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After Reena Roshgadol’s daughter gets injured, she has to change her flight schedule. But then she finds out the airline might cancel her return ticket. Can she fix that without spending a lot of money on change fees? Read more “Why won’t Air Canada let me fly home?”

I was bumped from my Spirit flight. Wasn’t I?

When Bob Fournier received an email from Spirit Airlines indicating that his flight had been rescheduled, he thought he had been bumped. From where he sat, he was facing the same circumstances as if he had been involuntarily denied boarding: Not only was he unable to fly home at the originally scheduled time, but he also would have to book a hotel room for a couple of extra nights, rent a car and miss a day of work. Read more “I was bumped from my Spirit flight. Wasn’t I?”

Why did Hawaiian Airlines cancel my flight home?

On their way to Hawaii, Charlie Williams and his wife miss their connection on Hawaiian Airlines. The missed flight was disappointing, but then he did something that compounded his problems costing him several thousand dollars. Now he wants to know if we can help get his money back.

This story is an unfortunate lesson in airline rules and regulations. And it illustrates why it’s important to know what’s in that fine print associated with your ticket.

Did Hawaiian Airlines cancel the flight in error?

Williams contacted our team to help him recoup the $1,200 that he said he was forced to spend on extra tickets after Hawaiian Airlines canceled his flight. He also wanted us to ask for “two free round-trip flights to Maui” as additional compensation for his trouble.

“We had a delay on our flight from Denver to San Francisco on Virgin America because the plane needed de-icing,” Williams recalled. “We landed in San Francisco five minutes late. Our connecting Hawaiian Airlines flight had already closed by the time we got there. Hawaiian Airlines issued us two tickets for the next morning’s 10:00 flight.”

If that were the whole story, the only annoyance that the Williams would have experienced would have been the one missed evening in Hawaii.

It isn’t.

Who gave this bad advice?

But his letter went on to describe that “someone” at Hawaiian Airlines gave him the suggestion to try to get on an evening flight later that day on a different airline.

So that is what he did. He purchased two tickets on Virgin America and he and his wife flew to Hawaii. They went on to enjoy a week at their tropical destination completely unaware that anything was amiss with their return flight.

On the day before their return home, Williams attempted to check-in for their scheduled trip and was startled to learn that they didn’t have one.

How they ended up with an Hawaiian Airlines canceled flight

He called CheapTickets, the agency that they used to book their vacation package. The agency informed Williams that Hawaiian Airlines had canceled their return flight.

When Williams and his wife took the Virgin America flight to Hawaii, they had missed the outbound portion of their Hawaiian Airlines ticket. Once the airline deemed the couple as no-shows, it automatically canceled the return portion of their itinerary.

Having no other choice, the Williams purchased new one-way tickets back to the mainland and connected with the rest of their air reservations. Those flights had not been canceled because CheapTickets had built their vacation package with several unrelated airlines.

Back at home, Williams began his attempts to retrieve his money from Hawaiian Airlines. Convinced that the airline had canceled their tickets in error and that the airline was profiting from its own mistake, he began  his appeal.

When I reviewed Williams’ paper trail, one thing was immediately apparent: Williams and his wife were “no-shows” for their flight to Hawaii. They had accepted a rebooking for their missed connection, but then purchased a flight on another airline. They headed to Hawaii without clarifying what would happen with their other confirmed flights on Hawaiian Airlines.

Tactics that never work

Of course, it is natural to be angry when you think that you have been taken advantage of, but Williams’ complaint tactics did not help his case. In his letters to Hawaiian Airlines, he demanded reimbursement for the cost of the return flight and new tickets to Hawaii to make up for his wasted time and irritation.

His language, at times, was a bit salty, and although he redacted the full curse words in his letters, the message was clear.

“I am so pissed off and feeling everyone has us by the ****s so they could take our money, ” he told the airline.

We never recommend this tactic as it usually alienates the consumer from the company from which they are hoping to garner empathy. As could be predicted, Hawaiian Airlines did not respond favorably to Williams’ complaint was not favorably received and resulted in no resolution.

However, in this case, the facts were not on Williams’ side. I suspect that even if he had written the most eloquent letter to Hawaiian Airlines, he would not have received his desired resolution.

The Hawaiian Airlines contract of carriage

In the Hawaiian Airlines’ contract of carriage, in the section entitled “Failure to Occupy Space” it is clear what will happen to the remainder of your ticket if you do not fly on any segment:

  • If a passenger fails to occupy space which has been reserved on an HA flight and the passenger does not provide HA notice of the cancellation of the reservation before the departure, or if any carrier cancels the reservation of any passenger because they failed to provide notice to the carrier, HA may cancel all reservations (whether or not confirmed) held by such passenger on the flights of HA or any carrier for continuing or return space.

Travelers, beware!

This Hawaiian Airlines policy is not unusual.  In fact, in today’s world of travel, it is standard. Every major airline has similar language in its terms and conditions. If you fail to take any leg of your itinerary, don’t expect the rest of your ticket to remain valid. It won’t.

Our advocacy team could not help Williams because the terms of his tickets were clear. It is unfortunate that “someone” gave him the poor advice to skip a portion of his flight (he did not catch that agent’s name). But he did thank us for taking a look at his case, and we are certain that he will not be caught in this type of expensive debacle again.

Should airlines be permitted to cancel an entire itinerary when a passenger is a "no-show"?

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