Is this enough compensation? Stranded in Mexico City, and that’s your offer?

Something went wrong on Karen Huntoon’s trip from Reno, Nev., to Oaxaca, Mexico. Very wrong.

Her itinerary, which included stops in Phoenix and Mexico City, was confirmed by US Airways, she says. But it shouldn’t have been so confident about getting Huntoon to her final destination.

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“When I went to check in for the next leg of my flight from Mexico City to Oaxaca I was told that my seats had been cancelled — both coming and going,” she says. “For five hours, I tried without success to get on the flight. I got absolutely no help. Finally, at 10 p.m. I had to go and find a hotel and then the next day take a cab to the airport and ride a bus for seven hours to Oaxaca.”

Huntoon says she wasted more than a day on a bus, missed a class she was scheduled to teach and ran up a bill for $698 in additional expenses, including a one-way flight back to Mexico City — expenses she believes US Airways should cover.

She handled her grievance by the book, starting with a brief, polite email to US Airways asking it to address the issue. Problem is, US Airways doesn’t have any specific provisions for covering out-of-pocket expenses under its contract of carriage, so it’s really up to the airline to figure out how to address a problem like this. Further complicating the matter is that the last leg of her flight was on another carrier.

Here’s how it went:

For 11 weeks I went back and forth and heard more excuses and stories than I could ever imagine someone could make up. Every time, they told me that they were not responsible and would do nothing.

Finally, upon sending my complaint and validating documents and receipts, via Fed Ex, to John Romantic, director of customer relations (also Robert Isom and Douglas Parker), I got a call and was told that my case was being reviewed. I was sent a letter and US Airways admitted responsibility and offered a reimbursement in the amount of $215.

But wait. Didn’t she have $698 in expenses? What’s the $215 for?

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Verizon phone bill charges: $156.42
Hotel room in Mexico City: $83.79
Meal at hotel in Mexico City: $15.48
Bus ticket from Mexico City to Oaxaca: $35.52
One-way flight from Oaxaca to Mexico City: $264.97
Cab fare to hotel in Mexico City: $10.00
Cab fare to bus depot in Mexico City: $12.00
Reserved and unable to cancel hotel room in Oaxaca Mexico: $120.00
Total Expenses: $698.18

Hmm, it looks as if US Airways is either paying her for part of her flight from Oaxaca to Mexico city or refunding a portion of her ticket that was mysteriously canceled. The airline also threw in a $200 travel voucher to offset “other expenses” related to her mishap.

Is that enough?

Huntoon wants to know so she can plan her next move, which may include a trip to small claims court. Depending on the feedback, I may try to mediate this case, but I’m concerned about some of these out-of-pocket expenses that US Airways never agreed to cover. While there’s no excuse for canceling one leg of an itinerary, Huntoon should have obtained authorization for some of these expenses, notably the hotel in Mexico City, before leaving the airport.

Also, it isn’t entirely clear that US Airways is responsible for the cancellation in Mexico City. I’m assuming it is, because it agreed to cover some of her expenses. But US Airways doesn’t operate flights between Mexico City and Oaxaca. So it was either a codeshare flight or one purchased through a travel agency.

I have asked Huntoon for a few details on her travel arrangements, and will post them soon.

Update (8/2): I exchanged several emails with Huntoon after this posted. In the first, I asked how she bought the ticket.

She replied,

US Airways agreed that the mistake was all theirs and offered a small reimbursement. I wrote back and said that it was not acceptable and after a few days of ignoring me they finally called yesterday and said they were looking at my case again and would call sometime this week.

So, I’m in a holding pattern right now. I can’t believe they have spent 4 months fighting this – it would have cost a lot less if they had simply reimbursed my conservative request right from the start.

I’ll let you know how it goes. I know I will never fly with them again!

A few days later, she offered a final update:

I believe I have gotten out of US Airways all that I am going to get. They reimbursed my expenses with the exception of a $156 cell phone bill and some incidentals. They offered me a $200 travel voucher to offset the unreimbursed expenses. I will never fly on them again so the travel voucher does not do me much good!

The interesting thing is that it took 5 months of battling and in the end they admitted that the entire mess was their mistake and in the long run, had they reimbursed me right from the start they would have been money ahead when you consider all the people and time that they spend denying my claim. Your website was quite helpful and I did follow your list of things to do and it worked. So, thank you very much.

(Photo of Oaxaca by memo flores/Flickr Creative Commons)

107 thoughts on “Is this enough compensation? Stranded in Mexico City, and that’s your offer?

  1.  If she had been offered space on the next flight from Mexico City to Oaxaca both ways (which is what I’m assuming the Contract of Carriage calls for), I’d say that US Air had done enough (with the voucher) and that she should have allowed more time for such a long journey.  However, since she apparently got no help from USAir or the operating carrier to actually give her something vaguely resembling what she paid for, they should be paying all her expenses, along with courtesy voucher for her trouble.

    I think the next step (assuming USAir can’t be convinced to play ball) would be a DOT complaint, citing the specific parts of the USAir CoC they failed to fulfill.  If that doesn’t work, it’s off to Small Claims.

  2. Pre-authorization is your biggest worry?  Was her cancellation “pre-authorized”?  Did she receive any notification that she would be able to use ahead of time to deal with it?

    $83.79 seems perfectly reasonable for the one night in Mexico City.

    Based on the post, it appears that USAir does not argue the facts.  They offered a settlement that included cash.  Seems to me that they’re simply trying to get off easy.

    At some point it becomes they’re responsibility.  5 hours of airport negotiation, a bus ride rather than a plane in one direction – seems like OP went out of her way to be fair.  USAir should take note and step up.

  3. No, US Airways didn’t offer enough compensation, but I’m not 100% sure that all of her out of pocket expenses were reasonable.

    Why did she need to buy a return ticket from Oaxaca to Mexico City? I understand it was canceled, but unless she was in Oaxaca for less than 24 hours, she certainly had time to try and work it out with US Airways (either by phone or e-mail) before deciding to buy a new ticket

    Having said that, I would love to hear someone at US Airways attempt to explain why Huntoon’s seat was cancelled. It’s obvious that US Airways failed to meet their CoC. While Small Claims court may be an option, good luck trying to collect that judgment against US Airways.

    1. A return ticket can often be cheaper or the same price as a single ticket even just one leg of a single ticket.

    2. I am guessing she had to buy a return ticket from Oaxaca to Mexico City in order to complete her return from Mexico City back to Phoenix to Philly. US Airways should reimburse her for that since they canceled it without her knowledge. And if anyone questions her Verizon charges, they should try to make roaming calls from their cell phone and see how fast those charges pile up….

      1. We are assuming the carrier was NOT USAirways between Mexico City and Oaxaca since they do not currently publish it as a route.

        What information in the post leads you to believe it was USAirways who cancelled her other airline flights?

    3. It’s pretty easy to collect because they usually don’t show up and a default judgment is entered in the plaintiff’s favor.

      1. Were it only that easy.l
        There’s the judgment, but once the judgment is won, collecting on it may be another battle.

    4. Re: the ticket from Oaxaca to Mexico City:  there also comes a time when hours spent negotiating for naught means less time spent doing business originally scheduled.  If it had been me in this situation, at some point I would cut my losses, time-wise, get my business done and take up the problem when I got back to the office.  I believe Ms. Huntoon is being more than reasonable in requesting the losses she sustained.  Sounds like she has spent many, many hours trying to rectify a problem USAir caused.

  4. Again, there are insufficient details here.
    – What airline actually operated MEX to OAX? (Aeromexico I’m assuming)
    – Did she talk to Aeromexico or US Airways? If one didn’t give a good answer she should have tried the other.
    – Was she offered another flight at another time? This wasn’t mentioned and it seems that she only tried to get on that one flight.
    – Was she told to take a bus instead or did she just give up on the airline?

    For compensation, refunds for the bus and return flight are justified. Maybe the hotel room in Mexico City and cab fares there. But $156 in phone bills and hotel in Oaxaca aren’t things that you can realistically expect the airline to cover. And yes, getting a voucher or even some sort of confirmation from the airline for these charges would have been a very good idea. The phone bill being $156 seems way way too high (was she talking to someone on the phone all night while in Mexico City?) And the total $415 vouchers/cash she got is enough to pretty much cover everything else.

    1. I did a little research, and came to the same conclusion. It probably was an Aeromexico ticket for her last leg. As far as the passenger is concerned, it was US Airways all the way, which is why she has asked for compensation from the airline. I think the codeshare and/or joint PNR issue is an academic question, but a valid one, if you’re doing a post-mortem from the airline side. Huntoon does not specifically say how she bought the ticket, but suggests it was done directly through US Airways. I have asked Huntoon for a few additional details and will post them as soon as they’re available.

      1. For example, you can go to Orbitz and you can purchase airline tickets from Reno to Oaxaca from several airlines (UA, AA, DL, Alaska) and NONE of the flights from Mexico City to Oaxaca are listed as codeshare flights…all of them are cleary listed as AeroMexico flights (i.e. AeroMexico XXX) or AeroMexico commuter flights (i.e. AeroMexico XXXX…Aerolitoral dba AeroMexico Connect).

        I went to the Expedia website and again, it was the same as Orbitz…none of the flights were codeshare…it fully disclosed that the flights were operated by AeroMexico from MEX to OAX.

        I can’t see how anyone can think that it was US Airways, UA, AA, DL or Alaska is the airline, operates all of the flights, etc. the entire way to Oaxaca where it is clearly disclosed as a flight operated by AeroMexico not a codeshare flight by US, UA, AA, DL or Alaska.  

        If it was a codeshare flight then US Airways is on the hook for all of the compensation.  If not, then AeroMexico needs to share in the compensation.  However, US Airways does NOT have a codeshare arrangement with AeroMexico.

      2. That’s OK not to have all of the facts in the article.  This is exactly the type of question that would come to an airline Customer Service Department.  This case makes you think beyond the facts and opinions presented.  I hope to use this case study in my management classes.

        1. But without all the facts, it’s much easier for US Airways or anyone else to dismiss the case. Not saying that the case isn’t valid or anything of the sort, but if you more facts it’s much easier to argue who should pay and why.

    2. If the $156 bill was due to the airline screwing up and leaving you stranded, then I’d say that she’s fully entitled to have the airline reimburse her. $156 may seem too high to us, but international calls from the rest of the world to the US are hideously expensive. We are one of the few places in the world that has some competition, but most of the rest of the world have monopolies running the phones, who charge whatever they want.

      It may cost you a nickel per minute to call Mexico. Have no idea what the rates are in Mexico, but $3-$5 per minute wouldn’t surprise me.

      Furthermore, I place no value on the voucher. The lady is entitled to cash compensation for damages where the airline is at fault.

    3. They Op probably used her cell phone.  That bill can run up really quickly.

      As far as vouchers go, you can’t count them as cash equivalence as there are often restrictions plus you have to buy another ticket

      1. I’m guessing that the OP did use her cell phone. Knowing a bit about cell phone use around the world, it would have been better for her, or cheaper for her out of pocket expenses, had she used a pay phone in the airport. She could have called US Air toll free, she could have called her travel agent – if she had one – collect, or she could have purchased a quick calling card to use on the phone.

        I do hope that if she, or any other readers, plan to travel internationally (again), that she/they invest in a cheapie unlocked quad-band GSM phone. Except for Israel and Japan, GSM is a world standard and you can just pop in a cheapie pre-paid SIM. It is certainly much cheaper to call the US on a Mexican SIM than the roaming charges Verizon (not a GSM provider, by the way, but they do offer GSM phones with a co-branded Verizon/Vodaphone SIM in it which means that you are really using Vodaphone’s service and Verizon is paying them for that privilege) levies.

    4. “And the total $415 vouchers/cash she got is enough to pretty much cover everything else.” 
      I think its quite a mistake to treat vouchers as cash equivalent.  This doesn’t seem at all reasonable as it doesn’t factor in the actual cost to the airline.  If you want todo that then you also need to factor in the passengers opportunity costs for missing a day of work/vacation.   I’d say at best a voucher is worth 1/2 its cash value as a starting point.  Certainly when an airline has had to compensate me I received 2 offers cash and vouchers and one was about double the other.

      To me the phone bill is the only questionable item, but this is potentially justifiable.   We don’t know what here responsibilities were in Oaxaca and those calls could be related to that.  Even excluding that the offer doesn’t really come that close.

      Heck if this were domestic US flight,  wouldn’t she would be eligible for up to $800 even if they just denied boarding on the initial flight and had things worked out by the next flight.

      1. If her calls were related to her planned visit to Oaxaca and the class she was supposed to give there, calls she probably would have made anyway), I have a problem with her trying to pass those charges off on the airline. If, on the other hand, the calls were related to her trying to resolve the problems created by the canceled flight, she should be compensated for those minutes and only those minutes. It’s easy enough to prove what calls went where.

    5. Phone bill:  I was in Mexico, my husband was in Texas. I called him.  Talked 5 minutes.  Cell phone charge: $80.  I believe $156 is reasonable.  

  5. Seven hundred bucks as compensation for being stranded in a foreign country due to airline’s negligence does not seem unreasonable to me. Since everyone agrees that the situation is not covered under the airlines CoC, than it is no longer applicable, by definition, and this becomes a basic tort/damages issue.

    Reading between the lines, sounds to me like this lady has kept pretty good records, and can document and substantiate her damages. Mediation’s worth a shot, but I wouldn’t spend much time on it. If the airline continues to drag their heels, the quickest way to resolve this matter would indeed be via small claims route.

    Since, it appears, that she has some statements from US airways where they admit their screwup, once she adds that to her pile of receipts, I’d think that she won’t have a problem finding a sympathetic small claims judge. And I wouldn’t worry about collecting the judgement. We all read that story a few weeks back where one guy showed up with a sheriff at a Bank Of America branch, judgement at hand, and BofA had to quickly scrambledto avoid having the sheriff haul their furniture away.

    I’ll be looking forward to the story where the sheriff shows up at the airport, and informs US airways that they’re about to haul off their computer equipment!

    1. Better yet, show up at the airport and threaten to haul off one of their planes in lieu of the small claims judgement.  I bet US Air comes up with some cash rather quickly.

    2. No, I hadn’t read, or even heard, about the BofA incident. And, yes, I have been living under a rock lately.

  6. US Air blew it and should reimburse her because of its own stupidity.  It took her money, unilaterally cancelled her flight, didn’t offer any alternatives, and it expects to get off scot-free?  NO!  If she doesn’t get satisfaction, she should just go and sue them.  Chris, do what you can.  If you can’t help her, tell her to sue.

        1. There are several circumstances where an airline is NOT responsible for continuing travel on another airline. Without the facts to support it, a statement cannot be made that USAirways WAS responsible.

          The clues are in the statements the OP made which lead many here to speculate that the tickets were not issued as a through fare and she may not have checked in for her Mexico City to Oaxaca flight ontime, resulting in her entire reservation being cancelled. If this is the case, USAirways is probably NOT responsible.

          With some of the key facts currently lacking, it will be interesting to see how this case develops and ultimately who is responsible.

  7. while I’m not convinced that she should get all of that money back.  I do think she should get money back for the hotel, the flight, the bus and maybe the Verizon bill. 

    US Airways gave no real help to her at the airport and it took them 11 weeks to give her anything.  And US Airways is the one who screwed up.

  8. Full refund on all her expenses, nothing less. She is being more than reasonable since she missed a day in the city AND monies she would have earned but never brought those up. No airline funny money either. 100% cash.

  9. Where did the OP purchased the tickets from?  I went to the US Airways website and you can’t purchase tickets from Reno to  Oaxaca.  Don’t have time this morning to call US Airways to see if you can purchase this ticket over the phone. 

    I went to Orbitz and you can purchase tickets from Reno to Oaxaca…the flights from Reno to PHX to Mexico City are on US Airways metal and the flight from Mexico City to Oazaca is on AeroMexico metal and it is NOT a code share flight (i.e. US Airways Flight # xxxx operated by AeroMexico).

    I did a search on the US Airways website and AeroMexico is NOT a code share partner.  Here is a link of US Airways code share partner,  Personally, I can’t recall AeroMexico ever being an airline partner and/or code share partner of US Airways.  If the OP purchased her tickets DIRECTLY from US Airways, did US Airways was acting as a travel agent for the ticket from Mexico City to Oazaca?

    I would like to know how the OP purchased her tickets before commenting on how much compensation that she is entitled to.

    1. Great minds! We must have been writing at the same time, except I kept getting distracted by e-mail, breakfast, and my cat, so it took me a while to finish posting! Aeromexico is a SkyTeam member, while US Airways is a Star Alliance member, so I doubt there was any codesharing here. I believe the customer purchased the ticket through a travel agent or a third-party website.

    2. I was able to call US Airways twice this morning.  My only way to book a flight to OAX with US Airways was to fly to Houston then catch a flight with CO.  Both times the US CSR checked every day of the week and CO was the only airline that they could book.  I asked about AeroMexico and they said that they can’t book flights with them.

      Unless Chris or the OP provide other information, it is my guess that the OP purchased her tickets from a travel agent or a third-party booking site (i.e. Orbitz, Expedia, etc.) not directly from US Airways.  If this is the case, then it was the travel agent or the third-party booking site that failed to disclose that it wasn’t US Airways all the way.

  10. I have a question. Did she buy the ticket directly from US Airways or a third-party travel agent? Aeromexico isn’t a Star Alliance member, it’s a SkyTeam alliance airline. I’m wondering which carrier operated the Mexico City-Oaxaca-Mexico City legs that were canceled and how the ticket was put together, if that makes sense, before deciding responsibility.

  11. Too many unknowns for anyone to make a comment. It doesn’t appear that US Air was responsible but she might have thought so based on her reservation with whichever third party site she used.


    1. This is true, and for multi-carrier (not in the same airline alliance), more complicated itineraries where something like this might happen, it’s not a bad idea to have a travel agent (a real person) in your corner.

  12. I wouldn’t assume blame on USAirways without knowing more details. First…where did she buy her tickets? If she used a traditional Travel Agent, they should certainly be involved in the discussion. If she used an online ticketing website, well…good luck with that. Another poster has indicated the USAirways website does not offer OAX as a destination.

    Who was the connecting carrier for the MEX-OAX route? I see that Aeromexico operates the MEX-OAX route on their own metal as well as their subsidiary Aerolitoral Aeromexico Connect and Aeroenlaces Nacionales aka VivaAerobus. Is it possible that one of these airlines requires reconfirmation of tickets prior to travel? Did they request ticket numbers in an SSR request via the GDS from the booking agent and not receive them?

    What time was she due to arrive in Mexico City? Was there enough time to check in with the other carrier after leaving time for customs clearance and airport navigation? Did her flight to MEX arrive on time? Even if USAirways is late, they MAY not be responsible for the expenses incurred in getting her to her destination.

    Once the reason for the cancellation is found, then the issue of compensation can be better addressed. If USAirways is not responsible, they may have agreed to a sum due to her by the book approach and well presented case as a way of customer satisfaction.

  13. “Huntoon should have obtained authorization for some of these expenses, notably the hotel in Mexico City, before leaving the airport.”

    And how is she supposed to get that when she can’t even get the reason her seats were canceled?

    Even then, even if she somehow received some sort of authorization, who’s to say the the airline would then honor said authorization after the fact?

  14. Sorry.  US Air agreed to take her from A to B.  It failed to do so.  Her reasonable expenses needed to fix what US Air broke should all be paid by US Air.  Simple.

    1. Hmm…do we have all that information? US Airways took her from A to B (Reno to Mexico City via Phoenix)…but who agreed to take her from B to C? Once she arrived in MEX…USAirways responsibility MAY have ended.

      WHY were her reservations on the other…non USAirways flight…cancelled?

    2. How do we know that US Airways agreed to take her from A to B? All we know is that US Airways operated part of her itinerary and that another airline operated the legs that were canceled. If US Airways sold her this multi-carrier ticket, then they would be responsible, but if a travel agent or third-party website acting as her agent sold her the ticket, then US Airways would not be, and the compensation she received would be more than US Airways had to do.

    3. Actually we do NOT know that US Air agreed to anything beyond getting her to MEX.  They don’t fly to OAX and you can’t even buy a ticket from from them to get you there as others have noted.

      We need the additional details. 

  15. I would agree it would be best to get vouchers for the hotel/meals prior to leaving the airport but if they weren’t admitting fault at that point they probably wouldn’t give a voucher.   Further the hotel cost is only $83 and the meal $15.  Seems to be very reasonable costs here and not anything lavish that USAir could legitimately complain about.  

    1. Perhaps they gave her the $215 and the $200 voucher because there were irregular operations (mechanical delay) on their part?  Do we even know if the US Airways flight arrived MEX on time? It doesn’t appear that US Airways sells tickets for the customer’s routing. If so, US Airways can’t be completely responsible for what happened.

  16. While re-reading, this quote by the OP just struck me: “I was sent a letter and US Airways admitted responsibility and offered a reimbursement in the amount of $215.”

    Did they truly admit responsibility in their own words and writing, or is this the interpretation by the OP since they agreed to compensate her for a portion of her expenses?

    1. I am not sure how US Airways could be responsible unless they sold her this multi-carrier ticket. The only explanation for their compensation thus far might be irregular operations on the legs operated by US Airways. I don’t think we know if their part of the itinerary operated without issue.

  17. The expenses are more than reasonable. My travel Customer Service department would offer more if we were responsible. If we can’t deliver the Customer to the final destination (not necessarily on time) then we cover expenses and a full airline refund credit for a future flight. However…

    Was the cancellation due to weather or other reason beyond the airline control? Then the airline is NOT responsible to use that flight and will offer another flight when it becomes available.  Expenses are then only covered by travel insurance. (The weather problem does not have to be between MEX and OAX to cause airline cancellations. Safety first.)

    Since she did not book it with USAirways; (OAX is not offered by USAirways even with codeshare) then she needs to get the reasonable compensation from the booking agency if the cancellation was due to the unnamed airline.

    Some blame may fall on USAirways if: They checked her bags all the way to Oaxaca and confirmed the last leg. USAirways compensation is more than reasonable and fair.

    1. The fact that she had a class to teach is not relevant to the case.  Airlines are responsible to deliver the Customer to their destination or offer full compensation.  Arriving on time is not always in the airline’s control and is more often in control of the airports and/or weather.

      As a platinum card holder on two airlines, I know that I can never rely on on-time arrivals. If I have a must-be-there-at-all-costs presentation more than four flight hours away, with multiple layovers, or in another country, I plan to arrive three hours early to the airport and arrive at least 48 hours in advance to my destination. I’m still delayed about 40% of the time.

      1. While I’m not a platinum card holder on two airlines I do fly quite frequently (about once a month) and I gotta say that delays of 40% of the time are VERY unusual.  I fly into/ out of Philly and Newark mainly, JFK sometimes and I’d say I’m delayed maybe 10% of the time. 

  18. waaaaay too many variables here for me to vote.
    1) how did she buy her tickets?
    2) why was her seat canceled?
    are the 2 biggest. i’m not sure USAirways has *any* culpability here, based on the fact that they don’t operate RNO-OAX.  they may well have fulfilled all of their obligations, and her 2nd airline may be at fault.

  19. The client clearly states that when she went to check in for the flight in Mexico City (to Oaxaca), she was told the flights both ways were cancelled.  1)  This means NO US, NO codeshare – another airline entirely  2)  It also usually means she did not have enought TIME to checkin, so was listed as a noshow, and the retrun flight automatically cancelled as well.  I would love more information on this one, Chris! 

    1. That is exactly what I was thinking. Since both the MEX-OAX and OAX-MEX legs were canceled, it sounds almost as if it were a separate round trip ticket booked within the US Airways round trip ticket. The US Airways round trip was good, but there was a problem with the other carrier’s booking, or as you said, she appeared as a no-show, so the entire itinerary was canceled. This really seems like a problem with the booking itself and/or the other carrier.

    2. Because I’m curious, and perhaps you know the answer to this, and because I could not find it on Google:

      If you miss the first leg of a round trip ticket, why would they automatically cancel your return leg?

      I feel like knowing the answer to this may come in handy at some point in the future should I or someone I love find themselves in a similar situation of being a bit too late to the first leg of a round-trip.

      1. Roundtrip tickets are purchased as a whole; that is, you must go there in order to return.  Airlines cancel the return because they can – it’s the same reasoning they use when they cancel a return because a person buys a ticket from A to C, with a stopover at B, yet departs at the stopover (cheaper than buying a ticket from A to B).  They do not like their fares to be “taken advantage of.  Convoluted.

      2. Because, right in the Contract of Carriage for most airlines or in the fine print on your ticket receipt, it states something along the lines of: “If you do not complete all of the scheduled segments in order, all remaining segments may be cancelled.”  She missed the 1st segment of that flight (MEX to OAX) and the airline cancelled the remaining segment (OAX to MEX).

      3. Because the ticket IS a roundtrip, with the 1st leg requiring you travel.  You don’t show, they do NOT want you using the return (roundtrips being far less costly than one ways, this ensures a client doesn’t get around the rules)

  20. Honestly, if she had asked permission, while in the airport, you KNOW what USAir would have said, right?  They would have expected her to sleep in the airport probably.  I’m so happy I don’t fly anymore.

  21. Some of the nitpicky comments here about her individual expenses are unreasonable in my opinion.  Note that she was supposed to TEACH A CLASS.  She went down there to work, at least for part of the trip.  If she missed that, she may very well have had to get on the phone to her superiors in the US at peak-rate time to sort that out, etc.  This is not a vacation-jaunt where she could MAYBE have been more flexible–she was professionally responsible to others.

    I once sued a travel-agent in small-claims because he bought me a ticket–with my credit card, of course–and made a mistake on the dates, and then refused to correct it at his own expense (the price for tix on the right dates had subsequently gone way up).  I am a professor and the dates of the tix were critical because I had to teach a short, intensive course, beginning and ending on dates over which I had no control, and could therefore NOT be flexible at all!  The judge, I am happy to say, completely saw it my way, and threw the book at them.

    1. I agree the individual expenses are more than fair. Mexico City is an expensive city and she could have stayed 4 star and had more than one meal. However, the fact that she had a class to teach is not relevant to the case.  Airlines are responsible to deliver the Customer to their destination or offer full compensation.  Arriving on time is not always in the airline’s control and is more often in control of the airports and/or weather.I know that I can never rely on on-time arrivals. Which is why I seldom have must-be-there-at-all-costs meetings without a back-up plan.

  22. If the flight she was to be on was a code share flight ticket by US Air, I believe they should be on the hook.  If it was something she purchased separately, or though a consolidator and then also technically separately, even though it may be on the same itinerary, but not ticketed by US Air, then I would say they are not on the hook.  I look forward to seeing the additional info.
    Assuming US Air is on the hook, I actually think her demands are quite un-reasonable.  I don’t blame US Air for not wanting to pay her demands.
    For starters, asking for $120 for the hotel that she could not get a refund on in addition to the hotel in Mexico City.  That is double dipping and asking for a free night, when she would have paid for that night if her ticket had not been canceled.  She should have only asked for the additional cost.
    Asking for dinner is also unreasonable since she would have also paid for dinner had her ticket not been canceled.
    Asking them to pay her cell phone bill?  This is the most un-reasonable demand in my opinion.  She could have spoken to the airline directly, used a pay phone, and used a hotel kiosk phone to book her room.  The fact that she chose to use her cell phone and pay international roaming charges where there are many other options at MEX was her choice, not US Airways.  There were many things she could have done to mitigate her damages.  She could have also planned better and purchased pre-paid international roaming either in a SIM or disposable phone and saved a lot of money on this.
    Deducting these leaves her at a loss of $406.28.  Assuming US Air is responsible, I believe they should pay her this amount, rather than paying some and giving her a flight credit for the rest.  Perhaps if she started by asking for less, rather than more, they would have found the offer more reasonable and met it upfront.

    1. I don’t see the hotel as double dipping — of course she planned on paying for a hotel at her original destination, as part of her actual vacation.  Staying overnight in Mexico City wasn’t part of her trip, wasn’t something she wanted to do, and presumably wasn’t very enjoyable, on the way to a day-long bus ride.  If she’d known she wouldn’t get there until a day later, she would have booked flights a day later and not paid for a hotel for a night of her trip she didn’t get to “use”.

      As far as mitigating the costs, it depends on what help the US Airways (pr partner) people in Mexico City gave her — if they offered phone usage, hotel suggestions, etc, then some expenses may be unreasonable.  But it sounds like they didn’t, and the traveler in the heat of the moment has no way to find all of the optimal tradeoffs on the spot.  Most Verizon phones can’t take a prepaid SIM, so if she’d purchased, say, a new $100 prepaid phone at the airport, and didn’t end up using all the minutes, would you say that was unreasonable?  Easy to optimize in hindsight, much harder at the time.

      To me, it’s all going to come down to how the ticket was booked, which airlines she talked to in MEX, and how much assistance they did or didn’t give her there.

      1. She is basically asking for a free night, rather than her additional costs.  That is double dipping and I don’t know a single small claims judge that would allow her to get more than she is actually out.  Yes, if she had known she could have canceled her night in advance, she could have canceled.  However asking them to refund both hotel nights, puts her in a better financial position than before.  That is simply unreasonable.
        I am not saying she should have bought a pre-paid cell phone at the airport, though that may have still been cheaper.  I am saying she should have purchased one or made arrangements in advance as she was going to another country.  Making a poor decision on her part “In the heat of the moment” does not mean she should get extra reimbursement.

        1. She didn’t expect to stay in Mexico City and should be compensated for the Mexico City expenses. (If the airline is at fault for the cancelled flight, which we don’t know). The Oaxaca expenses are not relevant since the airline is not under contract to assure that you will arrive on time. No double-dipping is correct.
          However, as a Customer advocate, I would argue for compensation of the higher priced hotel if it is in Oaxaca and have the Customer eat the cost of the Mexico City hotel.  As courtesy, many airlines would agree to that.

        2. “made arrangements in advance” to what?  have a cell phone waiting for her in an airport she wasn’t planning on staying in?  I travel internationally about 3 times a year and never use my cell phone while I’m away.  I certainly don’t have international calling put on my phone “just in case” because it’s not worth it cost wise.  The money I’d spend putting it on “just in case” would be likely more than I’d spend if I did have to use it. 

          1. Made arrangements in advance such as buying a pre-paid SIM or adding a calling plan for the amount of time she will be there.  All it takes is a call to the phone company to add it, and remove it.  I bought a pre-paid SIM from a kiosk in the MUC airport once for 10EU (About $15) and had 200 minutes of calling.  Also adding and removing a calling plan for another country gets prorated, so a week in Mexico runs about $5.  I always get a pre-paid SIM, or add a calling plan.  It’s worth $5 to me to not have to worry about several hundred dollars should something happen.  It’s called being prepared and though I normally think the airlines are wrong, in this case I think the customer was wrong for expecting them to pay her more than $150 cell phone bill when she could have used a payphone or spent 2 minutes adding a $5 calling plan.

          2. The problem with your logic is several. First, she may have had a Verizon phone which don’t allow removable SIMS prepaid or otherwise.  Pay phones are great unless you need to get a return call, then they are pretty much useless.

            But more importantly, her first and foremost goal is getting home.  Trying to save the airline every nickel and dime isn’t on the forefront of anyone’s mind.

          3. I thought her goal was trying to get on a flight, or to a local hotel? She is at an airport, where they have airline agents, and hotel kiosks.  All of those are free!  And yes, you can get a call on a payphone in Mexico.  My wife works in Mexico 3 moths every year, and we arrange for me to call her on a payphone at certain times.  She can also call on a pay phone, and ask them to call her cell phone.
            I am not saying she should think about trying to save the airline money, she should think about trying to save herself money.  I cannot think of any case law where it would be reasonable foreseeable that any service provider (Airline in this case) would have to pay someone’s cell phone bill.  I think as a courtesy it would be nice if the airline did, and they probably would have had she exhibited the duty and due care to mitigate her own damages.  However legally there is no way to hold the airline responsible for her cell phone bill, even if the airline was at fault for her flight being canceled.
            Let’s say, for example, she bought a computer with a warrantee, and the computer broke in Mexico.  She called Tech Support on her cell phone, and spent $200 on her cell phone bill.  Will the warrantee cover her cell phone bill?  No, it will cover her computer replacement.  Again, her racking up a high cell phone bill is not reasonable foreseeable.

          4. You have a different risk level or deeper pockets than I do, but if you wanted to spend $30 on eBay, you can pick up an unlocked quad-band GSM dumb phone that you can use all over the world (except Japan and Israel). Then, should anything happen in any way ever that you’d need to have a local number or would prefer to make $0.03/min phone calls back to the US, you can pick up a pre-paid SIM and just put it in the phone.

            The world of pre-paid or paygo phones in the US is pretty much the exact opposite of how it is in the rest of the world. There, it is actually both good and cheap. Minimum top up for the Lycamobile brand of European pre-paid SIMs is 5 whatever monetary unit that country uses.

            Of course, if you are happy with your current situation, then by all means ignore what I typed.

  23. This happened to me on a flight from Mexico City to Oaxaca; I think it was Aero Mexico. They got me on a later flight, though, and it seems odd that they couldn’t at least fly her there the next day or put her up in a room. But I speak Spanish and if she doesn’t, she may not have been able to argue effectively at the airport. The cab, hotel and restaurant fees are more than I’d pay in her situation, but they’re in line with what non-Spanish-speaking tourists with a certain fear of a foreign country would be likely to pay in an emergency. I’d say the second airline, not US Air, owes her compensation and since it’s almost certainly a Mexican airline, I’m not sure that small claims court will help. You should definitely mediate. 

  24. This does not sound the same circumstances. From the limited information given, the dates appeared to be right.
    When the full details comes out, it’s possible USAirways may have fulfilled their obligation of getting her to MEX and then went above and beyond by reimbursing a portion of her expenses in the form of a refund and a future travel credit.

  25. I question why this article was presented in the first place when a lot of information is missing. 

    While currently you can’t do a through fare on a ticket plated on USAIR from RNO to OAX, we don’t know if it was possible when she purchased her ticket.  What is possible today may change tomorrow, it happenes all the time.  So she could have had a through fare or a constructed fare or two separate tickets that she thought were linked.  Important details that are not presented.

    When I get refunds for clients or myself, the breakdown on what the carrier is paying, when I have specifically asked for reimbursements, is usually noted in the letter accommpanying the check.  USAIR didn’t provide this with the check?

    BTW, to sue a US carrier in small claims court, you have to go to the county where their headquarters are located.  It would cost her a lot more than what she was requesting!

    1. The article was presented with a title question, “Is this enough compensation? Stranded in Mexico City, and that’s your offer?”
      It is a typical case presented to Customer Service offices.  Seldom do they get all the information from the Customer. The comments show there are more than one way to look at the facts as presented. And the Customer is not always right.

      1. Rusty, we don’t know how these tickets were purchased;in one PNR as a through fare or two tickets purchased separately with maybe an OSI message between the two carriers, or in one PNR but two tickets issued.  That is a huge factor in knowing if the compensation was fair. Therefore to ask readers to make a judgement is silly IMHO.  

        1. Exactly my point too.  Which is why I am presenting this to my team to show why we don’t jump to conclusions and to know what questions to ask even when we want to service the Customer quickly.

        2. Actually, since she said she had to actually check in again in Mexico City for the Oaxaca flight, it was NOT a through fare, but two tickets.  And its on the 2nd ticket we are running into the problem.  Usually the only time an airline cancels the outbound AND return flights is when the passenger is a noshow (just too late qualifies), and that is probably what happened here!   Am curious for all the info though, too.

          1. If this was two separate tickets booked by the OP, and not joined by a travel agent, then US Airways has done enough. What keeps throwing me for a loop is that US Airways is compensating her. It would have no reason to if this was a late arriving flight.

          2. I agree – but we don’t know if they had a mechanical problem, and if so, how long the delay was, as they are still responsible for that flight if not the one ot Oaxaca.  Nice gesture, but I don’t think it sets a good precedence in this case.  (Isn’t that absurd!)  

          3. It does sound like she had two separate tickets.  She also says that ‘her seats were cancelled’ which is not the same as her reservation was cancelled.  Not knowing the carrier, some international carriers required reconfirming or they cancel your reservation.  Was she actually ticketed on the OAX-MEX roundtrip or was she just holding space, planning on paying for the flights at the airport?  Was she ticketed and the ticket numbers didn’t get sent across?  Where and how did she get her reservations?

          4. Even if the tickets were joined by a travel agent or bought together, shouldn’t the travel agent or the second airline be responsible for the disappearing reservation and whatever other problems OP had?
            I don’t get why OP thinks to blame US Airways for all this.

          5. Sometimes people think they have to checkin with their connecting flight when they are actually checked all the way through.  Usually they are given the other boarding pass, but you see people turned away at the the gate counter all the time for this.  But my guess is she had a second roundtrip ticket from OAX to MEX which required a certain around of time for checkin and the USAIR flight had a mechanical delay, thus their reimbursement.  They wouldn’t pay for the second flight issues when it isn’t part of their ticket. 

  26. These “should I mediates” are.. I’d say drop them, because, you can’t put all the facts in, and the facts are what decides whether it should be or not.. Ok, you’re getting the itinerary and how it was booked. Those are facts that may decide yes or no for me. Pre-authorization for a hotel.. Well, what are the options and facts here? Was it 11pm and she went to the hotel after everyone at the airport had left?  Should this be mediated? Probably. But with who? And for what? Who was responsible for getting her on that flight? And, why was she bumped from it? If USAir was responsible, then, even if someone else canceled the seats, US Airways deals with it. If they have to pay out $500 (or whatever) they do it, and they can argue with the final airline that canceled the seats and get money from them. They shouldn’t push it to the customer to deal with the other airline. And, I don’t care about “We provided the booking as a convenience”.. If US Airways got her seat on the other airline, then they’re her travel agent.

    Odds are, yes, this should be mediated.. It’s just hard to say where. She got screwed, but, we need to figure out who is responsible for fixing it.

    1. I didn’t ask whether I should mediate this case. That was yesterday.

      The point of this exercise, as I’ve said several times, is to dissect a customer service problem and figure out how it might have been handled better. It’s not truth-squadding.

  27. Thanks for all the comments on this post. You’ve all raised some really interesting questions that I wish I’d been insightful enough to ask the first time around. 

    Remember, I am not a travel agent or an elite-level frequent flier, so I don’t always know what to ask for.

    1. LOL Chris. you need to have a handy e-mail checklist that you can C&P to people asking Y/N if the fligght was purchased through the airline direct, multiple airlines, a website, or a T/A.

      Lots of ideas why the airline she is blaming might not be responsible, but then why would they give her $400+ in compensation if they were not. (same thinking as you have)

    2. Yikes, I’m both a travel agent and a frequent flyer, so I hope I’m not in trouble! 😉 At any rate, the customer deserved better treatment than she received. She also deserves an apology and to be reimbursed in cash for her unexpected expenses. I just don’t think US Airways is solely responsible if the ticket was not purchased directly from them. The other carrier whose flights were cancelled and the travel agent (person or website) that provided her the itinerary hold responsibility.

  28. Several years ago Claire & I flew Mexicana airline from JFK to Mexico City to Mazalan. We landed at Mexico City about midnight, went through Customs but no one knew where the gate was for our connecting flight to Mazalan. The airline had no one at Customs to assist us. Several of the young people scouted the airport and found our connecting flight. thirty of us almost missed the flight. Thank God that the gate personnel knew that they were missing many people and held the plane.

    On the way home, we landed in Mexico City and sat at the gate that was posted for our flight. One of the younger persons on the flight came back for us and pushed Claire in the wheelchair to the new gate which was NOT posted.

    We now avoid Mexico City and have not been back there.

    Have a wonderful day – Cliff

    1. When I worked for AeroMexico this was a daily problem.  After Customs, it is not clear in English how to go directly to the connecting domestic terminal and too many travelers exit the security area and become lost.
      The airlines now have authority to have representation behind Customs to get you on your way. However, if you are changing airlines and don’t speak the language, I imagine, travelers still can easily get lost and cause them to miss their connecting flight. 
      Which may be the case with Huntoon too, but I doubt, since she was savvy enough to find her own hotel with little complaint.
      It is no longer a problem though, in most cases, if you are not changing airlines in Mexico City. 

  29. Without all the facts, as has been pointed out a few dozen times, we can’t make a completely informed judgment.  I’ll just say, though, that as long as a voucher is involved, no, the compensation is not adequate.

  30. She got stranded at the last minute, and did everything in her power to resolve it, and the airlines did not notify her that her seats were gone until the very last second.  At a minimum, to make it right they owe her the hotel she had to stay in and the ticket she had to purchase.

    1. Oh.  And with cash, not vouchers.  When people have been screwed out of something, they don’t want a coupon and a “have a nice day.”  That, and I’m pretty sure she will never risk USAir again, now that they stranded her in a foreign country and seemingly did not care what happened to her.

    2. True, but who exactly are “they?”  I think “they” are the airline who cancelled the flights and the travel agent or website that provided the customer with a multi-carrier itinerary.

  31. The airlines look for any reason to oass the blame. Time to spare, go by air. I would never allow this to happen from USAIR. Small claims my butt, straight to the attourney General.

  32. I think it’s too early to put this post up on the blog. If the customer hasn’t provided Chris with all the details (like whether this was a codeshare flight or purchased through a travel agency), then we have no way of knowing whether USAirways was significantly at fault or whether someone else was.

  33. One of her biggest charges were her roaming charges – almost 23% of the total. Biggest rip off artists other than airline companies are cell carriers. Chris you should go after them as well. Everyone on the planet would back you up here. Steven A in Vancouver 🙂

  34. Amazing isn’t it? An airline keeps lowering fares to lure customers, gets deeper and deeper into financial trouble when it can’t pay its bills because of the bare-bones fares, doesn’t have the resources to run a respectable customer service department or support an equitable problem relief effort, and instead mistreats its customers when they have real problems and pretend the problem isn’t its fault. Is there something wrong with this picture? You  betcha. Maybe if the airlines got real, started charging real fares so they can make an honest profit, maybe they’d find out that their best customers are happy customers because of the good treatment they showed them, and the way they treat their own employees. Will we ever see any inspired airline executives again? 

  35. Per Chris: “I have asked Huntoon for a few details on her travel arrangements, and will post them soon.”

    It has been over a month and Chris has failed to deliver as promised! I want compensation! 😉

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