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Short form: the airline I'm traveling on managed to mess up every leg of my round trip (international trip), ultimately costing me most of a day at each end and also some money for expenses along the way. I'm not interested in vouchers, as I rarely fly and when I do why would I trust this carrier again?

What is the best strategy for obtaining financial compensation? Or is that just the way the world works now and I'm out of luck?

Longer form (per request in comments): they sold me an itinerary that was tighter than they claimed, the first plane was late, they rebooked the missed flight with a two-leg one, the first of those was late, and I arrived about 16 hours late. On the return trip the first flight was delayed 8 hours for a proposed ultimate delay of about 15 hours; I think I have that down to 10 after rebooking but I'm not home yet so we'll see. I will have had about $125 in incidental expenses because of the delay, and the ticket price was about $1700. Airline is Air Canada.

Blog posts with gory details: http://cellio.livejournal.com/930425.html and http://cellio.livejournal.com/931959.html . The urgency alluded to in the latter is a family medical situation that came up just before I was due to leave anyway. (It is only because of that that I got the less-late flight.)

  • Did you have a look and see what your travel insurance already covers for delays? Depending on what that is worth, depends on if you want to hassle the airline too, or just claim on your insurance and let them get it back from the airline – Gagravarr Jul 5 '12 at 17:21
  • good question. in my experience, unfortunately, the only recourse i had was to request lounge access for the night i had to spend in the airport due to messed up connections. seeing my haggard condition, they didn't resist too much – rs79 Jul 5 '12 at 19:57
  • You've already received your first two pieces of compensation - 1) knowledge that booking at 1 hour 12 minute connection in a foreign country (esp one where you need to clear immigration) is not smart, and 2) knowledge that international travel is often far from smooth. Anyone that has done any level of international travel learns both of these rules (either firsthand or via others) eventually... – Doc Jul 5 '12 at 23:16
  • @Doc, it has been educational, yes. I called and asked how long a layover was needed at that specific airport and they said an hour; on that basis I bought the ticket. I'd never been to that airport and was imagining something much smaller. (Also that, as promised, I'd have my boarding pass already.) I'm now wondering how much pad one needs to apply to whatever numbers airlines give you (how much time do you have to waste to be pretty sure you'll make your flight?), but that's a different question. :-) BTW, first solo international travel here (other was with a tour). – Monica Cellio Jul 6 '12 at 19:00
  • BTW, my rebooked return flight went through Newark, and I was at the gate 35 minutes after stepping off the first plane -- including passport control, baggage claim, customs, baggage recheck, TSA, and a train to another terminal. Arriving at 4AM probably helped, but they also seem to be a well-oiled machine, nothing like my experience in Toronto. – Monica Cellio Jul 6 '12 at 19:20
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Definitely talk to their customer relations people. While I've never had any reason to talk to their customer service, this is the kind of thing that their customer service employees are paid to handle. Definitely emphasize the travel delays, the incidental expenses that were incurred, and the fact that they booked you on tight connections. Also, look at their customer service statement. If you find inconsistency between their actions and stated policies, that gives you leverage for your complaint.

If you can only wrangle a voucher, don't lose hope—you can sometimes use vouchers to book flights on other airlines in the same alliance as Air Canada (Star Alliance, airlines like United and Lufthansa) so you wouldn't have to fly with AC again.

Side note: a few credit cards, especially airline branded and "premium" (think American Express Platinum, business cards, and the like) let you claim a rebate for up to $x amount of travel-related incidentals—check on that.

  • It wouldn't have occurred to me to invoke the power of Visa. Thanks; I'll see what they say. (Already planning to file a complaint with Air Canada.) – Monica Cellio Jul 6 '12 at 19:02
  • The auto-reply for their complaint form says a reply will take 15 business days. On Monday I mailed paper copies of the complaint to Air Canada's CEO, Chairman, and SVP of Customer Relations. I also called my credit-card company, who said I can dispute through them if I don't get any satisfaction from the airline. Now we wait. – Monica Cellio Jul 11 '12 at 2:15
  • In the end my credit-card company refunded half my money (working with the other bank, not Air Canada), Air Canada disputed, and I had to pay it back six months later. All I got from Air Canada was a voucher that expired in a bit under a year from the original travel date; they would not extend that so I could use it on a later trip (with another carrier in their network, though I didn't say that when I asked). So in the end I got no compensation, just some lessons for what to do differently in the future. (Which are valuable, but I was hoping for more. :-) ) – Monica Cellio Jan 31 '14 at 19:43

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