British Airways says I was a no-show for my flight. But I wasn’t.

no-show for my flight

British Airways says Ross Smith and his family were no-shows for their flights from Los Angeles to London. Now they’re stuck with an $8,500 bill for their return tickets. Is there any way to get a refund?

Question

Before the pandemic, I visited Scotland with my family. It was an amazing trip, except for our return flights, which were booked through Orbitz.

American Airlines delayed the first segment of our outbound flight from Los Angeles to London. The airline rebooked us on another flight from London to Glasgow through its codeshare partner, British Airways.

The night before our return flight, I was shocked to learn that our flights had been canceled. Somehow, British Airways thought we had been a no-show for our outbound flights. It automatically canceled our returns. To get home, we had to rebook new tickets with Air France, which cost $8,500.

I would like this amount refunded, plus maybe something extra for the stress and anguish I went through when I found out my flights had been canceled the night before we were supposed to leave Glasgow. Can you help? — Ross Smith, Simi Valley, Calif.

Answer

Your flights to the U.K. should have been smooth and uneventful — not the chaos you describe. This is easily one of the most complicated cases in recent memory. Let me try to untangle this no-show flight case for you.

American Airlines caused the first problem when it delayed your first flight from Los Angeles to London. It looks like it failed to notify British Airways that you would be on the next flight to Glasgow. Unfortunately for the traveler, airlines automatically cancel the remaining itinerary when you’re a “no-show.”

It looks like Orbitz tried its best to fix the problem but couldn’t. This case is even more maddening because American Airlines has a codeshare agreement with British Airways, which is supposed to mean you’re dealing with the same airline. Instead American and British Airways played a game of ping-pong, bouncing you between their customer service departments as you tried to fix this.

How to contact American Airlines and British Airways

I list the names, numbers and email addresses of American Airlines, British Airways and Orbitz (owned by Expedia) on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. But I have to be honest: Reaching out to them probably wouldn’t have helped. This case confused everyone.

I can’t believe anyone allows airlines to operate a code-sharing agreement like this without some accountability. (It’s almost as crazy as they price their tickets.) To think that you might be on the hook for $8,500 for new plane tickets is just absurd!

After a lengthy investigation, which involved months of back-and-forth between my advocacy team, the airlines and your travel agency, we got to the bottom of it. It looks like American Airlines erroneously processed changes to your ticket. That sent the wrong message to British Airways — that you’d missed your flight — and it automatically canceling your return tickets.

Your case is an important reminder for the rest of us that if you miss a segment of your flight, you can’t just continue your itinerary. Your airline will cancel the rest of your flights because it assumes you’re a no-show, and it won’t tell you about it.

American Airlines offered you four $100 flight vouchers for the trouble. Orbitz kicked in another $200 in vouchers. British Airways refunded you for your return tickets and cut you a check the money you had to pay out of pocket for the Air France tickets.

Posted in The Travel Troubleshooter Tagged , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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