A legitimate complaint wrapped inside a frivolous one — should I let this case go?

A rainy day at the airport. / Photo by Carib b – Flickr Creative Commons
I don’t normally dismiss cases reflexively, but when I hear someone complaining about special meals, it takes a lot for me to follow through and contact an airline on their behalf.

But Anthony Harris’ problem was different. Yes, he had an issue with the kosher meal he says US Airways failed to provide on his flight from New York to London, but there was also the matter of the $100 cab fare he had to pay after his first flight was canceled.

All of this raises a bigger question: Should I advocate for travelers whose grievances are framed in a way that they make it difficult, if not impossible, to successfully mediate?

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Don’t misunderstand me. Spending half a day on a plane without any edible food is no small problem. But complaints about in-flight cuisine are generally considered frivolous by the airline; their attitude is, “Well, consider yourself lucky that we had any food on the flight.” (And in a day and age when meals aren’t included in the price of even a transcontinental flight, they have a point.)

Harris’ grievance about kosher meals was further undermined by a complaint about a rude flight attendant. Again, many airlines feel that having anyone attend to your needs is a luxury, so if one of their attendants gets snippy, so what?

I don’t share that view, by the way. I think crewmembers should always be polite. Let them be rude when they’re off the clock. Go on, flight attendants, leave an unkind comment on my site if you really want to vent. I can take it!

Harris was scheduled to fly from New York to Philadelphia and then on to London. But his shuttle flight to Philadelphia was canceled, so he had to take a cab to Philadelphia to make the connection, he says.

“This cost an extra $100,” he noted.

Harris also wants a refund for the New York-to-Philadelphia leg, because he couldn’t use it. That sounds fair (wait for US Airways’ response before deciding if it is, though).

Now, about the airline food. I’ll let Harris explain:

Our party had ordered kosher meals and US Airways was one short and one of our party never received the meal.

Approximately half an hour after the meals had been finished, one of the stewardesses tapped me on the shoulder just as I had fallen asleep and told me that it was my fault that the other person had not had a meal, as it was given to me instead.

Apparently, it was not on her list that I should get a kosher meal, even though my son traveling with me and sitting next to me was down for the meal.

I had ordered a kosher meal, I had checked that the meal had been put on the flight and had been given the meal and had eaten it — it was a ridiculous thing to suggest that it was my fault.

Later, when flight attendants handed out snacks, Harris asked about the kosher meals again.

“I told the stewardess very politely that I was not very happy with this, as these meals had been ordered when the tickets were booked,” he says. “She again tried to blame me and also said there was nothing they could do now.”

And then came the confrontation.

I shrugged my shoulders and was going to leave it at that. However, one of the stewards saw me shrugging my shoulders and started shouting at me that I had been complaining all through the flight about the food — which was absolutely not true — and then he swore at me twice.

He said, “I don’t give a s**t.”

This was absolutely unacceptable behavior from one of your staff members and I would like a full refund of my ticket for being shouted at and sworn at in public. I look forward to your very speedy reply or I will speak to my solicitor.

That’s British for, “Refund my ticket, or I’ll sue.”

US Airways’ response?

Based on what you’ve said and the information in your e-mails, our flight attendant didn’t handle the situation with the quality customer care we expect. I apologize and understand your frustration. I can assure you this doesn’t reflect the US Airways philosophy and your feedback will be used to help US improve service.

I’ve shared your experience with the inflight supervisory staff and appropriate InFlight Manager. This incident will also be discussed with the employee and handled internally.

While we are unable to provide the compensation you have requested, as a business courtesy, I’ve authorized two $50.00 Electronic Travel With US Vouchers (E-TUV).

Your request for a refund of the unused La Guardia to Philadelphia segment has been sent to our Refund Department. Please allow 14-21 business days for processing.

Mr. Harris, we know that you have many choices when it comes to traveling these days and we would welcome the opportunity to provide a more pleasurable experience on a future US Airways flight. At this time, we respectfully consider this file closed.

Harris doesn’t consider the matter closed.

He points out that if he’d said the same thing to the flight attendant, he’d be arrested for interfering with the flight crew. That’s probably true.

“It is for this unacceptable behavior that I am asking compensation,” he told me. “It created a lasting impression with me and all those who traveled with me.”

I think a full ticket refund is a little much. I’m more concerned with the canceled flight and the $100 cab ride to Philadelphia. US Airways blames air traffic problems for the cancellation, and it’s true that Harris should have spoken with a ticket agent about his options for connecting to his overseas flight instead of grabbing a cab to Philly.

Should I advocate for a refund of his $100 cab fare, even though it’s been overshadowed by an emotionally-charged grievance about airline food?

I have a strong suspicion that US Airways was technically following its contract by refunding the New York-Philadelphia leg while denying him the cab fare. But is that the right call?

90 thoughts on “A legitimate complaint wrapped inside a frivolous one — should I let this case go?

  1. His complaint is basically:

    -You canceled the first leg of my itinerary, I had to book my own cab at my own expense to make the rest of the legs of my trip
    -You messed up the special food request
    -Your flight attendant cursed at me.

    In response, he’d like:
    -A refund of the entire cost of the plane ticket
    -Compensation for the cab.

    US Airways is offering him:
    -A refund of the canceled leg of his itinerary
    -$100 in vouchers toward a future trip.

    My thoughts:
    -He’s lucky that US Airways didn’t cancel the rest of his tickets because he ‘missed’ the first leg of his itinerary.
    -The messed up meals are a bit of a headache, but they fall in the realm of “what do you want me to do about it? We’re in the middle of the air. If I could magic some kosher food out of the next cloud, I would, but we’re in the middle of the air.” I don’t particularly think the guy is due a refund of any sort for that. Make do with pretzels or whatever else they have available, even if it’s not a “meal”.
    -The letter notes he’s asking for a refund of the ticket. I think it’s a bit ridiculous that he would ask for the whole cost to be refunded. But even more so, I think he might actually be asking for the entire round trip ticket to be refunded, which is flatly ridiculous. -He’s getting compensation for the cab ride. It just happens to be in the form of a refund of the Philly-to-New York leg. (I’m assuming that the cost of the Philly-to-New York leg was more than $100, AND that they’re refunding it in cash-money and not vouchers.) -Even beyond the cab compensation, the guy got a pretty reasonable and respectful (ie not a brush-off) email in return. They’re addressing the customer service issues. They were transparent in their response. And they gave him a (smallish) bonus of some vouchers. 

    Really, I think this guy is getting a much sweeter deal than the vast majority of complainants on this blog. Leave well enough alone. I voted “no”.

    1.  I think you pretty much summed it up perfectly, Josh. 

      If he gets the refund of the cancelled portion of his trip then I think this case is settled, Chris. 

    2. I wouldn’t assume that the cost of a Philly-New York leg would be more than $100.  Advanced (normally) nonrefundable airfare can often be available at a steep discount.

      Still, it seemed like a pretty good offer to me.

      1.  I just did a quick check of the fares on US Airways, and the lowest I found for advance purchase was over $225, so I’d say that his refund for that leg definitely covered his cab fare plus some.

      2. And don’t forget, the Philly-New York leg that was canceled would be x2, since he’s traveling with his son. I cannot imagine that even with wonky Airline accounting rules and steeply-discounted rates for advance nonrefundable tickets would work out to less than $50/person…

  2. I simply can’t muster up any empathy for the OP here. He chose to take the cab and make the flight instead of waiting for the next flight/s out. It sucks, but he’s getting a refund on the unused flight instead. Can’t have both.

    And it was a pain to not have a meal that was ordered. For that, he got $100 in credit. Mistakes happen and he got 10x more than what the meal was worth. On a practical note, if I had a very specific dietary requirement, I’d always pack a back-up. “Stuff” happens.

    And just to clarify… he wants a free Philly – London flight because the FA was rude? To be practical (again), complaining about a missed meal to the FA will get you no where. They can’t make one materialize. Save it for a letter to the airlines afterwards.

    1. The only problem with your back-up lunch plan is you’ll never make it thru security with a lunch.  You’ll just end up feeding some TSA agent after they sieze it.

        1. And I’ve never had food make it past security…unless it was dry pre-packaged food such as a granola bar.  But anything that is remotely moist is in jeopardy of being seized.  Do you not remember “cupcake-gate”, in which a TSA screener stole a red-velvet cupcake because the frosting was considered a gel?

          I’ve had a ham sandwich confiscated because the mayo was a gel.  I also had my pasta primavera that was in a doggie bag from a restaurant IN THE AIRPORT (but outside the sterile area) taken…I guess the Alfredo sauce was considered a liquid?

          But then my sister had no problem with HER left-over pasta.  Maybe because it had a light tomato sauce rather than Alfredo?  Given the girth of the TSOs at that check point, I wouldn’t be surprised if they picked the leftovers that were more in line with their dining choices.

          Bottom line:  unless you are bringing dry food (which would not be satisfying to most people for a long international flight), you can’t count on being able to bring your own meals.

      1. You can take food through the TSA screening with no problem. You can’t bring liquids through. Sandwiches sail through the screening process with no problem.

  3. I originally voted yes until I read the story closer. 

    In order:

    He’s already been compensated for the flight attendant swearing.  Asking for the entire trip free is opportunistic behavior which should never be rewarded.

    They didn’t mess up his food request.  He got what he requested.  This is really the same as the first complaint.  He’s trying to make one complaint into two to bolster his attempt to extort money from the airlines

    Regarding his cab ride.  As he was refunded the cancelled segment, asking for the cab ride money is double dipping.   The only potential claim he has would be the difference between the cost of the cancelled leg and the $100.  I would suspect that we’re talking a couple of Andrew Jacksons at best.

    If the OP were to come to my office I would politely but firmly decline his case. He sounds like the client from hell.  We call people like him a walking malpractice lawsuit/ state bar complaint waiting to happen because he’s entitled and never satisfied.  RUN!!

    1. LOL I did the same thing!  So Christopher, you have two YES votes that should have been NO.  The reason I voted yes was that I initially misread it and thought he hadn’t received a refund on the leg that was cancelled.  He did.  Hence, nothing to mediate.

      I agree with some others that I’d be curious what the cost was of that refunded leg.  I’ll bet it was at least close to the $100.  Bottom line – he’s not entitled to a free trip to Philly.

      I actually believe his story about the flight attendants.  I’ve witnessed a couple of really horrific experiences with flight attendants.  While the vast majority that I’ve seen have been nothing less than professional (and often go far beyond the call of duty), I’m sure it can be hell up there and I’ve seen them lose it on occasion myself.  There was no call for that kind of behavior.  I don’t know if I believe the airline that they’ll take any steps, but at least they acknowledged that the behavior was inappropriate, and apologized.  That’s all he deserves.  He CERTAINLY doesn’t deserve any money for it!  Sheesh, if everyone who encountered a rude airline employee got refunds for their tickets…well then, all we’d have to do is act like jerky passengers to provoke a response, then enjoy the windfall!  (Oh wait…some people do that anyway…) 😉

  4. Normally, I’d say mediate.  After all, he did have to cough up $100 for the cab ride to catch the next leg of his journey.  But there’s too much other garbage in there.  He seems to be overly concerned with a free meal, which is insignificant; and he wants a full refund, which is an absurdity.  Two wrongs don’t make a right here and it’s not worth the tie to mediate.  

  5. I don’t think Harris was complaining about the missing meal at all – he was complaining about the FA who woke him up to tell him it was his fault the meal was missing for another party because it was served to him.   That despite having ordered the meal, he was not on the airlines list so the count was off. The FA was out of line doing this – what was he supposed to do at that point?? He addressed the issue later and was cursed at by another FA.  He has not escalated this into a religious discrimination issue but I do have to wonder if that did not enter into the FA’s minds.  I don’t classify their behavior as “snippy”, it is beyond that, but since I was not there, I really cannot say how far.

    The flight was canceled so he (and apparently his son and maybe others) got into a cab and arrived at Philadelphia in time for their flight.  How many times do readers complain because the PAX did not try to help themselves?  This guy did what he needed to and caught the flight.  He does not say if US Airways tried to rebook him or not, or how many hours delay it might have been.  Or considering that he wanted a Kosher meal, whether the arrival time would now fall into a time when for religious reasons he could not leave the airport in London until the end of Shabbat.  So he helped himself and got to his scheduled flight. 

    He is asking for reimbursement for the cab fare.

    Refund of the unused NYC to Phil ticket(s) Was his son along too?

    A serious apology about the FAS (at least two FAs were rude, that goes well beyond one person having a bad day) blaming him for the missing meal and the cursing.  He says refund of the ticket, I agree that is high, but he is due more than they offered.  He is right that if he behaved as the FAs did, he likely would have been arrested on landing so US Airways should be treating this far more seriously when they are the ones in the wrong.

    1.  I need to point out two things:

      (1) US728 departs Philly at 950PM for London. If he was traveling on Friday, then he was not planning to observe Shabbat, correct ???
      Furthermore, the flight arrives London at 10AM the next day. So if that was a Saturday, that is not AFTER sundown.

      (2) The US Airways flights from EWR or LGA to PHL do not have a good on time record, mostly 50% or below rating. These ratings are disclosed (depending on the vendor’s site) when one picks flights.

      Airlines do not control the weather and air traffic.
      If you have a special religious requirement then you need to plan for delays accordingly.

      Excellent article here:

      I would like to insert a third observation. Here in the East Coast, I have yet to find a company or institution that does not accommodate people who practice the Jewish faith. In fact last Monday and Tuesday, our kids did have a (public) school holiday. It seems like the airline’s commissary simply made an honest mistake. No need to refund the whole airfare.

      1. Do we know he was traveling on Friday?  Or might the next flight that was available going to change to Friday?  I agree that if he was traveling on Friday, he was not observing Shabbat, but keeping Kosher is a 24/7/365 situation.

        The airline commissary did make a mistake, the issue is the FA telling him that because the FA served it to him, someone else’s meal was missing so the snafu was HIS fault not the commissary. 

        And I agree that many companies and institutions do accomodate the major holidays, but I don’t have any evidence that this was on a holiday or Shabbat.  Go not to many miles away and the understanding disappears.  I have been asked if we still sacrifice animals – by a graduate student in college!  Ignorance abounds.

        1. I was merely responding to your original comment:

          Or considering that he wanted a Kosher meal, whether the arrival time
          would now fall into a time when for religious reasons he could not leave
          the airport in London until the end of Shabbat.  So he helped himself
          and got to his scheduled flight. 


          I believe you brought up the possibility that rescheduling might have put his flight to be on Shabbat. I was merely saying that if he scheduled on a Friday, then he probably did not intend to observe Shabbat because the flight schedule did not support it.

          He could have objected to flying on Shabbat. And knowing that he objected to a wrong meal request, he would have probably brought up the Shabbat issue, too, if it was the case.

      2. TonyA – Very interesting article – in the case presented by The Ethicist, I think the family was wrong to ask to get off the flight and disturb others.  They started out early enough so they had the correct intentions, and could have justified continuing.  If that did not sit well with their conscience, then they should not have boarded because it was likely that they would be arriving too late.  The rules are important but not important enough to create a ruckus for everyone and in my opinion their wrong was the bigger one.  My understanding is that G-d is more concerned about the intent to be good than the actual accomplishment, everyone fails a little sometimes. 

        In the situation presented in Chris Elliott’s column today, the passenger may have been acting proactively to avoid exactly this conundrum – there had to be a reason why it was so important to catch that particular flight in Philadelphia.

        1. Asking for a refund for the WHOLE flight for such a “small” inconvenience is not consistent with the teachings of any religion. He lost my vote when he asked for that.

          1. Negotiation?  He starts high, airline starts low, maybe there is a meeting at a more reasonable place?  There have certainly been many cases of back and forth to get to a better outcome in other cases.   I agree a refund for the whole flight is too much.

      3. Could it be that they were originally scheduled to travel on a Thursday, and that catching the next flight out would have not gotten them to their destination in London prior to sundown on Friday? Anyway, Shabbat is not mentioned in the complaint, so we’re way in the realm of hypotheticals at this point.

        That being said, with respect to observing Shabbat vs. Kashrut, one does not always imply the other. There are many situations where one might currently observe one and not the other. For instance, when a secular Jewish person is becoming more observant, it is generally recommended to take on only a few new commandments at a time, so it isn’t so overwhelming. 

        All that being said, LW is requesting too much of US Airways. He has already been fairly compensated for his troubles.

        1. I agree. The OP did not bring up religion. He just ordered and did not get a certain type of special meal. Not all who buy kosher salt are necessarily observing a religious rite:-)

  6. I really think you walk away because I’m not sure what’s left to mediate. US Air has already given him $100 in vouchers for having a FA get upset at him (based on his recollection of the conversation, I’m sure that he was not Mr. Nice either) and not having the kosher meal which their records show he failed to order.  What’s left to mediate? $100 in airline funny money seems to be pretty fair “I’m sorry” for the confusion around his meal and a FA getting fed up with him. As far as the cab fare, they are refunding the New York to Philly leg of the flight which is pretty fair since it doesn’t appear from your write up that they told him to do this (I have had airlines put me in a cab to another airport hours away when they have had problems) but a choice that he made.

    While I hate to say this, I think US Air has been fair in this case.

    Edited for readabliity

  7. Other than a refund for the cancelled leg and the voucher he already has for the missing meal, no compensation is due, and, since he’s threatened to go to a lawyer, no additional compensation will occur.

    He needed to give USAir a chance to get him to London without taking it upon himself to go to Philly.  NYC->LON has a bazillion ways to get there; USAir undoubtedly would without him taking matters into his own hands.  Frankly, if it was only an extra $100, that must have been two pricey tickets; USAir probably would have given him pretty decent treatment.

    1. He needed to give USAir a chance to get him to London without taking it upon himself to go to Philly.

      US Airways generally has just one flight a day to London.

      And we’ve seen from other cases that if a passenger misses the connection in PHL (through no fault of their own), US Airways won’t hesitate to strand them there for a night or longer without offering alternative routing on other airlines.

      1.  I agree that USAir’s proposed solution may not have been optimal, but we don’t have any idea what it would have been, since he didn’t even ask.  They may have just booked a ticket direct from JFK to London on another carrier.  (It isn’t universal by any means, but it isn’t unheard of.)

        1. How do you know he didn’t ask?  

          Booking a ticket direct on another carrier would be practically unheard of for US Airways.  Refer to past cases on this blog where US Airways chose to unapologetically strand passengers for 24+ hours rather than endorse a ticket over to another airline.

          1. We don’t and why is that information not provided in the article?  How was this handled before the OP decided to take the taxi?

  8. I was on the East Coast proper for the first time in the last 2 weeks (I’d been to Orlando a few times, and a layover DC on the way home from England).

    We flew into BWI, and the next day took an Amtrak train up to NY’s Penn Station.

    So, having done that, even only once, I have to ask: why the hell does anybody fly from NY to Philadelphia? I’m assuming since New York is mentioned, it’s referring to NYC.

    But you can’t really be saving that much time and/or money in taking such a flight. And since the OP was traveling with at least one other person, if not more, a cab was probably the cheaper option to begin with.

    1. USAir does NOT fly EWR/JFK to London (LHR). But they fly EWR/LGA to PHL or CLT and then to London.

      Since, normally, the fares of USAir from NYC to LON is cheaper than PHL-LON then I don’t see why New Yorkers will pay for a ride on their own to get to Philly.

  9. If he is getting the one cancelled flight segment refunded, he would still need to pay for transportation on that leg.   Since the flight was likely more than $100, the cab far is reasonable.  As for the in flight stuff, there must be more to the story.

  10. A full refund? That’s bloody bonkers!
    (That’s almost-British for are you effin’ kidding me?!)

    If this guy was soooo concerned about eating on a flight, pack a couple of granola/energy bars. I have a seafood allergy. I am very hesitant to eat anything on an airplane because I don’t know where it’s been, what’s touched it, etc.

    Rather than make a stink, I take responsibility for myself and my health by packing my own snacks. Yes, even on international trips!

    I was on a flight with a man who got in an FA’s face because they did not have the Halal meal he had special ordered. He called her “racist” for not providing the meal. Really, dude? Grow up. FAs don’t control what gets loaded onto the plane.

    If your dietary requirements, whether by health or religion dictate a deviation from the norm, YOU need to be responsible for them. Don’t put it off on the airline.

    That said, he’s been given vouchers (more than he deserves) and a refund on the unused leg.

    Question for the Agents Among Us:
    Would this situation fall into the “hidden city” clause? Does the airline have to refund him at all?

    1.  I agree.  Being upset about the meal is one thing, but what can the FA do about it at that point?  Wave a magic wand?  As he notes, the party (more than one person) was short a meal, so maybe each person could have given a portion of their meal to the shorted person so they wouldn’t go hungry.

      A refund on the unused portion of the leg is fair and will likely amount to more than the cost of the cab fare.  He’s lucky to get anything at all, especially given that he didn’t give the airline a chance to do anything about the problem when it first surfaced.

      People like this are never going to be satisfied.  Run away now before he threatens you with a solicitor.

    2. This is not a violation of hidden city fare rules since he really intended to board (depart) from NYC on a NYC-LON fare. He probably did early checked in (or attempted to) but the flight was cancelled. He probably told the USAir that he was proceeding to PHL (on his own) instead and they agreed.

      That said, USAir’s NYC-LON fare is usually cheaper than its PHL-LON fare. So, I am not sure how they will compute the refund for the NYC-PHL leg. It might be a negative refund 🙂 If this was a voluntary reroute then there would have been a fare difference (not in favor of the passenger.)

      Since we did not hear the side of the FA, then we don’t know the whole story. It’s hard to believe the FA did this unless he/she was not “provoked” first by an irritating passenger. I agree with you and others. If you can’t get the meal you per-ordered, there is nothing an FA can do about it at 30,000 feet up in the sky. They did what they can do, rob Peter to pay Paul. They gave him someone else’s kosher meal, and they told him about it.

      While the FA was impolite (and needs retraining), saying “I don’t give a sh*t” really means “I can’t do anything about it, so be quiet and stop complaining”. The FA was probably very frustrated at the situation, too. He does not control the commissary.

      1. I was once flying SFO-MSN on the old UA.  It was a really cheap ticket and I chose to connect in DEN so I could be on the SFO-DEN flight with Mrs. Emanon.  I am not sure if anyone flys a direct SFO-MSN, so I am not sure who they were competing with, but it was a great fare.  It was actually the return portion of MSN-SFO, though the outbound was MSN-ORD-SFO.

        Long story short, on the return I no longer needed to go back to MSN, my project finished ahead of schedule.  I called United to change the return to SFO-DEN.  The agent advised me that would increase my fare by about $600, then he suggested I just hop off in DEN and not board the next segment.  I asked if I would get in trouble for hidden city violation and he said that they don’t go after people unless it becomes habitual.  He also stated he would note it in my PNR in case an auditor looked.

        I still feel nervous from time to time that this will come back and bite me, but it was 2 years ago now.  The bad part was Mrs.Emanon has no status, so we had to pay extra to check my bag under her ticket so the bags would stop in Denver.  Still cheaper than changing the ticket though.

        1. Yours was a case of hidden city ticketing because you got OFF in (a connection stop) at DEN  when the true destination (of the fare) was really SFO.
          The presumption is the passenger is trying to fool the airline since fares to/from DEN was more expensive than SFO’s.

          The OP’s case couldn’t have been hidden city when he got ON a connection point instead of the intended origin because the airline would easily spot him using the ticket coupons out of order. He was not hiding anything or trying to fool the airline to get a cheaper fare. He was simply trying to accommodate himself due to a cancellation.

          Since you and the OP (I think he did) contacted the airline and got their permission, then everything is kosher. Neither of you intended to cheat the airline. Permission granted.

        2. I had a honeymoon couple who I booked roundtrip tickets from SAN to Europe with the return connecting in IAD.  Between the time they booked their tickets, which was months prior to the honeymoon, they made a move to Maryland.  They didn’t want to pay to change their tickets and were would fly from SAN back if the carrier didn’t allow to do what they did, which was the told the carrier in Rome what they wanted to do and why and the carrier approved it.  Since customs was in IAD, they were able to check their luggage and then leave the airport after clearing customs for no change in the ticket or fees.  Had they not done that, the carrier could have come back to the issuing agent and collected fee from them.  But I have never head of this happening, but it is a threat they put out to us.

      2.  I think you’re largely on point here. The difficulty I am having is whether or not a “refund” is even applicable.

        In a contract each party has the obligation to perform, and the remedy for the failure of one party to perform is not necessarily a refund. Rather, the remedy is to make the other party whole. If the other party has to expend money to be made whole, that other party is ordinarily entitled to recover the full amount of that expenditure, even if more than the amount of a “refund.” For example, if advance purchase tickets cost $100 and day-of-departure tickets cost $500, and if the airline failed to transport a passenger with advance purchase tickets, it would ordinarily be liable for $500, and would not be allowed to get away with a “refund” of only $100.

        But here, I’m not certain that US Airways breached its contract. It agreed to carry the passenger from New York to London, but it could not do so on the scheduled day. Since schedules are ordinarily not part of the contract, US Airways might have been able to transport the passenger from New York to London the following day, and still have been acting within the terms of the contract. The passenger, by taking a taxi from New York to Philadelphia, could be viewed as having taken it upon himself to do so, even though US Airways could have performed (albeit one day later). In that case, the passenger is probably out of luck in making any claim that US Airways breached.

        If the business of the passenger were important enough, then US Airways should have, as a matter of business, not of legal necessity, put him in a taxi (perhaps sharing the taxi with other London-bound travelers) to Philadelphia at US Airways’s expense.

        1. I’m not sure what you are trying to get at. In your scenario the OP would be entitled to $400, not $500.  That is the difference between the amount paid and the amount of the new ticket

          In the actual case the OP paid $100 for the cab ride.  So he might be entitled to the difference between the cost of the cancelled trip and $100. So if the cancelled portion of the trip cost $80, his recovery would be $20.

          If the cancelled portion cost $100 or more he’s entitled to nothing.

        2.  LFH0, if the taxi got stuck in the Jersey Turnpike and he missed his flight out of PHL, the airline would be responsible. If he got hurt on the cab, USAir will be responsible. I doubt if USAir’s insurance will allow for desk agents to make a decision like this.

    3. Both my mom and sister have Celiac’s Disease. For those who don’t know what that is, simply put, their bodies cannot process gluten. If they eat anything that isn’t gluten free, they get anything from severe stomach discomfort to anxiety.  Knowing this, they bring their own snacks with them when they fly because they can’t even eat the snack boxes or bags of peanuts.  They would never dream of demanding a refund over something like this.  I think it’s absurd for the OP to demand a refund over a meal, even if the FA’s were rude and cursing.
      The OP should have brought snacks or other food with him just in case?  What if the flight did not offer kosher meals, would he not take the flight? I swear the entitlement complex of some people get to me.

      I don’t have any food allergies, but I am also hesitant to eat food served on a plane because I don’t know who’s put the meal together. I will eat the snack boxes they serve because it’s pre-packaged foods. However, I bring snacks with me in case there are no snacks served on the plane.

  11. Regardless of any of the other details, its hard to do anything when, right out of the gate, the customer threatens to sue.  Unless your issue involves serious physical injury or death, that always seems to be the barometer reading for “excessive whiner” and “obsessively devoted to being unsatisfied”…

  12. I think he should get either/or refunded.  LGA-PHL cab fare, or his LGA-PHL air fare.   Since he got the airfare refunded, why would he also want the cab fare refunded?  That would be the airline paying him to travel.

    Also, it read like he did get the Kosher meal and someone else didn’t.  Then the FA accused him of not ordering it after he ate it.  He should have let it go then, but he brought it up later too?   There is no excuse for the FA being a jerk to him, but why on earth did he re-hash the whole issue again?  I think he is owed an apology, and he got one plus a $50 certificate. 

    In the end, he was spoken to rudely and received an apology and a certificate, and got a refund on a flight that he didn’t take, which is probably more than the cab ride since there were two of them.  So it sounds like he came out ahead to me.

    Demandign a full refund on the whole flight seems more than a little bit unreasonable, and I feel that US airways allready addresses the legitimate issue by refunding the flight to PHL.

    As far as meals Chris, I don’t think its unreasonable or frivolous to expect a meal, or special meal, when its offered as a service on a flight.  If they advertise they will have one, and give people options, they need to live up to it.

    1. Agree with all of this.  I also agree that it is not unreasonable to expect appropriate meals on an international flight.  It’s not really possible to bring enough food for such a long flight – most people would not be satisfied with eating packaged snacks for such a duration.  You can’t bring food from home – the TSA will confiscate it if it’s at all moist (witness their absconding of cupcakes!).  You can’t even necessarily bring something from the food vendors – most meals would have to be refrigerated, which you cannot do on a flight.  So you really are reliant on the airline to feed you on international flights.

      Clearly there was some sort of mix-up with the kosher orders…impossible to know if it was the OP’s fault or the airline’s, but in the end, it is the FA’s duty to remain professional even in the face of such challenges.  I believe him that they didn’t, and hence, the airline responded appropriately:  an acknowledgement, an apology, and a travel voucher.

      To demand a full refund is absurdly over the top.

      1. I have never had food taken from us by the TSA and I pack stuff to eat on the plane all the time.  Now what you can or can’t bring into a county isn’t regulated by the TSA but customs or in Hawaii, agricultural inspection officers.

  13. I was siding with the OP until he brought up his solicitor. I am suspicious of anyone who mentions legal action in their original request for compensation and prior to receiving a reply. If I were to receive any request that included a threat of legal action my response would be to wait for the letter from the solicitor. 

  14. once someone talks about a lawyer, run don’t walk away from the complaint.  It’s already escalated beyond your level, Chris and you will only get caught in the middle.

  15. I’m just going to respond to the meal order, recently one of my children was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, specific foods aggrevate his condition, we’re talking hospitalization here,  if someone orders a specific meal on a long flight-for religion or medical reasons-kosher food is often ordered by  non-jews -I see no reason for the flight service to speak to the person this way. Yes food service makes mistakes, flight attendents have the “opportunity” to respond in a sympathetic customer oriented manner. The man was traveling with a child what an impression that must of made.  I’m glad US Air is going to use this for their training purposes, personally I’ll fly with an airline that has already trained their personnel.

  16. $100 is an implausibly low cab fare from New York to PHL.  That might get you from JFK to EWR — if you’re lucky.  It appears that the OP learned of the cancellation before he left his home and $100 represents the difference between cab fare from his home to PHL and cab fare from his home to LGA.

    Clearly the OP doesn’t deserve a full refund and asking for that doesn’t reflect well on him.

    However, the $100 extra cab fare request is IMO reasonable to advocate for.  US Airways doesn’t say how much they intend to refund for the LGA-PHL segment.  It would be unusually good service for US Airways if they did *anything* with his refund request in the promised 14-21 business day timeframe without additional follow-up.

    1. I don’t think the cost of the cab fare is the issue.
      The issue is whether the airline should pay for ANY cab fare.
      If the airline never committed itself to pay any cab fare from the OP’s hotel/home to a NYC airport, then why should it commit to pay for the OP’s cab fare to any other airport (e.g. PHL)?
      If the airline intend to pay for the cab fare, that would have been negotiated during the “reaccommodation” of the OP’s flight.
      If the OP decided on his own that he would go directly to PHL instead of the NYC airport, then he needs to pay his way to PHL.
      The options for passengers during a flight cancellation is pretty clear – mainly a refund or involuntary rerouting. The OP did neither. He made his own accommodations by taking a cab to PHL. USAir does not owe him a cab fare.

      Plus, he will probably not get a refund of the NYC-PHL segment either for 2 reasons:
      (a) if this was a voluntary reroute, the tariff rules require REPRICING of the ticket. Since PHL-LON is usually more expensive than NYC-LON (or opposite directions), then there will be nothing to refund. He might even owe the airline some money.
      (2) if you agree to an involuntary reroute (assuming no denied boarding), you accepted the airline’s solution and no refunds are required.

      This was simply the case of a passenger who did what he thought was good to improve the probability of getting to his destination. Therefore, one has to pay for those options.

      1. Are we talking about the letter of the adhesive contract or about the fair thing to do?

        You’re right, US Airways could probably have refused to let the OP board in PHL and demanded he purchase a new ticket.  You could argue they did the OP a huge favor by not seeking to use a flight cancellation that was their own fault as a basis for gouging a last-minute full fare out of the OP (and perhaps other affected passengers trying to improve the probability of getting to their destination).

        If the OP allowed US Airways to “re-accomodate” him, then we know from other US Airways cases on this blog that he probably would have been stranded for at least 24 hours.  Perhaps even stranded for several days if flights on the ensuing days were oversold.  And in that situation, I bet a few Monday Morning QB’s would question why he didn’t do more to help himself (e.g. by taking ground transportation to PHL).


        A few years ago I was booked on an early morning flight from EWR to SFO (UAL) which was cancelled.  I overheard from the conversations of disgruntled re-booked passengers ahead of me that because of limited seats availabile for re-accomodation, they were getting booked on indirect flights arriving 7+ hours later than originally scheduled.  

        When it was my turn, I told the gate agent that I would be happy to travel to any other NYC-vicinity airport and arrive in any Bay Area airport if it meant I might land by early afternoon PST.  She thanked me for my flexibility and handed me a ticket for a direct flight leaving from JFK to SFO in 2.5 hours.  Then without my asking, she handed me a car service voucher to travel to JFK at their expense.

        I understand that this isn’t required by their contracts, but THAT is the appropriate way to treat passengers in this kind of situation.

        1.  Michael, you are proving my point. When you talk (or plead) with the airline nicely, you usually will be re-accommodated to the best of their ability. Stranding a passenger is actually expensive and will simply add more work later (knock on effects).

          The way I understand this, the OP took it upon himself to go to PHL and board there (instead of EWR or LGA). I seriously doubt a desk agent in EWR/LGA would have told any passenger to take a cab to Philly. Therefore, I believe the OP self-accommodated.

          A little common sense is also needed here. As others have pointed out, there are so many non-stop options between JFK/EWR and LON. When one picks USAir for its low price, it should be intuitively obvious you are getting an “inferior” product. You have to connect to either one of:
          US728 PHL-LHR  950P 1000A#1
          US732 CLT-LGW  625P 720A#1
          You miss your Trans-Atlantic flight then you might have to wait the next day. The cheap price you paid REFLECTS that possibility. Since the OP was coming from NYC then he knew that having to get to PHL increased his risk. In other words, if he wants a less riskier flight (higher probability) to London, then he needed to buy a direct flight to London. But he didn’t. So this seems to be a case of you paid cheap and got everything that came with it.

          1. I seriously doubt a desk agent in EWR/LGA would have told any passenger to take a cab to Philly.

            Why would you doubt that?  Based on prior cases involving US Airways on this blog and based on personal observation I have little doubt that the OP’s options with US Airways were either to get to PHL on his own or to face being stranded indefinitely with no compensation for at least 21 hours and quite possibly even for 48, 72 hours etc.

            I disagree that this is mainly a product of US Airways’ limited transatlantic flight schedule.  It is mainly because of US Airways’ atypically uncompromising POLICIES.

            Reputable airlines will eventually endorse your ticket to another carrier.  United (post-merger warts and all) still has Rule 240 protections in their CoC.  US Airways has a completely different mentality and approach.

          2. I am not a fan of USAIR but if the carrier told him or suggested he drive, then they would have canceled the first segment and noted in the PNR that the passenger would be picking up the second segment so the whole PNR wasn’t canceled.  Those records can be obtained,  or at least a TA would be able to get them if they had handled the original reservation in their GDS.

            Carriers don’t like to endorse over a ticket as they lose that revenue.  Did the OP ask about this?  Was this a possibility? 

          3. Carriers don’t like to endorse over a ticket as they lose that revenue

            Reputable carriers will nonetheless do that in my experience if the alternative is to strand passengers for many hours for a problem that is the airline’s fault.

            We’ve seen a few examples where US Airways simply doesn’t care even in a 24+ hour delay scenario.

            I’m curious: has anyone reading this seen US Airways endorse a ticket to another airline in the past 5 years?  What were the circumstances?

          4.  What’s the difference?

            Flight cancellations at the airport
            In the event of a
            flight cancellation at the airport, US Airways will do everything
            possible to reaccommodate customers on the next US Airways flight,
            providing space is available. The reaccommodation will depend on the
            type of ticket purchased, the reason for the flight irregularity and
            availability. In most instances US Airways will also rebook customers on
            other airlines.

            Change in Schedule – When a Passenger’s Ticketed flight is affected because of a Change in Schedule, UA will, at its election, arrange one of the following:1)Transport the Passenger on its own flights, subject to availability, to the Destination, next Stopover point, or transfer point shown on its portion of the Ticket, without Stopover in the same class of service, at no additional cost to the Passenger;
            At UA’s discretion, reroute Passengers over the lines of one or more carriers in the same class of service when a Change in Schedule results in the cancellation of all UA service between two cities;

          5. The relevant United provision is here:


            2) Delay, Misconnection or Cancellation

            At the Passenger’s request, provided that the tariff covering the original transportation permits routing via the carrier which will transport the Passenger, UA will re-accommodate the Passenger in the same class of service on the next available flight on another carrier, or combination of carriers, if the length of the delay to the Passenger’s destination exceeds two hours.

            They won’t strand you for days and nights.  TWO HOURS is their threshold, even if they don’t have another scheduled flight for 24 hours..

  17. Mr. Harris needs to learn how to properly complain, and disseminate what is a worthy issue versus non-worthy. He also needs to realize what “appropriate compensation” means. I voted “no.”

  18. Advocating for someone who turned their nose up at getting a new connection arranged, and chose to get a cab instead? I don’t think so…

  19. I have to admit that in nearly 30 years of flying on tickets that I have booked myself, while I have had many kosher meals not show up on domestic flights, I have never had one missing on an international flight.  But then again I have never flown US Airways.  I think that those of us who rely on kosher meals would be better served by the the use of your energy and time if you campaigned for airlines to provide them (and other special meals) wherever a regular meal is served – for example in first class on domestic flights.

    1. They do, but you have to request it.   But a request is just that, a request and sometimes things don’t happend the way you wish them to, so have something in your carry on that will satsfy you during your flight or in case of a delay.

      1. Most US airlines no longer offer the ability to order special meals on any domestic flight other than coast to coast, and I’ve had long discussions with several people at my favorite airline about how wrong it is to let a first class passenger have to sit and watch others eating a meal when they don’t have the ability to order one themselves.

        1. It depends on the carrier, the length of the flight for US domestic travel.  However, if someone has a dietary concern, I put it in the PNR and even if it is a snack, in first class,so it is at least noted.  First class and business class pay for those meals in the price of the ticket, so a coach class passenger really shouldn’t be complaining except maybe that the curtain should be drawn to not offen their sight.  Thanks those cheapies who complainted about having to pay for a meal in coach and wanted their ticket price reduced. 

  20. I voted no on this poll.  The OP got what he asked for, reimbursement of a $100 cab ride (granted, it was in the form of airline funny money, but he got it) and they seem to be refunding his unused leg of his ticket so what’s the problem?

    I don’t see what else they CAN do, unless he wants the FA arrested for cursing him, which is, let’s just say it, ridiculous.

    I can see his being more than a little upset over the meal mix-up.  It’s not just a dietary thing with him and his group, it’s a religious thing.  

    And I believe he was handling it well by choosing to say nothing more about it and shrugging his shoulders, then starting to walk away from the argument.  For the FA to go ballistic like they did?  Well, I can’t help but feel this is an FA who needs to be ordered into counseling, at best, fired, at worst.  That someone shrugging their shoulders causes this kind of reaction shows a much shorter fuse than is healthy in a customer service oriented position.

  21. I am sure the OP picked USAIR based on price, but flying out of the east coast on a commuter flight to get to an international flight is always risky.  From NYC there are lots of nonstop flights to London, so why connect when you can risk a misconnection? 

    I am curious to why we aren’t being told why he took the cab?  What did the carrier offer him or tell him before he made this decision?  Did he do this with their permission as when you don’t take the first segment of an itinerary, all down line segments can and will be canceled. 

    Regarding meal requests, that is what they are, requests.  We always travel with snacks in our carry on bag for those ‘just in case moments’.  Again, one needs to always try and have a back up when something is that important to you.  I advise clients with speical dietary needs to do the same.

    I have never encountered any FA swearing at any passenger, has anyone else?  I have seen frustrated FA’s, but never heard any 4 letter word to any passenger even though I could tell they may have really wanted to rip some off to a passenger or two.

    Amercians are so compensation happy.  One train in Germany a few weeks ago that we were on, broke down.  We had to get off, with all our luggage, walk through weeds to a small station and wait for a new train.  We were on a long, fast speed train and they got us a smaller regional train, which meant less seating.  So what do German’s do?  They go to bar and have beer, which is where we had to go and stood for 3 hours.  We NEVER heard one complaint, anyone yelling that they would sue, which here in the US you know that would have been the situation.

    1. Unfortunately, yes I have heard a flight attendant swear…and it was a very disturbing scene indeed.

      I was booked on a flight from Vegas to JFK, traveling with my two young children.  We boarded, sat for an hour, were off-boarded with no explanation, sat for a while, were onboarded again, then offboarded…this went on for something like 4 hours.  The gate agents were exceedingly rude, giving us no information…at one point the gate agents were telling us to board, the FAs were telling us to get off, and we poor passengers were bumping into each other like lemmings in the jetway. 

      During this confusion a young man apparently got frustrated said “WTF is going on around here?” (the whole words) to his girlfriend while standing in the jetway.  I didn’t hear it, even though I was near him – he must have said it pretty softly!  But apparently an FA did. We finally did get seated, and the plane fired up and was ready to back away from the gate, when suddenly we heard the engines power down.  We all groaned, and then the door opened and POLICE came marching in!  The FA led them to the poor young man, who was seated two rows behind me, and demanded that he be ejected from the flight.

      I thought this was excessive and unfair, so I stood up and tried to reason with the cops, telling them that he had not done anything wrong.  The FA LUNGED at me and screamed, LOUDLY, “I will not have anyone saying “F###! on my plane!  And if you don’t sit down and shut up, I’ll have YOU arrested!”  The poor young man pleaded with the FA and the cops, but no dice – off he went.  I couldn’t believe it, but I kept my mouth shut because the last thing I needed was to find myself cooling my heels in a jail cell in Vegas while my two small children were sent to child protective services!

      What irritated me the most was that my children never heard “that word” from the young man…but they sure heard it from that irate FA!

      I always felt bad for that poor guy and wished I’d had the nerve to stand up for him better.

  22. If a flight is cancelled, the airline will usually rebook the entire thing. Not sure why he left the airport and jumped into a cab without giving them a chance to rebook. I would imagine USAirways has no shortage of flights between Philly and NY. Perhaps someone should have explained this to him, or perhaps he wasn’t listening, or perhaps the long lines put him off. Whatever the issue, he didn’t give the airline a chance to remedy the problem. I don’t think they should be responsible. I have had to cab to another airline after a missed flight, and the airline picked up the tab.

    As for a full refund for a missing kosher meal… ridiculous. I think the airline’s apology and offer was fair. Case dismissed.

  23. If a flight is cancelled, the airline will usually rebook the entire
    thing. I would imagine USAirways has no
    shortage of flights between Philly and NY. Not sure why he just left the airport and jumped into a cab — I’m sure someone along the line must have sent him to the customer service center to rebook. I have had to cab to another airport for a rebooked flight, and the airline picked up the tab. Anyway, whatever the reason, it sounds like he didn’t give the airline a
    chance to remedy the issue, and refunding the PHL-NY ticket was rather generous of them.

    As for the missing meal and the rude flight attendant, a full refund is ridiculous, and from the attitude in the emails, I am sure there is more to this story than Mr. Harris is telling us. US Airways’ offer was more then fair, and if he never flies US Airways again, I am sure they will be happy to see the back of him. Case dismissed.

  24. I think the compensation the OP has received is fair. Double compensation for both the missing flight segment and the cab ride should not be required. Asking for a complete refund is out of order. And suggesting a lawsuit is outrageous, which makes me wonder how this passenger really behaved on the flight.

    Suggesting legal action is rarely a good starting point. In a lot of companies, that immediately causes the issue to be passed from customer service to the legal department, who will wait to hear from your lawyer before proceeding on any resolution.  

  25. For once, can he not eat a regular meal, or a vegetarian one; surely a rabbi will excuse him. Why all this hang-up about a kosher meal … All this religious rigidity is over the top.

  26. Here’s a potentially bigger problem: It sure sounds like Harris is lying.  Even assuming he was flying from Newark, there’s no way it only cost $100 to take a cab from EWR to PHL.  That $100 cost must be made up. Somebody probably gave him a ride to Philly.  That raises questions about the veracity of any of his complaints.

  27. He deserves compensation for the cancelled flight segment, but the other stuff is standard industry practice and as such is not actionable. You can’t sue because a fish you left out in the sun rotted.

  28.  He gets his fare refunded, which, I’m sure, covers his $100 cab ride (actually, a good deal; Amtrack NYP-PHL ranges from $50 to $125 plus $7 30th St to PHL) plus $100 in vouchers for not having to eat the slop USAir calls (even kosher) food? Deal of the century!!

  29. As a Flight Attendant, I doubt very seriously that the encounter occurred as the Mr. Harris described.  There is more to that story.  His flight started out with a problems-the cancelled leg; the probable harried decision to take a cab after getting nowhere with a gate agent (I’m guessing); gathering his family and their bags; the sting of a $100 cab ride; the stress of whether or not they would make their flight to LHR; and having to go through security again…air travel isn’t pretty on a good day, and top all of that with his meal choice not being available, I am sure he didn’t board the plane in a good mood.

    Just speculating, but I suspect he was rude or very short with the Flight Attendant when the meal issue first came up.  And, continued on about a situation that couldn’t be changed.  I could be wrong, but, generally Flight Attendants aren’t arbitrarily rude.  Maybe not smiling and happy, but mostly not rude without cause.

    (As an aside, special meals are boarded at the exact count needed, there are no extras.  The passenger list with the special meals on it is generated before the plane departs.  The Flight Attendants only have xx number of special meals, and have to deliver them to the people on the list.  Since there are no extra special meals boarded, there is nothing a Flight Attendant can do to change the situation.)

    The Flight Attendants should have let the situation go–not try “prove” they were “right”.  It seems that, technically they were “right.”  But, how it was handled was way wrong.   

    Everyone should be made to feel welcome onboard and treated with kindness and respect.   Mr. Harris’ issue should have been dealt with in a kinder manner.

    1. Actually a lot of the flight attendants on United airlines are very rude.  So…I kind of believe him on this one concerning US Airways.

  30.  I saw a gate agent threaten to kick a man off a flight because a late boarding passenger had a carryon and she was sitting in the exit row.  The gate agent boarded and demanded that the man allow the woman to put her carry by his feet.  He refused and she became unglued.  But I guess there were enough witnesses.

  31. I rarely eat on flights.  Not a big deal.  And, pardon me, but S**I is not really a “swear word.”  Just rude.  This customer sounds awfully touchy.
    No need to “mediate.”  

  32. I have no sympathy for travelers who annoy others for their religious meals. and I don’t believe they are truly fervent religious. Let’s see their religious faith still there after 2 days without food. I personally know 5 people who ask for religious food because they know requested special meals are served first.  
    If you really fervent religious, take care of your own meals. Don’t say TSA confiscate your own meal, I always bring food on plane and nobody took it. 

  33. What a whinger! You encounter people like Harris everywhere you go –stores, restaurants, airplanes, tourist destinations, etc. They spend their time looking for ways to be miserable and to spread their discontent. His request for a full refund because of a couple rude employees (who, if someone other than Harris’s son backs up his claims, should be disciplined or fired) is beyond ridiculous.

  34. As a person in the food industry I can attest to what a total and complete scam “KOSHER” is. We have found that to get our products “certified as Kosher”, we had to pay a stiff fee to the Rabbinical Council who would send a Rabbi to our facility and bless the food as “Kosher”, we would then certify our food. When they tried to shake us down for FIRST CLASS airfare for the Rabbi to come to our facility, we finally said no thank you. By the way the flight was from Chicago to Des Moines, a 45 minute flight at best. Kosher is a scam on everyone. 

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