ConsumerWatch: Airline Travel Vouchers Come With Strings Attached

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An airplane lands at nightfall. (CBS)

An airplane lands at nightfall. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – When an airline makes a mistake, they often offer travel vouchers as a form of compensation, but these vouchers may cost customers more than it’s worth to use them.

The Lyla family found that out the hard way when they realized they would have to pay the airline that ruined their vacation $2,000 in order to take advantage of the vouchers given to them.

The family’s dream vacation quickly turned into a nightmare after a US-Airways computer glitch caused them to miss their vacation.

After researching for six months, Andrea Lyla and her family had dreams of seeing the rain forest, visiting the Bacardi rum distillery, and exploring the port in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Instead the family of four got stranded in Miami, and by the time they made it to their destination it was time to go.

“We were stuck in Miami for two days and our luggage [was] already in San Juan. I never felt so filthy in my life,” said Lyla. She said the airlines refused to offer them food vouchers and she had to beg them for a hotel room while they were stranded in Miami.

Although US-Airways eventually agreed to pay for their cancelled hotel room in Puerto Rico, the two-day delay caused them to miss their entire San Juan vacation.

“I said, ‘why don’t you offer me the e-voucher for me to go back to San Juan’ and they said ‘no,’” recalled Lyla.

The airline initially offered the family four $100 vouchers for their troubles. After ConsumerWatch got involved, it increased the vouchers to $150 and paid for their cancelled San Juan hotel. What the family really wanted was for US-Airways to pay for a return flight to Puerto Rico.

US-Airways apologized for the combination of unforeseen events and said, “We have provided $600 in US-Airways travel vouchers for the Lyla family for their inconvenience.” (See the company’s full response below).

Travel attorney Al Anolik said it only costs the airlines about $25 for every 2,000 miles it flies a passenger, so by compensating for damages with a partial voucher, US-Airways is actually making money

“The airline messed up, their responsible for the resulting damages,” said Anolik.

The Lylas would have to pay the airline, nearly $2,000 dollars to use its consolation vouchers to get back to San Juan. That’s more than they would spend to fly to San Juan without the vouchers on another airline.

Anolik said the Lylas can sue for a return trip in small claims court.

US Airways Full Statement:

We apologize to Mrs. Lyla and her family for their recent travel experience from San Francisco to San Juan Puerto Rico, via Denver and Philadelphia. Due to a combination of unforeseen events that occurred on a complex itinerary, Mrs. Lyla and her family experienced travel disruptions that delayed their arrival into San Juan and created additional expenses for the Lyla family. US Airways Customer Relations has been in contact with Mrs. Lyla and US Airways has reimbursed her for hotel expenses while in Miami and has agreed to reimburse her for additional costs incurred as a result of not having her luggage in Miami. We have also provided $600 in US Airways travel vouchers for the Lyla family for their inconvenience. We thank Mrs. Lyla for her business and, again, apologize for her inconvenience. Thanks again.

 

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

 

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