I was supposed to be on a flight from Columbia MO to Dallas to JFK to Delhi, India. It turns out the flight from Dallas to JFK, AA998, was so delayed that I would have missed the flight from JFK to Delhi under normal circumstances.
There was a small delay with my Covid form for entry in New Delhi airport. American Airlines did not notify me that I needed to fill out this form although they will argue I needed to do this myself.
The form required me to compress images and upload passport photos in pdf, compress images of vaccination details and then upload pdfs, and this took some time given that I had only arrived 80 minutes before departure. However, I still got this done 30 minutes before departure today and got an email confirmation at that time from Delhi Airport at 11:28 AM (The form was also conflicting in that we know for a fact that vaccinated travelers don't need Covid test to get there, but still it forced us to upload something for a RTPCR document). The flight was supposed to leave at 11:59 AM. They refused to let me board this flight, saying it's too late. Just as they did so, I found another couple of passengers a couple of minutes later who did get a boarding pass and were able to get through to the flight. It was such a small airport that it takes 1 minute to get to the gate after security, and security itself was completely empty then. I am not sure if they had overbooked the flight. The boarding had not even started when I was near the security gate.
The other argument I made initially with them was that since I was having some difficulty uploading images of the documents I all had with me in person, I could show them that I did have all the documents that Delhi needed, and I could spend a few minutes in Dallas or JFK compressing and uploading the files and getting a confirmation email from Delhi. This seemed a reasonable argument since I was only traveling domestically up to that point. They can say it would have needed them to contact someone in JFK to ask to see my form uploaded, and that would have been extra work for them, but in that case they could have made separate tickets in Columbia itself, treating the first leg as a domestic journey.
I was eventually told to get on the next flight to Chicago and figure it out from there. In the counters at Chicago, they almost booked me on the next flight to London in a few hours through their code share, but then at the last moment refused when they came to know that I had missed the flight from Columbia MO due to this delay with the form.
They will only put me on a flight that leaves 24 hours later. They also refused to give me a hotel voucher either.
I don't know if the flight to Dallas from Columbia MO was overbooked. Even then it was grossly unfair to not let me board when the boarding would not even have started until 11:40 AM. For the flight that I later took from Columbia MO to Chicago, the boarding only began 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. I had to be on wait for literally 2 hours 30 minutes with an American Airlines representative, before they booked me for my flight to Chicago.
Should I have been entitled to at least a hotel voucher, if not a faster route out of the US, which they stopped at the last moment? Even if I was on the Dallas flight, I would have missed the JFK flight to India because the Dallas-JFK flight was delayed.
What recourse do I have? Because of this 24 hour delay, I am also missing my connecting flight in India, and thus losing $130 on that booking as well as the cost of a night's stay at Delhi. In addition I am having to pay for hotel and ground transport in Chicago, all with a delay of over 24 hours.
I would be grateful to know what avenues for redressal I have. I apologize if this is not meant to be a complaint forum. Would they be able to get away by claiming it was my fault to begin with, when I know for a fact that a couple of people were allowed to board the flight even after I had tried to show them the Delhi self-reporting document (and I didn't make a case near the security gate)?
My specific query is, can I ask for a refund or some form of compensation? The issue with the self reporting form(which I now understand is something they don't even bother about in Delhi airport) was not something so serious that (a) they shouldn't have let me board the flight when probably the flight had not even arrived in such a small airport (b) and to have my schedule delayed by over 24 hours, (c) to have me pay for hotel in transit and have to change onwards bookings in India for substantial costs.
Edit: It's funny that since a long time has passed, I will have to completely fill out a new form on the Delhi airport website, mentioning the details of my new flight tickets. So even more than before, the objection for not letting me board yesterday is ridiculous, since I would have to repeat the process today again. It seems they have an extremely poor knowledge of how the process of filling out this self declaration form works, which I won't blame them a lot for.
Part of my new trip is through British Airways now, and when you try to check in online, BA's website very prominently and specifically alerts that travelers to India have to fill out this specific self-declaration form on the New Delhi airport website. I had been looking many times at the AA website yesterday and earlier, and they never mentioned this anywhere during the check in process. This is why, like most normal passengers, I went to the Columbia regional airport with 80 minutes in hand, and not with 3 hours in hand which would be very strange, and when, who knows, they may have been looking at me weirdly (as has happened before in that airport in a different context) for coming in so early when no counters were open.
Edit: It's useless to argue any more here given the tone and tenor of the responses; but I checked the website of Columbia regional airport, and it states as anyone can clearly see: "Airline ticket counters close 30 minutes prior to departure times. Passengers which arrive 45 minutes or less prior to departure times listed on their tickets may be denied boarding by the airlines and TSA."
I had the form ready exactly 31 minutes prior to boarding,as I have stated, and even after that, they allowed a couple of people through. I didn't arrive 45 minutes or less prior, I was there for half an hour with them.This adds another dimension to the clown show