I missed my flight because it left early — why wasn’t I informed?

Something about Nina Bucki’s story doesn’t quite add up. She’d planned a trip to Poland with her two daughters, but didn’t take it. She asked our help in getting a refund or credit for her unused airfares.

But when our advocates tried to assist her, we learned that she had told her travel agent a completely different story than the one she told us. And the travel agent’s version of events was backed by evidence that Bucki didn’t share with us.

Our advocates are willing to give disappointed consumers the benefit of a certain amount of doubt when they ask us for help. Sometimes, communications between businesses and their customers can be confusing, especially when there are multiple versions of events. Laws and corporate terms and conditions can be hard to decipher and ambiguous as to how they apply to specific cases.

But we expect honesty from consumers who ask us to advocate on their behalf. And when it turns out that their versions of events are inaccurate, such as Bucki’s, it’s impossible to assist them.

All parties in Bucki’s case agree that she purchased, through Chicago-based travel agency Cosmos Travel, three round-trip tickets on LOT Polish Airlines for herself and her two daughters to fly from Chicago O’Hare Airport to Kraków, Poland, via Warsaw. She received an email confirmation of her reservations.

At this point the stories diverge.

Bucki maintains that when she and her daughters arrived at O’Hare Airport on the scheduled departure day, they learned that their flight had just taken off. According to Bucki, she never received any notification from Cosmos Travel prior to that day that the flight schedule had been changed. She and her daughters were forced to cancel their trip and lost their prepaid airfares and other travel costs, incurring a great deal of emotional pain.

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Our advocates reached out to Cosmos Travel and learned the following:

Nina Bucki purchased three tickets for a LOT Polish Airlines flight for three people to travel to Kraków, Poland… The client was informed that the tickets were nonrefundable, as per the terms of the promotion through which they were bought.

In January, we received a notice about changes in flight times for a few of our other customers. We made a list of these customers’ names, and proceeded to contact them to let them know of the changes, like we always do in such a case. Nina Bucki’s flight was on this list and we informed her about her flight changes.

Sometime after that Mrs. Bucki contacted us asking for a refund on all three of her tickets due to her daughter’s pregnancy. She herself told us, and even wrote in a letter to LOT [Polish] Airlines, that they could not travel because of her daughter being pregnant with a due date of a day before the departure. Mrs. Bucki said that it would be unethical to leave her daughter alone under such conditions. In the attachment you will see the letter we wrote as a request to LOT Airlines to receive some sort of reimbursement for this unforeseen situation.

LOT Airlines informed us that they could do nothing, as the ticket was bought on a nonrefundable promotion. After informing Mrs. Bucki of this, we did not hear from her.

We were very surprised to receive a phone call from Mrs. Bucki. From the letters and conversations with Mrs. Bucki we were under the impression that she and her daughters would not be traveling to Poland at that time. Furthermore, Mrs. Bucki had not called us to verify whether the tickets had been canceled or not, nor what she intended to do. When Mrs. Bucki called us from the airport, she indicated multiple times that she was the only one attempting to travel to Poland, without either of her daughters (contrary to what she wrote in her claim to you).

Mrs. Bucki was fully aware of the tickets being nonrefundable, and even though we tried receiving some reimbursement for her, there is nothing more we can do because those were the terms of the tickets she bought.

After Mrs. Bucki wrote a letter in which she asked us to reimburse her for the costs she incurred by missing her flight, or as she said she would “be forced to file a small claim case” against the agency if we did not reimburse her, we contacted a representative from LOT Polish Airlines in our effort to try to receive at least some money or air credit for Mrs. Bucki.

As the LOT representative herself said: “It was only [Bucki] who showed up at the airport. … [Trying] to receive a refund and blame LOT Polish Airlines for the passengers not traveling is at the least unethical.”

The travel agent attached two documents to her response. One was an email she had received from Bucki, indicating that one of Bucki’s daughters could not travel to Poland because she was pregnant with a due date of the day before the outbound flight. In this email, Bucki requested that their reservations be canceled because it would be “unethical” for Bucki and her other daughter to not be with her during her delivery.

The other was a letter she wrote to LOT Polish Airlines on Bucki’s behalf, asking for a refund of Bucki’s airfares or credit for future travel “on behalf of our long time, loyal clients.”

So Bucki not only purchased nonrefundable tickets but asked to cancel her reservations. Then she threatened her travel agency with legal action if it didn’t get her a refund or credit — and the agency tried to help anyway.

This is a completely different version of events from the one she told us – and there is documentation that supports it, whereas there is none for Bucki’s claim that both of her daughters were with her at the airport and that she had not received any notification of the flight schedule change. While Bucki might have benefited from travel insurance coverage, any travel insurer would also require truthfulness and documentation supporting her claim.

We don’t like it when consumers aren’t truthful with us — and neither do the businesses from which they want assistance. That’s unethical — as is demanding help to which you are not entitled, and threatening legal action if you do not receive it.

And that concludes our advocacy on behalf of Nina Bucki.

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.

  • Mel65

    Wow.JustWOW. we all see the same events slightly differently through our own lenses; however, stories shouldn’t diverge this much! Such a blatant attempt at manipulation! I am so glad that you chose not to advocate for this person.

  • jah6

    So blatant to try this. Doesn’t she realize that businesses document these things?

  • Annie M

    And these are the kind of folks that waste your time from helping someone who truly needs it. Shame on her.

  • Alan Gore

    This case is another point in favor of flesh-and-blood travel agents.

  • finance_tony

    It appears that Cosmos is a flesh-and-blood travel agency.


  • Alan Gore

    That was my point.

  • C Schwartz

    Wow; so the traveler, after learning that the ticket could not be refunded, then decided to show up at the airport pretending to be unaware of the flight change. After that tactic did not work the traveler wrote to Elliott and pretended again to know nothing of the change and pretended to have shown up at the airport with her two daughter.

    What nerve, and to waste the time of the advocate who is a volunteer is just shameful. I do think it is good that site published this so others who may contact this site and are tempted to leave out significant facts and who misrepresent the actions of others, will know that the advocates are thorough and will find the discrepancies.

    I imagine that the travel agent was less than thrilled to have their client claim to never have been notified of the change; the traveler was willing to damage the agency’s reputation just to get her way. Again, shameful.

  • MF

    There is a name for those who will say anything for money, it sounds like what Santa would say 3X before saying, “Merry Christmas.” Nice that this pax would hold up the lyin’ – cheatin’ corner of the tent for us, makes the rest of us look soo much better…

  • Michael__K

    The travel agency’s story is missing information and doesn’t add up any better.
    Did the travel agency cancel all the reservations or not (if not, why not?)? If they canceled a nonrefundable [LOT Economy Saver] reservation, each passenger should have been issued a flight credit minus a change penalty, generally $200, for each ticket. Did they receive this?
    And how much earlier was the new flight? Usually an involuntary schedule change of 2+ hours entitles the passengers to choose a full refund — regardless of what other circumstances would have prevented them for traveling.

  • C Schwartz

    This sounds like a LOT Economy promo fare which is lower but is highly restrictive– no changes and no cancellations. Only taxes can be refunded. It seems that the traveler did not instruct the travel agent to cancel and get the taxes back.


  • Michael__K

    The travel agency mentioned that the flights were non-refundable; for some reason they didn’t bother to mention that they were non-changeable or that they tried to process any refund for taxes.

    I also checked flights on LOT.com from ORD to WAW and at least currently I could not find any such fares available on this route.

  • C Schwartz

    Depends on the route and the time of course for a fare sale. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8ca5a02bf5a3734f06f32993acfba263687f6a6f611c9d2074b7ad0ce22cc156.png Here is a fare for EWR to Warsaw in November — not a great difference in fare.

    As for you processing a refund it is likely that the traveler did not ask for that preferring the ruse of going to the airport and pretending to know nothing

  • Michael__K

    I checked only from ORD because that was the departure airport according to the story.
    If the fare was non-changeable, then I’m not sure why the travel agency wasn’t specific about that, and more importantly, why they claimed they could do nothing to get ‘at least some money’ (e.g. taxes) reimbursed.

  • C Schwartz

    My guess is that the traveler only asked the travel agent only about a refund — not a credit — as those ticket credits are usually good only for a year after purchase — and it seems these tickets were purchased fairly far in advance (i.e. More than 6 months) and it is likely the pregnant daughter may not have wanted to travel internationally with a small baby and could not use the credit in time.

    Once the traveler got a no on the refund request, plan B was hatched, to show up at the airport and claim to have received no notification. If the traveler had asked for the taxes to be refunded by cancelling the ticket the traveler would not have tried the airport ruse. The travel agent was likely waiting for explicit instructions to cancel once the no refund decision came from LOT. There is no indication of the age of the daughters but it is conceivable that at least one of the three may use the ticket.

    Once plan B at the airport failed plan C came into play and that was to write to elliott advocates and the traveler continued with the charade that there was no notification — and only with plan C was there the idea to ask for a credit if a refund was not possible.

    Pretty bad to try and blame the travel agency for not notifying, when they had, and leaving the info out when emailing Elliott.

  • Michael__K

    If your guess is correct then the agent should still have offered to at least refund the taxes instead of claiming “there is nothing more we can do.”
    Also, we don’t know how much earlier the schedule moved– seems it was close to 2 hours.

  • Annie M

    Most likely the client has all that info in her documents and chose to hide that too. She never canceled apparently- just went to the airport and played dumb.

  • Annie M

    If it was a consolidatorvfate it’s most likely there is no refund of anything.

  • C Schwartz

    The travel agent wrote that there was nothing more they could do after the airport ruse. After being told no refund the travel agency did not hear from the traveler until the airport check in. By then the flight was gone and the traveler was a no show.

    There is no indication of how much the time changed for the departure and no specific is as to how much later after being notified of the change did the traveler try to get a refund.

    Perhaps the change in time was not a problem and only months later with the pregnancy was a refund attempted.

    But the traveler did not accurately present the situation to Elliott.org.

  • Michael__K

    “The travel agent wrote that there was nothing more they could do after the airport ruse.”

    Incorrect. According to their own account, they claimed that “we tried receiving some reimbursement for her, there is nothing more we can do because those were the terms of the tickets she bought.

    And they also go on to claim that “After Mrs. Bucki wrote a letter in which she asked us to reimburse her for the costs she incurred by missing her flight […] we contacted a representative from LOT Polish Airlines in our effort to try to receive at least some money or air credit for Mrs. Bucki.

    On the time change, we don’t have the relevant crucial information from either party.

  • Michael__K

    She has documentation for the precise fare rules and the taxes and fees on her ticket? I don’t know about LOT specifically, but many/most airlines do not put that info on their confirmations.

  • joycexyz

    And totally lied.

  • Daddydo

    SO normal! It’s not my responsibility to accept no for an answer. Keep threatening until somebody listens. I am pleased to see you evaluate the complaints.

  • C Schwartz

    I read the excerpts from the TA as happening in chronological order.

    The request for a refund was prior — and got a no — to get taxes back the ticket needs to be canceled — but the traveler never asked for the ticket to be canceled, just refunded.,

    Traveler went to the airport — just the traveler and not thee daughters — and the flight had departed — the passenger was a no show — the passenger calls TA

    The part you quote happened after the flight had left == so passenger was a no show as the costs incurred missing the flight — this is the first time a credit is mentioned but this is after the flight has left. The TA tried again with LOT. You managed to leave out the full text with the ….

    what you quoted:

    And they also go on to claim that “After Mrs. Bucki wrote a letter in
    which she asked us to reimburse her for the costs she incurred by
    missing her flight […] we contacted a representative from LOT Polish
    Airlines in our effort to try to receive at least some money or air
    credit for Mrs. Bucki.”

    Full text:

    “After Mrs. Bucki wrote a letter in which she asked us to reimburse her
    for the costs she incurred by missing her flight, or as she said she
    would “be forced to file a small claim case” against the agency if we
    did not reimburse her, we contacted a representative from LOT Polish
    Airlines in our effort to try to receive at least some money or air
    credit for Mrs. Bucki.”

    The traveler threatened legal action after the flight left, and the TA tried again. This is a second separate request after the request for a refund was denied.

    I do not see how the TA was at fault here.I

  • Michael__K

    If you read the excerpts from the TA as happening in chronological order, then the part you and I just quoted (“After Ms. Bucki wrote a letter…”) is AFTER the part about the phone call from the airport. [You previously wrote: “the travel agent wrote that there was nothing more they could do after the airport ruse.”… you seem to be acknowledging the opposite now.]

    Either way, why don’t they mention any offer to refund the taxes?

  • C Schwartz

    From my understanding for a refund of taxes one has to cancel the ticket before the flight departure As the traveler went to the airport to “check in” and the flight had left the passenger was a no show. A few days ago there was the issue with the traveler who canceled a nonrefundable flight before departure and got the taxes back (but the traveler got in a check in Euros from Aer Lingus and has to contact Elliott for help to get a refund on a credit card. )

    The traveler in this LOT case chose not to cancel the ticket and get the taxes back and gambled on a different tactic, to pretend that she was not notified at all. And that backfired.

  • Michael__K

    Why would the airline owe taxes on a non-existent passenger, regardless of whether the passenger canceled in advance?
    But regardless, the travel agency , in their own account doesn’t mention they offered this possibility — by their account there was literally “nothing” they could do.
    And then they claimed they were surprised that the OP showed up. If they didn’t cancel the ticket and if they believed it was necessary to cancel the ticket in order to get taxes refunded, then why would they be “very surprised” that she went to the airport?

  • C Schwartz

    The traveler missed the chance to cancel and the seats had their name attached.

    Of course the TA was surprised that the traveler showed up. The traveler claimed that it would be “unethical” to leave her pregnant daughter in the letter to the TA. After the traveler mad a stand on ethics why would the TA expect the traveler do something that she claimed was “unethical”?

    Do you really believe that the TA is to blame? The Elliott advocate noted that the TA had evidence to back of their version and not the traveler.

    Do you think the Elliott advocate was wrong to drop this request?

  • Michael__K

    Based on the travel agency’s own account, there would be no point for the OP to cancel because there was “nothing” they could do.
    The travel agency is clearly trying to defend itself and present itself in the best light (in contrast to the OP) but there are unexplained holes in their story. Of course it’s possible that they inadvertently left out crucial information that would have put them in a better light, but it’s also very possible that the missing details were left out intentionally to avoid bringing up mistakes that would not cast them in a good light.

  • C Schwartz

    Elliott advocates investigate both sides because of this issue. Yet where were the documents to support a claim of negligence against the TA? Where are the documents that contradict the TAs version?

    According to Elliott no documentation was presented that supported the OP who asserted that the travel agent never told them of the flight time change.

    If you feel so strongly that the TA behaved wrongly and the advocate was wrong to dismiss the perhaps you should reach out to the traveler and offer to advocate.

  • Michael__K

    Elliott advocates are volunteers and they decided they couldn’t advocate for someone they believed was not forthright with them, and that’s a perfectly reasonable position.
    That doesn’t in any way shape or form mean that travel agency is being entirely truthful themselves or that they handled this situation well.
    My issue is not with the Elliott advocates but with the double standards of so many commenters. Who assume that any detail missing from a customer’s story automatically implies they are hiding something embarassing. And then assume the opposite about missing details from a business, which should be a lot savvier then the customer as to which details are relevant.

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