Can this trip be saved? I missed my connection — how about some compensation?

If you miss a connection and your flights aren’t on the same reservation, you’re normally out of luck. But Duane Perry’s circumstances are anything but normal.

He was flying from Philadelphia to Madrid, Spain, on US Airways, and then connecting to a puddlejumper to the Canary Islands. When he made the reservations online, he tried to book the flights together so that his second flight would be protected — in other words, so that if there were an unexpected delay getting into Madrid, he could miss his flight to the Canaries and get placed on the next flight at no cost.

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But the system wouldn’t allow him to do that, despite the fact that the second carrier was a Star Alliance member. He had to make two separate reservations. Realizing that the connection time was tight, he asked US Airways if 1 1/2 hours was enough connection time to get to his second flight. A representative assured him it was.

It wasn’t.

Perry’s flight was more than an hour late. Although he was one of the first people off the plane and although he sprinted across the terminal to make the fight, he missed it.

When we returned to the US Airways counter we were told that US Airways has no responsibility, because the connecting flight to the Canary Islands necessarily was booked on a separate ticket.

We ended up spending an entire day in the Madrid airport trying to negotiate the most cost effective way to fly to our final destination, that day.

After an entire lost morning and afternoon, we got a replacement flight, but at an additional cost of $866.97 for two coach seats.

We spent $3,323.60 on our US Airways travel, but nevertheless were treated with polite indifference by the US Airways agents in Madrid.

Even though we missed our connecting flight, because our US Airways flight was more than an hour late, the US Airways agents told us that it was our problem to solve at our own expense.

Perry asked US Airways to refund the $866.97 he had to spend. The airline sent him a series of apologetic form letters, first offering him two $75 vouchers, and then upping them to $150. His repeated appeals were met with the following form reply:

The travel experience you described is certainly not characteristic of the level of service we strive to provide.

With this in mind, I have reviewed both your original request and your additional request. After careful evaluation, I am unable to discover any additional concerns causing me to change the increased compensation issued. Regrettably, we are unable to honor your request for reimbursement of the tickets that you purchased to get to Canary Islands.

Again, we apologize for the difficulties you encountered. Your comments have helped us identify areas where our service needs improvement. Please be assured the necessary steps have been taken to prevent a recurrence.

Mr. Perry, thank you for choosing US Airways. We welcome the opportunity to provide the level of service you expect and deserve on a future US Airways flight.

Talk about a kiss-off.

Perry believes that’s not enough.

US Airways has offered only two coupons with a face value of $150 each, but expiring in a year, and excluding all internet (i.e. best) fares. The exclusion of internet fares renders those coupons potentially worthless.

To add insult to injury, we travelled Envoy Class on US Airways, both ways, and paid $3,323.60 for our US Airways travel. US Airways’ bad advice on connections, very late arrival, and unhelpful service for missed connections in Madrid are clearly no advertisement for US Airways or Envoy Class.

We would like to be reimbursed for the extra $866.97 we paid, if not for a day wasted in the airport.

I would send this to the “case dismissed” file if it weren’t for one thing: Perry tried to book both of these flights together, but couldn’t. He might have tried to work through a travel agent, but he did the next best thing: He sough assurances from US Airways that his connection time was adequate. They were wrong.

(Photo: mel foody/Flickr Creative Commons)

53 thoughts on “Can this trip be saved? I missed my connection — how about some compensation?

  1. Maybe he couldn’t book both flights together because the computer knew that the flights were too close together even if he didn’t and some “representative” didn’t. That he was flying “Envoy Class” only reminds me of the saying that the front of the airplane doesn’t arrive any earlier than the back.

  2. I vote no for two reasons. First, we have no idea why the Philly-Madrid flight was delayed. Second, the clerk he spoke to gave him the correct information based on a best case scenerio, i.e. an hour and a half was plenty of time but for unforeseen circumstances. If he were that concerned, he should have worked with a travel agent as you suggested. I say you leave this one alone.

  3. Isn’t this what bricks and mortar TAs are for? Difficult itineraries that you can’t do yourself? Or maybe travel insurance? It was a calculated risk that failed.

  4. My BF, veteran of 3,000,000+ miles, would never attempt to book with such a tight window, and the fact that the system would not allow these flights to be booked on the same ticket should have been a red flag to the flier. As they say, “You buy your ticket and you take your chances.” He tried to play the game and lost.

  5. First, a minimum of three hours for an international connection. Was this the first trip for the OP out of the country? Some countries require you to go through customs for connecting flights. What if your flight is late.

    Second, purchase a travel insurance policy when flying outside of the US.

    In regards to booking Star Alliance flights on the US Airways website, it has been my experience that you can only book United flights on the US Airways website. However, I have been able to book flights that included segments on US Airways, Asiana and Lufthansa via phone. To be fair, some of the 27 airline members of the Star Alliance are not in the US Airways reservation system. The OP could have used a brick & mortar travel agent for this reservation IF he wanted to protect his trip.

    He could be wrong about his vouchers. I have received vouchers from US Airways for compensation and they were not restricted.

  6. 90 minutes at a major airport and you have to go through Customs and Immigration? No way! That’s barely enough to work with in a major hub on a domestic flight with any level of comfort! How many times have you pulled away on an “on-time departure” only to then sit on the tarmac???? The US rep shouldn’t have agreed that that was sufficient and the OP is definitely either foolish or naive to have booked it. I’m going with foolish as I find it difficult to believe that someone with minimal European travel experience would be booking a flight by themselves to the Canary Islands in Envoy Class if they’ve never been to Europe before! I think that US did more than enough on this one!

    1. Jonathan, I’d agree with you except that immigrations and customs in Europe (inbound, anyway) are pretty much a wave of the passport as you strut by—in Madrid, in Barcelona, in Paris, in Rome, wherever.

      That said, an hour and a half was stupid. Leave yourself three hours and go get an overpriced cortadito in the airport.

      1. Even if you just wave your passport, you still can wait depending upon the time of the year, day, etc. The first that we went through customs (inbound) at LHR, we spent 90 minutes waiting in line.

        1. Arizona Road Warrior absolutely right about LHR, the worst in the world for connection. I had FAST TRACK, even then, it took 40 minutes, 90 minutes without FAST TRACK is common. And LHR charge the most expensive fee for Airport. And when you arrive very soon in the morning with few arrivals airplane, don’t think you are lucky, very few Immigration agents are presents soon in the morning. Now I avoid LHR and try my best get to UK by London City Airport.

  7. I am one of the few who voted no. Mr. Perry should have called US Airways or a travel agent to book the flights under the same record locator. However, that being said, an hour and a half is rarely enough time to arrive internationally, pass through customs, and connect to another airline, albeit a partner airline. But at least he would have been placed on the next available flight at no charge if he misconnected. The fact that he flew Envoy class is irrelevant.

  8. I voted yes. The Canary Islands belong to Spain and, as such, they (whichever of them he was flying to) do not count as an international connection, although, even without a delay from his flight from the U.S., his connection time would have been pretty tight. MAD’s terminals can be pretty confusing to the uninitiated! U.S. Airways should have rebooked him (on their €) on the next connecting flight — if it was to Gran Canaria or Tenerife, there are many flights per day. Even to the other, smaller, Canaries, there are several possibilities daily.

  9. The assurances are meaningless. There is no way the US Airways representative could guarantee no delays. The fact that he received assurances from US Airways that his connection time was adequate is a weak mitigating factor at best.

    As much as I don’t use TAs, this is an itinerary where the OP SHOULD have used a TA. Either that or spend an extra day layover in Madrid. A 1 1/2 hour connection was never a good idea from the start!

    1. Chris in NC

      I have to strongly disagree with your post. Even the most sophisticated of travelers hasn’t been to every airport in the world. As such, the traveler checked with the airline rep, a perfectly reasonably thing to do. The OP then relied upon the rep’s advice to make his travel plans. Who should the Op rely on if not the carrier.

      1. @b71b38c218e54406c24b061e678cc787:disqus

        We don’t know the exact conversation between the OP and the airline rep. The bottom line is the rep did not err, as the connection flight met the minimum connecting time requirement. The problem was, since the 2nd ticket was booked independently, US Airways bears no legal responsibility for the forfeiture of the 2nd ticket.

        As little as I use a TA, this is the one exception where the OP should have consulted one. When the OP could not book the 2nd ticket on a single itinerary, he should turned to a live person to do the booking. In my opinion, the ultimate error was not booking this as a linked itinerary.

        Did the OP know that? I don’t know. Should the OP know that? I don’t know either

        However, every travel advice column I have read for years warns travelers to not depend on exact arrival times. In fact, even EU261 does not require compensation unless the delay exceed 4 hours.

        In this case, the OP was tripped up because the US Airways flight was delayed, and US Airways is an easy target to blame. What if the OP had a flight tire on the way to PHL? What if weather closed down the northeast corridor?

        Likewise, had the OP had a concert ticket, sports ticket or an Eurail ticket that couldn’t be used because of a flight delay, would everyone still hold US Airways responsible?

  10. Booking an hour and a half to make a connection after an international flight? That right there should have made it a “no” on the help meter.

  11. I vote No and it isn’t US Airways responsibility. 30 minutes late is very frequent and expectable in the today world, with all the TSA, crazy weather, security threat, etc…

    It’s a deja vu. Even 1 day is not enough, not talking about 1 hour and a haft. Why in world not planning a night or 2 in Madrid.

    It a classical case of trying to save some bucks and ending spend lot of money and time.

    1. Dang Ph

      I’m not sure it was a case of trying to save $$. The Canaries are, for most people, a vacation place. Maybe he was really trying to save a day of his vacation time.

      1. I guess initially, the OP had few options: his flight with 1h30mn
        connection and the later flight at 880$. He put his bet on the 1h30mn
        and hoping, if even arriving late, he can get on the later flight
        without any extra expenses.

    2. Plan a night or two in Madrid? Mr. Perry wasn’t going to Madrid, he was going to the Canaries! Why on earth would you plan to spend a day or two somewhere else other than where you wanted to go? Just in case? That’s just plain silly in my opinion.

      1. I guess initially, the OP had few options: his flight with 1h30mn connection and the later flight at 880$. He put his bet on the 1h30mn and hoping, if even arriving late, he can get on the later flight without any extra expenses.

        When I travel on 2 tickets separately, by my choice for certain reason, the sure option is spend 1 night a the connecting city because I live in a frequent snow storm city of Montreal.

        Connection at 1h30mn, surely I will have a heart attack if my plane arrive 15 minutes late, stress by the time and the carry-on luggage.

      2. In that case, why bother with travel insurance? It’s not unreasonable to expect everything on your trip will be exactly as planned. But if you want to provide for contingencies, you can plan more time than you think you’ll need for a connection, or arrive the night before if you must be there the next day, and buy insurance in case things don’t go as planned (and in these days of cut-backs, more things ARE NOT going as planned).

  12. Of course you should mediate it! Over and over, we’ve seen companies – and not just airlines – refuse to stand behind assurances made by their own employees. Even if the employee was wrong, the company is bound by the assurance s/he gave the OP. And what if he’d used a travel agent and still failed to make his connecting flight – would the agency have refunded his money? I doubt it, and it would just have complicated matters since the airline would have tried to pass the buck to the travel agency and vice versa. Plus, depending on where he lives, not every area has a travel agent with experience in relatively uncommon destinations like the Canaries. The last time I used a travel agent (in New Jersey, which isn’t exactly Podunk), I was told that there was no way to get from Miami to Merida and on to Oaxaca. There was; the agent had never heard of Aero Caribe. I booked the flights myself and haven’t used a travel agent since – and that was 15 years ago.

    1. … but an experienced and competent travel agent would have a) been aware of the minimum connection times, b) been able to book the ticket as under a single locator (ie linked ticket), so that US Airways would have been responsible for getting him to the final destination. Thus, the OP would not be scrambling to make alternative travel plans when he missed his connection and the 2nd pair of tickets became worthless.
      A travel agent isn’t right for every situation, but in this case, when the OP could not book the itinerary on a single ticket, he should have stopped and not proceeded with the online booking. If you are spending $4000 for Envoy class tickets, it seems foolish to not pay an extra to hire a competent travel agent.Suppose the OP had booked a 12 hour interval between flights. Things still happen (remember the Iceland volcano?, or a nor’easter could have canceled all flights out of Philly). Truth of the matter, the agent may have been right in stating that the 2nd flight met the minimum connection times. Not making the 2 tickets linked is the problem, and that is not US Airways’ responsibility

      I still say no, do not mediate

        1. and how late did the flight arrive? We don’t know this information. With a 90 minute window, the flight could have arrived late by 15 minutes and the OP still would have missed the connection.

          If you had a court case in Los Angeles at 11AM, you don’t fly in at 10AM unless you have no other choice.

          Even occasional travelers know that arrival times are never set in stone, and that changes are frequent and short delays are possible. Nowhere in the condition of carriage is the exact arrival time guaranteed. Never has and never will. Even if EU 261 were to apply, this flight would have been given a 4 hour window before compensation was due.

          Did the OP really receive incorrect information? The connection met the minimum connection times for Madrid. As AZ said, is there proof that the rep guaranteed that the OP would be fine? Rather, the more realistic scenario is that the rep said the “flight would meet the connection time requirements” and perhaps the OP interpreted that as a guarantee?

    2. “Over and over, we’ve seen companies – and not just airlines – refuse to stand behind assurances made by their own employees.”
      – – – – – – — –
      Was it in writing? Was the call recorded? Based upon my experiences, people like to hear what they want to hear. We only hear one side of the story and usually it is the not whole story. Don’t get me wrong, there are travel employees that do give out incorrect information. I wish that all travel providers record their calls and e-mail a copy of it to their customers so that we can eliminate these he saidshe said situations.

  13. Arizona Road Warrior is right about travel insurance who covert this misconnection when the Connecting Time is legal. But with 2 separate tickets who is the
    authority which decide the legal connecting time.
    The interruption coverage will reimburse for the extra expenses, including Hotel and all meals.

    Even the Canary Islands is Spain territories, US citizens landing in Madrid have to collect the bags, pass immigration and recheck in Schengen treaty zone. 1 hours and a half, we can barely make in case everything went smootly and not arriving at peak period in Madrid.

    (European Airport have short minimum limited boarding time of 10 or 20 minutes help a bit, so 20 minutes subtract 1.5 hrs, the OP really have 1 hours 10 mn)

  14. Seems like under EU Rule 261 he would be eligible for at least 250 Euro per person cash compensation from US Airways since their flight to Madrid was late; which, at 500 Euro total might come close to $850 US…

    1. His US Airways flight was less than 2 hours late so he wouldn’t be entitled to EU compensation even if it applied (it doesn’t apply here. EU 261 only applies to non-EU carriers departing from the EU, not flying into the EU). Because the flights are booked on two separate tickets they have no responsibility for anything connected to the 2nd flight, even under the EU rules.

      1. Close but no cigar. Mr. Perry doesn’t qualify for any compensation under EU 261 because it was an American carrier flying into the EU. Had it been an European based carrier flying into the EU he would have been able to apply for compensation based on his late departure (depending on the reason for the late departure and the length of delay). Had it been ANY airline (EU based or foreign) leaving the EU late he might be eligible for compensation. But EU 261 is not just for non EU carriers departing the EU.

  15. At first blush, I considered voting no. Then I saw another “road warrior” voted no so I changed my thinking, realizing this particular poster is usually wrong.

    That being said, given the OP had contacted the airline, given the OP wasn’t leaving the airport but coasting through customs (which I’ve done in less than 15 minutes under similar circumstances many times), and given the OP really did their due diligence in trying to keep things going smoothly WITH REGARD to possibly missing their connection, I’d say US Airs is definitely on the hook for this one.

    Mediate Chris, if for no other reason than the airlines need to get the message the days of messing with travelers in the form of trapping us in airports far from home and then making us buy expensive tickets – well, those days are over.

    1. Are you trying to be unbiased or to be contrary? My vote is no for the reasons stated previously, and I would urge Chris to chose his battles. This is not a case of “due diligence” done, if anything it is a case of ignorance.

    2. At first blush, I considered voting no. Then I saw another “road warrior” voted no so I changed my thinking, realizing this particular poster is usually wrong.”

      Are you serious? While I don’t always see eye to eye with the “road warrior” you would vote opposite just because?

      Most European non-refundable tickets are more restrictive than US domestic tickets. Though we don’t know what the OP booked on from Madrid to the Canaries, more than 1 discount ticket in Europe I have booked don’t allow changes.

      Please explain how US Airways is on the hook for this one? Contractually, US Airways was obliged to transport him from PHL to MAD. Even EU261 doesn’t apply as compensation does not kick in until a 4 hour delay (for a transatlantic flight). US Airways fulfilled its obligation. How did US Airways trap the passenger?

      1. I didn’t even voted in the survey because all of the facts that I needed to make a judgement weren’t in the article.

    3. Nancy, it’s really starting to seem like you have an unhealthy obsession with fighting with and attempting to prove wrong ArizonaRoadWarrior. You post all the time about his/her comments and how they are “wrong” and make snide comments how he/she must be the “perfect traveler”.

      While I can understand not liking the way he/she gives such indepth and “I know better than you and am always right” comments it’s becoming obvious that you can’t keep an open mind.

  16. According to the legal connect times at MAD, either online connections or off line connection, the time is one hour. Now there is legal and there is reasonable and the two are not the same. However, according to what the USAIR agent would see on legal connect times, had his flight taken off on time, he had enough time for the connection.

    A question to ask, is why the OP didn’t just have USAIR do the ticket instead of booking online if he thought these could have been issued in one itinerary? Did he ask USAIR to price it so he actually knew it could have be all in one itinerary? I can’t verify it in my system since there is no mention of carrier and airport for the connecting flight.

  17. I think he should have got some assurance from the regional airline as well. I also think they should be more lenient to him – after all, he missed his flight by less than an hour – they should have allowed him to fly stand-by on the next available one. It’s interesting to know if there were later connections that day – if so, the OP should have booked one of them. By any means, this deserves to be mediated – the airlines should be giving some slack in situations like this, even when itineraries are not on the same ticket. But I think it should be resolved with the regional carrier, not US Airways. They are the ones who should give the refund.

  18. With the airlines comments of: “The travel experience you described is certainly not characteristic of the level of service we strive to provide.” & “Again, we apologize for the difficulties you encountered. Your comments
    have helped us identify areas where our service needs improvement.
    Please be assured the necessary steps have been taken to prevent a

    And for those sentences only, I say that yes you should get involved. I think it was silly to think 1 1/2 hours was enough time and I do believe they would have had to shuffle out of and back through customs. Even if the airport is easy to get through, it still takes time to do it, poor planning.

    1. Not so silly – I just returned from two back-to-back European trips through major airports.
      Both times I booked online and was given 1 1/2 hours to change planes; both
      times it involved crossing most of a major airport (Amsterdam the first time and
      Paris the second). Both times, I got there in plenty of time. I suspect it was a perfectly reasonable connection if the flight had arrived on time so US
      Airways should compensate the OP for making him miss his connnection,
      particularly as (1) one of its own employees said he would have enough time and (2)
      he was transferring from one Star Alliance flight to another.

  19. And I’ve also seen examples when travel agents and airline employees think that connection time is adequate and they are wrong. Frankfurt, for example, has minimum 45 min in summer, but 65 min in winter and only a few supervisor agents knew that.

  20. What I don’t understand is that if Duane called up US Airways, why couldn’t he get the ticket booked that way? It sounds like he was trying to book online and ran into an issue. He then booked what he could and called US Airways. Did he ask about the booking issue? If so, what was their response?

  21. My 2 cents. I voted no, as if the tickets had been on one ticket this may have been enough time, but since they weren’t, the airlines are not obligated to check the baggage all the way through. So it is possible he had to claim baggage and then re-check, which can add significantly to the delays he would have. I know, technically, it is considered enough time, but in checking schedules it looks as though the shortest connection time currently offered with UsAirways as a through ticket is 2 1/2 hours to Spanair. It sounds to me like the OP was trying to save a few dollars by doing multiple tickets and gut burned by it.

    1. “It sounds to me like the OP was trying to save a few dollars by doing multiple tickets and gut burned by it.”
      – – – – – – – – –
      You could be right. As I mentioned over the years, we don’t get the whole story…we only get the story from the OP perspective which is not always objective. Don’t get me wrong, there are travel employees that make mistakes, give incorrect information, etc. but there are several readers of this blog that automatically believes that the travel provider is bad and the traveler is telling the whole truth, etc.
      I went to the US Airways website and you can book a ticket from PHL to Gran Canaria Airport (LPA) via MAD. The story didn’t list which airport in the Canary Island that the OP was flying. If the OP was flying to LPA, you could be right by doing multiple tickets.

  22. I’ll have to say no on this one. While I think US Air should have rebooked him on another flight later that day from the start, as a good will gesture. But I really question the thinking here in booking flights so close together. Just because the connection time is enough doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I also wonder if he tried to have US Air book the flight over the phone or if there were flights later that day that would have been better options. But in the end he took a risk by booking that flight and lost. US Air did give him some vouchers as a good will gesture. It’s not perfect but I think that was reasonable since the mistake was on his part.

  23. dude saved what $50 by not making the reservation on the phone via an USAir agent? Seems like he could have avoided the mess by spending the money and making the telephone reservation. I vote “no”

  24. Wonder if he could’ve asked the flight attendants to call ahead for him. Then he would’ve only had to pay to change his Canary flight time instead of buying new tickets (?)

  25. If the OP was traveling to the airport, had a flat tire and missed his flight, there will be several readers of this blog that want the airline to rebook the flight without a penalty, etc. This is no different…where are these readers requesting that the Spanish airline should rebook the OP tickets without penalities? For example, if there was a strong head wind which caused the delay, is that fault of US Airways?

  26. I’m not a Road Warrior of any kind and do not travel as much as I’d like but I have two answers to post although I voted YES initially.

    If he had booked online first then called in to verify there was enough time to make the connection the employee he spoke to should have been able to “link” the two flights together so yes you should mediate.

    If however he spoke to the employee first, then booked the trip I don’t feel you should mediate because in his information to you he knew that by linking the flights he would be protected.

    1. Sorry Emanuel, you are wrong. Employee of one airline cannot “link” separate reservations together, even from their own airline! Let alone, two separate tickets on two separate airlines. The OP knew the importance of booking on one ticket, and ignored it because he couldn’t do it himself.

  27. Two tickets, two unrelated contracts, period. Every traveler should know this.

    A travel itinerary like this requires a very simple solution BEFORE you ticket it. An overnight in Madrid. My hunch about the real reason for MR. Perry buying this as two tickets, is price. Often the multi-airline ticket will cost more.

    Any travel agent (breathing human, not internet) worth anything would never let this happen. AND the services of that travel agent for their expertise on this one would be about $100, or less.

    I have clients adding a visit to Istanbul to a business visit to another European city. There choices were:

    1. Connections like Mr. Perry’s here.

    2. All flights on one ticket for an added cost of $470 each x two.

    3. An overnight break on the return to the US without any stress at a good airport hotel for about $125.00.

    I voted no. I am a travel agent and I know how to do my job.

  28. Multiple problems here. First, the whole situation emphasizes my belief that the global alliances are of little benefit to the traveler; they’re just another case of benefiting the marketers rather than the customers.

    On the other hand, they were separate itineraries, and the possibility of a missed connection should have been planned for. As a mitigating circumstance, we don’t know how well-traveled the OP is. I think the people who respond to Chris, along with many on other forums, tend to forget that not everyone is a weekly flyer.

    On the third hand, this is exactly the behavior I would expect from USAirways. They have repeatedly demonstrated to me and many others that they really don’t give a rip about their passengers. The last straw for me was when I missed a connection — blamed on weather, of course — to the last flight of the night, which pushed from its gate immediately after we taxied past. Two of us in paid first class making that connection, which was the only one not held for our flight.

    I’d say there’s nothing to get involved with, but this does reflect poorly on USAirways and Star Alliance. The trip should have been bookable online in a single place if the alliance means anything at all.

    1. Another wrong assumption. The Alliance has nothing to do with a traveler booking separate tickets. The advantage of the Alliance you refer to has to do with the ability to book one ticket across Alliance partners. Just because this individual was not capable of doing so, one cannot assume that it could not have been done, as a prior poster was able to show.

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