Austrian Airlines bumped me and then gave me empty gift cards as compensation

Austrian Airlines overbooked Robert Raffanti’s flight from Venice to Vienna and asked for volunteers to take a later flight, promising compensation of 125 euros. Raffanti and his wife agreed, but the airline never loaded their gift cards. Can we help Raffanti, or will Austrian Airlines continue its infamous silent treatment of both its customers and with us?

Question:

On Oct. 5 we were flying from Venice to Vienna on Austrian Air and the flight was overbooked. The person at the check-in asked if we would give up our seats (he said that he heard us talking about having to wait four hours in Vienna until our daughter arrived). At first we declined but he said that he could get us there two hours later (but we would have to change planes in Zurich), so we would still beat our daughter there and the airline would give us 125 euros apiece. We agreed and went to the customer service desk and they gave us two gift cards that they said were loaded with the euros, adding that it might take up to 48 hours for the cards to be activated.

When we tried to use them three days later, they would not work. We called the airline and were told that they were never activated but they could do it over the phone. I gave them the card numbers and they told us that they would be activated in a few hours. When we tried to use them they still didn’t work. We called the airline again and we were told that somehow they were never loaded but they would take care of it and to give it another two days.

It has now been two months and they still have not rectified the problem. I have made numerous calls to them and every time they tell me that they are working on correcting the problem and they will get back to me within a few days, which they never do. Can you help us with these empty gift cards? — Robert Raffanti, San Martin, Calif.

Answer:

I know it’s frustrating to not be seated on your original flight — whether you volunteered to give up your seats or were involuntarily bumped — but receiving compensation certainly makes it a little more palatable. Unfortunately, Austrian Airlines not only failed to provide seats on the flight you purchased, it also failed to follow through with its promise of compensation.

Two empty gift cards

Once you discovered the company’s error, you immediately contacted its guest relations department and asked for the cards to be loaded and activated, as promised. But Austrian Airlines again failed to follow through on its promise to “immediately” rectify the problem.

After several more attempts to get Austrian Airlines to load and activate the gift cards through email, phone, and Facebook posts, you tried to use the cards again and they still didn’t work. You could have used our executive contacts for Austrian Airlines but you contacted our advocacy team.

Unfortunately, our advocates have had limited success with Austrian Airlines complaints. It is notorious for ignoring complaints, as it initally did in this case. After the story’s publication, Peter N. Thier from Austrian Airlines commented on the story, indicating that the customer had been contacted, but she had not. Her case eventually worked out in her favor, but not before she filed a complaint with the Agency for Passenger Rights.

The good news

Our advocate, Dwayne Coward attempted to contact Austrian Airlines on your behalf, but it ignored him. Coward suggested that you also file a complaint with the Agency for Passenger Rights, which you did. The agency contacted Austrian Airlines and suggested that it review the case and “do the right thing.”

The airline apparently listened to the agency and finally loaded and activated your cards.

Austrian Airlines never responded to our advocate, but he still directed you to the appropriate place for filing a formal complaint, and I’m happy you finally received what Austrian Airlines promised.

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