Why was this traveler’s return flight canceled?

At the end of his pilgrimage to San Sebastian, Spain, Adelino Alambra tried to check in for his flight home from Madrid to Baltimore. But British Airways told him that his ticket had already been used. Can we help him find out what happened to his ticket and get his money back?

Question

I was issued a round trip British Airways ticket from Baltimore to Madrid.

On the day of travel, my American Airlines flight from Baltimore to JFK was canceled due to air traffic control. American rebooked and rerouted me through Miami on an exchange voucher ticket. This new travel itinerary affected my onward journey from Madrid to San Sebastian on Iberia (separate ticket), and I was forced to buy a new ticket for the change and incurred international phone charges from my mobile carrier during this transaction.

On my return trip, I was denied upon check in as I was told that my ticket had been used. I was referred to British Airways’ customer service in Madrid and disputed my case to no avail. I ended up buying a new ticket to fly home, costing me $2,530.

I filed a complaint on both British Airways’ and American Airlines’ websites and had series of emails, following your advice, from their customer service up to their respective CEOs. American denied my complaint and claimed that they can’t reimburse me because it was a British Airways ticket. British Airways claimed that it was American’s responsibility as it was their carrier that canceled my trip. American offered me a $200 e-voucher for the inconvenience.

American did admit that there was an error by their agent when the ticket was exchanged. I have not received any reply from the British Airways CEO.

My travel insurance, Allianz, denied my claim due to “error on airline’s part.”

I am requesting assistance for reimbursements of the new ticket I bought in Madrid to fly home thru British Airways when I was, in fact, a “valid ticket holder.” Is there a possibility of reimbursing the new Iberia ticket I purchased as a result of the new travel itinerary and international phone charges from my mobile carrier? — Adelino Alambra, Baltimore

Answer

While I have certainly experienced canceled and rerouted flights over the years, I have never arrived at the airport and tried to check in for a flight that I had supposedly already used. You must have been shocked. I can only imagine the thoughts running through your head. With all the warnings about identity theft these days, I think that would have been my first fear.

Fortunately, this was not the case with your ticket. In your case, it was an error, but finding out which company caused the error and which one would pay for it was yet another exercise in the great corporate pastime of “passing the buck.”

After unsuccessfully trying to resolve the issue onsite in Madrid you purchased a new ticket, returned home, and following our instructions on resolving a dispute you wrote to our front line customer service contacts for both British Airways and American Airlines. Unfortunately, British Airways said it couldn’t help you because the ticket was “American stock” and American Airlines said the ticket stock was owned by British Airways.

You properly escalated your case but still didn’t get an acceptable resolution, so you contacted us. Our advocate reached out to our American Airlines contact, and he reached out to British Airways. After the contact between the two airlines, we received some detailed information about your ticket.

A no-show?

When your American Airlines flight from Baltimore to JFK was canceled, American booked you on a flight through Miami. You boarded your flight from Miami to Madrid with no problem, but sometime while you were in flight an “automated system” at either British Airways or your travel agency added two segments to your ticket: Baltimore to Heathrow, and JFK to Madrid. British Airways marked you as a no-show because you were not on either of those flights.

But of course you didn’t show up for either of those flights — you were already in the air over the Atlantic on your way to Madrid.

The good news

Our contact directed our advocate back to British Airways, and he reached out to the airline. Shortly after, you received an email from British Airways, which accepted responsibility for the refund and promised a check soon would be on its way to you.

Your commitment to keeping a written record of your attempts to resolve your issue and to following our suggested method of resolving a complaint made our efforts to step in to mediate your case quick and easy. I hope by now you’ve received your refund. I hope the next leg of your pilgrimage happens without another glitch, but if it doesn’t, you know how to advocate for yourself — and where to find us if it doesn’t work out.

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