Can you help my neighbor with this invalid United ticket?

When Silvania da Silva booked air tickets on United and Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras through the online travel site OneTravel (a brand of Fareportal), she expected to be able to board her flights. But Azul denied her boarding, saying the fare hadn’t been paid — even though she had paid for her tickets when she made the booking.

Only her tickets weren’t paid for — and her itinerary had been canceled.

What da Silva had were failures of the airlines to communicate with each other — and transfer payments. In order to take her trip, she had to spend an additional $3,077 on new air tickets for both legs of her flight.

Da Silva purchased tickets for herself and her daughter to travel from San Francisco to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, via Rio de Janeiro. Their flight from San Francisco to Rio on United Airlines was uneventful, but when they attempted to connect to their Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras flight, Azul refused to allow them to board the plane, claiming that it had not received payment for their tickets. Da Silva spent $443 in order to continue travel to Belo Horizonte.

Nor were da Silva and her daughter allowed to board their return flight in Belo Horizonte. In order to return home to San Francisco, da Silva was forced to purchase tickets on Copa Airlines for $2,633.

Upon her return home, she contacted OneTravel, which responded that “they paid United for all the flights and United was responsible for forwarding money to those carriers. She needed to take the matter up with United.”

Because of da Silva’s weak understanding of English, a neighbor, John Hamilton, offered to advocate for her. Hamilton assisted da Silva with preparation and filing of a claim with United for $3,076, the cost of the replacement airfares for the flights on which she and her daughter were denied boarding. Although United acknowledged the claim and assigned a case number, it did nothing further for da Silva.

After Hamilton followed up twice and exchanged emails with United on da Silva’s behalf, United issued da Silva two $300 travel vouchers. According to Hamilton, “Da Silva rightly deemed this inadequate compensation.”

Although da Silva and Hamilton might have escalated the complaint to higher-ranking executives of United and OneTravel, Hamilton posted in our forums about the case.

The forum members advised Hamilton that OneTravel should have taken responsibility from the beginning of the case for handling da Silva’s complaint. OneTravel, according to the forum members, needed to confirm payment to the airlines and act on da Silva’s behalf, advocating for a refund of the extra airfares to da Silva. They also suggested that da Silva dispute her credit card payment to OneTravel.

Hamilton agreed that he would help da Silva assemble documentation and write a letter of complaint to OneTravel. He then asked our response advocacy team for assistance.

Neither OneTravel’s terms and conditions nor the general disclaimer at the bottom of its homepage addresses the issue of responsibility for payment of airfares. But as da Silva’s travel agency, it should have acted on her behalf.

Our response team reached out to OneTravel, which referred us back to United. United did not respond to us or to Hamilton, presumably because it would have responded only to da Silva as the passenger. But United did not respond to da Silva either.

OneTravel told us further:

From what we can tell, the passenger missed their original flights which caused United to cancel the entire booking. This is most likely what caused the following confusion. Following the no-show incident, our agent assisted the customer with getting United to reinstate the tickets for a departure [two days later].

Everything that happened after this was done with United directly so we do not have accurate records and can only go off of what United has shared with us. We know that the customer used various segments of the original ticket, but we are unsure of what happened at the airport in Rio.

Based on what I have discovered, OneTravel does not have any further role in this. Additionally, United has provided vouchers and refunds equal to the original cost of the ticket.

This is clearly a different version of events from the one Hamilton provided to us (and presumably da Silva provided to Hamilton).

But because neither OneTravel nor United is willing to offer any further assistance to da Silva, and because nobody is clear about what took place in the Brazilian airports, we are filing da Silva’s story as a Case Dismissed.

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