Travel Troubleshooter: Turns out her flights weren't connected

12/16/2012 12:00 AM

12/16/2012 12:12 AM

A few months ago I bought tickets to Lilongwe, Malawi, for church missionary work through a full- service travel agency. I had two sets of round-trip tickets: one from San Francisco to Cairo by way of Paris on Delta Air Lines and Air France/KLM, and one from Cairo to Lilongwe by way of Nairobi on Kenya Airways. Kenya Airways, Delta and Air France/KLM are all alliance partners.

On my return trip, my Kenya Airways flight from Lilongwe arrived late in Nairobi and, even though my connecting flight to Cairo was still at the gate, I was not allowed to board. A Kenya Airways representative told me the next flight out was the next day at the same time. Kenya Airways put me up in a hotel for the night and told me it had made arrangements for all of my connecting flights to be changed to one day later.

I was given something called a "Ticket Reconciliation Needed" form and was told there would be no extra charge, since all the airlines were in the alliance. But the next day, when I tried to check in for my flight in Cairo, an Air France/KLM representative told me they would not honor the Ticket Reconciliation that Kenya Airways issued. They insisted I pay an additional $462 to take the flight.

I have been back and forth since then with all the airlines, and the best they can offer is a $100 coupon toward a new trip. These changes have cost me a total of $538, when hotel accommodations factor in. We have exhausted all resources and hope you can persuade the airlines to reimburse me for the additional expenses I incurred.

– Sue Broxholm, San Francisco

Something wasn't right with your tickets. If your reservations had been connected, you would have been able to continue your flight without being charged more by Air France.

You made your reservations through a full-service travel agency, which should have known that. But when you mentioned that you had two sets of tickets, I thought something might not be right.

When I checked with Air France and KLM (owned by the same company), I found that the reservations weren't connected. In other words, Air France/KLM and Delta wouldn't know you missed your Kenya Airways flight. Being in the same alliance doesn't count; you need to have the same alphanumeric record locator for your entire itinerary; only then is everything connected.

Normally, a problem like this can be avoided by using a professional travel agent. But even agents make mistakes. Yours couldn't or wouldn't link all the flights on your reservation. That made a resolution difficult.

Your story underscores the importance of having a connected reservation. Booking tickets through alliance partners is not enough. Their systems aren't capable of knowing if you're the person making or missing a flight.

Air France didn't have to help you, but given the humanitarian nature of your trip, it refunded your change fee and hotel bill.

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