Travel Troubleshooter: Code sharing becomes big mess

Published: Sunday, Apr. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3H
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 15, 2012 - 12:06 am

Q: We booked a ticket from Washington, D.C., to the Bahamas recently through Expedia. It was a code-share flight on Bahamasair (www.bahamasair.com) operated by US Airways.

At US Airways' counter, we and about 50 other travelers were told by US Airways agents that Bahamasair had not transferred the ticket information to the US Airways system, so none of us could board.

After four hours of pleading and arguing with US Airways and Expedia, we gave up and went home. By then we couldn't book a reasonably priced flight to our Bahamas destination.

At the least we'll lose the rental fee for the place in the Bahamas and we're worried we'll also lose the $1,400 we paid Bahamas- air. Phone calls to Bahamas air have not helped. This is a travel nightmare.

– Jay Middour, Alexandria, Va.

A: Bahamasair should have gotten your tickets right with US Airways; when it couldn't, either the airline or your travel agent should have fixed it.

Code sharing, an industry term for lying, allows an airline to sell seats on another airline's flights while claiming it's the airline's own flight. In your case, you bought tickets through Bahamas- air, but the flight was on US Airways. When something went wrong, no one took responsibility.

I'm surprised Expedia didn't find a better solution. The "Expedia Promise" says your trip "will meet the descriptions on its site and in your itinerary." If a mistake is made, it says, "We'll take responsibility – at no additional cost to you."

Expedia should have imposed on Bahamasair or US Airways to fix their code-sharing glitch, or bought a new flight to the Bahamas the same day. You should not have had to spend hours pleading.

How to avoid this? Avoid code-sharing flights; but in this age of airline partnerships and alliances, that's difficult.

But the code-sharing arrangement should raise a red flag. Don't just call your airline to confirm the flight – call the airline operating the flight. An error like this, while rare, might be caught with a call.

If you're stuck in a situation like this again, politely ask the Expedia representative to escalate the call. You can do that by calmly asking to speak with that person's direct supervisor – not "a supervisor" or "someone in charge" since that can be interpreted in many ways and could land you with an agent's colleague who will proceed to tell you it can't be done.

Also, it helps to be aware of the "Expedia Promise," which is the agency's guarantee that it will take care of you.

I contacted Expedia on your behalf. A representative apologized for not being able to assist you on the day you traveled and helped you secure a refund from Bahamasair. Expedia also sent you a $200 check and a $200 credit to make up for the trouble.

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