AirTran declined my credit card and now I have to buy a new ticket

Gil C /

Gary Murray’s credit card is declined when he buys an AirTran ticket, but he doesn’t find out until he gets to the gate. How much should he pay for the new ticket?

Question: I made a reservation on the AirTran website recently for two tickets from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to St. Louis, and was sent a confirmation by email. I went to the airport on the day of departure, and I was told that I did not have a reservation. The reservation was canceled because my credit card was declined when I tried to book the flight.

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I was unaware of that, and hadn’t been informed by AirTran. I panicked and bought a ticket for the flight anyway. I paid $500 for each of the two tickets. My original ticket price was $134 each.

I got on my laptop and searched other airlines, and found that Delta cost $242 per ticket. I complained to AirTran, and it gave me a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer to resolve the issue: two vouchers for $182 each. I would have been better off not panicking and flying Delta.

I have been traveling for 40 years, and I know better than to wait until the last day to buy a ticket. I asked the airline for a copy of my cancellation, and was told that it could not provide one.

I think the $182 per ticket is insufficient. That’s still $318 per ticket for a one-way flight that should have been $134. If the airline had told me about the cancellation earlier, I would have repurchased a ticket. Can you help? — Gary Murray, Florissant, Mo.

Answer: AirTran shouldn’t have confirmed your ticket if your credit card was declined. And if it didn’t send you a follow-up email notifying you of your card problem, you were correct to assume you had a ticket.

You could have prevented this by doing two things. First, review your credit card statement regularly to make sure you made all of the purchases you thought you made. If you didn’t see the AirTran tickets on your statement, you would have flagged this problem earlier. Also, checking the airline’s site 24 hours before your departure to confirm your reservation would have alerted you to the problem.

As a side note, spam filters can be tricky, so be sure to whitelist the airline’s email address when you make an online reservation. That would have ensured that any emails from the company made it to you. (Again, since you received the first email, it’s understandable that you’d assume that any subsequent messages would make it through the spam filter. But that’s not always how it works.)

If you’re ever in a situation like this, with no valid ticket, don’t panic. Calmly explain the problem to a ticket agent, and if that person can’t help, ask for a supervisor. If showing the confirmation doesn’t work, you should consider doing some last-minute fare shopping. As you noted, Delta would have been a less expensive choice for your trip to St. Louis.

AirTran was acquired by Southwest Airlines in 2011, and has been operating as a subsidiary of the carrier. The carriers are scheduled to be completely integrated by the end of this year, and when I reviewed your case, it looked like this might be a little merger-related hiccup. I checked with Southwest, and its records show that it did, indeed, email you a notification that your credit card had been declined.

“However, it’s clear he did not receive it,” an airline spokeswoman said. Southwest issued you two more vouchers to make up for the difference in fare.

Should AirTran have refunded Gary Murray's ticket?

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138 thoughts on “AirTran declined my credit card and now I have to buy a new ticket

  1. I believe the vouchers were a fair solution. They technically didn’t have to offer him anything – as the article noted there were various ways he could’ve – and should’ve – checked on the status of the purchase prior to showing up to tha airport. However, the vouchers will mean that Murray will cotinue to fly the airline in the future. In fact. I’d be willing to bet they’ve just earned a loyal customer,

    1. I disagree because when you buy a ticket the night before, it will not show up on your statement right away – you have to wait at least 48 hours sometimes.

  2. The deadbeat should have done his own due diligence and checked his bank statements, called to confirm his flights, printed boarding passes.

    1. Geez. Having a bad day? Calling a guy a “deadbeat” simply because he thought he had a ticket after receiving a confirmation telling him he had a ticket?

      Take a chill pill, dude. That’s just nasty.

      1. I’m really getting tired of the 0% personal responsibility, 100% entitlement group. This isn’t AirTrans fault, the banks fault, or the internets fault, it’s completely and fully the LW/PAX’s fault. That’s what Chris sells “whiners insurance”.

          1. Of course you are. *Most* of us know this. We also all know that PsyGuy is the resident curmudgeon. Pay no attention to the Grinch in the corner.

            And I’d be willing to bet he’d change his tune the moment he needed you for something that went wrong with HIS travels.

            I for one am grateful you’re here, putting yourself out there to help us beleaguered travelers. I hope I never need to use your services, but I’m glad to know you’re there if I do!

          2. I believe you are trying to help and your very good at it. My issue is your trying to help the wrong people. In the last month a number of cases had very strong support and rational showing the LW’s were either playing dumb, concealing information, and overall trying to scam their way into an advantageous resolution. I fully believe you were a completely innocent accomplice, but surely there are worthier cases of those who actually “deserve” some advocacy, and those who are just using you to game the system using PR.

        1. There’s a MAJOR difference between telling someone “you made a mistake, and this is the cost of your mistake” and calling someone a deadbeat.

          You would gain far more credibility if you would keep the nasty personal insults out of your comments. There’s just no need for it. It makes you look like a real jerk, and your possibly legitimate message gets lost.

          Truth is, I agree it was his mistake. But it was an honest mistake…one I can see myself making. Sometimes we are just BUSY and don’t take the time to follow up completely on things. I can totally see how someone might rush to the airport assuming all is fine because they received a confirmation, and didn’t have the time to do online check-in. I have been in that situation myself. I’ve been on business trips where I’m city-hopping, and I just didn’t have time to do all my due diligence. Does that make me a deadbeat?

          I will NEVER admit to even the SLIGHTEST error here on this forum, because lord knows what kind of horrific insults you might hurl my direction for the crime of being an imperfect human.

          1. How do you “know” it was an honest mistake? The LW could have had the purchase declined because they were overextended and then played the “naive innocent” story at the airport. Someone who’s been traveling for 40 years doesn’t know how air travel works? I don’t buy it.

            I’m not going to comment what not doing your due diligence makes you, I think you already know my answer, the difference between you and the LW though is you aren’t going to go whining to Chris to shame a company to fix a mistake you made.

          2. Because I read the comments, in which he explained why his card was declined.

            No, the difference between you and me, PsyGuy, is that I don’t automatically assume everyone is a lying criminal. That’s not my default assumption. I tend to believe the best about people unless and until I learn differently.

            As for what not doing my due diligence “makes me”…what it makes me is simply busy. And a normal human. If you are inserting some other ugly word in there (which I’m sure you are), then that says a whole lot more about you than it does me.

          3. So his explanation is true JUST because he says so. The LW has fraud from identity theft but he DOESNT notice the lack of an AirTrans transaction when reviewing his transaction history, or he just doesn’t look?

          4. I agree with Psy here… I can’t escape the fact that barring objective proof – that being independently verifiable information – one must accept that fraud/deceit or whatever you want to call it IS a possibility.

            I personally don’t like to assume (note the word used – assume) the worse in people, or their actions — but — I can’t say that there isn’t a subset of the population who will, with malice and/or intent, act, speak or disclose information in such a manner as to materially misrepresent their case.

            Now, that said, I do think it’s common?Is it the majority? I personally don’t *think* so, but again, absent verifiable data to measure this, I can’t factually say what the frequency is.

            I don’t think Psy is being a “curmudgeon” at all — I think he is just pointing out that the possibility *does* exist that the situation here may not be as presented here and/or disclosed in a less-than factual manner.

            I further agree with the personal responsibly – or lack thereof – by a sub-set of the population.. However, again, I can’t say that everyone is like this – they’re not..but there IS definitely a trend – as I see it – whereby a person conveniently overlooks what really is their responsibility and turns it around to a “XYZ airline did bad here! Help!” case.

        2. It actually IS AirTrans fault IF they never sent him a notification of the declination and they shouldn’t have confirmed the ticket before charging the card.

          1. You are confusing a confirmation with ticketing. You can get a confirmation number without ticketing. The carriers often send a confirmation email before the reservation is ticketed. So heads up to check for the ticket number.

    2. This guy always has a PROBLEM with the LW. Maybe Chris could delete his access & then we wouldn’t have to put up with white trash comments.

      1. I have a problem with LW’s with a sense of entitlement who are whiners when they aren’t treated like royalty because they paid a little money for a consumer level service or product.

  3. Air Tran didn’t decline his card, the bank did. I think it was very nice of Air Tran to offer him something, but they didn’t have to. By the way, what did his confirmation say? The last time I booked a flight, I received two emails. The first was an email with my Itinerary, which stated it was a copy of my itinerary and not a receipt. The second email included both my itinerary and my receipt. If Air Tran works the same way, the OP made some assumptions about the “confirmation” and chose to put the entire blame on Air Tran.

    And of course, my nosey self wants to know the reason for the card decline. 🙂

      1. It can be very embarrassing when a credit card is declined and it is sad that so many people automatically attribute it to over-extending. I had a card declined in a store once because another retailer put in the authorization three times by mistake. Though they only charged once, the authorizations ate up the credit limit (low limit at that time). My daughter had our card declined due to a fraud detection system that incorrectly flagged her usage when on a trip. Even though she had ID, they would not approve it and she had to put items back in the store.

        1. There’s any number of reasons a card might be declined. My husband recently had his card declined at a hotel because we were traveling outside of the country, and his recent expenditures there flagged as fraud. And this happened even though we’d called the credit card company prior to our trip to notify them that we would be traveling to that country!

          So, just so you know, I did not automatically assume that the LW’s card was declined through any fault of yours. And neither should anyone else.

          1. Declines happen for a variety of reasons. Lots of time, for me when issuing a ticket, it is due to the person using a debit card and going over their daily limit.

          2. The difference is you know IMMEDIATELY since you do not get an approval code (instead you get a decline).
            Same thing should happen to a consumer buying online.
            This should be real-time.

          3. Except that it is done at the time of ticketing and when you purchase on the carrier’s website, they can do the ticketing whenever they want. United told me they often take 48 hours to do a nonrefundable fare ticket when purchased on their website.

          4. Of course, this is irrelevant for a ticketless carrier like AirTran. There is no eticket to generate.

          5. There many be no eticket, but there is a charge based on the fare, and the carrier can decide when to handle that charge…we can’t.

          6. I agree which is why I still fault AirTran for sending a confirmation if that is indeed what the LW received.

          7. He got a booking confirmation – NOT a confirmation of the ticket issue. That comes in the 2nd email – which is clearly referenced in the FIRST email he got.

          8. Mr. Murray has posted above why – he isn’t a “deadbeat”, it was due to identity fraud by a retailer. Do you know how many times I, as an agent, have had clients cards declined simply because it is an out of the ordinary transation for them? It has nothing to do with being a deadbeat.

            Gary Murray

            3 hours ago

            My card was changed do to identity fraud at a retailer.

          9. Yes. I saw that. It’s what I was responding do. My comment was to dispute PsyGuy’s earlier comment that the Mr. Murray was a “deadbeat”.

            Having one’s credit card declined does not mean someone is a deadbeat. I’ve had mine declined more times than I can remember, and I have perfect credit and have never missed a payment in my life.

        2. Then if it gets declined my purchase doesn’t get approved and Im notified of that, and then some time between now and then when I’m checking in for the flight online or reviewing my bank statement I ask myself “humm wheres that AirTran purchase”?

      2. Really? Any charge made prior to the change would be honored and after the change you would have had the new card. This does not really explain why the card was declined.

        1. He may have typed in the old number after the new card was issued. Some banks aren’t as thorough about transferring legitimate purchases from the old card to the new card OR the bank may have said keep using your card until you get your new one and still declined the charge. OR the bank may have been jittery because of the retailer’s data breach and this purchase was outside of the OP’s norms, right at the same time as the card was being replaced. I’ve had to replace my card twice this year (thank you, Target, thank you, Home Depot – NOT!) so have had little problems that I was able to catch very quickly.

          1. I see what you are saying, but if he typed in the old number he is at fault. if it was before the fraudulent transaction then it would have gone through. I have had a new card 3 times this year and have not run into this problem yet (same companies you mentioned plus one more).

          2. Oh, I believe that the OP is at fault all the way here, but not because he is a “deadbeat” or scam artist. It just looks to me as if the gentleman may have been a traveler for 40 years, but not terribly computer-savvy. (Although he did manage to create a Disqus account!)

      3. That doesn’t effect purchases you’d already made. You would have to file a fraud affidavit and claim with your bank to get those charges reversed.

      4. Was it an actual case identity fraud at a retailer? Or was it a bank trying to pass the buck?

        A year ago, I received a phone from the credit card bank stating that our credit cards were compromised due do a security issue at a retailer. I asked for the name of the retailer because I was going to 1) stop doing business with them and/or 2) ask for compensation (i.e. 10% coupon, etc.). It is a very time consuming process for us when we received a new credit card since we have a lot of our monthly bills paid with our credit cards which requires updating several accounts. The person told me that he didn’t know the name of the retailer just it was a retailer.

        A few days later, I was at the bank and I asked again and was told the same line. A few days later, it was announced in the media that some of the bank’s credit cards data were compromised…we stopped using the card.

      5. Did this happen right after you bought the ticket?
        Usually your credit card company will ask you to validate all pending charges when they suspect fraud.
        Maybe they invalidated your purchase with AirTran so that’s why the airline cancelled your reservation.

    1. I agree…another example of this blog trying to demonize a travel provider with inaccurate information. There of plenty of actual things that travel providers can be demonized over but not inaccurate information. I understand that no one can know everything but when the bloggersite claims to be a consumer advocate, you expect them to know how credit cards, debit cards, checks, etc. work since they are used in the transactions that are reported in the articles of this blog.

      The “real” bad guy(s) isare the retailer and/or the bank that issued the credit card. The retailer should have a secured database for their in-store and online transactions per the requirements in set forth in the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) that was issued in 2006. These requirements were designed to ensure that ALL companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

      The credit card company should have call the OP or sent an e-mail to the OP to explain that their credit card was compromised.

      1. My credit card issuer does that and *has* done that. The OP should look into a different issuing bank for his credit card if they’re not providing him what you and I consider to be basic service.

        1. Indeed, all card companies handle things very differently. I stopped using my AX/Macy’s card outside of the store due to how they handled something with my card.

    2. I do not agree with these companies sending numerous emails – it only makes it extremely deceiving to the customer to think they have a ticket ready to use – a confirmation with itinerary information should be sent to those with an actual ticket, otherwise it is extremely misleading.

  4. A confirmation number isn’t a ticket. Any time I have booked a reservation with UA, I get a confirmation stating another email will be sent once the ticket is issued. I wonder if he got confused, plus he didn’t reconfirm by going online, even to get his boarding pass. You should always check with the carriers website as a follow up for your ticket number, plus check your reservation frequently until your flight is scheduled to depart.

  5. What exactly did the confirmation he received say? Did it confirm a reservation or did it state the ticket had been issued and show that he card had been charged? A reservation is not the same as a ticket.

  6. That’s what you get by flying a third rate airline. You get what you think you paid for.
    And do not give me this “please be nice” garbage. The guy screwed up. And it was his fault for not following up.
    As consolation, he gets vouchers to relive the same bad experience? Hope they are transferrable.

        1. Wow Christopher…you’ve got some real peaches in this thread today! What the heck is the matter with people? And during the holiday season too.

          1. Christmas in Japan is just a day for college girls to wear christmas teddies and stockings and wonder around Shibuya taking pictures of each other. It’s a work day for everyone.

          2. How lovely for you. I’m grateful that I live in a country where, even if one doesn’t celebrate Christmas (I personally don’t), most people at least view this holiday season as a time to be thankful for the good things we have in life, and share some joy with the world and the people around us.

            Sorry that you don’t get to experience that. It’s quite nice, especially given that for the rest of the year people often act like total jerks for no reason whatsoever.

          3. Well we have lunar new year (Chinese New Year, you just can’t call it “Chinese”) and Hanami, (Cherry Blossom Festival).

      1. A first rate airline would have honored the original fare. The trick to getting good customer service is not to act like a jerk.

        I have never had a problem, except with UA. Which is why I never fly them anymore unless absolutely necessary.

        1. So according to you:
          1. “And do not give me this ‘please be nice’ garbage.”
          2. “The trick to getting good customer service is not to act like a jerk.”
          Thanks for the conflicting advice. You’re the new troll around this blog, why don’t you move along?

        2. No, no they would not have. If you think you are going to show up to any gate on the day of a flight and they’re going to magically say “Oh, I see your reservation was canceled due to no fault of ours, and you didn’t try to get this resolved earlier? Well, let me just book a ticket for you at the historical price.” you’re in for a rude awakening. While certain airlines do provide superior service, none of them are that generous or understanding.

          1. Well some of them might if you have the right card like a concierge key, global service or 360 card. I bet the conversation would go exactly how you described if you flashed one of those.

        3. Having worked for an airline – NO they wouldn’t have. He had plenty of time to take care of it – day of gets him walkup fares.

    1. Too bad it had nothing to do with the airline. The airline doesn’t randomly decline cards–his bank declined the payment. Maybe he has a third rate bank?

        1. Not really, Chase, BOA, WF and the commercial banks are too big to fail, but a lot of smaller state banks can (and have) certainly fail. From what I understand in the States even Walmart and Tmobile are banks now?

  7. It sounds like he should be blaming his e-mail filters for chucking the “you don’t really have a ticket” notice.

    With the new “24-hr refund” rule, I know some airlines are implementing it by simply not ticketing the reservation for 24 hours (means they don’t have to pay credit card fees for tire-kickers); is Southwest/Air-Tran one of them?

    I don’t see the airline as at fault here.

    And Chris, you really should be changing the headline from “AirTran declined my credit card…” To “My bank declined my credit card and…” Merchants don’t decline cards, banks do.

    1. Unlike Darth Chocolate, I’m a big fan of Southwest. I flew them back from Las Vegas earlier this week. Smooth nonstop flight to Tampa and we arrived twenty minutes early.

      Regarding the matter at hand, you are assuming that the notice was actually sent. Also, I’ve never before heard of an automated program at airline’s website issuing a confirmation without waiting to find out whether the customer’s form of payment is valid. There is currently much confusion and low morale among AirTran employees because their airline will no longer exist at the end of this month. I’m sure that some are not being kept on by Southwest.

      I’m an experienced flyer. If my airline issued a confirmation, be it Delta, American or AirTran, I would assume that I had a seat waiting for me on the flight that I chose. To expect anything else defies logic. AirTran should have honored the reservation at the price on the confirmation.

      1. As experienced as you state you are, understand that all airline reservations have a confirmation number, but all confirmation numbers don’t mean you have a ticket or permission to get on the flight. Don’t confuse the two.

      2. SO untrue – even Southwest gives you a confirmation number, then an email with the ticket number once issued. Usually fairly soon afterwards, but have seen sometimes when it takes longer.

    2. What do you mean by NOT TICKETING the reservation until 24 hours later?
      The moment an e-ticket number is generated; then it is ticketed.
      You mean they will make customers wait for 24 hours before they release e-ticket numbers? That’s insane.
      The could simply do Credit Card Authorization HOLDS then finalize the charge after 24 hours if the customer does not ask for a refund within that time frame.

      1. Carriers pay a fee every time they authorize a card and pay another fee every time they refund a purchase. With the newish 24 hour refund rule, carriers are finding ti easier to just hold the reservation instead of ticketing it until after 24 hours.

        1. That’s an option provided by the DOT rule – it is either HOLD for at least 24 hours or REFUND.
          HOLD means not ticketing until at least 24 hours (but the customer is told this). After 24 hours the credit card is charged and the eticket generated.
          REFUND means a ticket is generated and the credit card charged. If a refund is requested, the e-ticket is cancelled (voided) and the credit card charges reversed (hence refunded).

          1. American Airlines started doing that hold for 24 hours thing last year. I was surprised when I booked a ticket with my AA points and got an email saying that my ticket was “processing.” The next day I got another email saying my status had been updated to “ticketed.” I guess it’s just a new system. My son just bought an AA ticket this week and got the same email about it being processed vs. ticketed.

      2. I think I’ve seen a couple of airlines issue the PNR immediately (which is what most people think of as the “ticket number”… it isn’t, but most people don’t use the actual ticket number for anything), but not the e-Ticket number until after the 24-hr deadline.

        Holds cost money… since the loss is minimal if the credit card falls through (unlike, say, a car rental or hotel stay) there’s no particular reason to verify payment prior to the deadline expiring. It can just go back into inventory if it falls through. (Similar to lots of online merchants not checking the credit card until an order is ready to go to the loading dock… if payment falls through the order is simply canceled. No need to hold in the meantime.)

        1. We have to issue based on the rules of the fare. We get an approval code to be able to issue, a ticket number is assigned but the actual charge will not show up until the carrier gets the report of the ticket which we have to do once a week to ARC, who then sends it on to the carrier.

          1. The credit card is authorized before we ticket but the credit card is charged after midnight. If we void before midnight, the hold simply drops. After midnight a void will require credit card charge reversal, meaning a charge and a credit.

          2. Yes, it is a hold but the card isn’t charged by us. The carrier handles it when they get the credit card information.

          3. Just remember the airlines’ 24 hour hold or cancellation policy (by law) is very different from ours.
            That one applied to the LW since he bought directly from the airline (no ARC).

  8. Vending Machine Malfunction 🙂
    What is the reasonable expectation for someone buying a ticket online directly from a carrier? I suppose they have a reasonable expectation to know in real time if a sale has been made. So after they enter their credit card online, there is a reasonable expectation to receive payment confirmation online also (not necessarily by email).
    Thank goodness Southwest understands that.

    1. When a merchant cancels an online order, my reasonable expectation is that it contacts me in the same way as it accepted my order. For example, when I order something in Amazon, I get a confirmation immediately by e-mail. When, for some reason, shipment is delayed, I get a notification in the pretty much the same way.

      The article suggests that the second, cancellation e-mail was sent in a bit different way from Southwest, but not from AirTran, and didn’t go through. The same problem may happen in different scenarios, when two airlines are merging or for codeshare flights. We might get following notifications in a different way from the first one.

      1. What I don’t get is how the first email with the confirmation gets passed the spam filter but the second one with the card decline, ticket canceled does not?

  9. First … I’m not a fan of the title. Airtran didn’t decline his card. His bank declined his card.

    Second, as far as the ticket goes, this all would have checked in online which Southwest allows. At that point, the LW has 24 hours to figure out a solution instead of minutes.

    The vouchers were a nice compromise but SW owed him nothing.

    Edit: so the first sentence of the second paragraph doesn’t make sense. Try: “Second, as far as the ticket goes, this all would have been eliminated if he checked in online which Southwest allows.

  10. I think AirTran offered more than it needed to, so I too answered no.

    Not to rub salt in the wound, but after “40 years” of air travel, a relatively straightforward, domestic misticketing caused a panic?

  11. Banks are NEVER one’s friends. The bank was the one primarily at fault, not the airline. A bank will never help you. In fact, they would rather you die if you were involved in a robbery, so they can eat your carcass like vultures from your insurance settlement, as they hound and harass you to pay them regardless that you are a victim of crime. And then we’re supposed to feel sorry for a company that makes a $2 Billion profit when someone robs a branch of $2,000??? Hypocritical, sanctimonius, Satanic heathens. They should have been allowed to fail, no government salvation. Maybe if THEIR employees became homeless and lost their pensions they would see how the other shoe fits.

  12. It depends on the circumstances, personally I’ve had my credit card company think a valid charge is fraud, block that, and block my account, then unblock my account without me contacting them, but leave that charge blocked. In that case it would be easy to not know a charge went through, if that’s what happened to him. But even in that case, he really need to take it up with his credit card company not the airline.

  13. I voted no. “I would have been better off not panicking and flying Delta.” The gentleman confesses to 40 years worth of flying experience and states that he knows what he should have done. Yet he still demands a higher refund? Move along folks, nothing to see here.

      1. That’s not a surprise. You also believe that everyone on the planet is liar with no morals or ethics. But let’s not revisit that debate. We will just have to agree to disagree.

        I’m just grateful I don’t share your world view. I’d want to slit my wrists.

          1. You clearly haven’t been reading this blog for as long as I have. PsyGuy is the king of personal attacks. In fact it was his personal attack on the LW of this article that prompted my disgusted comments back to him.

          2. I’ve been reading the blog for many years actually.

            There’s no point in engaging someone like that, so I choose not to. There’s plenty of people that I simply ignore. I wasn’t surprised that Psy got nasty with the LW but I made a simple request to keep the personal attacks off the site.

            Ultimately it’s up to Chris to decide what he wants to allow on his site. This thread is pretty sad unfortunately and isn’t a great representation of the majority of the regular readers of the blog. But, if Chris decides to let the place go “Jerry Springer”, then so be it.

          3. Sorry for any confusion, LeeAnneClark is allowed to make personal attacks. Since she’s been unbanned she’s got a free pass from the mods.

        1. Everyone on the planet is a liar, whether they have morals (and the accompanying “guilt”) is largely irrelevant.

          Whether you turn your back following your disagreement or you slit your wrists, makes little difference, assuming I wouldn’t get caught, I would happily go though your pockets for loose change and cash.

  14. Since the LW is internet savvy enough to book online, why didn’t he attempt to check in online or even look at the airline website to see if the confirmation was showing up as valid? Or is that what he did: attempt to check in online, was told the number was not valid and then thought it could be sorted out at the airport?

    Not knowing why the bank declined the charge (over limit? unusual activity? suspected fraud?) but you would think any proper bank would have let him know the charge was declined. I know all of the credit card banks I deal with send me emails, texts, and call me whenever they decline a transaction (doesn’t happen often to me, usually when buying my tickets for business class to Europe, but I appreciate the flood of contact attempts).

    No matter, it was the responsibility of the LW to verify that he had a ticket before arriving at the airport and panicking.

    1. Isn’t AirTran a ticketless carrier, using Navitaire?
      Only thing one has to do is pay for a reservation and nothing else in a ticketless system.

      1. Not sure what Navitaire is, never dealt with it myself as far as I know.

        But you still get a PNR when you book and a ticket number that you can look at on the web site. Their reservations are part of the Southwest system now, not sure if it was still separate when the LW booked things might have been different.

        1. The way I understand it is that for ticket-less carriers it simply collects the payment and marks the reservation as paid. The money is tied to the customer’s account not to a ticket.
          In a traditional GDS, after credit card payment authorization, an e-ticket number(s) is(are) generated. Then those e-tickets numbers are sent to the carrier’s RES system. Money is tied to the e-ticket(s).
          It is possible that the Southwest system took the payment info but did not transmit same to AirTran’s. (Transition issues, maybe.)
          I have a feeling this is not a simple decline as it seems this guy has the money to buy more expensive tickets.

    2. I think it depends on the reason for the decline. My company sells items through our website and customer cards are occasionally declined. The most common reason is keystroke error or a rejection because of something to do with the provided billing address. In those cases, the customer receives an email from our web service that the charge was declined.

      1. The OP stated that he is an experienced traveler.

        “I have been traveling for 40 years, and I know better than to wait until the last day to buy a ticket.”

        If a person going to be a DIY travel agent then they need to be aware of how the processes, procedures, etc. work.

  15. Isn’t it odd that AirTran/Southwest stated that “… it [was] clear he did not receive it…”? How would it know, unless it’s own internal investigation showed the e-mail was really never sent?

    1. According to Chris’ contact, they carrier shows that an email was sent to the LW letting him know his card was declined. Everything related to your PNR is in history and accessible by the carrier. I am sure that the following comment that the LW didn’t receive it was just stating fact that he didn’t for whatever reason.

    2. It is my guess that AirTran/Southwest made that comment as good customer serviceprgoodwill because they gave the OP vouchers. It doesn’t do any good to say “the e-mail was sent but it was lost in the OP’s e-mail system (i.e. Yahoo, Hotmail, G-Mail) or in the OP’s spamjunk folder or etc.” or “the OP is lying” or etc.

  16. If you’ve been traveling for 40 years yet you didn’t go online the DAY BEFORE and check yourself in and you didn’t find out until you were at the check in counter? Going to grandma’s house for christmas once a year doesn’t an experienced flyer make.

    Maybe it’s just me but I check my flight details several times before I get to the day I can check in for my flight. Maybe I’m just too detail oriented, I just can’t leave certain things to chance. Nothing will ruin a trip more than screwed up flights, so I make darned sure they’re right.

    1. Yep, I check my flights weekly, and daily the week of the flight. There’s no way I’d get all the way to the day of travel and find out then that I didn’t have a reservation. Yikes.

    1. I really, really like the companion articles you’ve been featuring. I like to think that the primary purpose of this blog is for education and these articles provide that. Thank you!

    2. I love the 2X daily articles both the discussion/case and the education. I’ve felt that the education component was really needed for a long time. I can understand job security and it may be a futile task, but we have to try to fix all the stupid.

  17. When you book on the carrier’ s site and click Submit, isn’t your credit card verified at that moment? Under what circumstances would you get a confirmation and then find out later that your card had actually been declined?

  18. I commend Southwest Airlines for issuing my vouchers. I feel the problem was with Air Tran Airways. My confirmation was printed along with the purchase amount for my ticket. I know I am lax in checking my statements, but I have numerous accounts for many different activities. I own 4 rental units along with my own home. My credit is above average. I rely on the merchant to be honest but I do check my statements. I relied on my confirmation and I am thankful that Southwest did the right thing. I have booked two future reservations with Southwest and I would recommend them for your future travel plans. I travel 5 or more times per year and this was the first time anything like this happened. I wonder what kind of credit PsyGuy has!!!

    1. Thanks Elliott for helping in my dealings with Southwest. I received a call from Southwest the same day as I wrote the complaint. Evidently they felt the same as Elliott felt about the situation.

      1. Sent: Thursday, January 2, 2014 11:07 AM

        Subject: AirTran Airways Confirmation for GARY MURRAY on May
        31, 2014

        Thank you for flying
        AirTran Airways.

        If you have any questions about your reservation, please

        call 1-800-AIR-TRAN.

        Confirmation number: IYDRHM


        Flight Information:

        Should our flight
        schedule change, we will notify you by email as early as possible.

        Saturday, May 31,

        Flight 4691 [Non-Stop]
        Operated by Southwest #2691

        Departing Fort
        Lauderdale, FL (FLL) at 01:00 PM

        Arriving Atlanta,
        GA (ATL) at 03:00 PM

        REMINDER: You must check in at least 45 minutes prior

        departure. Please arrive at the airport at least 90

        minutes before
        your flight.

        — Connecting To –

        Saturday, May 31,

        Flight 267

        Departing Atlanta,
        GA (ATL) at 03:40 PM

        Arriving St.
        Louis, MO (STL) at 04:30 PM

        • This portion of your itinerary begins on Southwest
        Airlines. Don’t forget to check in for your flight(s) 24 hours before your trip
        on or your mobile device. If you need to print a boarding pass or
        check a bag at the airport, please visit the Southwest Airlines ticket counter.

        Payment Information:
        Total $402.00 USD

        Ticket Reference Number: 332151346664

        1. Bingo! There is payment information and a 13 digit Airtran 332 e-ticket number on the confirmation!
          Any reasonable person would have concluded they had a ticket already.
          (Note: even ticket-less carriers generate ticket numbers internally.)

      1. The website told me I couldn’t access it through them and I should check in at airport. We bought a one way ticket and we had no problems with our flight to Fort Lauderdale.

  19. While it was fair of AirTran to issue him the vouchers, this one puzzles me. Isn’t it his job to keep track of his credit card purchases and make sure they actually go through? Yeah, AirTran shouldn’t have issued him the confirmation and they should have been the ones to notify him that his card was declined, regardless of the corporate structure of the AirTran/Southwest merger, but isn’t it every consumer’s job to stay on top of his/her own transactions?

  20. I’m willing to bet that most people make a reservation, receive the confirmation email, put the details on the calendar and then show up at the airport the day of. I know I do and I travel a fair amount. That said, I don’t think it’s fair to assume everyone is going to comb through their credit card statement to double check every single charge. I do all the bookkeeping at our house and my husband hasn’t looked at a credit card statement in years. As much as we rely on technology to make our lives easier this case demonstrates how sometimes it all falls apart. With everything most of us are managing every day noting a confirmation email is as far as most of us get! I’m glad they refunded the customer. They were both remiss so that feels fair.

  21. Alas, I can see this happening … if you don’t fly often, have a confrmation number and an itinerary … it would be easy to just move on with the minutia of your life. A good lesson here for all of us and I’m glad you made it happen for this guy, Chris. NEVER assume everything’s OK when it comes to travel. In fact, I’m going to go confirm my next trip right now!

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