When An Airline Says 'It's Not A Problem,' It Will Be A Problem

Perhaps Simon should have known better than to trust an employee of U.S. Airways. He changed his travel plans, canceling the outbound portion of a round-trip ticket. The person he spoke with on the phone assured him that his original flight home would be just fine. This employee was either misinformed or out to make Simon’s life miserable. Either way, his flight home was canceled, and he had to book a more expensive one-way flight that his employer won’t pay for.

He writes:

I recently booked a flight with U. S. Airways to visit my family over a weekend. I then decided to leave earlier to combine this leisure trip with a business trip. I called U. S. Airways to ask them to cancel the outbound flight I had previously booked. They informed me that they would place a note on my ticket and it should not be a problem, so I booked a new ticket out.

Today, I tried to check in for my flight back online, and the website informed me that U. S. Airways had canceled my ticket. The representative told me that the previous representative had made an error, but that the only remedy available to me was to purchase a new ticket. While I would have agreed to this if I had been asked on the date I had originally called, instead, the representative asked me to pay $220 for a new one-way ticket (which was more than the cost of the original round trip!).

After calling a second time, I was repeatedly told that, while this was clearly an issue with the information the representative provided me and not a misunderstanding on my part, it was still my fault for failing to read the 32 page contract of carriage available on their website. I was eventually offered the opportunity to have the original flight reinstated for $150, which is still $70 more than the one-way ticket my employer would have paid on the date I had initially called, had the representative not misled me. This $150 is not eligible for reimbursement because my employer requires that all travel be pre-approved for a specific price. I am left wondering whether this is systematic deception, as opposed to an isolated error.

I generally don’t blame anything on greed or deception that could more easily be explained by incompetence. What do you think?