Will this traveler ever see her Alitalia compensation?

Chantal Legge is supposed to fly to Toronto on an Alitalia flight from Rome, but the flight is canceled, and Alitalia rebooks her for the next day. But the new flight is overbooked. Legge ends up flying through Boston to get to Toronto. Alitalila promises compensation, but doesn’t deliver. Can we help Legge get what she is due?

Question: I was flying home to Toronto, Ontario, on an Alitalia flight out of Rome on April 29, 2017. They canceled the flight and rebooked us on a flight on April 30. Not a problem, but we had to pay for an extra night of accommodations. We arrived at the airport in Rome and learned that the new rescheduled flight was overbooked. So we were then booted off the plane and put on a connection flight to Boston that connected into Toronto.

We were promised 800 euros each (there are two of us) for our troubles. We filled out forms to receive our vouchers in “the next few days.” We were massively delayed and returned to Toronto over 48 hours later than we originally planned. I waited to hear from Alitalia for our voucher and never did. I sent them numerous emails asking for my voucher and compensation only to be ignored. I tried calling many times and was constantly told they would get back to me. It has now been over a month and I have received no word. Any ideas on what I might be able to do next? — Chantal Legge, Toronto, Ontario

Answer: I’m so sorry for the multiple layers of hassles you are enduring. This is one of the most frustrating cases I have yet run across. Alitalia should have promptly sent you the vouchers it promised, and the airline certainly should have been more responsive after all the disruptions it caused you.

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But Alitalia is a mess because it is currently in bankruptcy reorganization. This case highlights the importance of being vigilant about your rights when flights are oversold. A little research on an airline’s history and reputation never hurts as well.

You said you only accepted being kicked off your flight because of the promise of 800 Euro vouchers. But why accept a voucher on an airline that may soon be history? You probably did not know about the airline’s financial troubles. Even so, I usually recommend against accepting vouchers because they have to be used within a year or less. This can be fine if you absolutely know you will be traveling soon, but how likely is that on a foreign carrier? It is so easy for a year to slip by and see your compensation become worthless. Ask for cash compensation. If the airline won’t give it, they will probably move along to bumping someone else.

You handled your requests for compensation very well. They were clear, concise, and free of anger. You cited regulations (EU 261). It must have been infuriating to receive a computer-generated form letter each time along with a promise that they would “investigate.”

You turned to our advocates for help, and they hit the same walls because of the bankruptcy situation. But an airline representative finally called you, explaining that Alitalia has “stopped all funding for vouchers due to their bankruptcy and they have frozen all their funding for that area of customer service.” Convenient for them, miserable for you.

You asked if a takeover company might honor Alitalia’s outstanding compensation. One responder’s advice was that it depends on whether or not the bankruptcy court sells Alitalia’s assets subject to its liabilities. It could very well wipe out all unsecured claims and sell the assets free and clear, although Italian bankruptcy laws could be very different from ours.

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Our advocate added:

I’m very impressed that someone called you, Chantal. Sorry to say that there’s little chance of you ever seeing any compensation. I advise you to keep an eye on the unfolding story to watch what’s happening. When TWA went down, American swooped in quickly and there was very little disruption. If there’s a takeover, you may be able to resubmit your request. We see miracles here all the time, so don’t give up. Just think of all the people who are booked on Alitalia flights. Most of them will have to buy new tickets on another airline.

At least Alitalia got you to your final destination. That does not get you all your wasted time back, but it’s better than holding a useless ticket.

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