Followup: Air France Dispute

By | August 11, 2010
AF 777
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Last week, we talked about a man who had written us over his dispute with Air France. You can find that story here. This week, he sent us a followup, so we thought we would revisit the issue. It included a letter from the manager of customer care for Air France-USA as well as our reader’s response.

Here is an excerpt of how Air France’s representative describes the situation:

Our records indicate your son purchased a ticket through our website on June 1st, inverting his first and last name. Unfortunately, this mistake was not detected until you attempted to check-in for your return flight on July 11th. Our staff at Paris was unable to locate the ticket in question and had no choice but to issue a new ticket in the class of service available. Moreover, I must point out that the Dept. of Homeland Security requires all passengers travelling to the United States to hold a reservation and ticket exactly matching their passport. Therefore, the original ticket purchased would not have been accepted for travel in any event and a new ticket would have needed to be established.

Now, this was the first time the purchaser had heard of this inversion in the ticket. And he had already been permitted to travel to France on what would conceivably have been the same ticket. He admits to starting his reservation online, but the purchase was completed by phone, due to some confusion on the class of service designation to match his own so they might sit together. So he supplied correct information, we assume, to the Air France booking agent, as he probably knows his own son’s proper name. Not only that, on the outbound at Newark, a counter agent moved his son’s seats to be next to his.

So, how, by the time they reached Paris, did the reservation change? He advises that the Air France staff at Paris claimed there were five reservations in his son’s name, and that only payment information was missing. and that the staff conveyed to him the impression Air France did not believe he had paid for the ticket. Regardless of whether or not this was their intent, it is hardly an impression a company wants to leave a customer who bought business class seats.

He is demanding an explanation of how there was no problem on July 6th at Newark, but by July 11th at Paris there was. We wonder too. But as to his requests for compensation, it was, unfortunately, as we thought. Or as Air France writes:

Upon receipt of your initial letter dated July 12, our Refunds department first considered refunding the replacement one-way ticket. However, during this process, we received notification that you had also disputed the charge of your son’s original ticket and had obtained a full credit of that partially used ticket. Consequently, I have instructed the refund department to void the refund of the replacement ticket as this credit nullified our previous offer. I must stress that our offer was made in good faith, since Air France is in no way responsible for the error in your son’s ticket. Therefore, in light of the circumstances mentioned above, I must respectfully decline your request for further compensation and advise you that no further refund will be processed by Air France.

As we previously mentioned, once you initiate chargeback, the airline has no reason to discuss the matter with you. The credit card company will now decide compensation in the form of a refund. And, while we know it isn’t the two free tickets asked for, if he successfully receives a chargeback of not only the new ticket, but the original ticket in full, that essentially means that his son flew roundtrip in business class for free. That isn’t satisfaction, but that is more than we have seen many people get out of an airline for a disruption.

He does raise some points we hope he writes us back to see if Air France feels the need to clarify. Namely:

  • How can a ticket simultaneously be partially used and unacceptable for travel?
  • If several Air France agents, and not just a computer looked at this to issue the ticket, change the seat, check the passenger in at Newark…how did this not get noticed till Paris?

Air France likely considers the conversation at an end. But barring compensation, which is hard to get from a company under any circumstances, Air France can at least restore its confidence by explaining what happened to the satisfaction of his and our curiosities. Where did their system break down? Because even if the name was entered online incorrectly, the passenger still got all the way to Paris on it how exactly?