No visa and no flight credit – who’s responsible for this mess?

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To fall into my dreaded “case dismissed” file, a lot of things have to go wrong. Unfortunately, that’s the situation David Bialke and his wife are facing.

Things went wrong when they tried to fly to Germany recently. Lots of things.

Although his problem is unfixable, it’s worth covering on my site because it can prevent you from making a similar mistake. Bottom line: read the fine print on your airline ticket. Make sure your paperwork is in order. Assume nothing.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Insured InternationalTravel Relaxed…Travel Secure…When you have Travel Insured.

Bialke booked two airline tickets on KLM through ABC Travel Service, a German travel agency, to visit his brother, stationed overseas.

The agency came highly recommended.

“We were told about this travel agency that contracted with many airlines for discounted airfares for relatives of United States service members to visit their military family members,” he says.

Bialke paid $1,459 for two tickets from Minneapolis to Frankfurt, which is a great price. KLM’s codeshare partner in the United States is Delta, and Bialke happens to be an elite-level Delta customer.

“Using my Platinum Medallion status on Delta Air Lines, I contacted Delta and transferred the tickets to Delta codes to get preferred seating and bonus miles,” he explains.

So far, so good.

But then they got to the airport.

“My wife is a permanent resident of the United States, but holds a Colombian passport as she is not yet eligible for a US passport,” he says. “We were told upon checking in at the airport in Minneapolis we were told that my wife needed a Schengen Visa to travel to Germany.”

Bialke mistakenly assumed his wife wouldn’t need a visa.

“It was my belief that she would be treated as an American citizen, given her status as a US permanent resident,” he says. In fact, he’s traveled to the EU on several occasions with an Argentinian who is a US permanent resident and never had an issue.

“We have since found out that passport holders of certain countries, including Colombia, do need the Schengen Visa. This was unknown to us, but at no time during our trip planning did anyone suggest passport or visa issues,” he says.

A quick search on the subject would have revealed the visa requirements for Colombians.

Bialke had no choice but to cancel the trip. In these situations, as a rule, airlines normally offer a ticket credit, minus a change fee and fare differential. (But do the math: at $729 per ticket, the $300 fee would leave them with $429 — that won’t get you far.)

He contacted both KLM and Delta, which referred him to his agency. His agency didn’t respond, so he circled back with the airlines, which told him he’s lost the entire value of his ticket.

That seems a bit harsh. After all, Bialke had informed KLM of the cancellation before the trip. Does it get to pocket all the money?

Yes.

I contacted Delta, and a representative explained why.

KLM rejected the refund request as the passenger purchased the ticket through ABC travel.

The tickets purchased were bulk fares and are deeply discounted rates. The consolidator sets their own price and rules for the tickets prior to selling them to the general public.

The agency selling the ticket is responsible for advising the passengers of the restrictions at the time of purchase.

Bulk tickets have rigid restrictions and any refund requests or alterations must be handled by the issuing agency.

Delta offered to escalate the issue to KLM one more time. But I don’t think that’s necessary. I’m 99 percent certain of the final answer, and besides, Bialke had three strikes.

– Not checking his traveling companion’s visa rules.

– Failing to review the restrictions on his inexpensive consolidator ticket.

– Not reading the change or refund rules when he decided to cancel his flight.

In a perfect world, every ticket would be exchangeable and refundable. Visas would be easy to secure — even automatic — when you book an airline ticket.

In a perfect world, airlines wouldn’t be allowed to sell “bulk” tickets that can’t be changed or refunded. They would always tell their customers about the paperwork requirements that go with their ticket.

Alas, it’s not a perfect world.

Should I have turned down David Bialke's case?

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266 thoughts on “No visa and no flight credit – who’s responsible for this mess?

  1. It seems to me that the decision on a refund for such a bulk ticket should come from ABC, not KLM or Delta. But as for ABC’s answer, it would probably be the same because the ultimate responsibility for entry requirements rests with passengers.

    (The more interesting situation is where a passenger does in fact meet the entry requirements, but a carrier refuses to board the passenger under its mistaken interpretation of the law that the passenger does not meet the entry requirements. But that’s not the issue here.)

  2. “Bialke paid $1,459 for two tickets from Minneapolis to Frankfurt, which is a great price.”

    It might have been a great price or maybe not. I went to ABC’s website to get a price for tickets in January 2015 at the 35% discount for military relatives and the price was $ 1,750 per passenger from MSP to FRA on KLMDelta. I went to Orbitz and the lowest fare for the same days of travel from MSP to FRA on KLMDelta was $ 1,202.80. Air France was $ 1,222.80.

    One can’t make the assumption that the price was great unless you compare the other fares at the time. Since I am not a travel agent, I can’t look back at fares when the LW was scheduled to fly. I just chose the same routes and same days in the future to do a quick comparison.

    I won’t be surprised if this company is ripping off relatives of our US servicemen and woman. Or maybe I was just lucky to pick dates where tickets on Orbitz were cheaper than the 35% discounted tickets on ABC.

  3. Did the LW dealt with ABC Travel Service over the phone or used their website?

    If it was over the phone then they should have disclosed the type of tickets as well as to review the visas requirements. When my wife and I went on our first tour of Europe, the travel agency that we used told us which visas that we needed for the tour. Then they required us to present our passports with the necessary visa before they hand over the folder with our tour confirmations, etc.

    I went to their website and it is not that great. I used to work for a German based software company for 7 years and the ABC Travel Service website is typical German programming. I can’t tell you how many times that our US clients and prospective clients told my German counterparts and associates that the user interface sucks (to be blunt).

    I entered two passengers and the fare came back as 1,750; whereas, $ 1,202.80 per passenger and a total of $ 2,203.60 appeared on the Orbtiz’s website. I thought that the $ 1,750 was for both passengers until I went to the booking page where the total was now $ 3,500.

    At Orbitz, their website had a label of “Must exactly match the name on a government photo ID that will be used while traveling” for the entry of the passenger’s name; whereas, ABC had nothing. Also, Orbitz had the data fields for Secure Flight Information; whereas, ABC didn’t.

    Nothing during the finding flights process or booking process told me that these tickets were bulk tickets or etc. Is ABC Travel Service a full-service travel agency or a ticket wholesaler? It seems to be the latter based upon the LW was dealt with.

  4. “Nothing to see here”, just another ignorant traveler who didn’t do the VERY, VERY easy thing of checking visa requirements, and now wants a business to pay for what is 100% the LW’s fault.

    Cheap comes with limits and restrictions, the cheaper the product/service the more limits and restrictions. The LW should have know or should have done the due diligence to review the purchase terms and conditions before conducting the transaction.

    What concerns me is that a product with a market should be limited because it must assume a limit to consumers sophistication. Of course tickets could be sold that were required to be refundable, we would ALL just end up only having more expensive tickets available. Some of us possess the capability of evaluating a product or service and determining if the value and accompanying restrictions/limits is a suitable purchase.

  5. Who, as a colombian citizen, holding just a colombian passport, doesn’t know that a visa is ALWAYS needed for entering to Europe? Extremely naive and irresponsible….

  6. ABC is a reseller of tickets they have purchased at a deep discount from the airline. That’s how yield management works. The airline fears it will have unsold seats and dumps them to the consolidator in what is effectively a ‘hedge’ operation. At that point, the airline is out of the picture. Now, in the case of ABC, if they refund the ticket, they eat the cost. With little time left before the flight and the likelihood of the flight being well undersold, why should they lose money just because the customer did not know the VISA requirements for a Colombian national?

    This is absolutely a case you should have run away from.

  7. In a perfect world, every ticket would be exchangeable and refundable.

    Yes, let’s take away the consumer’s ability to save money and buy a cheaper, but rigid ticket. $100 for a flexible ticket, $70 for a rigid ticket. Sorry Mr. consumer, no $70 ticket for you. It’s really in your best interest. Trust me. I know best.

  8. Agreed. an airline seat and a hotel room are really no different than a catered event like a wedding. If someone doesn’t show up to the reception, should the caterer refund the money for that meal?

    I think the issue is actually, in event of a cancellation, should a service provider be able to BOTH keep the original customer’s fee AND ALSO sell the service a second time. Making all tickets refundable or exchangeable would almost certainly result in abuse of the policy by the consumer, thus in the end, raising the cost for everyone.

  9. A platinum with Delta and he does not know enough to check entry requirements for a country? And that he believes a green card gives his spouse the same privileges as a US citizen? Really??? You need that deck of playing cards today.
    My spouse held a green card before becoming a US citizen and I cannot tell you how much the paperwork stressed that when you travel you must check the entry requirements for citizens of the country whose passport you hold. There is no excuse for not checking this information.

  10. Yea, but with ABC, you’re also getting extra services, like help from professionals who are used to dealing with the intricacies of fees and visa requireme……

    oops.

  11. I’m surprised you made a very quick distinction between a bulk fare and a cheap published fare.
    Are cheap KL fares to Europe refundable? You think they would have been able to get some money back had they puchased an excursion published fare? Or is that one of the simple assumptions of the article?

  12. Chris, if your “ideal world” means that everybody pays for two checked bags, oceans of legroom, and the ability to change or cancel the ticket at any time for any reason, please let me know when that’s about to happen, so I can get all my traveling out of the way to avoid the vastly increased airfares. (Did you ever wonder why the total ticket price (vs. your fondly-remembered days of airline regulation) is so much less? Gas costs more, labor costs more, red tape costs more, etc., yet the ticket is a LOT cheaper.)

    0% of the blame here belongs to the airline.

  13. Errr… He paid $1,459 for TWO passengers. That’s quite a deal compared to those fares you posted.

  14. Why do you expect Delta Plats to be brilliant people?
    What does collecting a lot of SkyPesos say about a person’s Travel IQ?
    Why didn’t he use miles for this trip? Aren’t they redepositable?

  15. I have seen this type of German consolidator pricing on DL/KL before.
    I think their specials are not seen on the webpage.
    They are very cheap compared to what a US based consolidator can offer.
    Based on my observations the difference is the amount of the Delta YR fuel surcharge. So maybe they get a pass on having to charge those.

  16. Re:

    The tickets purchased were bulk fares and are deeply discounted rates.
    The consolidator sets their own price and rules for the tickets prior to
    selling them to the general public.

    Actually I don’t 100% agree with this statement.
    While dereg allowed airlines to set their own prices without having to file tariffs, their rules for INTERNATIONAL travel are still filed with the DOT.

    International Fares and Rules

    In most international markets, the Department has exempted U.S. and foreign carriers from the statutory requirement to file passenger fares. The carriers are, however, still required to file tariffs containing some “general rules” such as rules on conditions of carriage,
    baggage allowances, liability, and carriage of passengers with disabilities. We review such filings for consistency with public interest standards, Department rules and policy, and applicable international agreements.

    That said the LW has a right to see and read the rules associated with the tickets sold to him by ABC. If you look at the typical Penalty Rules that KLM files with ATPCO for their BULK fares you will see this:

    CANCELLATIONS ANY TIME
    TICKET IS NON-REFUNDABLE IN CASE OF CANCEL.
    WAIVED FOR ILLNESS OR DEATH OF PASSENGER OR FAMILY MEMBER.
    NOTE –
    ——–EXCHANGE OF WHOLLY UNUSED TICKET —–
    IF EXCHANGING A WHOLLY UNUSED TICKET BEFORE
    DEPARTURE OF OUTBOUND FLIGHT -VALUE OF TICKET
    LESS
    THE CHANGE FEE MAY BE APPLIED TOWARDS PURCHASE OF
    NEW TICKET PRICED AT CURRENT FARES UNDER THE
    FOLLOWING CONDITIONS-
    -IF SAME BOOKING CLASS- NEW FARE MAY BE
    LOWER / EQUAL / HIGHER THAN ORIGINAL FARE AND-
    A.MUST COMPLY WITH ALL PROVISIONS OF NEW FARE.
    B.RESERVATION FOR NEW ITINERARY MUST BE MADE AND
    TICKETS ISSUED NO LATER THAN 1YEAR FROM ISSUE
    DATE OF TICKET BEING EXCHANGED.
    C.IF RESULT IS REFUND – REFUND WILL BE IN THE
    FORM OF NONREFUNDABLE DTV
    IF RESULT IS HIGHER- MUST ADD COLLECT
    DIFFERENCE AT TIME OF REISSUE.
    -IF DIFFERENT BOOKING CLASS- NEW FARE MAY BE
    EQUAL / HIGHER THAN ORIGINAL FARE AND-
    A.MUST COMPLY WITH ALL PROVISIONS OF NEW FARE.
    B.RESERVATION FOR NEW ITINERARY MUST BE MADE AND
    TICKETS ISSUED NO LATER THAN 1YEAR FROM ISSUE
    DATE OF TICKET BEING EXCHANGED.
    .—

    I’m fairly certain that there is some value left on their ticket even after the $300 change fee. They can get ABC to reissue them tickets to somewhere else the Colombian wife can go to without a VISA. Screw Schengen.

  17. Europe has a lot to be thankful for American troops in NATO. They can’t even fight their own wars today.
    Can’t believe they will require such BS for an accompanied spouse (green card holder) of a US citizen visiting a brother serving there.
    What the heck can they be thinking? She will leave him for a European?
    Disgusting.

  18. Actually this could be quite confusing.

    If you use the Star Alliance Timatic tool, you will see this (attached pic).

    The part which says VISA REQUIRED is below the phrase
    Holders of US Form I-327.

    That form is what allows US Permanent Residents to stay out of the USA for more than one year.
    The green card itself is form !-551. So green card holders who only want to stay out of the USA for a few weeks can construe this to mean they don’t need a schengen visa for Germany.

    Passport required.
    – Passports and/or passport replacing documents must be valid
    for at least 3 months beyond the period of intended stay.
    Passport Exemptions:

    – Holders of a US “Permit to Re-Enter” (Form I-327);
    Visa required.

  19. Not sure I agree. My wife is Romanian, with a permanent resident green card. Normally, Romanians would be required to have a visa to visit Canada. However, with her US green card, she doesn’t. Was there this summer with no problems.

    In this case, I too may have made an invalid assumption that a US Permanent Resident would be allowed to go anywhere without a visa where a US Citizen would be allowed without a visa.

    It really is an easy assumption to make…. but at least now I’ll check more closely when traveling.

  20. Very Interesting that Timatic in GDS shows something different.

    TIRV|NA CO|DE DE|

    TIMATIC-3 / 09DEC14 / 1307 UTC
    NATIONAL COLOMBIA (CO) /DESTINATION GERMANY (DE)

    VISA DESTINATION GERMANY (DE)

    …… NORMAL PASSPORTS ONLY ……
    PASSPORT REQUIRED.
    – PASSPORTS AND/OR PASSPORT REPLACING DOCUMENTS MUST BE VALID
    FOR AT LEAST 3 MONTHS BEYOND THE PERIOD OF INTENDED STAY.

    VISA REQUIRED.

    – INFORMATION ON SCHENGEN VISAS >TIRULES/R33
    MINORS:
    – MINORS AGED UP TO/INCL. 15 YEARS OF AGE MAY BE INCLUDED IN
    THE PASSPORT OF A PARENT OR GUARDIAN, PROVIDED
    >TIDFT/DE/PA/MI/ID22061
    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
    – VALID VISAS IN FULL OR EXPIRED TRAVEL DOCUMENTS ARE ACCEPTED
    PROVIDED >TIDFT/DE/VI/AI/ID39521
    – VISITORS ARE REQUIRED TO HOLD PROOF OF SUFFICIENT FUNDS TO
    COVER THEIR STAY AND DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR THEIR NEXT
    DESTINATION.
    WARNING:
    – INFORMATION ON SCHENGEN VISAS >TIRULES/R33
    MINORS:
    – MINORS AGED UP TO/INCL. 15 YEARS OF AGE MAY BE INCLUDED IN
    THE PASSPORT OF A PARENT OR GUARDIAN, PROVIDED
    >TIDFT/DE/PA/MI/ID22061
    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
    – VALID VISAS IN FULL OR EXPIRED TRAVEL DOCUMENTS ARE ACCEPTED
    PROVIDED >TIDFT/DE/VI/AI/ID39521
    – VISITORS ARE REQUIRED TO HOLD PROOF OF SUFFICIENT FUNDS TO
    COVER THEIR STAY AND DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR THEIR NEXT
    DESTINATION.
    WARNING:
    >
    – PASSPORTS MUST BE SIGNED BY THE HOLDER. PASSPORTS WITHOUT
    SIGNATURES WILL BE ACCEPTED IF: >TIDFT/DE/PA/WA/ID36240
    – PASSPORTS AND PASSPORT REPLACING DOCUMENTS ISSUED MORE THAN
    10 YEARS PRIOR TO DATE OF TRAVEL ARE NOT ACCEPTED.
    – VISITORS NOT HOLDING RETURN/ONWARD TICKETS >TIRULES/R38 COULD BE REFUSED ENTRY .

    I feel sorry for the guy and his wife. Maybe if he went to Elliott’s forum BEFORE he bought a ticket, we could have helped him.

  21. From the ABC Travel site (for what it’s worth):

    The services are distributed on an “as is” basis without warranties of any kind, either expressed or implied, including but not limited to warranties of title or implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose, other than those warranties which are implied by and incapable of exclusion, restriction, or modification under applicable laws.

    Each member agrees to indemnify and hold ABC Travel Service harmless from any claims and expenses, including reasonable attorney fees arising from disputes, associated with the use of products and services provided by ABC Travel Service.

  22. How about this? They give hope of a refund.

    Cancellation before Departure

    We will need a written notice though email or fax, if you want to cancel your flight before departure so you will not be considered a „No-Show“ with the airline. This would make it more difficult and expensive to refund your ticket. If an accident should occur on the travel date, please either inform the airline or ABC Travel Service.

  23. Entry and Visa Documents
    Please check with the responsible consulate if your documents are valid to entry in the other country. Every traveler is responsible for themselves to have legal visa documents or any other valid documents for the entry.

    What a disclosure :) Does this agency know anything? How about using Timatic.

  24. I simply expect someone who travels that much to be a bit more travel savvy than the LW is. Of course my expectations seem to be higher than the Travel IQ of the average passenger.

  25. Nah :) Most native-born Americans have no clue what (travel document-wise) foreigners need to go to other countries.
    This is a very confusing topic. More difficult than earning Skymiles. But perhaps easier than redeeming awards for 2 or more pax in Delta on BC.

  26. The BULK fares still belong to the airlines. They do have a responsibility to disclose more clearly to the American buying public that they are buying BULK fares and what the rules of those BULK fares are.
    Otherwise people who see KLM fares (that might be BULK) have no way to determine that they do not get the same rules that they have on KLM published fares.

  27. The LW was completely at fault but what really interested me was Chris saying that that a visa should be automatic when purchasing a ticket. Just how would that work Chris????

  28. Isn’t the agent responsible for making sure the customer knows what the fare rules are? How is the airline themselves supposed to communicate this prior to purchase, when they don’t have the customer contact until the reservation is made?

  29. reciprocity…reciprocity. ie, how would the amazing states of America welcome a ghanian living as permanent resident in Germany coming to the US of A without a visa. they wouldn’t.

  30. The timeline has me lost on this one…. When did he find out that she needed a visa? Did he attempt to obtain one before walking away?

    This is yet another case of someone DIY and then not wanting to accept responsibility for something they didn’t know. Sorry it doesn’t work that way. You build your own house, your responsibly for building it to code…

  31. They can / should force their agents.
    After all, isn’t that the meaning of agent? They still represent a principal.

  32. Didn’t spot that… yeah, somehow the airline is supposed to magically know you need a visa, fill out a visa application for you, collect your passport, obtain visa photos, and handle all the shipping back-and-forth. And do all this right after you click “buy”.

    If the process is entirely automated, that’s not a visa at all… the whole point of the visa process is to have somebody/something look over all the information and possibly deny issuance. And if the process is completed successfully, provide an authenticated document noting this.

    Nah, ain’t gonna happen, at least not until magical pixie dust is a standard part of the airline fare. Maybe Chris can add it to his wishlist.

  33. Apparently they found out they needed a visa right at the check-in counter. While it’s possible to obtain entry permits for some countries instantly, a full visa is not instant.

  34. I think the problem is that they actually let folks check in online but then their boarding passes will say check docs, etc. so they could have hypothetically made it to the gate here if not checking a bag. but better that them to make it to Germany and get turned around.

  35. I missed the “at the airport” line my first time through… Guess there wasn’t time for an application to the German Consulate in Chicago… Even using an expediter

  36. But the details of what rules apply are clearly spelled out on the information given to green card holders–something I am very familiar with. And something the average green card holder is also familiar with.

  37. why? why should the fact that the US decided to grant permanent resident status change the visa requirements of another country. the example below about my native Canada is truly an exception because of reciprocal deals US/Canada have around no visas/ESTA needed for travel.

  38. There is probably nothing that can be done about this particular case, but the best revenge would be to spread the word in the military/veteran community to avoid ABC. As has been pointed out elsewhere in the thread, there are direct airline bookings available for not much more than what LW paid.

  39. You have to provide passport details when you check in online. Once you put in a passport that requires a visa for the destination country online check in is usually disabled and must be completed at the airport.

  40. Sorry, but as a diamond on delta and united 1k, I check in online for international flights all of the time and then have docs checked at the gate. only some countries will block this like south Africa. most allow it just fine and then check docs at the gate.

  41. I have long proposed exchangeability as a market-based solution, but apparently that makes me a tool of Lenin. I still can’t find the verse in Atlas Shrugged that says it’s immoral to give my ticket to a relative if I get sick at the last minute and can’t go.

  42. I have colleagues that still mess up though they are 4 million milers on delta. the two pages rule, 6 months rule, needed a transit visa for a country they weren’t entering, etc. it is easy to mess up…even for pros.

  43. I agree with you in principle but the law is the law. LW should have told the agency the wife had a green card. It works both ways with people coming here from other countries depending on the docs they hold.

  44. Visa requirements can change rapidly. I’m married to a Canadian who is also a permanent resident of the U.S. Our first trip to Spain had to be canceled because 2 weeks before the flight, Spain imposed visa requirements on Canadian citizens (there had be no prior visa requirement). A few years later, we had a similar situation flying to Germany. We did check visa requirements since we were transiting through the Czech Republic. Continental told us no visa was required. You guessed it – when we went to the airport Czech Air (codeshare partner) demanded a visa. We called Continental and they reiterated no visa requirement to transit through. Czech Air disagreed. They were actually arguing with each other on the phone as they held the plane. Czech Air finally agreed to let us board as long as we didn’t exit the airport in Prague. Continental re-routed our return flight through Dusseldorf. We always check visa requirements, but it seems the airlines can barely keep track of the changes.

  45. LW should have told ABC that his wife had a green card so they could have had the opportunity to tell him she needed a visa but it is the ultimate responsibility of the passenger to know what travel docs are needed. The travel agents aren’t mind readers.

  46. As long as you disclose your immigration and passport standings. How were they supposed to know the wife had a green card?

  47. Platinum on DL and I check in on line but DL inhibits check in for travel to countries that require a visa to travel.

  48. Well, since you can only check-in online 24 hours in advance, that’s still not enough time to get a visa, unless you can get a local consulate to process your visa application really quickly, it doesn’t really matter if you find out at check-in or the day before.

    The only European consulate in Minneapolis is Switzerland, and it doesn’t issue visas.

  49. Rule of Thumb: Whenever you’re dealing with a non-US passenger, investigate needed Visas and Entry Forms. For that matter, when you’re traveling outside the USA regardless of your citizenship, do the same thing. Better to spend 30 minutes learning you DON’T need something than having a snafu occur.

  50. In Chris’s world, he wants the $ 100 flexible ticket to go away and the $ 70 rigid ticket to be the norm which are now exchangeable and refundable. Just look at the majority of the cases that he writes about…there are LWs that purchased a rigid product (i.e. a non-refundable fare or rate) to save money and for whatever reason (i.e. a life event occurred or they gambled and lost) wants Chris to shame the travel provider in the courts of public opinions into a refund.

  51. Isn’t the “principal” of a Travel Agent the traveler, not the suppliers? I thought the idea that agents are supposed to be working for the traveler (instead of the supplier) was the whole point of using a travel agent instead of buying directly.

    And the airlines are supposed to “force” this how exactly?

  52. Whether I use an agent, travel company, or on my own – I always check & double check all the documents needed for travel out of the country. I even check with the Canadian government re restrictions. Then it’s on to checking the places I will be visiting. In over 50 yrs. & most countries, incl Eastern Europe & China (incl. business trips) have never had a problem. (sometimes problem arises within the country). It’s called taking personal responsibility!
    Aside thanks Tony A_ for your usual insight & detective work on many cases.

  53. It doesn’t (apparently).

    But still is an easy trap to fall into, especially when Canada is so nice to our Permanent Residents. I might have done the same, especially since the OP had an example to see, mistakenly thinking it was the Permanent Resident status that allowed the other person to travel without the visa.

  54. Yep, in Chris’s world, we somehow obtain all the benefits of infinitely flexible travel, yet magically avoid paying any of the costs. (Apparently Big Corporations are supposed to provide these benefits by cutting their profit margin, despite the fact that they love their money just as much as consumers like theirs.)

  55. A green card is basically only useful for getting into countries via surface transportation in North America, like on a cruise. However, even then having a passport is recommended.

    Anyone with one should know that it won’t do squat with regards to visas to European countries. Visa agreements are always based on nationality and not residency status.

    Now there are those strange cases where they might let a US permanent resident or someone with a US endorsement **transit** through an airport. Didn’t Chris take on some cases where an Indian national had to get back to India to apply for an extension but couldn’t through London because he no longer had a valid endorsement?

  56. No, travel agents “represent” airlines. They are actually APPOINTED by the respective airlines so they can issue tickets on behalf of the airlines. The airlines themselves can only fly from/to USA when approved by US Gov’t.

    The term BULK fare is really nothing but a private fare an airline allows some of their agents to sell. Unlike a published fare that must be sold at the price published in tariff, with BULK fares, an agent is allowed to ADD A MARKUP which becomes part of the fare.

    The airlines can force their agents to disclose which kind of fare they are selling. Actually the DOT can force it too. The best is for Congress to step in (make law) and require any seller to disclose the Fare Basis Code(s) of the fares they are advertising and selling AND provide a hyperlink to the complete fare rules of those codes.

    There really is no excuse for not doing this. When I autoprice an itinerary I want to sell, the GDS automatically tells me the Fare Basis Codes (FBC) it used to price the itinerary. I can easily display the rules of each of those FBCs, print them in pdf and give them to my clients. The same USED to be done by OTAs like Expedia. Now they have disappeared from almost all sites except airline websites. We need move FORWARD, not backward, with air travel disclosures.

    You ask how an airline can force an agent to display it.
    Simple, fire an agent that does not. Take back their plates.
    This industry is really full of bullshit. I know since I am part of it. It if wants to be more customer friendly, it can. But it does not want to pay the price for better service. /end rant.

  57. I am almost certain their online site does not ask for it because their attitude is – it’s your problem.

  58. If this was a brick and mortar type travel agency (or even a telephone call one), I would blame the travel agency for not informing their customer of visa requirements (as they are supposed to have the passport to book the tickets). After all, that’s why you hire a travel agent, to advise you on travel issues.

    I expect the reason the Argentinian citizen didn’t need a visa is the closer relationship between Germany and Argentina. Shouldn’t assume all countries are the same. Green card for US only makes it easy to get back into the US, not into other countries.

  59. I voted no. ABC Travel is quite irresponsible, not responding to his inquiry. It’s not clear if it ever responds. Thus, the case needs Chris’s intervention.

  60. I feel sorry for him also. But, not to the extent that he deserves the lightening bolts and thunderclaps of the mighty Chris to be vectored against the “uncaring airlines”. He assumed, and when you assume…..

  61. “And the horse you rode in on. AND if you got any friends in Brooklyn, THEM TOO! ”
    Read the print BEFORE you click!

  62. No, the travel agents don’t have to be mind readers to know his wife’s nationality. ABC Travel’s online reservation form asks traveler’s nationality.

  63. I feel bad for him, too. I hate to to be in his position. It sucks. You buy a cheap fare, go to airport and then have to leave you lovely Colombian wife while you visit GI-Joe Bro. Such a cruel world.

  64. I was flying to Bangkok [having gone same route many many times] and the clerkette at the check in counter asked me for my visa. [Thailand requires no visa for entry; you get a 30 day stamp on arrival.]
    “Why are you asking me for a visa?” First time ever.
    “You have an open-ended return ticket.”
    “Right. Thailand requires only a return ticket.”
    “How do we know you’ll not overstay the 30 days?”
    “How do you know I’m not going on to other places, and what business is it of yours? I meet the requirements of Thai law, correct?”
    Supervisor comes over; it gets straightened out.

  65. Can’t assume anything. One sees the admonition to check visa requirements on just about every booking site.

  66. A visa is a travelers responsibility. Did the LW tell the agency that his wife was not a US citizen? They are not mind readers.

  67. The carriers use TIMATIC and they are fined if they board someone who isn’t in compliance. It is confusing…typical of governments.

  68. You are asking permission to come into their country. It is their business. Your attitude could have placed you on the next flight back.

  69. And you buy on a site that is in another country where you may not have consumer protection. Lesson learned by the LW!

  70. Remember, he bought this on a Germany website, so ‘his rights’ may not be the same as if he used a US site.

  71. Again, the LW’s citizenship doesn’t apply here, as he bought outside of the US. Bulk fares are written by the carrier with permission to the agency in adding certain rules of their own.

  72. Interesting how the fact that the LW went outside of the US to get these tickets, too, but now wants help from a US consumer advocate.

  73. You are off on this. Bulk fares are contracted fares offered to agencies for their business as they hope the business will book their clients on their the flights. There are no ‘tickets’ to be purchased in advance, sitting on a desk waiting to be used. Even with bulk fares, there usually is a ticketing deadline and cancelation rules with the carrier that the agency has to abide by. The agency may add their own rules to bulk tickets, but they are still obligated by the contract with the carrier.

  74. Thanks, Tony. I did not look at the FAQ page, only the Terms and Conditions. Nonetheless, they didn’t figure this all out until they arrived at the airport, so it seems this “condition” would not have applied. Interesting though that they say “please either inform the airline or ABC Travel Service”.

  75. I voted yes. He thought he would get a better deal working with a company outside of the US. If he didn’t disclose the situation with his wife, the online company that was his fault, not the agency’s. Then he wants help from a US consumer advocate. Unbelievable…well not really as most of these articles are do to people working online for their travel arrangements. I think I see the real problem!

  76. I think it is obvious this guy ain’t familiar with immigration rules.
    All we know is that he has friends from Argentina and a Colombian wife. I hear there are very pretty women there :-)
    Also the guy has a bro in Germany (in our Army).
    In my opinion, he is representative of a typical Joe Blow.
    And if there is anything Elliott is bringing out, it is that online airline sites are devoid of providing help if a spouse is not an American citizen.
    I think that is the real issue here.

  77. A question I always ask, no matter what a client looks like: Do you have a US passport? While proper documentation is ALWAYS the responsibility of the passenger, asking this one question helps me to avoid issues like this. I’m not an immigration expert but I can guide them in the right direction to find this information, and always do so before taking their money.

  78. Just found this under the ABC Travel FAQs:

    Entry and Visa Documents
    Please check with the responsible consulate if your documents are valid to entry in the other country.
    Every traveler is responsible for themselves to have legal visa documents or any other valid documents for the entry”.

  79. Here it is from the ABC Travel FAQs:

    Entry and Visa Documents
    Please check with the responsible consulate if your documents are valid to entry in the other country. Every traveler is responsible for themselves to have legal visa documents or any other valid documents for the entry.

  80. I hear you–lots of easy traps to fall into and happens to best of us. I just don’t think having a green card for the US would make one believe that there are special privileges in any country other than the US.

  81. I do the same, but this is because we TALK to clients. When you book online, you are just using a vending machine.

  82. How many German soldiers come here?
    For a site that specializes in — NATO / US Military, US civilian employees, retired US military personnel
    and their families: [children, parents/parents in-law, brother/sister,
    Niece/nephew, brother in-law/sister in law] — it is kind of insane not to expect many of them won’t be US citizens.
    There are so many US military with only green cards themselves. In fact there is fast track citizenship program for those serving. I can expect their spouses and relatives are also not US citizens
    My wife’s cousin — a tank commander stationed almost everywhere you can think of — is now married to a Korean (very nice lady who barely speaks English).
    For a travel agent or agency that specializes in foreign stuff, I can’t believe they don’t ask for travel docs as an SOP.

  83. Every issue written about here is due to online bookings. He also went outside the US for this ticket. A true ticketing agent would have asked him about documents for both travelers.

  84. I know and get this. I just don’t remember seeing any warnings most of the time when checking in online. but surely plays out when I board at which point they will either print me a new boarding pass that loses the comment about check docs or they manually stamp the boarding pass. I also get that it is my responsibility, but a warning wouldn’t hurt.

  85. “Visas would be easy to secure — even automatic — when you book an airline ticket.”

    Let’s take away the sovereignty of a country to determine who can enter their country. Is Chris advocating for a New World Order? For the United Nations to be a travel agency? For everyone on the planet to have a ‘World ID Card’?

    A lot of the visa applications that I have filled out requires a photo. How can that be done automatically?

    I have been informed by business associates, co-workers, clients, etc. which I confirmed on the Internet that some countries requires financial statements; tax returns; letters from employers stating that you have a job when you come back from your trip; etc. for a visa. Basically, they don’t want people to come to their country and then just stay forever and end up on their social programs (some of these countries are in Europe with ‘socialistic’ societiesprograms which is surprising).

    Here is the application, wwwvisaexpressnet/forms/china-visa-application-formpdf, for an US citizen to fill out for a visa for China. Tell me how this can be automated?

  86. They seem to be focused on inbound US travel, not inbound Germany travel. Makes sense since the family member who recommended this agency is overseas. He took the chance working with an online agency outside of the US.

  87. Man offers free round the world trip to women called Elizabeth Gallagher after breaking up with girlfriend who was supposed to go with him.

    Jordan Axani booked the global travel ticket in March last year
    Was planning to go on the 18-day trip with Elizabeth Gallagher
    Itinerary includes stops in Italy, France, Thailand and India
    However the pair, both from Canada, split leaving plans in tatters
    Axani has now said anyone with his girlfriend’s name can have the ticket
    Says he has no option because it’s almost impossible to change names

    dailymail. co. uk/news/article-2819671/Man-offers-free-round-world-trip-women-called-Elizabeth-Gallagher-nasty-break-girlfriend-supposed-go. html

  88. At what point in the booking process before payment information is required does ABC Travel Source disclose to the consumer that they are trading price for flexibility and buying a completely unchangeable ticket?

    These are the complete terms I could find disclosed on their website before payment information was required to proceed further:

    https://www.abctravel.De/EN/agb.php?lang=en_US

  89. What can be automated is a TIMATIC check. That should be good enough to warn buyers what they need to travel (in terms of documents and vaccinations)

  90. Not trying to slam any race or whatever.
    Last week in JFK Terminal 1 US Immigration and Customs hall, after you use the kiosk only for Americans (and green cards I think but I’m not sure) you pass a Customs officer and show your receipt. The officer asked this Asian OLD man, how long did you stay out of the USA.
    The guy could not understand English !!! The officer kept on asking again and again each time it got louder. Finally he puts up one finger and two fingers. Still the old man does not understand.
    I start laughing. The officer in disgust just waived him in.

    Do we really expect Americans or immigrants to know Schengen rules when we don’t even know our own rules?

  91. If you go online and look up this company, it is the agency in Germany that offers the deals for military. He dealt with a Germany online company and as such, what they provide or don’t provide may or may not be governed by the laws of Germany. I don’t book on any agency’s website, so I don’t know what is or isn’t given. I do know that we give rules at our agency but we aren’t required to do so, and would be stupid not to do it.

  92. I think the difference is if you depart from a foreign country and go to USA, the agent will fill out a complete APIS (Advance Passenger Information System) because the US CBP requires that for INBOUND (manifest) passengers.

    When the trip is OUTBOUND from the USA, all you need to insert is a TSA DOCS entry for Secure Flight. That just requires Names, DOB and Gender.

  93. again, I hear you 100% and travel a lot with no visa issues yet (and most places I go need a visa). the issue is that if you have an agent, you don’t deal with ticketing issue. and if you do online check in,you may not find out until the gate. all to say, at theend of the day it is our responsibility…but can see how this happens!

  94. I agree. ABC Travel needs to improve its service in 2 ways. Inquire about the travel docs of the passengers and provide a link to Timatic. And clearly disclose the rules of the fares they are selling (these are available as filed with ATPCO).

  95. “You don’t need to worry about rules. Trust us. We know what’s in your best interest and we know best.”

  96. But it appears that he used the German site. I know the carriers that have international flights have a link to TIMATIC. The LW is the responsible party in the screw up.

  97. Been playing with their site for a while now. I even compared prices with MIL and BULK fares from my GDS. :-)

  98. I agree that automating the process to inform travelers what they need in terms of documents and vaccinations should be done but Chris is talking about securing a visa automatically.

  99. Sadly, he used an agency that handles a lot of inbound US travel. A link to TIMATIC, with a box to check before a booking process could begin might have helped the LW.

  100. I think full discloser on websites should be there, but reading here, nobody cares, all they want is a cheap fare. They deal with the issues as they arise.

  101. Thanks, Tony. That makes sense. If I just search a flight from the start page, the site leads to my screen. If I choose 35% military family discount, then it will lead to the screen you uploaded.

  102. I was just thinking about this. There is a lot of hand holding as an agent I do. When you book online, you are taking responsibility for what you need. The carriers with international flights have TIMATIC on their website but they don’t require you to read it or provide a spot in the booking process that you know you might need a visa. When you go outside the US to buy your travel arrangements, you are also risking yourself if you don’t know the questions to ask to be able to search on the website.

  103. Hasn’t it ALWAYS been up to the traveller to ensure they have the correct travel documents? I’m not sure why this is even a discussion. Maybe if his TA had given him bad advice or wrong information you could circle back to ABC Travel, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

  104. Come on OP. You know she’s not a citizen, you know she doesn’t have a US passport. My wife is a Brazilian citizen so she needs a visa to go to Canada or Australia and I don’t (well, an ETA for Australia). But I need a visa or ETA to go to Turkey and she doesn’t. She sails right in to Uruguay and I stand in line.

    It’s called international travel — you’re not going to New Jersey.

  105. Definitely a lost cause. I feel sorry for them; having lived in Germany for 7 years and loved every minute of it. The ONLY benefit of the doubt I’d bestow to the LW is the ABC agent should *ideally* have said, “Ok, before I hit the purchase button; you both have valid US passports, right?” which hopefully would have led to the discussion of “No hers is Colombian,” and so on… Again.. *ideally* but, ultimately, it’s on the traveler to know what he/she needs in order to travel. Heck, I must have quadruple or quintuple checked requirements just to go on a cruise thru Canada–to go to Europe I’d prolly spend a few hours verifying and re-verifying reqs!

  106. Oops…sorry for a random pic and duplicate. (The first one is a Comcast sales phone call that I’m dealing with now. They called me and charged me a telephone assistance fee! I didn’t mean to upload and if Chris can delete it, I’ll much appreciate.)

  107. Hi Ken,
    I deleted the post that I THINK you were referring to. If I got it wrong, let me know and I’ll try to make it right.
    Grant

  108. Thanks, Grant, for you prompt attention. Yes, that’s the one I was referring to. Sorry for the trouble.

  109. For the uninitiated of us, how does one use Timatic? When I Google it, I get 45,200 results and the first page all looks useful, but confusing.

    Thanks!

  110. So the links are not airline-specific, just that different airlines have the same link? Just checking, since we’ve had stories here over the years about how this travel provider was okay with a set of documents, but this one was not. It gets very confusing to me!
    Thanks!

  111. No, they weren’t tooooo cheap, they were toooooo non-refundable. (See ARW’s reply to Carver’s post talking about the statement in the article “In a perfect world, every ticket would be exchangeable and refundable.”)

    ***big grin***

  112. TIMATIC is the one that all the carriers I know use and reference. Play around with it, it is interesting. There is more to travel than just an airline ticket. Travel a lot internationally, you really need to pay attention to the health and vaccinations. It isn’t just going to a country, it is also what countries you have recently been to before wanting to go to another.

  113. nobody cares

    You care enough to mock people who want a cheap fare. Of course, why shouldn’t someone pick the cheapest fare they are eligible for, particularly when there is no disclosure to suggest that they would get anything more if they paid more.

  114. If they went through the Mex border, why not? Isn’t there one huge amnesty soon?
    Haven’t we had 2 of those already – one under Reagan, and one under Bush Sr.?

  115. Sorry I made a mistake…in responding to your post. I wasn’t going to do that again. Bad, bad, bad!
    Those who go on the cheap don’t care about the rules as much as they care about the cost. If all goes well, they don’t complain. Something happens, they complain even when they are at fault.

  116. IMO they were MIL (military) fares, NOT just BULK fares.
    You can still price the same in their site using Military fare.

  117. It is really sad that the public’s view of a online travel agency is one that just sells tickets.
    What happened to the required skill and service?

  118. That is a fantastic story. I checked the reddit thread and it looks like he found someone. What a cool thing to try.

  119. Bodega, I have no clue. I cannot even read the rules of this fare.
    That’s really the only way you can get a fare this low.
    If you check the other options at ABC, all you get is the same price as published fare.

  120. Carver, he’s right. There’s nothing that indicates what you’ve bought until *after* you get your confirmation (see FAQs from that site on Ticket Changes, https://www dot abctravel dot de/EN/info.php?kategorie=1&thema=1#start)

    I tried booking a flight from anywhere in NYC to anywhere in Paris and got a really, really cheap deal offered to me from Aeroflot. The General Terms and Conditions don’t mention anything about nonrefundable, etc. At that price, I’d be pretty darn suspicious and with that particular airline, I’d be pretty darn stupid to expect much, but there is nothing in writing posted ahead of the purchase.

  121. Go scroll up (or down, depending on your sort order) and see my response to him. He’s right. There is nothing in print before the purchase to see what you’re buying. I’d be darn suspicious, but that’s me. But it does say in writing, in big letters, that if you screw up your documentation, it’s your problem and not the company’s. So, the original problem posted on here still is the OP’s responsibility.

  122. I read it as he paid $1459 for BOTH tickets. You’re quoting per passenger prices. But it’s entirely possible I misread the article as well.

  123. Site says you qualify if you are military or have a certain relationship with military personnel, such as brother. So the OP qualified.

  124. Here is the LOOOONG answer. GDS on DL’s MIL fare …

    ELIGIBILITY
    FROM/TO GERMANY
    VALID FOR MILITARY CONFIRMED PSGR WITH ID.
    NOTE –
    A/ THESE FARES APPLY TO ACTIVE U.S. MILITARY
    PERSONNEL OF THE U.S. ARMED FORCES /ARMY NAVY
    AIR FORCE MARINES AND COAST GUARD/ AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS -SEE NOTE- PROVIDED SUCH PERSONNEL/
    DEPENDENTS ARE TRAVELLING AT HIS/HER OWN EXPENSE
    WHILE ON OFFICIAL FURLOUGH/ LEAVE/ PASS OR OTHER
    AUTHORIZED LEAVE OF ABSENCE FROM DUTY OR IF
    SEPARATED FROM DUTY STATION WILL BE TRAVELING
    WITHIN SEVEN DAYS OF SEPARATION FROM ACTIVE DUTY.
    B/ THESE FARES APPLY TO DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
    -D.O.D.- CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES AND THEIR DEPENDENTS
    -SEE NOTE- STATIONED OUTSIDE THE U.S.A. PROVIDED
    THE D.O.D. EMPLOYEE IS TRAVELING AT HIS/HER OWEN
    EXPENSE WHILE ON OFFICIAL FURLOUGH/ LEAVE/ PASS
    OR
    OTHER AUTHORIZED ABSENCE FROM DUTY.
    C/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RETIRED EMPLOYEES OF THE
    UNIFORMED SERVICES OF THE U.S.A. AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS CARRYING A D.O.D. FORM DD2/FORM
    DD1173.
    D/ THESE FARES APPLY TO MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL
    GUARD/RESERVES AND THEIR DEPENDENTS TRAVELING
    FROM
    THE U.S.A. TO GERMANY WITHIN 7 DAYS OF BEING
    CALLED FOR ACTIVE DUTY OR TRAVELLING TO THE
    U.S.A.
    FROM GERMANY WITHIN 21 DAYS OF BEING RELEASED
    FROM
    ACTIVE DUTY.
    E/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RETIRED U.S. STATE
    DEPARTMENT/ DIPLOMATIC COURIERS AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS CARRYING A RETIRED U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
    STATE OR A U.S. DIPLOMATIC COURIER I.D. CARD.
    F/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RELATIVES OF SERIOUSLY
    ILL/INJURED MILITARY PERSONNEL WHEN PAID FOR
    BY A GOVERNMENT CHECK.
    NOTE – FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS RULE DEPENDENT
    MEANS SPOUSE AND/OR CHILDREN WHO ARE WHOLLY ON
    THE U.S. MILITARY/ D.O.D./ STATE DEPARTMENT/
    DIPLOMATIC COURIER PERSONNEL.
    OR – FOR SPOUSE/DEPENDENT CHILDREN OF MILITARY PERSONNEL
    WITH ID.
    NOTE –
    A/ THESE FARES APPLY TO ACTIVE U.S. MILITARY
    PERSONNEL OF THE U.S. ARMED FORCES /ARMY NAVY
    AIR FORCE MARINES AND COAST GUARD/ AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS -SEE NOTE- PROVIDED SUCH PERSONNEL/
    DEPENDENTS ARE TRAVELLING AT HIS/HER OWN EXPENSE
    WHILE ON OFFICIAL FURLOUGH/ LEAVE/ PASS OR OTHER
    AUTHORIZED LEAVE OF ABSENCE FROM DUTY OR IF
    SEPARATED FROM DUTY STATION WILL BE TRAVELING
    WITHIN SEVEN DAYS OF SEPARATION FROM ACTIVE DUTY.
    B/ THESE FARES APPLY TO DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
    -D.O.D.- CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES AND THEIR DEPENDENTS
    -SEE NOTE- STATIONED OUTSIDE THE U.S.A. PROVIDED
    THE D.O.D. EMPLOYEE IS TRAVELING AT HIS/HER OWEN
    EXPENSE WHILE ON OFFICIAL FURLOUGH/ LEAVE/ PASS
    OR
    OTHER AUTHORIZED ABSENCE FROM DUTY.
    C/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RETIRED EMPLOYEES OF THE
    UNIFORMED SERVICES OF THE U.S.A. AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS CARRYING A D.O.D. FORM DD2/FORM
    DD1173.
    D/ THESE FARES APPLY TO MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL
    GUARD/RESERVES AND THEIR DEPENDENTS TRAVELING
    FROM
    THE U.S.A. TO GERMANY WITHIN 7 DAYS OF BEING
    CALLED FOR ACTIVE DUTY OR TRAVELLING TO THE
    U.S.A.
    FROM GERMANY WITHIN 21 DAYS OF BEING RELEASED
    FROM
    ACTIVE DUTY.
    E/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RETIRED U.S. STATE
    DEPARTMENT/ DIPLOMATIC COURIERS AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS CARRYING A RETIRED U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
    STATE OR A U.S. DIPLOMATIC COURIER I.D. CARD.
    F/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RELATIVES OF SERIOUSLY
    ILL/INJURED MILITARY PERSONNEL WHEN PAID FOR
    BY A GOVERNMENT CHECK.
    NOTE – FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS RULE DEPENDENT
    MEANS SPOUSE AND/OR CHILDREN WHO ARE WHOLLY ON
    THE U.S. MILITARY/ D.O.D./ STATE DEPARTMENT/
    DIPLOMATIC COURIER PERSONNEL.
    OR – FOR DEPT OF DEFENSE PSGR WITH ID.
    NOTE –
    A/ THESE FARES APPLY TO ACTIVE U.S. MILITARY
    PERSONNEL OF THE U.S. ARMED FORCES /ARMY NAVY
    AIR FORCE MARINES AND COAST GUARD/ AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS -SEE NOTE- PROVIDED SUCH PERSONNEL/
    DEPENDENTS ARE TRAVELLING AT HIS/HER OWN EXPENSE
    WHILE ON OFFICIAL FURLOUGH/ LEAVE/ PASS OR OTHER
    AUTHORIZED LEAVE OF ABSENCE FROM DUTY OR IF
    SEPARATED FROM DUTY STATION WILL BE TRAVELING
    WITHIN SEVEN DAYS OF SEPARATION FROM ACTIVE DUTY.
    B/ THESE FARES APPLY TO DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
    -D.O.D.- CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES AND THEIR DEPENDENTS
    -SEE NOTE- STATIONED OUTSIDE THE U.S.A. PROVIDED
    THE D.O.D. EMPLOYEE IS TRAVELING AT HIS/HER OWEN
    EXPENSE WHILE ON OFFICIAL FURLOUGH/ LEAVE/ PASS
    OR
    OTHER AUTHORIZED ABSENCE FROM DUTY.
    C/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RETIRED EMPLOYEES OF THE
    UNIFORMED SERVICES OF THE U.S.A. AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS CARRYING A D.O.D. FORM DD2/FORM
    DD1173.
    D/ THESE FARES APPLY TO MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL
    GUARD/RESERVES AND THEIR DEPENDENTS TRAVELING
    FROM
    THE U.S.A. TO GERMANY WITHIN 7 DAYS OF BEING
    CALLED FOR ACTIVE DUTY OR TRAVELLING TO THE
    U.S.A.
    FROM GERMANY WITHIN 21 DAYS OF BEING RELEASED
    FROM
    ACTIVE DUTY.
    E/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RETIRED U.S. STATE
    DEPARTMENT/ DIPLOMATIC COURIERS AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS CARRYING A RETIRED U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
    STATE OR A U.S. DIPLOMATIC COURIER I.D. CARD.
    F/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RELATIVES OF SERIOUSLY
    ILL/INJURED MILITARY PERSONNEL WHEN PAID FOR
    BY A GOVERNMENT CHECK.
    NOTE – FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS RULE DEPENDENT
    MEANS SPOUSE AND/OR CHILDREN WHO ARE WHOLLY ON
    THE U.S. MILITARY/ D.O.D./ STATE DEPARTMENT/
    DIPLOMATIC COURIER PERSONNEL.
    OR – FOR MILITARY RESERVE ON ACTIVE DUTY WITH ID.
    NOTE –
    A/ THESE FARES APPLY TO ACTIVE U.S. MILITARY
    PERSONNEL OF THE U.S. ARMED FORCES /ARMY NAVY
    AIR FORCE MARINES AND COAST GUARD/ AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS -SEE NOTE- PROVIDED SUCH PERSONNEL/
    DEPENDENTS ARE TRAVELLING AT HIS/HER OWN EXPENSE
    WHILE ON OFFICIAL FURLOUGH/ LEAVE/ PASS OR OTHER
    AUTHORIZED LEAVE OF ABSENCE FROM DUTY OR IF
    SEPARATED FROM DUTY STATION WILL BE TRAVELING
    WITHIN SEVEN DAYS OF SEPARATION FROM ACTIVE DUTY.
    B/ THESE FARES APPLY TO DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
    -D.O.D.- CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES AND THEIR DEPENDENTS
    -SEE NOTE- STATIONED OUTSIDE THE U.S.A. PROVIDED
    THE D.O.D. EMPLOYEE IS TRAVELING AT HIS/HER OWEN
    EXPENSE WHILE ON OFFICIAL FURLOUGH/ LEAVE/ PASS
    OR
    OTHER AUTHORIZED ABSENCE FROM DUTY.
    C/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RETIRED EMPLOYEES OF THE
    UNIFORMED SERVICES OF THE U.S.A. AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS CARRYING A D.O.D. FORM DD2/FORM
    DD1173.
    D/ THESE FARES APPLY TO MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL
    GUARD/RESERVES AND THEIR DEPENDENTS TRAVELING
    FROM
    THE U.S.A. TO GERMANY WITHIN 7 DAYS OF BEING
    CALLED FOR ACTIVE DUTY OR TRAVELLING TO THE
    U.S.A.
    FROM GERMANY WITHIN 21 DAYS OF BEING RELEASED
    FROM
    ACTIVE DUTY.
    E/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RETIRED U.S. STATE
    DEPARTMENT/ DIPLOMATIC COURIERS AND THEIR
    DEPENDENTS CARRYING A RETIRED U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
    STATE OR A U.S. DIPLOMATIC COURIER I.D. CARD.
    F/ THESE FARES APPLY TO RELATIVES OF SERIOUSLY
    ILL/INJURED MILITARY PERSONNEL WHEN PAID FOR
    BY A GOVERNMENT CHECK.
    NOTE – FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS RULE DEPENDENT
    MEANS SPOUSE AND/OR CHILDREN WHO ARE WHOLLY ON
    THE U.S. MILITARY/ D.O.D./ STATE DEPARTMENT/
    DIPLOMATIC COURIER PERSONNEL.

  125. What online sites give you the information that this is a bulk or published fare, the full rules? Plus this site isn’t in the US, so buyer beware! What was the reason for using this site? Cost. The LW states it. I don’t get why anyone doesn’t anything on a site that omits important information. But even if the something like the rules are provided, would the LW even had given thought to it? According to past LW’s here, nobody reads them and only get upset when they are faced with them when something goes awry.

  126. With MIL fares I have sold, which aren’t agency contracted fares, the person has to be traveling with the person who is in the military. What does this site say on that?

  127. You know we all screw up since we are human.
    That said, considering international airline tickets are so expensive, one would think there will be circuit breakers popping out when documents are not in order. But no, why should an OTA care?
    They can make money out of suckers.

  128. Really … what part about non-refundable don’t most people get and how many of them write to Chris with a whine when it doesn’t work out?

    I still remember a case Chris had from a few years ago where someone got a non-refundable room for a shuttle launch and then was incensed that they wouldn’t refund him when NASA changed the launch date.

  129. exactly. given the state of technology, it would not be hard for them to send a reminder 10 days before travel about visa, etc as they tend to do asking us if we want rental cars, hotels, etc. but indeed, what is the incentive?

  130. you had two Ghanaians that were permanent residents of Germany working for previous presidents of the US?? wouldaneverthunkit.

  131. You can just click on it. Pretty weird. My active duty sister invited my mother to come visit her in Germany many years ago to take a trip with other military personnel and family. Mom was on her own to get to/from Germany (no discounts), but she was entitled to the discount and the trip so long as she was with my sister. Like I said, weird, but you can click on it. I guess it’s part of the “If you don’t get caught, you’re safe” way of thinking. Which I don’t subscribe to, unless it’s driving some of the back roads from Omaha to my house at above the posted speed limits. :D

  132. Those who go on the cheap don’t care about the rules as much as they care about the cost.

    Speak for yourself and not for others.

    When the vendor can’t be bothered to clearly spell out the rules and trade-offs so customers can decide for themselves, that is the vendor’s failure. And you have no standing to mock customers for what you smugly assume they would have done with complete information.

  133. Well that is the problem. No incentive to fix the problem. Some even deny the problem exists until they have the problem themselves. It’s like HIV and Ebola. When the disease hit the Western countries, it suddenly became a problem.

  134. So non-refundable means non-changeable, even with a change fee now? And disclosure of these terms by the vendor is optional? Because customers don’t care about the rules?

    BTW, if room prices charged just before a shuttle launch were jacked up way beyond normal because of demand driven by the launch, then refusing any credit towards a future stay seems like a predatory way to do business. But apparently predatory business practices are celebrated now.

  135. how about the gardeners in the white house? or for that matter in anyone’s rich playground and golf course?

  136. I agree with you. But much as Michael_K aka mk_1001 drives me nuts with his pedantic ways, he is technically correct here. It’s part of the “it’s not my fault” mentality that profoundly irritate many of us. “Well, it never said I shouldn’t lean an aluminum ladder against a high voltage wire, so it’s not my fault I got electrocuted!” Duh.

  137. Well, getting off topic, but I would actually say that the US has been good on HIV internationally for some time (ie pepfar, global fund, etc). ebola is a different story and people are already starting to forget…news cycle has moved on.

  138. Evidently not a Colombian green card. :-)

    Going to get some work done – you folks have fun. I wouldn’t respond to whatsisface if you value your sanity.

  139. I can’t sell this fare. Maybe so can’t you. So I wonder how the heck a German agency can sell an EX USA fare when we cannot?

  140. You don’t speak for others.

    And your legal opinion is that German companies aren’t required to disclose their rules? Of course this German consolidator also has a Burbank, CA address.

  141. I don’t disagree that now seeing the rules is wrong but at the same time, you don’t have to buy the tickets there. I also went through the booking process and there is nothing stating a military ID is needed. What I believe this is, is just a discounted contracted fare that that agency has and anyone can book it on the site. There is zero reference to needing a military person to travel with you or a military ID. Without those, anyone can get there fares on that website.

  142. A German website clearly marketed to Americans (“specialized in the American military travel market”) and with a mailing address in Burbank, California.

    I’m not the one who made assertions either way about which regulations apply (or not)….

  143. Same questions, no? At least, the same information that would need to be inputted into TIMATIC to get an accurate personalised response. I’ve compared the response from both and the IATA website is fairly clear.
    Immigration advice isn’t a simple yes/no answer anyway; at least this is a tool that anyone can use online, even if there are several fields to complete.

  144. You have to provide a passport to book the tickets (or at least I have had to do so every time we visit family in France). Thus, the LW had to present the Columbia passport. That should have clicked in the TA’s mind to at least tell/remind the LW to double check on any required visa information, if the TA didn’t know that information already.

  145. That’s why I said IF it was a brick and mortar office that the LW went into to get tickets. If its a website, then yes, I would put more responsibility on the customer to read everything because websites aren’t personalized to each customer and won’t say out loud “hey check for a visa.”

  146. The LW would have been very happy if everything worked out. That was a very inexpensive fare. What people want is great value at no risk, and often that just isn’t the case.

  147. idk since I don’t sell these MIL fares :)
    not sure who sells these since I have not met an agency who specializes in these fares.

  148. Did they have an interline agreement with another government offering shuttle service. NASA could have endorsed the ticket to the other agency?

  149. Even if he has some rights, how does he enforce them? He’d essentially need to ultimately avail himself to the German judicial system, otherwise ABC can just say no forever.

  150. Airlines could be empowered by governments to issue a special class of visa called a landing permit or something else. Valid for say 30 days or something. The technical implementation wouldnt be hard really, its the political implementation that is the problem.

  151. Maybe it depends on the airline /website. As I said, every time I book tickets to France I’ve had to provide my passport information. Using an online service, I’m always required to enter the passport number and country on the information page (using both an airline specific website and an “expedia” type website). When I’ve called an airline to book tickets, they ask me for the passport number. When I went to a travel agent, I had to bring my passport to book the tickets.

    If the LW used a website that didn’t require that information, I’d say it was a poorly designed website.

  152. So, what are they going to do about it, stop shopping at our border Walmarts? Isn’t that the deal we buy prescription drugs from them, they shop at our Walmarts?

  153. EC 1008/08

    Article 23

    Information and non-discrimination

    1. Air fares and air rates available to the general public shall include the applicable conditions when offered or published in any form, including on the Internet, for air services from an airport located in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies.
    […]
    2. […] access to air fares and air rates for air services from an airport located in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies, available to the general public shall be granted without any discrimination based on the nationality or the place of residence of the customer or on the place of establishment of the air carrier’s agent or other ticket seller within the Community.

  154. He also has recently written about the government needing to regulate the pitch of seats and how closely they are spaced, which would take away some of the cheapest fares that are aimed right at people who have limited budgets. It all sounds very nice until you figure out that some of those people wouldn’t be able to fly at all if fares went up across the board and the most affordable options no longer existed.

  155. The OP purchased a product that was not disclosed to be rigid.

    But “nobody cares.” The business is always right and disclosing that a ticket is non-changeable is unnecessary.

  156. The UK regulates seat pitch. Ryanair has more seat pitch than Spirit.

    Have you checked the cheapest fares in the UK? What price point is available to budget US consumers but not budget UK consumers?

  157. Proper proof of citizenship is always up to the traveler, and is not the responsibility of the agent. Would certainly have been a nice touch if they mentioned it, but ultimately is and always will be up to the traveler.

  158. That ideal world (for checking visas, at least) is not that far away… starting at 500 euros per year, it looks like timaticweb2 has some type of URL-based interface where you can pass flights, destinations, prior destinations, status, etc. and get back visa and health regulations. Should be fairly simple to integrate in any ticket purchasing web site.

    http://www (dot) timaticweb2 (dot) com/integration/integrated-url

    Hint hint for any enterprising online travel agency software developer…

  159. Try doing the Colombian wife’s case. Look how many questions are asked.
    Airline, date of travel, blah blah blah.
    Sure it is accurate but will people answer all those questions?
    Unless this data is fed from the flight itinerary, it’s a lot to ask IMO.
    Hope we can keep it simple.

  160. Yes you are correct. But think about the amount of money involved in International tickets – about $1K each. There has to be some kind of required amount of expertise or service needed before one can sell service that is this expensive. Make one mistake (like the LW did) and you lose thousands. Definitely we need some kind of consumer protection against stupid mistakes :-)

  161. I think they actually paid $1500 for both tickets:

    (But do the math: at $729 per ticket, the $300 fee would leave them with $429 — that won’t get you far.)

    Which is an incredible deal to Europe these days. From the west coast I keep seeing $1500 RT to just about everywhere in Europe of course I don’t live in a hub city so my flights are always expensive.

  162. There are two completely unrelated issues here.

    The visa issue is absolutely the traveler’s fault. A good vendor helps their customers avoid such problems with, as you put it, “high voltage!” warnings. But no one disputes that this is ultimately the customer’s responsibility.

    The fare rules disclosure issue is absolutely the vendor’s fault. IMO, if the restrictions are not disclosed before purchase, they should not be enforceable. And the customer should be allowed to change his ticket with a change fee.

  163. His situation, while personally painful and perhaps deserving of compassion, just doesn’t leave any wiggle room. Like you said yourself, 3 strikes. It is unfair that airlines can sell bulk tickets and then just keep the money when a passenger has to cancel and gives the airlines notices, but unless the laws on that change (fat chance of that happening any time soon), there’s nothing you can do for him.

  164. Whose laws? He bought the ticket from a German site. It is the airline’s product, so if you don’t like the rules, do buy that ticket with that fare.

  165. This is a European website, so not sure what they have to do, but the carrier isn’t going to let you checkin without the passport information.

  166. I didn’t like that site. Why the need for personal information just to get visa and health information? I like TIMATIC and it is what the airlines use.

  167. That’s recovering about 60% of their money instead of zero.
    Of course they will get it in form of travel vouchers so they will need to travel again.

  168. You can blather on all you want about other countries and America but none of that relates to this case. When travelling, you have to know what you’re doing. If you need one, use a travel agent, a REAL travel agent. You do not wait for “someone else” to bring up a subject, you do your research and get your little duckies in order. If you don’t know what a consolidator is, don’t buy extremely cheap tickets from them. It’s sad that Chris wasted even 5 minutes on this case.

  169. With all due respect, I am a real travel agent who does basically 100% international ticketing as well as consulting (from anywhere to anywhere). Unlike most travel agents, I have already surrendered to the fact the ticket distribution (buying a ticket) will eventually be 100% automated (bought online). The only thing missing is KNOWLEDGE of the buyer. Visa and Health requirements information is not an exclusive property of travel agents. Information and knowledge can be shared and should be shared even if it is done for free. I hope the Elliott forum can achieve that goal.

  170. Plus I can’t believe it is selling hotels and cars. How cheap can the site be? Where will all your info be used?

  171. this would be me trying to travel on my (expired) US passport. it does prove that i’m a US citizen (or i would not have been able to obtain a passport.) while it’s still valid to use when applying for employment, it’s not valid for travel.
    how can anyone ever think that someone holding a passport from a country other than the US would have the same rules applied? nope, not happening.

  172. I always thought Korea was Japan’s west shore, kind of like the Jersey shore or the North shore in the states.

  173. It’s liability proofing themselves. Everything that is not exclusively our contractual obligation is your responsibility.

  174. See this is one of the problems working for the NSA you know everything about everyone but you don’t get a break on air travel.

  175. Most of those CSR’s at an OTA aren’t agents they are just cubicle dwellers answering the phone and reading a script.

  176. Use that website, there is no requirement for military ID with the fare he got from what I can tell. Siblings don’t get a military ID, so he just got a low contracted rate.

  177. This is really a clear-cut case. The OP’s wife was not an American citizen, and Colombian citizens entering the Schengen Area need visas.

    I also don’t know of any travel provider that takes responsibility for assessing all visa/travel document situation, since this is a requirement imposed by governments, beyond their control.

    These days, it is also solvable with a 2-min Google search.

  178. Actually, we would basically take the top layer of the US to be part of Canada. We would probably replace Montana with Oregon, but not sure since great skiing in Montana. need to think about it.

  179. I think any Canadian that would be legitimately upset at a joke about that is the same as an American that would be angry about the words of Mr. Colbert…

  180. Yep, cause Korea is the perfect place to wind down…such a relaxed easy going culture where people sit around all day, smoke weed, and chill out.

  181. Oddly enough, I have the exact same thing happen to me with my friends Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Alba.

    If anyone knows two people with those names that want to go on vacation with me, let me know!

  182. Technically possible but off the top of my head I can think of exactly zero countries that would allow a foreign business to do this.

  183. I don’t have any sympathy. I am an EU and US citizen who had a green card for years. I would never have been dumb enough to think my green card would trump the passport I held when traveling. In fact I went to Belize with my partner some years ago and we could not cross into Guatamala because I held a British (at the time) passport. It was no big surprise to us and we just didn’t cross the border. Similarly, I could go to Cuba if I wanted, but as a US citizen he would have to take a more circuitous route.

  184. My question – did he TELL ABC that his wife was travelling on a Colombian passport? Or did he “assume” she was good to go, as he stated above. If they knew nothing about her status, don’t see how this could have been avoided. (I ask for passport numbers, but hey, just a stickler!)

  185. HAHA! Had clients travelling to China, and I asked if they needed me to get them visas – he said no, they’d just use their AMEX. SIGH.

  186. I am betting that he booked online, never speaking to them. I went through their booking process and they don’t even ask for your passport information before taking payment. There are 3 places on the site to get tickets and the one he would have used is just for discounted fares, no military anything needed in way of proof.

  187. Perhaps you misunderstood. This happened in NOO Gurensey. The clerkette was working for the airline which is not a Thai airline. Here’s the gouge on entering Thailand from the US Dept of State:

    If you are a U.S. citizen tourist staying in Thailand for fewer than 30
    days, you do not require a visa to enter the country, but your passport
    must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your entry into
    Thailand. Thai Immigration officials may ask for your onward/return
    ticket, and airlines may ask for this information when you book or check
    in.

    Nothing about visa requirements. I had a return ticket. Clerkette overstepped her bounds due to ignorance. My travel plans beyond what I proffered her were none of her business; I fulfilled the requirements of the Royal Thai Immigration Office when I presented my passport and round-trip ticket to her at the airline check-in. Supervisor put the leash on her because she was WRONG, and needed to be instructed by her supervisor. So, you see, my attitude wasn’t going to place me on the next flight back.

    As for being sent back on the next flight, let’s just say that it is most unlikely to happen.

  188. Even the B&M mess up sometimes. Had a BIG foul-up from one once. Poor chucklehead who scrood the pooch got discharged for it. [ I didn’t request that, nor would I have approved of that had I been asked. Even tho I was most annoyed, I wouldn’t have wanted to see the kid lose the job. Yelled at for a good while, yeah, but that’s all. Maybe unknown to me this person had a history of ineptitude, and it was the last straw. Not my business, and I neither asked nor was informed. ] Had other glitches from experienced TAs which really weren’t their fault; stuff happens.

  189. Actually, it wouldn’t. Trust me on that.

    You really are DENSE, aren’t you?

    Still miffed about the Zeppelins? Just get me your address, and I’ll send you a sack of flour.

  190. Well thanks for the compliment. Guess the person it happened to, really didn’t experience that? They’ll be real pleased to hear you said so. I also had a client get pulled over at LHR and was told to get money as they were being sent home. That one in the end worked out, but it was a close call.

  191. I don’t know what happened to whom, O MR OBTUSENESS, and I don’t really care which of your undesirable clients nearly got ejected from Heathrow, because we are not discussing the UK, we’re discussing Thailand. You wander all over the map with your disjointed arguments and fail to pay attention.

    1] Clerkette asked questions which clearly were none of her concern.
    2] I told her that she was overstepping her bounds, asking questions concerning matters which were none of her business.
    3] Her supervisor corrected her.

    4] I’m not in any danger of being barred from the Kingdom of Thailand. You keep coming back with the rejoinder that everyone could be debarred from any country. While that is true, again, I iterate that ain’t happening in my case WRT the Kingdom. What part of that ain’t getting through to you?

    You keep bleating on and on and on…. Are you the Energizer Bleater? Do you think that constant bleating is somehow going to change reality? Go ahead and believe in your fantasy.

    How much flour do you require?

  192. I have an attitude when I deal with someone who refuses to pay attention. No matter how may times you are told something you choose to argue ad infinitum. I like to spin you up….

  193. The wife should have known. All Colombians, even if they are naturalized US Citizens, must still present their Colombian identity card (the cedula ciudadania) whenever they return to Colombia. My point being that they know that even with a green card or a US passport, there are still different requirements for entering different countries. I would not expect the husband to realize this (as most Americans don’t understand Visa’s and most of the time don’t need them), but people from the rest of the world completely get it.

  194. Oh, I agree that B&M TAs make mistakes too. Its one reason why I don’t agree that TAs are “always better than DIY” that some people claim every time a DIY has a problem. The first time I flew internationally with a baby taught me that lesson. The TA said my child ‘flew free’, I’d just have to pay the tax at the airport. She didn’t tell me I could pay the tax when I bought my ticket, at a pretty cheap price. Instead, I ended up paying the tax on the day of the flight, on the walk-up fare, which was just shy of what I paid for my actual seat ticket. Needless to say, I never used that TA again.

    That’s the problem I’ve had, finding a good, knowledgable TA for the times I’ve needed one. Most don’t want to ‘just ticket airline seats’ and others only helped me when I worked for a particular business.

  195. Hello everyone. I am Dave, the traveler who is out the $1459 and the topic of this entire discussion. I have perused your comments and quite honestly, I am surprised at the harshness of the comments.
    In February when I bought the tickets I had been married for only two months. Although I have been all over the world on my own (29 countries), it did not cross my mind about the visa requirements, especially having travelled previously to the EU with an Argentinean without any issues. I think those of you who immediately assume that I should have thought about visa issues for my wife would be in a different position had you been me. My trip was known by several siblings who have traveled (and lived) extensively overseas and no one mentioned to me concerns or even thoughts about a visa issue. A seasoned travel agent very close to me who manages a large travel agency for 30+ years never said anything. Of course, ABC Travel did not say anything although it was on their website via a link. I contacted them directly and my brother, a colonel in the USAF, contacted them to no avail.
    My Colombian wife had travelled out of her country on two previous occasions (not to the EU) but had never had a visa issue.
    In short, I was wrong. I made assumptions, but my assumptions were wrong. However, the gist of what many of you are saying is that I was irresponsible in not knowing all the visa rules. I disagree with what on the outside might seem obvious. Other than perhaps one of you, I did not see anyone who had been in my situation, that being with a new wife as a permanent resident but not a holder of a US passport. This visa issue was unexpected by me and I believe would’ve been unexpected by the vast majority of you if you had stepped back and put yourself in my situation. It is simplistic to simply utter, “He needs to know the rules.” Yes, we do, but mistakes and misunderstandings do occur.
    What was my requested remedy? It was not a refund request. I asked for a credit toward a future flight so that she could get her visa and we could go. At the airport there were no options. We even contacted the German Consulate in Minneapolis from the airport, but they do not issue Shengen visas. I am a reasonable person but the response or lack thereof was not reasonable, in my opinion.
    Yes, I bought cheap tickets. It was marketed and sold to relatives of US Service members in Germany. It was service on KLM/Delta, not some unknown charter airline. Honestly, who among you would not have done the same?

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