When Mai Le contacted the Elliott Advocacy team concerning her recent “near-fatal’ in-flight injury on Hawaiian Airlines, we were surprised to hear that the airline appeared to be unsympathetic to her plight. I suspected there was more to the story. That was a correct assumption. “Did an in-flight injury really nearly kill her?”
If there were a movie titled “Escape from Hawaii,” Chaya Friedman could be the star. She and her husband are stuck on the island of Molokai and miss their connection in Honolulu to get home to the Chicago area. She is forced to buy tickets on another airline in order to make it to Honolulu on time. Can our advocates help her get reimbursed for her expenses? “Where is my refund, Hawaiian Airlines?”
Waiting in line to board a flight can be a good thing.
It means Carlos Vargas and his 90-year-old mother, of Chicago, can board their Southwest flight to Newark, N.J. first. “Southwest helps fix a wheelchair — and a holiday journey”
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.
A Hawaiian Airlines error?
Williams contacted us to help him recoup the $1,200 that he said he was forced to spend on extra tickets because of an error on the part of Hawaiian Airlines. 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.
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.
Hawaiian Airlines no-shows
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.
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 their 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.
We 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.
After Hawaiian Airlines canceled their flight, Victoria Wasserman and her family spent over $500 for food and hotel accommodations. Wasserman sought full reimbursement from Hawaiian Airlines, but it would pay only half of the cost. “Shouldn’t Hawaiian Airlines reimburse me for all of my expenses?”