JetBlue flight 686 from Washington to Boston was delayed by a few hours on April 13, which wasn’t a big deal to most of the passengers. Except to Lonn Waters and his girlfriend, who planned to catch an Icelandair flight to Keflavik, Iceland, later that evening.
The mechanical delay threw a wrench in their vacation plans, and fixing it wasn’t easy.
Here are the particulars: When Waters learned his outbound flight would be delayed, he phoned JetBlue and paid and extra $80 to catch an earlier flight.
“When we checked in, my girlfriend was assigned a seat,” he says. “I wasn’t.”
Turns out JetBlue had overbooked the flight, and didn’t have a seat for him.
By the time we got to the gate, the plane was fully seated. Our checked bags were loaded, but I was not assigned a seat and the desk agent declined to offer compensation to the other passengers to voluntarily “bump” one. My girlfriend declined to board the plane without me.
JetBlue rebooked the couple on a US Airways flight to Boston later that day, but that wasn’t meant to be, either. The flight was canceled because of a weather delay, and they missed their Icelandair flight that evening.
They eventually made it to Iceland. But they had to pay a $250 change fee and a fare difference — a grand total of $955 each.
The reason? The couple didn’t have the reservations linked, so Icelandair treated their mechanical delay/overbooking/weather delay as a cancellation.
Waters wants JetBlue to reimburse him a total of a total of $1,911, which would cover the cost of rebooking the first JetBlue flight and the new Icelandair ticket. But his efforts to resolve this by phone were unsuccessful.
He contacted me for help, and I suggested he send the airline a brief, polite email. Here are a few JetBlue contacts.
Basically, they apologized but do not acknowledge culpability and do not agree that I was “involuntarily bumped” from their flight.
The rep said their system had a “glitch” and sold my girlfriend a seat but me a standby seat. Which is an interesting argument since she also said that JetBlue does not oversell their planes.
In any case, she has offered to refund our expenses ($115 of change fee and extra bags) or provide JetBlue credit double those expenses ($230).
Looking back, it’s clear Waters could have done one thing to avoid the Icelandair change fee and fare differential: If his reservations had been on the same PNR, which is something a travel agent could have done, then that the airline would have probably rebooked him as a courtesy.
But could the mechanical delay and the ensuing troubles have been avoided? Probably not. These things happen.
JetBlue wasn’t responsible for getting Waters to Boston at a certain time, at least not according to its contract of carriage (PDF). But did it compensate this couple enough for screwing up one of their reservations?