I paid an extra $8,250 to fly home — can you help me get a refund?

jalAnyone who needs a case study about the perils of airline codesharing should look no further than Kun-Yang Lee’s story.

He was flying from Geneva to Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, last month. The ticket, booked through Expedia, was issued through Japan Airlines, had Japan Airlines flight numbers, but one leg of the flight — from Geneva to London — was on codeshare partner British Airways.

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But that’s not the problem. At least not entirely.

Lee arrived at the airport before the cut-off time for checking in, but it was close. He’d run into a little traffic on the way to the airport. When he tried to check in, a British Airways representative, working for a subcontractor called Dnata, told him he couldn’t find his reservation.

He explains what happened next:

I offered to provide him with my ticket number and reservation number but he declined. I called the JAL reservation centre in London immediately but I was reassured by the phone agent that I had a valid ticket for travel.

The Dnata agent then told me he thinks he found my reservation and that I no longer needed the JAL agent on the phone, but after I hung up the phone the agent told me that my ticket was not paid and therefore not valid for travel.

He called over a colleague/supervisor to help him on the computers and after some more digging his colleague/supervisor found my valid reservation for him.

By now it had already been more than 10 minutes since I first approached the check-in desk. This second agent proceeded to point on the computer screen and told me that “Sir, you’re already too late for this flight and it’s now closed.”

I argued that it was not my fault since I was still in the process of being checked-in when the flight closed, and that had the agent found my reservation earlier, this wouldn’t have been an issue.

Lee asked if they could check him in, anyway. He had a ticket in his hands 40 minutes prior to departure. But they said “no.”

“They were dismissive in their manner and told me to speak to the BA ticketing desk to see what my options were,” he remembers.

Calls to Expedia and BA were unsuccessful. Expedia said his ticket was under “airport control” and could not reroute him. British Airways told him he’d lost the value of his ticket because he missed his flight, and that he could ask Expedia for a refund of his taxes.

“In order to travel as planned, I ended up having to pay for a walk-up full-fare business class ticket on Air France,” he says. “Yes, full-fare and in business, because all other flights/seats/airlines at the airport were full due to the holiday season, even for a few days after. I paid $8,250 [for the ticket].

Appeals to Japan Airlines were only partially successful. In an email, the airline said “as a special consideration” Japan Airlines would refund his cancellation penalty of about $200. He still has a ticket credit, which he can use for a future flight. But it can’t help him recover the $8,250.

Lee wants a refund, but the question is, who should pay it? Air France? No, it sold him a ticket and fulfilled its agreement with him. British Airways? Its subcontractor? Expedia? Japan Airlines?

There are so many players here, and everyone has some reason to blame the other for what happened. It’s one reason why I have a problem with codesharing; often, the buck doesn’t stop anywhere and the passenger ends up holding the bag. (Sorry for mixing my metaphors.)

I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do to help. How would you handle this one?

Should I mediate Kun-Yang Lee's case?

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107 thoughts on “I paid an extra $8,250 to fly home — can you help me get a refund?

  1. He was denied boarding by BA on a GVA to LHR flight which is covered by the EC261 directive.
    Assuming he presented himself on time for check in, then this is entirely BA’s fault since they are the OPERATING carrier. Failure of an airport agent to locate your reservation and corresponding eticket when you have presented your eticket number is definitely the airline’s system problem and not caused by the passenger. Think about it. They sold us the whole eticket concept because they said it was better than paper tickets. In the OP’s case, PAPER TICKETS WOULD HAVE WORKED BETTER. At least the airport agent would have seen physical proof of payment and could have simply lifted the coupons.

  2. Wow, that’s a tough one. I agree that based on the description, it seems they were unreasonable not to let him check-in and try to make the flight. So, clearly BA and JAL should have worked harder to get him home on the original ticket, even if it might have taken a few days or required travel on other airlines. On the other hand, if they didn’t authorize the purchase of another ticket – and this is something Lee did on his own perhaps without full travel agent assistance in finding a cheaper option- I really don’t think the airline should have to pay him over $8000. I do think he should be refunded the full original ticket in cash, but I don’t know how JAL could be liable for more than what was paid to start with.

  3. I’m not sure how it works in Switzerland. French law is clear. The travel agent , in this case Expedia, is responsible. It would then be up to Expedia to try and collect from the others.

    In France, if Expedia didn’t reimburse would go into small claims court..

  4. I’d say Japan Airlines is responsible for the refund. While it may not have been Japan Airline employees that messed things up, it was their agents through the code sharing that did. He was told by a Japan Airlines that his ticket had no value anymore so therefore, he had to buy a new ticket. Was he just suppose to stay where he was until it got straightened out? I think that is a bit too unreasonable to expect of any traveler away from home.

  5. Air France didn’t have anything to do with the screw-up. They were just the carrier that finally transported him after he bought a new ticket.

  6. I’m not sure how it works in Switzerland.

    French law is clear. The travel
    agent , in this case Expedia, is responsible. It would then be up to
    Expedia to try and collect from the others.

    In France, if Expedia didn’t reimburse I would go into small claims court.

  7. Chris, instead of blaming codesharing, something that obviously works, you really need to point the finger at incompetent workers. What possible reason is there for BA to subcontract ground handling in Geneva for a flight to Heathrow except to save money? And to save money, what kind of morons need to be hired by this Dubai based contractor? I would look here first.

    But it was BA who hired them, so it is BA’s fault for their stupidity.

  8. “They sold us the whole eticket concept because they said it was better than paper tickets.”

    No, Tony. Not better. Cheaper. No company does anything to benefit you.

  9. Yes it did sound like Lee bought another ticket (on another airline and on a higher class) on his own volition.
    His orginal ticket (unused portions) still holds value and the issuing airline, JAL, agreed to waive the cancellation fee. Expedia can initiate the refund since they sold the ticket.
    Technically, he really should have asked BA and JAL to reroute him because BA denied him boarding. But from what I read, it didn’t seem like the OP knew his passenger rights and just bought a new ticket.
    A fair disposition would be for JAL to refund the unused portions of his ticket and for either BA or JAL to pay the appropriate compensation prescribed under denied boarding in EC261.

  10. According to the article it was British Airways that told him his tickets had no value, not Japan Airlines. Well, this is incorrect. Since JAL issued the tickets, this is their call. JAL specifically said it would waive cancellation fees. So depending on the fare rules, the residual value of the unused portions of his ticket could be refunded to the original form of payment or in airline certificates as specified in the rules.

  11. The narrative states the OP arrived at the AIRPORT ahead of the cut off time. Can we confirm if he was able to get to the agent at the ticket counter prior to the cut off time? This is an important distinction.

    Is it possible that he arrived at the airport ahead of cutoff, but did not make it to the counter in time? Did the agent attempt to check in him anyway, but due to the problems encountered was unable to accomplish a successful check in?

    The timeline states it was 40 minutes prior to departure when told he would not make the flight, and he was waiting for over ten minutes with the agent. What IS the proper check in time…60 minutes?

  12. “Calls to Expedia and BA were unsuccessful. Expedia said his ticket was under “airport control” and could not reroute him. British Airways told him he’d lost the value of his ticket because he missed his flight, and that he could ask Expedia for a refund of his taxes. ”

    I don’t think he bought a ticket on his own volition – Expedia and BA both told him they could /would do nothing. Not sure why he did not call JAL as well at that point.

    “Yes, full-fare and in business, because all other flights/seats/airlines at the airport were full due to the holiday season, even for a few days after.

    It may have been impossible to reroute him without a significant expense so the agents did not try. All the other flights were full.
    I always print out my receipts / etickets or at least as much as I can because I worry about this situation happening. Still a less than diligent ticket agent can always mess up.

  13. Yeah, but this would be small consolation to recoup the original unused portion and still be out the 8K, right? The fact that commenters are pointing fingers at every party means this case is a particularly hairy one!

  14. It sounds like re-routing (for him, at least) wasn’t an option because the article states that there were no comparable seats to be had for the next few days… In this case, JAL probably should just say they’ll refund him the unused portion and be done with it. I don’t think ANYONE is going to refund him the 8K because 1) he cut check-in too finely (“things” happen) and 2) he couldn’t wait to be re-routed.

    BTW, does anyone know if there is an official cut-off time for re-routing? Say you get stuck and the next flight isn’t for 5 days. Surely, they don’t expect anyone to wait that long?

  15. Sounds like British Airways screwed this up since it was their agent who claimed not to be able to find the reservation, not to be willing to accept Lee’s proof, and who told him that the value of his ticket was gone.

  16. The clear villain here is British Airways. Avoid it whenever you can. It’s the most “American” of the major internationals in customer service.

  17. Lesson’s learned from this one:
    1. When you are on a complicated itinerary, there is an issue and you get someone on the phone, don’t hang up until you have boarding passes in hand.
    2. When it hits the fan, don’t go rogue and use the people you paid. In this case, he had JAL and Expedia. Step 1. is to call JAL and you don’t get off the phone until they fix their problem. Step 2. If they “disconnect” or “accidentally” hang up on you, call Expedia and have them fix the problem. Step 3. Feel free to suggest that since they screwed up the itinerary airline X can accommodate you. DO NOT USE YOUR OWN CC TO FIX THEIR MISTAKE. If Chris’s board has taught you nothing else, it always turns out bad for you.

    Chris can try on this one but I don’t see a good outcome. JAL and Expedia are both going to claim that the OP didn’t let them fix the problem so JAL will hold the ticket value for 12 months. Unfortunately, I don’t see anyone paying for his last minute fare on an airline that wasn’t involved.

  18. @TonyA_says:disqus This comment is really unfair. Unlike in the US, you’ll find an inordinate number of airlines in Europe use ground handlers in places where they have limited numbers of flights a day. It holds costs down which makes fares cheaper and when something goes wrong, the ground handler has a large pool of equipment and people to pull from.

    You have no idea where this problem was. It could be in the JAL to BA communication, an internal BA communication issue or user error. Why jump directly to user error?

  19. Unfortunately, reality has a way of getting in the way of this. First, from past stories on here, getting in contact with Expedia while in a foreign country seems iffy at best. Second, the airlines and if you get a hold of them, Expedia, knows your time is limited and seems they give you the run around on the phone knowing you will eventually give up because you have to get some sort of flight.

  20. No, you have no idea who you are talking to. Read the article.
    Expedia says the ticket (status) was under AIRPORT CONTROL.
    That means the airline checking him in had the his eticket and RES in its Departure Control System (DCS). So which is it the moron could not do? Find his ASIAN NAME in the Passenger List? Find the Reservation? Or, find the Eticket Status (should be OPEN FOR USE)? And why will any agent say to a customer “You have not paid for your eticket”? Really, how on earth can someone get an eticket without paying first?
    The SOP for an outsourced agent who cannot figure out what is going is to CALL THE AIRLINE for help. Why did they refuse to do this?
    Also under European Law, the agent must advice the passenger of his EC261 rights. That did not seem to happen here.
    I have traveled enough Internationally AND KNOW ENOUGH in this industry to tell you that outsourced agents are second class citizens when it comes to service. Many outsource companies hire cheap young people who have no idea (and no experience) about what they are doing.

  21. He could have come in 2 hours before and still get a moron who could not find his reservation, eticket, etc.

    Wow, in most cases nowadays, due to APIS requirements, you cannot travel internationally without entering your Passport Information AHEAD OF TIME. That is why, in the airport all they usually need to do is scan your passport.
    So why this problem? Got to be BA and its lousy subcons, IMO.

    Of course it helps to be in the airport 2-3 hours before a long international flight. But that is because you need to anticipate a line in front of you at the baggage check-in counter.

  22. JAL could still re-route him. The reason why BA is hesitant to do anything is because once they transport him to LHR then WHAT?
    JAL really needs to reissue a new ticket whether Expedia is or is not involved. JAL has a Geneva office:

    42, Rue De Lausanne,
    CH-1201 Geneva, SWITZERLAND
    Phone: 0844-888-700
    (Reservations & Information)
    (022) 731-7160 (Sales)

    Did he call JAL in Geneva for help?

  23. BA had no business telling anyone the value of a JAL ticket is gone.
    That is not BA’s ticket to begin with.
    By saying this, the OP believed BA and did not pursue talking to JAL itself.
    This is very bad and BA must pay the OP for misinforming him.
    Had the OP been informed to contact JAL directly, then JAL could have tried to fix his problem.

  24. Who would allow so little check-in time for such a complicated international itinerary? Or I should say, who would advise the passenger to arrive at the legal minimum time? He should have been there two hours ahead of time, not 10 minutes.

    Another entitlement problem. “I am here, technically correct by 10 minutes, so no matter what happens, fly me!” No. You must allow for errors. If the world were perfect, this column would not exist. So figure it out yourself. The passenger was the initial culprit. Stuff happens. Either allow for it or suffer the consequences. Laying the blame later is faint consolation for the missed flights and consequential problems.

    As for the comment the same thing would have happened given a two-hour early arrival…wrong. In this case, as in most others, that valuable time could have been used to unravel this e-ticket issue. Given enough time, as was actually shown, the matter would have been straightened out and the trip commenced.

    Why would anyone flying several carriers on an international journey not allow far more than 10 minutes for “wiggle room.” More like an hour or two.

    Same old lessons:

    1. Never depend on customer service from an on-line “agency.” Sure, it is available, sometimes. On a complicated international itinerary, I do not want to communicate with anonymous telephone sales agents, who are sometimes evaluated on how many calls they handle an hour.. Better odds are provided by: the issuing airline, or a real personal-service local agency. They have emergency numbers. Expedia provides no service, yet creates another layer of “he said, she said.” Simplify things with either people who really care, or eliminate this layer.

    2. Always allow for human (sometimes called “computer”) error. It is the norm, not the exception. An hour extra time in this case makes all the difference. “He called over a colleague/supervisor to help him on the computers and after some more digging his colleague/supervisor found my valid reservation for him.” Too bad it took 20 minutes. Flight closed.

  25. If the passenger arrived in time to make the flight, then you should mediate with British Airways. However, when will people learn that purchasing tickets through a third-party, online travel site is not a good idea? The passenger should have obtained the British Airways record locator for that leg of his itinerary before he departed, so the agent could have looked up that part of his ticket using that identifier. That being said, the agent should have been able to find his reservation in another way.

  26. I don’t see how this is a lesson in the “perils of codesharing.” Even prior to codesharing, airlines sold tickets on each other through inter-line agreements. The same foulup would have occurred then also. It doesn’t really matter which letters appear before the flight number on your ticket; the potential for screwups is pretty much the same. Certainly it’s a LOT safer to book a single-PNR routing like this one vs. booking a bunch of separate tickets.

    But, as far as the actual case goes: Part of the fault was the traveler’s. There’s a reason that pretty much every airline out there requests you be at the airport at least 2 hours before an international flight, even if the official cut-off is far shorter. (It’s a lot easier to cool your heels at the airport for a while vs. working through messes like this afterwards.) Certainly much of the fault lies with BA’s incompetent subcontractor.

    I’m not sure what Expedia could have done once the counter agent “took control” of the reservation. That said, now that the trip is over, it should be Expedia that should be going to bat.

    The best solution I could think of would be a refund of his original ticket. But he should be on his own for the $8,250 he paid for his new flight… I don’t get any impression he gave JAL a chance to re-route him.

  27. This was indeed unfortunate
    for Mr. Kun-Yang Lee. Albeit late to help him now, for future reference I might
    suggest that whenever one books (or has an agent book) a ticket that involves
    two or more airlines, when he/she gets the ticket information, spend a few
    minutes and call each airline involved and get that particular airline’s PNR
    (passenger name record) six digit identifier for the leg it is transporting
    him/her. I say this because when I book something on United but am flying on
    Lufthansa, each airlines has a different PNR. Having both makes it really easy
    to talk to either airline and for them to immediately find my reservation.
    Further, by doing so, I can then go on the Lufthansa website and having the PNR
    for the portion I am flying with them, I can look at my reservation with then,
    ensure everything is in order and even possibly change seats if I do not like
    the one given me when the itinerary was set up. If something is wrong, I can
    see it and I have had time to get it straightened out before showing up at a
    ticket desk in an airport and time is short. Besides, if he had done this when
    he got his itinerary and had spoken with British Airways to get its PNR, the
    agent would have reviewed the data in the PNR and is something was amiss would
    have told him right then. I have never
    had a problem when I have done this. It’s just a suggestion and my two cents
    worth on this matter.

  28. I may sound like the bad guy here, but if he cut his arrival so close that the 10 minuets the agents took to find his reservation caused him to miss his flight, then I really think this was his own fault. I know security is much faster at LHR than in the US (Most of the time), but to show up 10 minuets before the flight closed without even having checked in, is just asking for trouble.

    As far as the re-routing and the airline refusing to accommodate him, etc. Ive said it before and I’ll say it again, don’t ever use Expedia. I have had agents tell me on more than one occasion that Expedia offers heavy discounted tickets with what they call a “Fly or Cry” clause. If the customer misses the flight for any reason the airline does not have to re-accommodate them and the ticket loses all value. Not sure if that was the case here, but Expedia is the best company around at playing pass the buck regardless. My theory, is that if he had booked through the airline directly, they would have re-accommodated him code share or not, though it may be via standby since it was the busy holiday season.

  29. Seem like these stories always start with the ticket was booked through expedia, travelocity, or some other discount online travel agent. Odd how they never pony up when there’s a problem. This is far more of a problem than codesharing, IMHO.

  30. Seems like BA is responsible for booking them standby on a later flight, since it was due to a missed connection.

  31. Every time I had a delay, cancellation, or misconnect with UA and got re-routed on AA, the AA agents would always tell me they can’t issue me a boarding pass because I haven’t paid for my ticket. Its so frustrating and woudl sometime take over 30 minutes to solve going back and forth between UA and AA agents. UA fixed this problem with the merger , now UA refuses to re-route me at all if my flight is canceled, delayed, or I misconnect.

  32. Yes because in the old days UA agents would book a flight on AA for you but it does not mean your UA eticket made it to AA DCS (or AA can access it) that same moment or hour. That is why AA has to call them, to make sure they have some form of electronic coupon to lift when you fly. AA wants to get paid :-)
    Nowadays, they adopt the CO rule – reroute inside network only as much as possible.

    But this is not the case here. The OP had a ticket issued much earlier than the date of the flight (I assume). That is why the status was in AIRPORT CONTROL.

  33. The story says he arrived close to cut-off, and then it says that they took 10 minutes to find his reservation and at that point it was T-40 and check-in was closed. The BA website states that cut-off is T-45 minutes. So he arrived 5 minutes before cut off. That is cutting it too close.

  34. I think Expedia (or any other travel agent who sells a ticket) should be the contact point for any problems with a ticket, or at least the contact-of-last-resort. Then, Expedia, JAL and BA can argue among themselves about who is responsible for the mess.

    I’m not against code-share (it is here to stay) or contracting out ground staff (it is uneconomical to keep a small staff in an airport an airline flies just a couple times daily, and even if it does so, it only takes 2 sick employees to wreak havoc on small local operations).

    However, I think any air ticket should have a “contact of last resort” clearly defined, a party that would be ultimately responsible to sort out any problems arisen on a specific trip. Should be OTAs in my opinion. If Expedia were maid accountable for refunding passengers or sorting out code-share mishaps, I’m sure Expedia and other big sellers would put pressure on airlines to manage things better. If one of the airlines specified on a ticket is made responsible and named so, at the moment an e-ticket is issued, it would also help.

    The problem is let the passenger responsible to “carry the bucket around”, especially without giving them meaningful means to do so (travel companies are usually very reluctant to provide ANY means of track-able contact such as an email (!!!) that works through and actual non-form-answering bot or a ticketing system that keeps all communication).

  35. I think you’re right, I personally had a problem with Expedia and a British Airways code share flight.

  36. True. But Switzerland agreed to be part of EC261.

    Regulation (EC) 261/2004 and it applies to all flights wholly within the
    EU/EEA or Swiss region, or departing an EU/EEA or Swiss airport, or
    arriving in the region and run by an EU/EEA or Swiss airline.

    Do you agree or disagree the flight is covered by EC261?

  37. Clearly the person at fault is the British Airways representative. He arrived to check in before the cut-off and it is not his fault the representative could not find his reservation and took so long that he missed the check in time. He should never have had to pay for a new ticket in the first place, they should have either let him board the flight he reserved or offer him a free alternative, and if they didnt have an alternative they should have paid another carrier for his seat. BA’s fault for having an incompetent representative at the check in desk!

  38. If he did arrive 2 hours prior, he would have made the flight if the same timeline ensued.

    If he DID arrive at the COUNTER past cutoff, probably would have been better for the BA subs to NOT try to help him and call him a no show rather than have the comedy of errors that followed. (Scratching my head with my tongue in cheek.)

  39. How do we know he arrived in time to check in? The story says he arrived at the AIRPORT. It does not clarify that he was at the ticket counter in time. If you are anywhere such as the airport property, parking garage, curbside, check in line..that doesn’t count.

    If the agent attempted to try and check him in after the cutoff and failed, is re-booking the passenger now the responsibility of BA? He still may have presented himself for check in late.

  40. You know what is funny? JAL codeshares Air France from Switzerland.
    It’s right on their Swiss website http://www.ch.jal.com/chl/en/

    So if the OP called JAL, then maybe it would have been solved without him needing to buy another ticket.

    The Geneva airport website provides contact info for JAL in Geneva:

    The phone number is T: +4122 731 71 60
    I would have called JAL first rather than dealing with Expedia.

  41. I’m a little fuzzy how Expedia would be liable here… liable for what? It was the ticket agent at the airport, not the travel agent that booked the ticket that screwed up here.

  42. If you ask BA, they will tell you 40 minutes is fine.
    I suppose he went with this info.
    Unfortunately for him, he believed BA.
    PS. I do not have a definitive link about BA’s 40 min cutoff for GVA. I am just going by what they OP said.

  43. I can’t believe people are still expecting the OTAs to help them.
    Fool them a million times, shame on them (the passengers).

  44. Too bad you can’t put Expedia, BA, Dnata, and Mr. Lee in a room and not let them eat or go to the bathroom until they agree on a resolution. His best argument is that BA’s agent was negligent in mishandling the check-in process and is therefore responsible for consequential damages, namely the $8250 Air France ticket. And arguably he should claim this from Expedia since that is the company he did business with. Whle he was foolish to check in 5 (?) minutes ahead of the 45-minute check-in deadline — eliminating the time necessary to deal with human error — a deadline is a deadline and just as an airline can hold him accountable for just missing it, he should be able to hold them accountable if he just makes it. His biggest problem seems to be that he bought a very expensive replacement ticket. Even if BA or its agent were held responsible for consequential damages, it’s not clear that $8250 is a reasonable measure of the damages; perhaps he could have found a less expensive ticket by waiting a few days or taking a less direct routing, which would be reasonable in case of a flight problem, regardless of whose fault it was. What if he had paid $100,000 for a charter flight? I suppose if BA’s agent told him he had no alternative but to pay $8250, he might have a claim, but there’s no evidence that happened. And as a practical matter, purchasing the replacement ticket on an airline that didn’t contribute the original problem makes it much harder to recover without going to court.

  45. Good enough advice, but point 1 is basically irrelevant to this case. He did call JAL (true, he hung up prior to having his boarding pass) but they still managed to figure everything out within 10 minutes of his walking up to the counter. For all the incompetence displayed, that was still a relatively fast fix. Yet that still wasn’t fast enough to keep them from closing the flight on him.

    Actually, for me the biggest issue in the story wasn’t the first employee not being able to use the computer system but their failure to be able to keep the flight from closing on him for something that was clearly their error. I have no clue how exactly that works, but is there no way to override the system in a case like that?

  46. It was not a connecting flight; the problem occurred at the starting point of Geneva. Please learn to read, to be polite, and to punctuate.

  47. In fairness to the idiots, the OP does note they still resolved the issue within 10 minutes of his walking up to the counter. So, he was cutting it pretty close. I still think they should have been able to get him a boarding pass and get him on that flight, but for all the incompetence displayed this was not something that drug on for hours. It sounds like as soon as somebody who knew the system was called over, things were fine. Except the flight closed in those few extra minutes. Is there no way to make an exception? Seems like there should be, but either they didn’t know how or didn’t feel like helping him out.

  48. In fairness to the OP, they could still get him on the airplane IF THEY WANTED TO. That company controlled ground handling.

    Note the minimum connection time BETWEEN FLIGHTS is 40 mins in GVA. That would mean the baggage handler needs to unload bags for the previous flight, sort them, send them to belt, resorted, sent to the correct outbound flight and then loaded.
    If all that can be done in 40 minutes, so can his luggage from the desk area.
    They just did not want to do it.

    Also I just want to add. the attitude displayed by Dnata the subcontractor and BA (call center) was horrible, too.
    That adds to my ASSUMPTION they did not care much about this guy. Maybe they did not like his name.

  49. I think it is you who needs to re read the story. The flight he was checking in for was the FIRST flight of the journey. It ORIGINATED at Geneva where he hit traffic on the way to the airport which delayed his arrival and resulted in him not being able to check in for the flight.

  50. This is such a convoluted problem, I wasn’t sure where to start.

    It sounds to me the fault lies with the agent who refused to look at his eTicket and get the information needed to get the OP on his flight. That’s where things fell apart, IMHO.

    I say mediate this one, if for no other reason than you’re the only one who I believe COULD straighten it out.

  51. That was my thought as well – he would have had to have been at the GATE 40 minutes prior, so just getting to the checkin desk 50 minutes prior would never have been enough time. Can we clarify the time line Chris?

  52. No, I agree with you. No doubt there was incompetence by the worker but by the OP’s own admission they still had things figured out within 10 minutes or so. Really, that’s a fairly quick resolution when the first person trying to help him was totally clueless. And for all the confusion trying to find him in the system, is it possible the flight had already closed when he got to the counter? Or that what seemed like a 10-minute wait was more like 5 minutes? I still think they should have been able to get him on that flight when it was that close, but bottom line is if he hadn’t been pushing it so close he would have made it with no real issue.

  53. The crux of the problem is your statement that “BA must pay the OP for misinforming him”. While that would be fair, businesses in general don’t legally have to pay people for misinforming them, beyond refunding the cost of any product or service not properly provided (which JAL has apparently done here). I agree that BA *should* pay for the consequential damages, but let’s understand the different between “should” and “must”.

  54. PLEASE show me where it was a connecting flight that is in question. I read it as the originating flight.

  55. I would be interested to know whom Chris thinks should ante up here. The damages were significant, and it isn’t just the original ticket cost that should be the extent of the liability.

  56. Usually if I (or anyone) try to check in for a flight BEYOND cut off, the agent will tell me – Sorry Flight ### is closed or something to that effect. But if they accept my check in request and they screw up with the computer, most agents are decent enough to help me get boarded even if we finish after the cutoff.

    The thing that get’s to me in this case is I sensed a tone of arrogance from the BA outsourced staff. No I don’t need your record locator or eticket receipt but I cannot find your reservation and eticket. Excuse me but if you cannot find me, how are you looking for me. Duh.

  57. Expedia is the ticketing agent. They collect from the passenger and the airlines handles the payment. When a ticket is issued, a message is sent to each carrier with the ticket number.

  58. Good. So he needs to sue BA.
    Oh and by the way, BA still has to comply with EC261 compensation for deny him boarding.
    He was there on time.
    Is that a should or must?

  59. Most important is get to the airport real early because you never know what problems might be lurking there.

  60. Chris, the title of the article says he was ‘flying home’. Was this a one way ticket or a roundtrip ticket, therefore using the last few coupons of it?

  61. If he arrived so close that a 10 minute delay meant the flight was closed, a lof this is on the OP. I thought for an international flight you had to check in hours prior, so … even though the ticket counter agent was a moron, it doesn’t sound like he would have made it anyway. If they had found his reservation, checked in his luggage, checked his passport, shuffled him off to security, he’d have still been in security screening or somewhere else when those 10 mins were up, right? I have sympathy but… unless I’m misunderstanding something here, this is largely his own fault…

  62. Here is the irony. Seems to me all the problems were created by BA and its outsource partner Dnata.
    But neither of them can fix the problem now since the ticket was issued by JAL.
    The OP had JAL on the line but the Dnata moron refused to talk to JAL (maybe because Dnata was responsible to BA and not JAL).
    The sad part was that the party that could fix the OP problem (even with a possible re-route) was JAL and it was EXCLUDED from the conversation.
    As for Expedia, well we already know how worthless OTAs can be.

  63. The recommended check in time for international flights is 3 hours prior. I would be interested in knowing what time, in relationship to his departing flights, did he checkin.

  64. Bruce, here’s what’s bugging me. Did BA and Dnata bother to help Mr. Lee?
    If not, why not?
    I am deeply disturbed they told him his ticket was worthless.
    Seems to be Mr. Lee made his $8K purchase because he thought that was the only way he could get home after the treatment he got from the BA gang.
    Maybe a judge would be more sympathetic to Mr. Lee.

  65. Just before New Year, I had a similar issue. ANA baggage check in closes 40 minutes prior scheduled departure at CTS.
    But the highway entrance in Sapporo was icy and was closed. We waited for the police to open the highway entrance.
    40 minutes prior we were still in the bus. We got to the desk with more or less 30 minutes. They could have refused us.
    But they did not. They served us with a smile and gave us our boarding passes. Then I had to take the bags to security. The Japanese TSA found a camera battery in my checked luggage and told me to put it in my hand carry. Then I took the bags to another counter to check them in. They took the bags. Must be around 20 minutes to departure. I walked to the departure are and went through the magnetometer. I had enough time to sit down and wait for boarding.

    The Japanese is just as prompt and exacting as the Germans and Swiss. ANA did not leave us. That’s why I will fly them again. Airlines is a PEOPLE SERVICE business. Many Asian airlines know that. That is why they are good.

  66. I think if we all read the story correctly…he ARRIVED at the check-in countier on time (albeit a little late). The flight was obviously STILL OPEN for check-in because Dnata was trying to find his reservation and check him in. It was during the “process” of trying to find/verify his reservation etc., that the flight closed. Not the Passenger’s fault! I think the responsible parties are 1. Dnata – THEY Created the problem, then Expedia……thier booking…..then the airlines, in order…BA then JAL. I have been in similar situations myself……If the person checking you in can’t find the reservation or confirm it’s been paid for, then THIER next call should have been to Expedia……or…..oh I know…..LOOK at the guys TICKET NUMBER that the passenger offered and the agent refused!!!!! He NEEDS to be reimbursed. Period.

  67. The story points out that he was late because of traffic, not that he planned on getting there when he did.

  68. What an awful story. Even if it looks hopeless, I hope you mediate, Chris. It’s possible the OP was at fault in certain ways, but he should have had better assistance at the checkin counter. This is exactly the kind of travel story that needs professional interaction.

  69. “…or contracting out ground staff (it is uneconomical to keep a
    small staff in an airport an airline flies just a couple times daily…”

    Sometimes the airlines have to contract out due to politicsrulesetc.
    For example, the help (ticket counter agents, gate agents, etc.) for all of
    international airlines at PVG (Shanghai) are contracted out to one of the Chinese airline (I think the airline is China Eastern Air).

    I can understand the argument that it makes sense to contract out an
    airport with minimal flights and I agree with it. My issue is the lack of training that the airline provides to the contractor. For example, US Airways contracted with AA for their operations in Vancouver, BC. I can’t tell you how many times that the ‘US Airways’ operations at YVR did NOT know the various policies of US Airways.

  70. Since the guy never got a boarding pass, do you think they NO SHOWed him?
    That would be a real slap in the face.

  71. Take a look at the time of the flights:
    1*O#JL7706 GVALHR- 450P 530P 0
    2*O#JL 402 NRT- 700P 400P 0
    3*O#JL 811 KHH- 630P1010P#1 0 22h.20m

    BA733 (JL7706) is the last flight that will allow a connection at LHR for JL402.
    Next is BA735 which arrives London too late at 725PM.

    Man, I cannot believe that agent or sup did not let him go.
    I doubt they had to issue boarding passes all the way to Kaohsiung. Maybe just to LHR.
    This is just too brutal.

  72. I would like to change the order of blame: (1) BA, (2) JL, (3) Expedia
    BA is responsible for Dnata. It is their flight.
    JAL is responsible for the whole journey (it is their ticket).
    Expedia is responsible that the customer is made whole. It was their sale.

  73. My first rule of traveling international is the purchase of travel insurance. What if the taxi gets a flat tire on the way to the airport? What if there was an accident that closed down the road to the airport? There are fewer flights given that most airlines have reduced their capacity in recent years; therefore, it is harder to find a seat on the next flight. It will be even harder to find a seat when traveling during a peak time such as a holiday, special events (i.e. Super Bowl; NCAA Final 4; The Kentucky Derby, etc.), etc.

    My second rule of traveling international is arriving early at the airport which is 2 hours before the flight. Back in 2007, we had a similar problem like the OP. We arrived at the airport and the contracted agent at the Asiana ticket counter at PVG told us that we have no tickets and seats on Asiana. It took nearly an hour to resolve. The problem was a lack of training. When the manager arrived (which took 40 minutes for him to arrive), he quickly resolve the problem.

    When I have an itinerary with multiple airlines, I will contact each airline to get the ticket numberPNR. After getting the ticket #PNR, I will go the airline’s website to check the reservation.

    My third rule of traveling international is buying a ticket directly from an airline not an online site such as Expedia in order to reduce one level in case if there is an issue or problem.

    When I read the article, it seems to have some missing pieces when the BA ticket counter agent told the OP that he missed the deadline and he needed to contact BA for rebooking. Even if the BA ticket counter agent was a sub-contractor, it was still BA…why wouldn’t the second agentsupervisoretc. rebook the OP on the next available flight? He was at the BA ticket counter?

  74. Joe you really should not be worried about codeshares.

    Whether you like it or not, there will be more codeshares in the near future. It is the norm and it is here to stay.

    You can cross your Ts and dot your Is just like the way cscasi so eloquently laid out below.

    But all the plans of mice and men will sometimes bump into a moron since some airlines pick the cheapest dunce to serve you.

    In this case, just go to the airport very early (with all your documentation) and be polite and patient.

    My mother in law says that taking a Valium also helps.

  75. I think there’s much confusion with respect to codesharing as to what agency principles are involved, and therefore who is ultimately liable for mishaps. Is the carrier whose code is being used to describe the flight the entity responsible for transportation, and, for its own convenience, subcontracts with a third party to perform the transportation sold? Or, is the carrier whose code is being used to describe the flight simply acting as the agent for the carrier which is actually performing the transportation under its own name? In the first case, the operating carrier is the agent of the codesharing carrier, and in the second case, the codesharing carrier is the agent of the operating carrier. While to many people this may be legal mumbo jiumbo, but ultimately knowing who is the responsible party, and who is merely the agent acting on behalf of the responsible party, is important, for that is the party who should be liable. I don’t think advertisements make the distinction clear . . . the aim of the advertisements is to show seamlessness, and in doing so, to mask responsibility.

    (Amtrak has traditionally done a better job in this regard, for it takes responsibility for its “Thruway” bus services where bus carriers perform transportation as agents of Amtrak, but not for “connecting” bus services where Amtrak is the agent of the connecting bus carriers.)

  76. I have asked several time about the sequence of events. I cannot find where it says he arrived at the CHECK-IN COUNTER on time. The story DOES state he arrived at the AIRPORT in time. There is a big difference.

  77. was the ticket really listed as “not paid for”? if so then expedia made the mistake.

    was is mislabeled as “not paid for” the BA made the mistake.

    as someone who has traveled abroad, i sympathize with the OP, his situation must have been terrifying- someone needs to pay.

  78. If you are on a true international flight, the recommended check in time is 3 hours prior. If you are on a domestic flight that connects to an international flight, then your two hour check in time is fine.

  79. As a rule of the thumb the US DOT maintains that the MARKETING carrier is always responsible for the flight. In Europe, they maintain that the OPERATING carrier is responsible for the flight. Nevertheless, someone must be held accountable for mishaps like this one. Since the ticket was sold in Europe and the flight is between 2 European cities, then I think the responsible party is British Airways. In reality, they had control of the fate to the passenger. They chose not to board him after he presented himself on time at their counter.

  80. Yes Chris I had been in a similar situation at London couple of yrs back It was VA fault they delayed my check in then took a cash walk in & told me I was late I had to catch the next day flight but after 6 months they sent me a cheque for 450$ for compensation still i would not travel with VA they are greedy for money & dont honor their code share partners

  81. Hey Chris, maybe you can help me understand this better. I can’t help but think of what Mr. Lee was going through that day at GVA airport.

    Imagine this.

    You arrive at the airport counter of BA about 50 minutes prior departure.
    They cannot find your reservation and ticket.
    The counter is operated by Dnata (outsourced ground handler for BA).
    Considering the small size of the airport, BA and JAL have no counter or sales operations of their own at that airport.
    The agent does not want to talk to JAL, the airline that issued the ticket.
    Dnata refuses to board you, saying you are late and the flight already closed.
    BA, furthermore, tells you your ticket is worthless.

    OK so how do you find a new ticket to buy while at the airport?

    Do you use a smartphone and start searching?
    Without local presence at an airport, it will be very difficult to coordinate with any airline to sell you tickets you can immediately use.
    So you do what Mr. Lee did.
    You go to an airline counter and buy a walk up ticket.
    From whom?
    Guess what? Dnata operates Air France and Finnair ground handling, too
    So you go back to Dnata and buy a (very expensive) ticket from them on airlines they represent.

    Wait a minute. Doesn’t that give them a great incentive not to check Mr. Lee in for his original flight?
    How much commission does Dnata make selling walk up tickets?

  82. While I like the conspiracy idea, remember the adage about never assuming malice where stupidity will do. Given the reports of how the original Dnata agent had no clue what was going on, it seems hard to beleieve they would be organized enough to think about the above “plan.”

  83. How about if you are making such a significant flight, over the holidays, over multiple airlines….you get your butt to the airport EARLY.

  84. Once again, he was late to the airport because of TRAFFIC, not by design. He could have left for the airport to be there early, but because of traffic, that didn’t happen.

  85. Mike actually you bring up an excellent point. Why isn’t BA publishing airport checkin deadlines for PUBLIC CONSUMPTION? The only way to find out is to call and ask or logon to see your own booking. Why is this important information such a big secret?

  86. If you miss your flight, it is up to the carrier on how they will let this be handled. I can’t tell you how many people think they can get to the airport in less time than actually happen and how many have missed their flights. Where most of my clients live, in the best scenario, it is 1 1/2 hours to SFO but unless it is 2am or 3am it will take you 2-4 hours depending on commute traffic.

  87. My reply was to the one above, and all the others made, blaming the OP for getting to the airport late because he didn’t leave early enough. I was pointing out that the reason he was late was because of traffic. Sometimes something happens on the road you can’t plan for. Even in your example, that 2-4 hours could turn to 6 if there is a major tie up from something other than normal commute traffic.

  88. You are correct that the recommended check in time is 3 hours. We do 2 hours (standing in line at the ticket counter to check in NOT arriving at the airport) because the time to check in for First Class or Business Class is generally quicker than Economy. There have been a few times at SFO, YVR and PVG where Iwe arrived and had to wait 30 minutes before the ticket counter was opened.

  89. Yes, the first and biz line is usually less crowded and you get the first and biz class security line, too, so you can usually fudge on the time on that checkin.
    We have been at SFO and HNL before the counter opened, too.

  90. That’s just it-British Airways gave him the wrong information, and as a result, Lee got financially hurt.

  91. I voted no, you should not mediate. Kun-Yang Lee should always anticipate glitches and should have arrived much earlier.

  92. But don’t ever believe they did it to make your life easier. They’d print your ticket on a baby seal pelt if it were somehow cheaper for them to do so.

  93. He was late because of traffic. Implying he didn’t leave early enough assumes facts not in evidence. I have left for the Atlanta airport in plenty of time to arrive 3+ hours before a flight, driving at a leisurely pace, in traffic, only to be held up by a terrible accident that caused me to arrive only 45 minutes before departure. Fortunately, it was a domestic flight, and I had no luggage to check

  94. Don’t waste your time on this. These people don’t want to admit that the reason he was late, as given in the story, was because of unexpected traffic. They would rather assume he wanted to get there when he did, not that it was something out of his control. It was pointed out several times to them, but they still wanted to keep playing the same broken track.

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