“Our anniversary trip was ruined and British Airways kept our $3,269”

When David Abelson purchased roundtrip airfare to Vienna, he learned a valuable lesson about passport requirements. Unfortunately, he learned them just a little too late to save his vacation.

Question: We paid $3,269 in April for tickets from Sacramento, Calif., to Vienna via Los Angeles and London on British Airways through JustFly.com.

One month later, British Airways requested copies of our U.S. passports to expedite security clearances. Our vacation was supposed to begin on May 30, and our passports were scheduled to expire in mid-July.

When we arrived in Los Angeles from Sacramento, British Airways’ ticket agent refused to issue boarding passes for our flight to London. She also ordered our two pieces of luggage to be unloaded from that flight. The agent would not explain the problem, so we requested a supervisor. She stated that since our valid U.S. passports expired within about six weeks, Austria would not allow entry (requiring passport expiration dates no sooner than three months after departure from Austria).

We asked why British Airways had not notified us of this restriction either at the time of ticket purchase, or when British Airways requested, reviewed and approved our passports several days prior to the date of departure. Their response was that the airline is not required to provide such notice (even though our international itinerary was clear, and our passports had been reviewed and preapproved by British Airways and its agents).

We then asked if any similar passport restrictions applied for our flight from Los Angeles to London; British Airways’ supervisor initially refused to answer the question, but then conceded that England had no such passport restrictions. We again asked British Airways to issue our boarding passes from Los Angeles to London. These were reluctantly provided, with great uncertainty as to whether our luggage would be reloaded in time for our flight to London.

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While waiting in the security clearance line to board, we noticed that our British Airways tickets indicated that only one of our two bags had been checked for the flight to London. We raced back to the ticket counter, where no agent was available. The time for final boarding of the flight to London had expired, and we were unable to board.

For over five months, British Airways refused to respond to our repeated written efforts to resolve this matter, sending meaningless form letters instead. Finally they sent a substantive response, denying our request for refund or credit for future travel. Several additional written requests led to repeated rejections by British Airways.

Our anniversary trip was ruined, and British Airways kept our $3,269. Could you please help us to recover the money we spent on the uncompleted trip? And please try to warn other travelers of the passport expiration-date issue. — David Abelson, Sacramento, Calif.

Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined.

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