Airline removed me a because of confusion about medical supplies

Here’s an unusual case with an equally unusual resolution. It involves two airline passengers, a medical device and EU airline passenger law.

Now, before you say, “How exciting!” consider this — while the case may be exceedingly rare, and while this isn’t exactly a blog about medical supplies, the outcome of this medical device mishap could affect you on your next European flight.

So pay attention, you kids in the back of the class. Yeah, you know who I’m talking about.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Airline won’t refund my ticket after my husband dies

Question

I bought a pair of tickets through Expedia for my husband and myself. We planned to visit Germany this fall for as part of a retirement trip. Shortly after that, my husband passed away very suddenly.

I contacted Expedia about a refund, but was advised to get in touch with our airline, Lufthansa, directly. Lufthansa told me my husband’s ticket was nonrefundable. I asked if they would resell his seat, since he couldn’t make the flight, and they admitted they would.

When I said that it appeared that Lufthansa would profit from the death of my husband, they admitted that that was the case. This really offended me. I tried to send an email to Lufthansa’s president, but they have turned me down. What would you advise?
Ursula Maul, Wynnewood, Pa.

Answer

My condolences on your loss. Most airlines refund tickets – even nonrefundable ones – when a passenger dies. What’s more, it’s highly unusual for a representative to “admit” that the airline will profit from the death of a passenger. Maybe the representative you reached was having a bad day. I certainly hope so.

I’m concerned about your online travel agency’s role in this debacle. Why did Expedia hand you off to Lufthansa in your hour of need? One of the reasons you do business with an online travel agency is that they are trusted intermediaries in case something goes wrong with your flight.

If they simply sent you to the airline when you needed help, then why not book a ticket directly with Lufthansa the next time, cutting out the middleman?

I might have started the refund process by sending a brief, polite email to Expedia, explaining that you wanted a refund for your husband’s ticket. It may have still referred you to the airline, but at least you would have given it a chance to do what it promises it will do, which is to take care of you.

I would have stayed off the phone, too. These days, the odds of you getting put through to an outsourced, overseas call center, where someone is just trying to process your complaint quickly, is too high. Your case required special attention, which neither your agency nor your airline seemed willing to give you.

You had the right idea with the email to Lufthansa’s president. I might have started a little lower on the corporate food chain. I list the names of the managers on my customer-service wiki, On Your Side.

If Expedia was unable to help you, then a polite email with your husband’s death certificate should have worked.

I contacted Lufthansa on your behalf. It apologized for the “inaccurate” response to your request and agreed to refund your husband’s ticket.

Is this enough compensation? Wrong information leads to a missed flight

Christianna Kreiss thought she would be flying to India with her family a few weeks ago.

Instead, she spent hours in Pittsburgh trying to sort out a messy airline reservation that involved Air Canada, Lufthansa and Orbitz.

Kreiss eventually made it to India, but lost two vacation days and had other out-of-pocket expenses. Is she owed anything?
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Case dismissed: They charged me the wrong fare, and now they want more

Melinda McGowan had to cancel her European vacation late last year because of a medical emergency. When she tried to rebook her tickets through Lufthansa, an airline representative quoted her a fare differential of $388, which seemed like a lot at the time.

Turns out it wasn’t enough.
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Volcano strands couple in Portugal for a week — is this an “extraordinary” circumstance, or what?

Even though EU 261, Europe’s strict consumer law for air travelers, has an exception for what are called “extraordinary” circumstances, Europe’s big carriers made a big deal about not invoking that clause when the cloud of volcanic ash spread across their airspace earlier this month.

Unless you were David Bray, who couldn’t return to Washington from Lisbon, Portugal, via Frankfurt on Lufthansa.

“My wife and I are currently stranded in Portugal,” he wrote to me last Monday. “What’s frustrating is flights are entering and departing Portugal for the U.S., but we’re with Lufthansa and they won’t help with rebooking with another carrier to get back to the U.S.”
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Help! My baggage didn’t make the connection

Question: I am a Marine based in Nicosia, Cyprus. I have a situation, and I am looking for some guidance.

I recently bought tickets from Travelocity for my fiancee, Cara. Her return itinerary had her flying from Cyprus to Athens and then on to Munich on a Lufthansa flight operated by Aegean Airlines.

Her stopover in Athens was 50 minutes, which was not a problem. But when we checked in at Cyprus, she was only given a boarding pass to Athens and was told to pick up another boarding pass in Athens after retrieving her luggage. It didn’t make sense.

To make a long story short, I contacted Travelocity but Cara missed her connection in Athens and had to pay $250 to change her flight, and had to stay in a hotel for the night until the next day, which also wasn’t cheap.

I don’t know if this is just a mix up and we just got the short end of the stick, or if there is something we can do. Any help would be greatly appreciated. — Joshua Smith, Nicosia, Cyprus

Answer: Cara should have been able to check her baggage all the way through to Munich, no questions asked. When you phoned Travelocity, they should have given you a straight answer about why that wasn’t possible and helped you and your fiancee figure out a solution.
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