Is this enough compensation? A partial refund for my dogless flight

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By Christopher Elliott

Barbara Hilliard’s dogs didn’t make their KLM flight from Nuremberg, Germany, to Dallas via Amsterdam. Neither did she.

It turns out they swapped out the plane at the last minute — a so-called “equipment change” — and there was no room for her pets. “They told me they had no place to put the dogs and I would have to secure another way to get the dogs to Amsterdam and then they would fly them to Dallas,” she says.

Hilliard was unhappy. Not only because she’d made several phone calls before her trip to make sure her dogs could fly, but also because her only option was to buy an expensive ticket on Lufthansa to make her connection. She thinks KLM and its codeshare partner Delta Air Lines, through which she booked the tickets, should refund the price of her new ticket and pay the dogs’ freight, too.

Partial compensation

“They said there is nothing they can do and will not reimburse me,” she told me.

Delta offered a $500 traveler voucher and KLM refunded $419, the value of the unused return portion of her ticket. But no one, it seems, will cover the €1,098 airfare on Lufthansa, or the extra €450 she had to pay for the dogs. (Related: Downgraded from business class to economy on KLM. But they messed with the wrong passengers!)

Hilliard is particularly upset with the tone of Delta’s form response. It knew perfectly well that its reply would disappoint her, yet it had the gall to conclude its email to her with the following zinger:

I hope I have been able to address your concerns regarding your travel from Nuremberg.

Your business is important to us and given the opportunity of serving you in the future, I am confident Delta and KLM will not only meet but exceed your expectations.

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Airline assistance in ticketing predicaments

Here’s the real issue: Hilliard decided to buy the Lufthansa ticket on her own, without any meaningful input from Delta or KLM. There were ways to resolve this that might have involved rerouting her or waiting until the next flight, and I think she could have worked through those options with the airline instead of taking matters into her own hands. (Here’s what you need to know before you book your next airline ticket.)

While I agree with Hilliard that Delta’s response — and especially its form letter — was lacking, I’m not entirely sure it was obligated to do more. So the question of “Is this enough compensation?” is a fair one. (Related: That’s it! We need to stop pets from flying*.)

On a sidenote, it’s important to remember that the best time to resolve a customer-service problem is the present. The ticket agents in Nuremberg, the KLM reservations line or her online travel agent, would have been in a position to suggest several solutions. Flying on Lufthansa may have been the most expedient fix, but it probably was also the most expensive one.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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