When you ask for too much, your rightful claim can be overlooked

Taylor Jennings has a tough time getting his bags from Baton Rouge, La., to Cleveland. Then his flight home to Louisiana is canceled. Rather than wait three days for a new Delta Air Lines flight, he takes matters into his own hands by buying his own ticket from American Airlines and returning home the next day. Naturally, he expects Delta to reimburse him for his American ticket. Unfortunately, this was not the best way to handle the situation. Can our advocates help him get reimbursed nevertheless?

Question: On April 2, I flew from Baton Rouge, La., to Cleveland. There were flight delays and somewhere along the way my baggage was lost. I didn’t receive my luggage until the next day, causing me to have to go to a business dinner in blue jeans. I also had paid Delta $25 to check my luggage.

My return flight from Cleveland to Baton Rouge on April 6 was canceled. Delta couldn’t get me home until April 9. This was a $780 round trip ticket. I booked a one-way flight the next day on American for $514 to get home.

I’ve asked Delta to pay me back for the American ticket, my one-night hotel expense of $270, $25 baggage charge for the lost luggage and $25 baggage charge for the canceled flight. I would also like a refund for my out-of-pocket expenses which were $50 taxi charges to and from the hotel, and $50 in food expenses for dinner and breakfast the next day.

I’ve waited over six weeks and only received $233 for some type of refund. I’ve contacted Delta by email, Twitter and snail mail to try to get reimbursed. Can you help me get back the other $702 the airline owes me? — Taylor Jennings, Baton Rouge, La.

Answer: It must have been a frustrating experience for your bags to not get to your destination, and then for you to not get back from yours.

Related story:   American flew me to Dallas and then canceled my onward flight. I want a refund

Unfortunately, there are no policies or regulations that would compel an airline to pay you for a new flight or for any hotel or food purchases. The requirement that an airline has in this situation is to put you on the next available flight or to refund your ticket. If you request a refund of the ticket, that completes the airline’s responsibility to you, and that is what you did.

The other factor not in your favor is what we call the airlines’ fuzzy math. Half the cost of a roundtrip ticket does not necessarily equate to the cost of a one-way ticket. The $233 refund most likely represented what Delta considered the value of the unused segment between Cleveland and Baton Rouge. I know this is not what you were expecting to hear.

To your credit, in your correspondence with the airline, you were polite and used professional language. The problem may have been the long list of items for which you were seeking reimbursement.

You booked the American flight, hotel and ground transportation on your own. A simple, polite request to Delta’s representatives in Cleveland or on their help line might have helped you get vouchers for most of these items. You could also have escalated your claim by contacting executives at Delta, whose information we list on our website.

You should have received reimbursement immediately for the baggage charges and, perhaps, the flight. Since the airlines review these types of claims on a case-by-case basis, it may have taken an extra push to get the results you wanted, and with the laundry list of requested reimbursements, it may have been easy for Delta to overlook the payments you easily deserved.

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Frustrated with a lack of progress with Delta customer service, you contacted our advocates, who escalated the case on your behalf. Or did you? Your letter to us stated that your name was Taylor. Yet some of the correspondence we received was sent by someone named Cole. Turns out that your mother had been advocating your case for you, in an effort to help out her “very busy 28-year-old son.” Once the confusion was cleared up, we continued to communicate with Delta’s representatives, who indicated that they would deal with you directly.

We heard soon after that Delta had posted a refund of $602 to your American Express card. Congratulations on a positive outcome for a case that could have turned out much worse.

We learned a couple of important lessons here. It is an airline’s obligation to get you from “Point A” to “Point B,” and when they can’t in a reasonable amount of time, you should suggest that they try to book you on another airline at their expense. This is done all the time and would help avoid the outlay of hundreds of dollars with no guarantee of reimbursement. A polite request for food and hotel vouchers could be met with positive results as well.

We also ask that travelers try to advocate for themselves. There’s a chance that by involving more people in a case, important information may be omitted or incorrectly communicated.

We’re glad your case had a happy ending despite its challenges.

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.

  • Rebecca

    What is up with these moms that are overly involved in their kids lives? I shudder to think about the boundary issues when they become grandparents. If they have so much on their plate now, imagine how “very busy” these twenty-somethings will be when they have children!

    Anyone that is genuinely so busy that they don’t have time to manage their own financial and travel affairs has an assistant. That’s exactly what assistants do – they handle the personal affairs of someone that is busy enough and/or wealthy enough to need an assistant.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    No kidding. 28 years old and his mom is advocating for him? Seriously?

  • Mel65

    Right?? My son is 29, my daughter is 27. They are both “very busy professionals” working for the government and if I tried meddling in their financial affairs in such a manner they would very politely and firmly say, “mom I’ve got this; I’m an adult don’t worry about it.”

  • AAGK

    This person got $602!!! I’m amazed. They also turned their mom into their secretary, had elliott advocates assisting and actually checked luggage for a 4 day trip but still received reimbursement. This OP seems quite savvy and got more than deserved.

  • Altosk

    Yeah, this is crazy. “Too busy”…really??

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    The legal basis that travel providers (especially airlines) are only responsible for transport from point A to point B, with time as an irrelevant issue, seems outdated since we no longer travel on clipper ships and wagon trains. I understand a one day delay may sometimes occur, but three days is not reasonable in the modern age. Delta should have been proactive in booking a customer experiencing an unwanted three day delay on another airline, flying them a different route, or busing them to another city to catch a flight home.

  • AJPeabody

    How about having a system resilient enough not to have to cancel the flight in the first place?

  • SierraRose 49

    If Taylor had been advocating for Cole, her “too busy” 28-year-old son, I just don’t even want to think what else she does for him. Taylor – we are all busy. It’s time to let Cole grow up and handle his own problems, something he should have been doing for the last 7-10 years, unless he is physically and/or mentally challenged.

  • greg watson

    28 years old & using different names in communications………………………hmmm

  • Rebecca

    Whenever I read stories like these I hear my mom in the back of my head saying, exactly in the tone and with the inflection she’d use, “Beck, life isn’t fair”.

  • michael anthony

    I can understand why people do it online. I’m outspoken on social media on causes i believe in. I write letters to the editor if the paper. Sure, there’s alot of negative comments, but who cares. But, in this day and age, I’ve even had people actually track my cell down somehow and call and threaten and even mail me letters that go off the rail.
    I understand not to do that in professional issues such as this, but anytime you post anything, you run the risk of the nutcases. Not so much if you have a common name in a big city, but when prople have the audacity to track u down to vent, then yes, people do need to pay attention.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I agree with you, of course, but I can imagine that in a less served city, if the pilots are sick with the flu, a major part needs repair, or whatever, the flight gets cancelled. The airline should then step up to fix the problem, however it takes, rather than just wait.

  • pauletteb

    Today’s helicopter moms make soccer moms look negligent. Crazy!

  • Blamona

    Is the airline even allowed to give info to someone not on ticket or was mom pretending to be the son? They refunded too much

  • greg watson

    ……………and this pertains to what ??………relevance ?

  • joycexyz

    Helicopter Mommy! And “Baby” is willing to let her help. Will she ever let him grow up? Does he really want to?

  • Carchar

    Or, the mom was so exasperated at her son’s not taking a big loss of money seriously, that she decided to “help” him out. So, he said, “If it makes you feel better, Mom, take a stab at it,” and she did. There is no template in life.

  • AAGK

    Or it was her credit card. :)

  • AAGK

    I heard ny mom actually screaming at me last week while i phone call @ a billing issue to stop my annoying calls from her house. My step is usually personally suing about 10 people at a time so she is so sick of it all.

  • AAGK

    Or carry on. I carry on for anything under a week. Also, if it is a business trip then he can probably claim the expense as a deduction anyway and double dip. I agree, 3 days extra would not fly with me at all.

  • Lindabator

    2 things: Delta and American do NOT have a reciprocal agreement any longer, so the “assumption” they would allow the change was not something they would have done, although there may have been a United flight they could use. 2nd — not actually “fuzzy airline math” ADT DTT DL RDU278.14DL DTT432.56USD710.70END DL ZPDTWRDU As an example, this is an actually priced ticket, and while Detroit to Raleigh was priced at $278.14, the return was $432.56, for a round trip of $710.70 — so if the 2nd half was refunded in THIS case, would have received $432.56 — very clear cut actually

  • Lindabator

    so they should continue to operate in bad weather, and potentially crash, JUST not to cancel a flight??? these cancellations are not taken lightly – screws up the entire system for days, and NOT what they wish. But weather, ATC and even mechanical reasons may force a cancellation. Things happen to your car as well — when the engine fails, do you screech you want a new car because it cannot travel? Of course not

  • Pegtoo

    Interesting… I’ve been wondering: if I book a round trip ticket, and do screen shots of the two segments as one-way that same day (as round trip was booked)… does that prove the value of a potential reimbursement if I need a refund like this story? or does airline math always prevail?

  • Lindabator

    The airline math – as it is clear what you actually purchased, and one ways are generally much more than round trip anyway. That is why it may seem a bit confusing to the client, but if you ever complained to a government agency, they actual fare is attached to the ticket, and is what they look at as well

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