Doug Lee and his spouse, Nancy, had been dreaming for months a couple of journey to Eire with their greatest associates, a pair they’d recognized for nearly 40 years.
The 4 of them left early for the Halifax airport final August, spirits excessive whereas they listened to conventional Irish music within the automobile.
“We had been all singing … and laughing … and simply having fun with the morning,” mentioned Nancy.
The plan was to fly from Halifax to Toronto after which on to Dublin for an eight-day tour.
“We had been trying ahead to one thing that we had by no means seen earlier than,” mentioned Nancy, including that the journey was an extended overdue honeymoon they by no means had 50 years earlier. “There have been castles to go to, grand feasts and scenic views.”
However the gaiety got here to an abrupt halt when the group checked in on the Porter Airways counter.
Doug’s airline ticket mentioned “Doug” Lee, however the first title on his passport was three letters longer — it learn “Douglas” Lee.
“As a result of these two [names] didn’t match, they mentioned, ‘No, you may’t fly,’ ” mentioned Doug, who’d hardly ever been on a airplane in his 76 years. “That sort of caught me unexpectedly.”
Below federal regulation, the title on an airline passenger’s ticket should match the title on government-issued identification, comparable to a passport or driver’s licence.
What adopted was greater than 5 hours of scrambling, because the clock ticked all the way down to departure and Doug, Nancy and their associates tried desperately to get the issue fastened.
An air passenger rights advocate says he has seen comparable conditions too typically — airways that don’t right a minor subject, on the passenger’s expense.
“An airline can’t stroll away from a contract by means of a clerical error,” mentioned Air Passenger Rights advocacy group president Gábor Lukács. “Should you make a typo in your ticket, you may have the suitable to have it corrected.”
Lukács needs air travellers to know, because the busy vacation season approaches, that if there’s a minor subject with a ticket like this one, he says airways have an obligation to repair it.
“When there is no such thing as a doubt who the passenger is, there is no such thing as a doubt that it’s a real typo, the airline has to moderately co-operate,” he mentioned.
In the long run, Doug and Nancy mentioned a tearful goodbye to their associates, who needed to get on the airplane with out them.
As Doug was not allowed to board the airplane, his spouse stayed behind, too, so that they each missed out on a $10,000 journey they’d saved exhausting to take pleasure in.
“Seeing them go away was actually heartbreaking,” mentioned Nancy. “It simply appeared so unfair.”
The couple ultimately made the unhappy journey again to their residence in Souris, P.E.I., about an hour east of Charlottetown.
Flight was a ‘codeshare’
The difficulty, the couple found, was the truth that their buddy had booked the group’s tickets on what is known as a codeshare flight — basically an settlement between airways to promote seats on one another’s flights.
Codeshares have gotten more and more standard post-pandemic in line with aviation specialists, as airways need to fly to extra locations however are struggling employees shortages and airline manufacturing remains to be scuffling with provide chain points.
Though Doug’s ticket was bought by means of Air Transat, the codeshare flight was operated by Porter Airways.
Whereas he and his spouse pleaded with a number of Porter brokers on the airport, their associates and their buddy’s daughter spent hours making frantic calls to the journey company they booked with, and Air Transat brokers.
“That nearly appears like a joke,” mentioned Lukács. “What number of airline workers do you have to repair a reputation correction?”
At one level, an Air Transat agent on the cellphone mentioned Doug’s title had been corrected of their system — modified from “Doug” to “Douglas.”
With that agent on the road, Doug says his buddy handed the cellphone to the Porter agent on the counter, who mentioned she couldn’t see the correction on her display screen. Subsequently, Doug was nonetheless out of luck.
“When two airways enter right into a codeshare settlement, they’ve to make sure that their programs can discuss to one another,” mentioned Lukács.
“Having a system that doesn’t allow what’s mandatory means the system is damaged.”
Porter Airways’ director of communications, Brad Cicero, wrote in an electronic mail to Go Public that Air Transat was accountable to facilitate any corrections, because it “owns the ticket.”
In response to Cicero, the 2 programs are designed to “share particular info and fields related to bookings.” It isn’t clear why the Porter agent was unable to see Air Transat’s title correction on a display screen.
In an electronic mail to Go Public, Bernard Côté, director of communications for Air Transat, wrote that each Air Transat and Porter are “within the means of updating procedures” in order that passenger names might be up to date between the 2 airways.
He didn’t reply when requested why a transparent system of communication between the 2 airways was not in place earlier than promoting tickets in a codeshare association.
“You actually should query how come these airways held out to the general public that they’re a codeshare and capable of deal with passengers,” mentioned Lukács, “when their programs are so disjointed that one thing so simple as a reputation correction couldn’t be carried out.”
Reserving made by means of FlightHub
In an electronic mail to Go Public, Air Transat pointed a finger on the on-line reserving journey agent, FlightHub.
“On this specific case, the journey company ought to have made the correction … earlier than the departure date and reissued the ticket to Mr. Lee and his spouse,” wrote Côté.
The Lees say they’d no concept there was an issue till they tried to examine in.
When reached on the cellphone on the airport, a customer support rep for FlightHub mentioned it was too near the flight’s departure to right the title on the ticket. The journey company repeated this reply to Go Public.
Lukács says it’s unlucky FlightHub couldn’t make the repair, however that with hours earlier than departure, it was as much as the airways concerned to unravel the issue.
“Airways ought to do every thing of their energy to make sure that they and the passenger collectively can meet the principles,” he mentioned.
‘Egregious customer support’
At one level, Nancy says Doug talked about to the Porter agent that he’d labored as an RCMP officer for over 30 years earlier than he retired. The agent then requested if Doug had a authorities paycheque with him, mentioned Nancy.
“Who carries round a paycheque?” she mentioned. “Even when Doug wasn’t retired.”
The couple additionally provided to pay for one more seat for Doug on the airplane, utilizing his full first title, to be able to salvage their journey.
“She mentioned ‘There’s no empty seats, it’s full up,’ ” mentioned Nancy. “I mentioned, ‘There’s two empty seats! Our empty seats.”
That didn’t work, both. Porter informed Go Public it “doesn’t have the flexibility to cancel a reserving made … for one more airline.”
The couple’s frustrations are echoed by buyer retention specialist and enterprise coach Anne Miner.
“This [case] is especially egregious,” mentioned Miner, reacting to the truth that the airways ought to have been capable of repair the issue, and didn’t. “If the group was my shopper, I might be letting them know that that was very poorly dealt with.”
Miner says Air Transat and Porter must make “some critical effort” to appease Doug and Nancy Lee, if solely to guard their reputations.
After Go Public contacted Air Transat, the airline agreed to refund the price of the couple’s tickets — about $2,200 — “as a gesture of goodwill.”
It declined to compensate the couple for the virtually $8,000 they misplaced to the Irish tour firm.
Lukács calls the supply “an insult.”
“Air Transat must be providing to compensate the passenger totally for all his losses and make him entire,” he mentioned. “That’s simply what Air Transat has to do when it so extremely badly messes up.”
Nancy Lee says that as seniors, it’ll be a very long time earlier than she and her husband can save up sufficient once more for a visit just like the one they’d deliberate to Eire.
“I would really like [Air Transat and Porter] to do the suitable factor,” she mentioned. “Everyone knows what the suitable factor is.”
Doug Lee says he, too, feels wronged and would really like full compensation.
“It’s exhausting to get previous this one.”
Submit your story concepts
Go Public is an investigative information phase on CBC-TV, radio and the online.
We inform your tales, make clear wrongdoing and maintain the powers that be accountable.
You probably have a narrative within the public curiosity, or for those who’re an insider with info, contact [email protected] together with your title, contact info and a short abstract. All emails are confidential till you resolve to Go Public.
Learn extra tales by Go Public.
Examine our hosts.