No premium economy seats. Did her travel agent make a mistake?

No premium economy seats were available on her flight. Did the travel agent make a mistake?

Laura McNeill didn’t get premium economy seats from Miami to Rome. Did her travel agent make a mistake — or did she make an assumption she shouldn’t have? That’s the question we have to answer in today’s “no premium economy seats” case. And it won’t be easy.

McNeill’s story is unfortunate but all too common. Inexperienced travelers often connect dots that they shouldn’t, leading to confusion and disappointment. The takeaway: Review your flight itinerary carefully and ask questions if you’re unsure. And as my old editor used to say, “Assume nothing.”

No premium economy seats? Here’s what happened

How could something like this happen? Well, as McNeill explains, she made the travel arrangements in 2017 through a travel agent, who was a friend of her spouse. The couple flew to Italy this June.

(Are the red flags flapping in the wind yet? Choosing a travel agent based on friendship, rather than professional qualifications, is a big no-no. You want to make sure you’re working with a pro. You can always make friends later.)

The tickets were supposed to be on Lufthansa in premium economy class, she says.

“The travel agent booked travel and charged airfare on Aug. 31, 2017,” she recalls. “But he didn’t book the original Itinerary we requested. Flights and travel were booked in economy seats and through a travel agency in Chicago.”

Worse, McNeill didn’t discover the problem until this spring, when she finally received a printed itinerary.

“The flights leaving Italy were on United, not Lufthansa,” she says. “We were routed through Newark, and we had to pay an additional $800 on the date of travel to upgrade to premium economy.”

I know, I know. More red flags.

Did her travel agent make a mistake?

Our advocate Dwayne Coward asked McNeill to share her paper trail — the correspondence between her and her travel agent. It showed that her original itinerary had been booked with United Airlines but operated by Lufthansa.

United and Lufthansa are partners on these routes, so it is possible to be booked with either airline and have the flight operated by the other.

Then United changed her schedule, routing her through Newark and flying her on a United aircraft. Again, that’s pretty routine.

As for the seating, a careful look at her original reservation doesn’t show a premium economy assignment. In other words, there’s no evidence that her travel agent or her airline had her flying up front. And that’s why she didn’t get premium economy seats.

A brief sidebar on why premium economy matters is in order. Airline seats are tiny. When you’re flying overseas and sitting for long periods you want at least a humane amount of personal space. The so-called “premium” economy seats offer about as much room as economy class seats did 20 years ago, give or take. But you have to pay extra for them — in McNeill’s case, $800 extra. Otherwise, no premium economy seats.

Yes, it’s shameless and greedy on the part of airlines. But for now, it’s legal.

Anyway, did her travel agent make a mistake? No, she did not. Was she a good communicator? No, she was not.

What mistakes led to the no premium economy seats problem?

McNeill wants refunds of $300 from United and $800 from her travel agent for upgrade fees she and her husband paid. She appealed to the airline (denied), to the BBB (I’ll let you guess what it said), and finally, after getting a round of “nos,” to our advocacy team.

Before I get to our answer, let’s talk about some of the mistakes and oversights that were made.

One of the issues is code-sharing, a complicated agreement between airlines that passengers don’t always grasp. Code-sharing is a marketing arrangement between two or more carriers. It allows one airline to place its designator code on a flight operated by another airline, and sell tickets for that flight. Here’s a full definition from the Department of Transportation.

In McNeill’s case, it allowed United to sell her a flight from Miami to Rome, even though it didn’t operate the flight. Lufthansa did. In any other industry, this would be unthinkable. I mean, imagine a Lamborghini with a Fiat engine. But in the airline industry, it’s accepted, even though many observers (including yours truly) believe it’s unethical.

If McNeill had taken a moment to brush up on code-sharing, she wouldn’t have been shocked by the schedule change. Her agent could have explained it to her, of course. But as I’ve already explained, she isn’t exactly the Great Communicator.

One other thing the agent could have done: helped her understand how schedule changes work. They’re fairly routine. They’re beyond her control, too.

The passenger also made mistakes. Lots of ’em.

By now, you’re probably adding up all the mistakes McNeill made. There are many. Instead of dwelling on them, I thought it would be helpful to offer some advice:

Always get a written itinerary after you make a reservation. A verbal confirmation doesn’t count.

Read the itinerary. Make sure it has the right city pairs, the correct seats, and the right days.

Don’t connect dots you shouldn’t. That applies to seats, meals, boarding privileges … pretty much anything.

“The fact that United charged almost $1,400 more than the total of $2,572 that it quoted is just mean,” she told us. “The fact [our agent] has been allowed to speak mistruths and mislead my husband is extremely disappointing.”

Dwayne and the rest of our advocacy team would have loved to help McNeill if she didn’t get premium economy seats, as promised. If we’d found even the smallest opening, we certainly would have tried. But we couldn’t find one. Both United and her agent played this by the book. It sure didn’t feel that way to her, and frankly, to me — but unless a voicemail turns up promising her premium economy seats, this case is going nowhere.

McNeill says she will never use a travel agent again.

“I will trust only myself, through direct contact with airlines, to make travel arrangements,” she says. I don’t blame her.

RSS
Facebook
Twitter
Visit Us
LinkedIn

Underwritten by

This site is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

This site is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

This site is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

This site is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

This site is underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

This site is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

This site is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

This site is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

This site is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

This site is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

This site is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

This site is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

This site is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

This site is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

This site is underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

This site is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

This site is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

This site is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.