When a ticket change goes awry, will I be stuck in Amsterdam?

By | December 21st, 2016

When is an e-ticket not an e-ticket? Liz Fouksman found out the hard way.

Question: I originally bought a ticket traveling on Oct. 3 from Johannesburg to Boston via Paris, returning on Oct. 15.

Seven days before the flight I changed the ticket at KLM’s website to travel instead on Oct. 4 from Johannesburg to Boston via Amsterdam. I paid 1,961 South African rand for the change with my credit card, and later checked my online transactions and saw that the charge was reflected there.

I received by email a confirmation of the change, which clearly states that I did not need to reconfirm my ticket. What I thought was my ticket was attached with the new date and an invitation to check in online for the flight to Amsterdam the day before.

I also called both KLM’s U.S. and South Africa numbers to ask for a vegan meal and to request a seat. Both call centers confirmed that I was on the flight to Amsterdam on the 4th.

However, when I arrived at the airport to check in, I was told that I was not issued a ticket number for that flight, and that their system still had me flying the day before on my original flight to Paris!

I was sent to the KLM ticket desk, and despite showing my confirmation and emailed ticket, no one could help me. In the end, under extreme stress and nearly missing the flight, I had to purchase a new ticket. The total has been billed to my U.S. credit card as $552.

I have already filed a complaint three times on the KLM website and have had no response at all, not even a confirmation of receipt. Today I called KLM, and then spent two and a half hours on the phone, being shunted between different lines. In the end I spoke to a Delta Customer Support supervisor who told me that there was nothing she could do to help me, and that I must wait thirty days. She was rude, unprofessional and unhelpful.

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I found this experience deeply disappointing and very stressful. I am a frequent flyer, and I have never encountered this with any other airline. My faith in KLM and its professionalism has been severely shaken. I will also note that the man who was helping me at the KLM ticket desk in Johannesburg told me that he has seen the same problem several times before. He also tried to call the KLM tech help multiple times while he was helping me, and could not get through, something he noted also happens frequently. That it happened once, to me, is unacceptable, but that this is a repeated occurrence is unthinkable in a major airline like KLM. — Liz Fouksman, Johannesburg, South Africa

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your unpleasant experience with both KLM and its codeshare partner, Delta Air Lines.

It seems clear from your paper trail that the error was on their part, and they should have quickly and politely made it right. We found it particularly telling that when you finally boarded your flight, the vegan meal you’d requested was waiting, making it clear that at least part of the reservation system was expecting you aboard. Our advice? Always reconfirm. Even when your airline says it’s not necessary. Especially when it says it. You can never be too safe!

Here’s another case where our list of contacts to airline executives may have helped you resolve this on your own. We list executive contacts for KLM and Delta on our advocacy site.

We reached out to the airlines on your behalf, and we’re glad to hear they contacted you and have agreed to refund the cost of the additional ticket. But you shared with us that in your communication with the airline you’d also asked for some sort of additional compensation, “In light of the deeply unprofessional and unpleasant nature of this experience.”

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And given that the error in this case was clearly the airline’s, we agree that would have been a nice gesture on their part.

  • Dutchess

    Our advice? Always reconfirm. Even when your airline says it’s not necessary. Especially when it says it. You can never be too safe!

    It sounds like they DID confirm. They called, got a seat, had a meal request etc for the new flights. Not sure how much more confirmation one could do?

  • Bill___A

    Go on KLM’s website, access the reservation with the PNR locator (find out the KLM one if it is bought as a code share). I ALWAYS go into the airline’s website and find my ticket. I note that this is the second story in a week where checking this would have gone a long way to making things smoother.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    And if they did re-reconfirm, assuming they could even get through, they most likely would have been fobbed off

  • BubbaJoe123

    If they were able to choose a seat and put in a meal request, why do you think the PNR wouldn’t have come up online?

  • Lindabator

    can have a PNR reservation, but the ticket not issued – can still assign seats, meals and special services prior to issuing a ticket

  • Lindabator

    PNR allows you to hold seats, meals and special services – does NOT mean it has been ticketed – look for a ticket number to ensure the reservation has actually been ticketed

  • Bill___A

    I look at the ticket number. It works for me. I don’t know exactly what happened here, it sounds screwed up. But I’ve always checked things my way and I’ve never had a problem since I started checking to make sure others do what they are supposed to do. I learned my lesson in 1999 when a Travel Agent from AMEX Platinum travel screwed up and I was dropping my wife off in Houston. (and this is not a slam against travel agents in particular, it is just that one needs to check these things so they don’t go off the rails).

  • cscasi

    You never know until you try. A few minutes doing that might prove to be better than what he faced at the ticket counter the morning of travel.

  • cscasi

    Correct! Whenever I purchase a ticket or use award miles, I always check those things. If I get a ticket through United Airlines but involves travel on a second airline, there will be two PNR numbers; one for United and one for the other airline (when it confirms the ticketing for the flight on its metal). And, seeing the actual ticket number(s) is a sure sign the reservation has been confirmed by both airlines.
    In the case of using United and flying on Lufthansa, once I get the Lufthansa PNR number, I can go on the Lufthansa website and pick the seat(s) I want as opposed to the ones issued when the United reservation was ticketed by Lufthansa.

  • PsyGuy

    I’m happy it worked out for you. I would say however that while I wasn’t on the phone, I have always enjoyed flying KLM and Ive had very good service experience with them. What was the problem was that this was a codeshare flight that was really operated by Delta, which is why KLM couldn’t help you very much. I have no problems dumping all of this on Delta.

  • PsyGuy

    How many times do you need to confirm, before you’re confirmed, and would it matter how many times you confirmed if you got to the airport and your seat wasn’t confirmed?

  • PsyGuy

    Yeah, but then when you go to the website it wouldn”t say the flight was ‘ticketed”.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I have learned many things from this site…and one of the most valuable has been confirm, confirm, confirm. Especially for international or code-share flights. I always go online and verify everything – that I have an actual ticket, that my seat assignment is on the record, that any upgrades I purchased are reflected.

    I’ve also learned to never trust what I hear on the phone.

    That being said, when traveling it can be hard to find an opportunity to verify things online. But given the many problems I’ve seen occur due to NOT doing this, I will make every effort including, if necessary, finding an internet cafe.

    It’s unfortunate that we can’t trust airlines to do what they say. They shouldn’t be allowed to take our money and not give us what was promised. But that’s the reality today.

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