You fly to your destination. You have a great time. But when you check-in for your return trip, you find your itinerary (not your flight) has been cancelled. You call the airline or ask an agent at the airport and are accused of a “no show” on the outbound. What do you do next?
Airlines Cancel Flights In Error All The Time
The subject of consumer advocate Christopher Elliott’s column this week is about an incident of this nature that occurred to a lady named Catherine O’Connor. She was traveling on United Airlines for Thanksgiving, with a return a week later. Her outbound to Chicago was delayed. She was placed on standby on another flight, but was not accommodated, as the flight went out full. Eventually, she flew on her delayed original flight.
But a week later when it was time to come home, she attempted to check-in for her flight and found that her reservation had been cancelled even though the flight was still operating. United told her she had missed her outbound flight.
For legacy carriers, if you miss a flight on your itinerary, all remaining flights are cancelled. This is primarily intended to discourage so-called “hidden city” ticketing, a trick where it is often cheaper to book A to C via B then simply book A to B. For example, it might be $300 to fly from Los Angeles to New York but $179 to fly to from Los Angeles to Florida via New York on the very same flight.
But that wasn’t the case here. Here, a glitch in United’s system indicated she was a no-show on a flight she actually took.
It was then O’Connor made a critical error:
I had to pay $386 for a one-way ticket from Chicago to Washington.
No! No! No!
It isn’t clear if she even tried to get United to re-instate her ticket. Her original ticket was $317. Her new one-way ticket was $386. After the fact, she asked United for a refund of the $386. In another clerical error, United refunded her the $317. They also provided her $150 in travel credit.
She reached out to Elliott, who successfully got United to refund the $69 difference between the original ticket and new ticket.
But that was all so unnecessary.
What To Do If An Airline Cancels Your Flight In Error
The same thing has happened to me at least twice in the past on United. Both times I actually had taken the outbound segments. It has happened to Award Expert clients as well. It simply takes a phone call to fix.
Instead of buying a ticket, you call United and simply explain that you were not a no-show. I’ve never been asked for a boarding pass or other proof. Still, it is a good idea to save your outbound boarding pass just in case. Almost all airlines now use mobile boarding passes, which you can store (indefinitely) in your Apple Wallet app if you have an iPhone. I have hundreds of boarding passes going back many years…it sure beats a stack of paper that is easily lost or damaged.
Should that not work, head to the airport. If you’re flying from New York to Chicago and your return is cancelled, showing up at the counter in Chicago is a pretty good indicator you took your outbound flight. Even if you didn’t, no airline agent is likely to be able to argue otherwise.
Sometimes, technical glitches well beyond our control impact our travel plans. If you ever find your return itinerary cancelled and you have flown the outbound, don’t panic. Call the airline, explain the situation, and insist that you are rebooked on your original flight.
Have you ever had your return trip cancelled in error? How did you resolve it?