My trip to Burgundy a couple months ago was amazing, but the trip would have been a total disaster had it not been for some quick action on the part of my friend, Vinocity Vicki and me. While every situation is different, here’s what we did. Hopefully, it may help you if your trip goes completely wrong, too.
Situation: Our Airline Went Under
Uh, yup. An extreme example, but our airline went under 72 hours before our flight. I found out from a post on The Points Guy. It was a mad dash to salvage our trip. At least we weren’t waiting to board the flight when we found out, like some passengers...
What We Did:
Fortunately, we were flying into Paris and there are a lot of airlines that fly to either Charles de Gaulle airport or Orly airport. We mobilized as soon as we found out, searching which airline could get us into Paris about the same time and for about the price. Once we found fares that we could live with, we bought the tickets. But, instead of flying into and out of Charles de Gaulle airport, we’d now be flying into and out of Orly airport, which actually worked out better for us since Orly was a shorter drive from Burgundy.
While simultaneously searching fares before buying, I called the “new” airline to see if it would honor the “old” airline's tickets maybe they would cross honor fares or at least help out with a discounted fare. Nope. However, that's somewhat contrary to what I read on Forbes. Some airlines (including the one we had just bought tickets on) were allegedly offering "repatriation fares". Here's the article.
After we bought the new flights, Vinocity Vicki and I called our respective credit card companies to find out how to file claims (That’s a post for another day….).
Because I also carry annual travel insurance, I checked with my insurance company about filing a claim. If my credit card company doesn’t honor my claim (the dispute is ongoing), I can file through my annual travel insurance policy. As of the writing of this post, I’m still waiting for my credit card refund to become "permanent".
What We Learned:
1. Be prepared. Know what airlines fly to your destination. If you have an unexpected situation like ours, you may be able to move fast and save your trip. Because we acted quickly, we snagged seats on another airline for a pretty good price. Just a few hours later, the flights we scored were sold out!
2. Check to see if you are flying into or out of the same airport as your original flight. We were still able to fly out of Newark, but instead of arriving into Charles de Gaulle airport, we'd arrive into Orly. That’s critical to remember if you need to change things like car reservations.
3. Check your credit card’s policy and/or your travel insurance policy about filing a claim. Certain exclusions may apply, for example, bankruptcy. Total airline failure? That may be a different story...
4. File as soon as you know there's a problem and be aware of the time limits for filing. The customer service representative at my credit card company stated that I had 60 days from the time of purchase to file my claim (That’s not exactly what my benefits statement says. See below).* I purchased my tickets in June with my credit card, but the flights weren’t until October. The airline went under 72 hours before our departure. Although I filed a claim with my credit card company immediately after I learned of the shutdown, the representative said that since the claim was made more than 60 days after the purchase, the claim was initially denied. I had to request that the credit card company reopen the matter. I mean really, how are you supposed to foresee the future, especially an airline shutting down?
* I checked my benefits, and it says, in part,
“ Call the Benefit Administrator… within sixty (60) days of loss or damage. [emphasis added] Please note: if you do
not give such notice within sixty (60) days after the loss or damage your claim may be denied. "
5. Document, document, document. In addition to writing down dates and times of people who I spoke to at the credit card company, I took screenshots from the airline’s website as soon as I found out about the shutdown. Taking a screen shot proved to be helpful when I filed my claim, since the credit card company actually asked if I had attempted to contact the airline. The screen shot was a statement from airline that said it had shut down and there was no way to contact them. No kidding! Side note: the airline website is now no longer available.
Situation: The Rental Car Company “Canceled” Our Reservation.
Once we rearranged our flights we had to rearrange our car rental. We were now flying into Orly airport, not Charles de Gaulle airport. We successfully re-reserved our rental car, but when we arrived at the car rental counter at Orly, the agent explained that because we failed to input our flight number and because the flight arrived later than scheduled, the rental company had no way to know that we would show up to retrieve our rental car. As a result, they considered us “no shows” and canceled our reservation. And, bonus - they were out of cars. Really?
What We Did:
I think the rental car company may have screwed up, but that didn’t help us get a car. So, Vinocity Vicki and I each quickly got into different car rental agency lines at the airport and waited to see who could get a car first. While we waited, we also looked online. In the end, we got a car that was significantly more expensive, but also cuter and “funner”.
What We Learned:
1. Input your flight number to the extent that you know. Again, I don't think it was our fault in this situation, but in the frenzy to reorganize our trip, it's possible, that we forgot to enter the updated flight info.
2. Find out what the rental car “no show” policy is.
3. Let it go. We were super annoyed that we paid almost twice as much for another rental car, but at least we had a car and we were determined not to let these issues ruin our trip.
We were able to act quickly to save our trip because we were prepared, sorta. Vinocity Vicki and I were prepared for airline delays and the odd rental car snafu, but we were not prepared for a total airline failure. We were lucky because I just happened to see the post from The Points Guy on the shutdown.
In the end, it was probably a combination of preparation and luck, but we made our trip happen and had a great time!
Have you had unexpected situations happen on your trips? What were they? I'd love to hear about them on Facebook or in Traveleidoscope's comment section!