How did a ticketing mistake cost this traveler $675?

When Krishna Addanki used the travel website ExploreTrip to reserve a flight to India, he relied on the site to correctly book him and his infant child on United Airlines. But when he arrived at the airport, a United representative told him that his child wasn’t booked on the flight – and he couldn’t fly that day.

Addanki’s experience is a reminder to travelers not to accept the word of a travel or ticketing agent that a ticket or other document “isn’t necessary” without checking it out for themselves – and making sure that they have everything they need to take their trips. Otherwise, they may not be leaving home, because having all required documentation is their responsibility alone, not the travel companies’.

Addanki purchased a round-trip ticket for himself and his child on United for a flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Delhi, India, via Newark, N.J. He received a confirmation from ExploreTrip showing one ticket for himself and the infant. (We don’t have the baby’s name, age or gender.)

When Addanki tried to check in at the Charlotte airport, United’s agents refused to allow him to board, telling him that his child wasn’t ticketed. Addanki would have to purchase a ticket for the child. United’s agents also told him that he would have to call ExploreTrip and discuss the child’s lack of a ticket with its staff.

Addanki missed his flight and connections as he tried to straighten out the matter with ExploreTrip. He ended up staying at a hotel for two days before he could continue traveling to India. He called ExploreTrip from the Charlotte airport. Its agent promised him that ExploreTrip would compensate him for his additional expenses resulting from its ticketing error. These expenses included $675 for Addanki’s ticket change fees, baggage charges and hotel.

ExploreTrip ultimately issued Addanki a refund for the cost of the child’s ticket and promised to contact United regarding Addanki’s out-of-pocket expenses. But when Addanki tried to contact ExploreTrip after his trip to follow up on its promise of compensation, ExploreTrip told him that it would need to verify his information and that it would call him back.

But nobody from ExploreTrip contacted Addanki. He made several calls to ExploreTrip with no success: he was transferred back and forth between agents, he was put on hold for prolonged periods of time and his calls were repeatedly dropped.

When Addanki was able to speak to agents, they agreed that the error was ExploreTrip’s fault and promised to resolve his case after checking out specific details. Addanki was asked for copies of his receipts. An ExploreTrip manager acknowledged receiving Addanki’s documentation and promised to email him back, but did not do so.

Addanki then contacted our advocates, telling us: “I still have no answer from anyone to date and am tired of dealing with them and would want to take legal action if possible for their continued irresponsible behavior and collect a refund for my additional expenses.” (Our website has executive contact information for United; contact information for ExploreTrip is pending.)

ExploreTrip’s user agreement contains the following disclaimer:

We do not control or operate any airline, neither do we control or own any shipping company hotel or transport or any other facility or service mentioned on the site. We take care in selecting all the principles however but because we select them- we have no control on running them. We cannot be held responsible for any lack of service by any independent agency airline transport hotel or any other service provider.

United’s contract of carriage indicates that

Lap Children (infants under the age of two years):
In many cases a Ticket is required for an infant to travel on international flights even if no fare is paid. In addition, some international destinations may carry service charges. A USD 0 value or fee only Ticket may be issued for an infant.

Addanki is correct that he should have been told that he needed to purchase an extra ticket for his child before he went to the airport.

One reason for Addanki’s lack of success in securing compensation is that in addition to reimbursement for his actual costs, he is asking for $500 “to cover for his time and effort in dealing with all the agents and phone calls.” Despite ExploreTrip’s serious customer service failings in its telephone communications with Addanki, no travel company will issue compensation for lost time or inconvenience.

Another is that ExploreTrip told Addanki that its “role is limited until the ticketing and post [of the] airlines come into the picture,” which presumably means that it is waiting for United to approve and pay Addanki’s request for compensation to ExploreTrip, at which time ExploreTrip will release the funds to Addanki.

And finally, Addanki indicated that he would pursue legal action if he didn’t receive all the compensation that he requested.

Although our advocates reached out to ExploreTrip several times on Addanki’s behalf, we had no more success in obtaining a refund for Addanki for his other expenses.

We can only warn our readers: If you are traveling overseas with a baby, purchase a ticket for the baby, regardless of its age, and have an approved child seat for the baby to sit in. If you don’t do this in advance, then, like Addanki, you may be forced to do this at the airport to continue your trip. And purchasing tickets directly from airlines, as opposed to websites like ExploreTrip, reduces your risk of ticketing errors and experiences like Addanki’s.

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