Help! A rescheduled flight itinerary almost sunk our cruise

It looked like smooth sailing for the DellaPenna family’s Alaska cruise. The airline tickets were booked and the seats confirmed. But just a day before they were to leave, United Airlines almost scuttled their vacation.

A printout of their flight itinerary revealed several members of the party was now scheduled to return from Seattle to Washington before the cruise ended.

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What now?

United’s contract of carriage, its legal agreement between you and the carrier, promises a prompt refund when a flight schedule is changed.

Rosemarie DellaPenna was shocked.

Suppose we had gone to the check in on Friday as planned — what would we have done at that point? I’m appalled they they would change our schedules three days ahead of departure with no notification and expect us to pay additional costs, without a fuss.

DellaPenna tried to get United to fix the itinerary, but no seats were available. So she paid $4,382 for new tickets on Continental and US Airways. She phone United, asking for a refund.

At first, United said they were non-refundable tickets, but I argued and said they should pay the increased amount. The young lady said I will see. But I got an e-mail that said they would refund the United fares.

A refund is the bare minimum United could do to make this right. But calling the airline is also one of the least efficient ways of communicating with United. I suggested she send a brief, polite email to United, explaining her problem.

A United representative contacted her immediately.

She was instrumental in my receiving full credit for the new tickets that we had to purchase and also issued a credit for us to use in the future year.

I really didn’t think that anything like this would happen. It helps to renew my faith in mankind. Again, thank you.

So what’s the takeaway from this?

My travel agents friends will almost certainly say, “She should have used an agent.” And it’s probably true that a good agent would have been able to notify her the moment the schedule change took place and found a suitable replacement flight.

I also noticed that DellaPenna spent a lot of time on the phone with United. I might have done more writing than talking. A paper trail can be extremely helpful and a far quicker way of resolving a problem.

(Photo: davco 9200/Flickr Creative Commons)