Forced to fly in a broken Air France seat — am I owed a discount?

Barbara Lawrence and her husband fly to Paris on Air France from Boston. They pay extra for premium economy seats because they want to get a good night’s sleep on the overnight flight. Alas, their seats don’t recline, but an Air France ticket agent in Boston tells them the airline will knock 20 percent off the ticket price to make amends for the broken seats. So where’s the discount they were promised?

Question:

My husband and I were traveling to Paris recently. When we arrived at the check-in counter at Boston’s airport an Air France ticket agent told us because the seats we paid extra for were broken and would not recline we could get a 20 percent flight discount. I asked if we needed that in writing and he said no, just give them the flight number.

I called Air France at the phone number on your executive contacts list and they assigned a case number. Then they rejected my claim. So then I sent the info to both of the contacts you supplied. So far I have no information from either and don’t know where to turn. Hope you can help me or point me in the right direction.– Barbara Lawrence, Waltham, Mass.

Answer:

Barbara, I’m sorry to hear you didn’t get your flight discount in a timely way. Especially after you flew across the pond for six-and-a-half hours in a broken Air France seat. I can’t imagine what your back felt like when you arrived in the City of Lights.

You reached out to us and said an unnamed employee promised you a 20 percent flight discount on your airfare because of the broken seat. You subsequently used the Air France website to apply for it but were rejected because “no refund of the airfare was due,” according to an Air France email they sent you in January.

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An Air France representative then instructed you to use a link in the email to make a compensation claim, which you valued at $175.

And then you ignored it.

Instead, you started emailing Air France contacts you found on our website.

In this case, using our website instead of clicking on the link Air France sent you was a mistake.

Flying in a broken Air France seat for 20 percent off?

You didn’t even insist on getting the name of that Air France ticket agent in Boston who foolishly told you that you didn’t need to put a request in writing for a 20 percent flight discount.

“The ticket agent did not give me a name, nor did he say I needed it or anything in writing,” you told our advocates.

Really, Barbara?

“Get it in writing.” How many times have you heard that advice?

A cautionary tale

Your experience offers a cautionary tale for travelers who may be entitled to flight discounts but need to be more diligent when interacting with airline personnel.

Fortunately, you reached out to our advocates for help. And our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman, offered you some sage advice about unusual offers for flight discounts.

“In the future, if an airline employee offers you something that is completely out of the norm, you should always get it in writing,” she wrote. “Minimally, you must get the name of the employee offering the flight discount.”

Whatever happened to that flight discount?

Friedman also referred you back to the email Air France’s representative sent you in January. “The representative told you to follow the link and make your request. That is what you need to do next.”

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Then you followed the instructions in that email. Although the situation initially appeared grim, you received the pleasant news that Air France approved your discount.

Who’s responsible for Barbara Lawrence’s belated flight discount?

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Michael Hinkelman

Michael Hinkelman is an award-winning journalist with more than 35 years experience. He has worked for daily newspapers in Atlanta and Philadelphia, most recently as a small-business columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, before retiring in 2016. In 1993, Hinkelman won a prestigious Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism for an investigation into the finances of the Atlanta Public Schools. In 2016, he was a lecturer in media relations at the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government. Read more of Michael's stories here.

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