Barbara Schieding wants a $529 refund from Cheapoair for a United Airlines flight from Montrose, Colo., to Boston. She says she paid for a ticket she didn’t get.
You can imagine how our advocacy team felt about that. How could anyone sell a ticket and then not deliver it?
But as always, there’s more to this story than it seems. We’ve moved this one into the “case dismissed” file, and you’ll see why in a minute.
Schieding and her husband bought three tickets through the online agency for a trip in May.
“We called United Airlines twice after booking to make sure we had the three seats we paid for,” she says. “United confirmed that we did.”
Wrong. United offered the couple two seats for their flights.
“We have been on the phone with Cheapoair almost daily since then,” she says. “I keep getting told that the management team is working on it, that someone will call me back in an hour or in a day or after the weekend. They have never called me back.”
Hmm. So the online agency sells you an extra seat, you don’t get it, and then it goes into radio silence. That’s odd.
We publish the names, numbers and emails of all the Fareportal executives on our site. But in our advocates’ view, Schieding had played this game too long. It was time to get involved.
We contacted Cheapoair on her behalf and asked it to check its records.
“We played back the call between the client and our agent and unfortunately the client requested extra leg room, not an extra seat,” the representative told us. “Because of this United and CheapOair are unable to refund the client.”
In other words, Schieding thought she’d booked an extra ticket when, in fact, she’d requested two “extra legroom” seats. You know, the kind that have about the same amount of legroom as the old coach class seats. (Ah, less for more. Now you’re flying the friendly skies.)
Although this case is not resolvable, there are plenty of lessons for us. Had Schieding reviewed her confirmation, she would have only seen two tickets. Then there’s the issue of nomenclature. When you ask for extra room, make sure that what you’re saying is what they’re saying.
I don’t know how airlines can get away with this. Terms like “premium” economy and economy “plus” can be misleading to people who fly infrequently. Shouldn’t their products say what they do and do what they say? Shouldn’t the industry have a set of accepted standards when it comes to seats?
It seems there was a fundamental misunderstanding between Schieding, Cheapoair and United, and although she received the product she booked, she didn’t receive the product she thought she’d booked. That’s incredibly irritating. I wish there was something our advocacy team could do to help.
Perhaps this cautionary tale will do some good.