and refunds;
  • you are not a “no show” (most “no show” bookings are in-eligible for any waiver from suppliers for refund processing); and
  • we are able to secure waivers from suppliers to process this requested cancellation and refund.

So had Clements notified CheapOair within 24 hours of booking his flights that his name was incorrect on his tickets, he would have been entitled to a refund of CheapOair’s fees and a $50 coupon, plus a refund of his airfares – if they were refundable.

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Unfortunately for Clements, his reservation confirmation indicated that his tickets were nonrefundable and that a name change was not permitted.

Our advocates advised Clements to pursue an exception to British Airways’ nonrefundability policy by writing to British Airways using our executive contacts, starting with their customer relations form and escalating his complaint up the corporate ladder to the appropriate executive at each level after giving each respective executive a week to respond. We also invited him to post in our forums about his case and asked him to let us know the results of his contacts with British Airways. As of this writing we have not yet heard back from Clements, but we have offered to advocate his case if he does not receive the exception.

Should we advocate for Jason Clements if he does not receive an exception from British Airways?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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