I prefer to stay out of the crossfire in my line of work. Yet I find myself in that situation with some regularity, including this frustrating refund case involving British Airways.
The airline insists Patti Naji and her husband were no-shows for their flight from Athens to London, the second leg of their return trip to Philadelphia.
Naji says they didn’t make the plane for good reason. Aegean Airways, her carrier from Crete to Athens, didn’t have a functioning baggage interlining agreement with British Airways, so they had to pick up her luggage before transferring to a London flight. There just wasn’t enough time.
“When I made the reservations, I had no idea that this would mean that the airlines involved would not move the luggage from one flight to the next,” she says. “This was not a problem on our way to Crete, but unfortunately, on our return journey, we were unable to get to the departure gate in Athens in time to board our plane.”
I’ll have more details in a minute. But this case brings up an issue that I’m really struggling with. When a company gives me an answer, and it looks like a final one, readers assume I should push back hard until I get them to turn a “no” into a “yes.”
Experience tells me when I should ask again, and when I shouldn’t. But lately, readers like Naji have urged me to override my advocacy instincts and to keep fighting. Should I?
Here are the particulars of Naji’s flight. She and her husband were in Crete to attend a conference. She booked the tickets totally DIY. The Philadelphia to Athens and Athens to Philadelphia tickets were booked directly through the British Airways site. Then a second ticket from Athens to Crete and from Crete to Athens, also on Aegean Airlines site.
“It was cheaper that way than booking on Expedia or Travelocity,” she says.
Cheaper, yes. But her itineraries weren’t connected. So British Airways had no idea she was making a connection in Athens.
The inbound trip went off without a hitch. But not the return. After she and her husband collected their luggage in Athens, they failed to make it to the gate in time for her London flight.
Here’s what happened next:
When we were finally able to find an agent from British Airways, he told us that he would have to email someone in England to get permission for him to be able to honor our existing tickets and to issue us new tickets on the next flight out of Athens to London (our connection) and then to Philadelphia.
There were available seats on these flights. He explained that if he was given permission, the only fee we would incur would be a ‘change fee’.
Much to our dismay and utter shock, when he received the return email from England an hour later, the request had been denied because, as he explained, we had been considered ‘no shows.’
She had to pay another $3,500 for two tickets. It had an “overwhelmingly devastating financial impact” and she believes British Airways should issue a full refund for the extra tickets.
Aegean claims to have a ticket interlining agreement with British Airways, so if her reservation had been connected, she should have been placed on the next flight.
I thought it was worth asking British Airways about this misunderstanding, so I did. In response, it refunded her taxes. She pushed back. Here’s its final answer:
I am sorry you are disappointed with the dollar amount being refunded. The tickets you had purchased were non-refundable so there is no refund on the base fare. The amount of USD121.74 per ticket are government taxes for the flights you did not take and the USD25 per ticket is a service fee.
I see you were given an eVoucher in the amount of USD150 for future travel with us. However, as we do not want you to have a poor impression of British Airways, I have increased the amount of the eVoucher to USD300. Please accept this with my compliments.
In other words, it’s not our fault that you missed your plane. Here’s some funny money to make up for it.
“I feel that they have cheated us out of $3,500 and to refund us approximately $193 along with $300 in vouchers on an airline that I would certainly do everything possible to never fly on again seems insulting,” she says.
Naji wants me to keep fighting, even after I asked British Airways for help. My instinct is that this is a lost cause. British Airways won’t refund any more. Aegean probably won’t even respond to me. And her travel agent? Well, that would be her.
No, a problem like this would be sent to the “case dismissed” file.
Except, is that the right place? Maybe not. I mean, does this British Airways refund constitute a reasonable resolution? If not, what is? And should I keep fighting until she gets what she wants?