Sorry We Forgot About That $500 Change Fee
Q: My wife and I recently flew from
Our travel agent called Continental and was told that the LAN leg could be changed without any change fee because we weren't changing any Continental legs. He asked if they were certain that there would be no change fee and was assured that was the policy. He had another follow-up discussion with a Continental agent and was given the same information. We changed the flight.
Two months after our flight, our agent was advised that we should have been charged a change fee of
Today I called Continental and spoke to an international ticket agent. She said my agent had no recourse, and should have known the rules. When I asked her how Continental expects travel agents to know the rules, but not their own agents, I didn't get an answer. I asked to speak to a supervisor about my complaint, but was told "there is no point as the booking is no longer in our computer system."
If Continental had told us that there would be a
A: Continental shouldn't have charged your travel agent
Let's take these issues one at a time. The charge from Continental to your agent is referred to as a debit memo. Airlines send them to travel agents when they've booked a ticket incorrectly (or, as they often like to say, illegally). The problem with these memos is that they're arbitrary and sometimes unreasonable. If an agency doesn't pay the fine, it could lose its ability to write an airline ticket.
You're correct in your assessment of the airline's position. Airlines (not just Continental) expect agents to know their rules, and when they violate them, air carriers are quick to demand that they pay whatever penalty they see fit. I would have no problem with this, as long as airlines were clear about their rules. In your case, it appears Continental's employees misinformed your agent.
Should you have forked over
You might have cleared this up by sending a brief, polite email to Continental. I list the names of customer service executives on the On Your Side wiki (http://onyoursi.de/wiki/). A written query might have initiated a more thorough investigation, which might have revealed that the agents to whom you and your agent spoke gave you incorrect information about the change fee. Most airlines record every conversation in their call centers, and can listen to what an agent said and then make a determination.
I contacted Continental on behalf of you and your travel agent. Your agent contacted you shortly after that, saying that Continental had reversed the charges.
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