Oh no! I missed my connection and had to pay extra

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By Christopher Elliott

Sue Broxholm’s connecting flight back home is delayed, and her airline eventually asks her to pay an extra $462 to continue her journey. Is that right? And if not, should it give her a refund?


A few months ago I purchased tickets to Lilongwe, Malawi, for church missionary work through a full-service travel agency. I had two sets of round-trip tickets. One from San Francisco to Cairo by way of Paris on Delta Air Lines and Air France/KLM and one from Cairo to Lilongwe by way of Nairobi on Kenya Airways. Kenya Airways, Delta and Air France/KLM are all alliance partners.

On my return trip, my Kenya Airways flight from Lilongwe arrived late in Nairobi and, even though my connecting flight to Cairo was still at the gate, I was not allowed to board. A Kenya Airways service representative informed me that the next flight out was the following day at the same time. Kenya Airways put me up in a hotel for the night and told me that they had made arrangements for all of my connecting flights to be changed to one day later.

Inconsistent reconciliation

I was given something called a “Ticket Reconciliation Needed” form and was told there would be no extra charge, since all of the airlines were in the same alliance. But the next day, when I tried to check in for my flight in Cairo, an Air France/KLM representative told me they would not honor the Ticket Reconciliation that Kenya Airways issued. They insisted that I pay an additional $462 to take the flight.

I have been back and forth since then with all of the airlines. The best they can offer is a $100 coupon toward a new trip. These changes have cost me a total of $538, when you factor in the hotel accommodations. We have exhausted all resources. We hope that you can persuade the airlines to reimburse me for the additional expenses I incurred in order to get on the plane. As well as the extra cost in hotel expense due to the one day delay. — Sue Broxholm, San Francisco


Something wasn’t right with your tickets. If your reservations had been connected, then you would have been able to continue your flight without being charged more by Air France.

You made your reservations through a full-service travel agency, which should have known that. But when you mentioned that you had two separate sets of tickets, I thought something might not be right. (Related: She relied on the minimum connection times. That was a mistake.)

When I checked with Air France and KLM (they are owned by the same company), it found that the reservations weren’t connected. In other words, Air France/KLM and Delta wouldn’t know that you missed your Kenya Airways flight. Being in the same alliance doesn’t count. You need to have the same alphanumeric record locator for your entire itinerary, and only then is everything connected.

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The power of a connected reservation

Normally, a problem like this can be avoided by using a professional travel agent. But even agents can make mistakes, and yours either couldn’t or wouldn’t link all of the flights on your reservation. That made a resolution difficult. (Related: Who’s responsible for my missed connection?)

Your story underscores the importance of having a connected reservation. Simply booking tickets through alliance partners is not enough. Their systems aren’t sophisticated enough to know if you are the person making or missing a connecting flight without a common reservation code. (Here’s the best way to buy airline tickets.)

Air France didn’t have to help you. Luckily, given the humanitarian nature of your trip, it decided to refund your change fee and hotel bill.

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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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