The airline made a booking error and sent me to the wrong place. Do I have the right to sue?
There have been a number of news stories in the last few days about Dr. Edward Gamson, who was set to travel to Granada, Spain, but due to a booking error, wound up in the country of Grenada…in the Caribbean. He made his reservation with British Airways by phone, which has caused many to suggest the problem would not have occurred had he purchased his ticket online. Maybe, but there are circumstances that could necessitate a phone reservation, even if you are tech literate: websites go down, ISPs have issues, you may live or visit somewhere that does not have access to the internet. More relevant is what we can do to protect ourselves against errors. They happen no matter the reservation method, whether due to verbal miscommunication, common daily distractions (these seem to increase on a weekly basis), typos, or even fickle family plans.
In most cases, airlines and booking agencies allow travelers to correct errors if brought to their attention within 24 hours. So, when you receive your confirmation email, don’t simply scan it. Scrutinize it. Are the dates correct? Are the times correct? Is there an adequate amount of time to make any connection? Is your name spelled correctly and does it match your ID and/or passport? Are the cities and airports correct? If you won’t receive a confirmation via email, call the airline and verify all aspects of the reservation. Even if you made your reservation with an agency, it’s always best to call the airline directly to make sure you are properly ticketed. We would also suggest, when you have a flight itinerary that involves more than one airline, particularly if it’s international, that you verify your flights with each respective airline, even if you receive a confirmation email without errors. A bit tedious, perhaps, but we’ve seen many codeshare ticketing problems that have resulted in last-minute change fees and/or stranded travelers.
What about cases like Dr. Gamson’s, when the error is so small that it could easily be missed, even with careful scrutiny? We don’t all spell well and are probably even less adept in foreign languages. Apparently, Dr. Gamson’s confirmation only stated the destination as “Grenada” and its airport symbol, GND. I think many of us might not notice that troubling “e” (although we might wonder why people keep using a long “a” every time they say Grah-nay-dah, rather than a schwa, as in Grah-nah-dah). Should British Airways include more information when it sends a confirmation? Seems like it would be a wise decision, not just to help customers, but to also avoid similar circumstances in the future, which are problems companies would prefer to avoid. On the other hand, he was ticketed to fly to “Grenada,” not “Granada,” and the airport symbol was correct. He had the information he needed to verify whether he was headed to the Mediterranean or the Caribbean. He also had the time to correct the problem. In the end, we may never know who is ultimately responsible for the letter “e” and Dr. Gamson’s unfortunate landing. What we do know, however, is that if we take the extra time, we can usually correct mistakes that would carry us four thousand miles away from our intended target