Airline changed flight date

This item appears on page 33 of the April 2008 issue.
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My domestic partner, Karen, in December ’06 found a delightful price for a flight from Miami to Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Feb. 9, 2007, through CheapOAir.com. The cost was $467 each plus a $50 agent fee for two round-trip tickets with Santa Bárbara Airlines (of Venezuela). We would overnight and the next day fly to San Cristobal, Galápagos Islands.

In January ’07 I e-mailed CheapOAir to obtain a telephone number for the airline. I received no response.

A friend in Miami located the airline’s number, and when I called them I was told that the connecting flight from Caracas had been canceled for the night of our flight. Our tickets had been rebooked automatically for Feb. 10.

That simply would not work, however, as we had a boat chartered out of San Cristobal and the date for that could not be changed.

On Feb. 5 I e-mailed CheapOAir for help. Again, I received no response.

The next day I reached Juan Amato of Santa Bárbara Airlines and explained our problem. He called Caracas and learned that the plane was out for service on Feb. 9. Santa Bárbara Airlines has no affiliation with any other carrier, so they were unable to put us on another airline. (According to the Internet, Santa Bárbara Airlines had a fleet of 17 planes.) (As of Feb. 25, 2008, and following a crash in Venezuela on Feb. 21, the airline has 10 planes. — Editor)

Mr. Amato told me he would move our reservation to Feb. 8 if we could change our American Airlines tickets from Denver to Miami by one day. (We were meeting friends in the Keys after our Galápagos trip, so we had a round trip from Denver.)

I telephoned American Airlines and learned that, in addition to the cost of the original tickets, the cost to change our tickets was an astonishing $464 each! I called other carriers without having any luck in finding an inexpensive way to get to Miami.

I telephoned Mr. Amato with the information. He volunteered to obtain a refund of $934 for us since the airline could not provide what had been purchased for Feb. 9. On Feb. 7 I sent him all of the requested information, and on March 18 I sent a follow-up letter. I received no response.

Karen and I purchased new round-trip tickets from Miami to Guayaquil, flying on Avianca Airlines (of Colombia). The booking and flights were good experiences.

CheapoAir.com charged us $25 each to book our original flight and has never responded to our pleas for help. We will not purchase tickets through CheapOAir.com again. (CheapOAir.com is not to be confused with the company CheapTickets.com, with which we have purchased many tickets and had very fine service.)

We have some recommendations for our traveling friends. Use proven booking agents/engines. Go with more major and reputable airlines, if possible. Do the complete trip as a total package, if possible.

A. WAYLAND JOHNSON

Byers, CO

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Santa Bárbara Airlines (Calle 3B, Edificio Tokay, Piso 3, La Urbana, Caracas, Venezuela) and to CheapOAir.com. The former did not reply, and CheapOAir.com replied as follows.

We are in receipt of your letter regarding our clients Anthony Johnson and Karen Scott.

Please be advised that CheapOAir.com does not control any airline’s flight operations. At the time of booking, all flights for Santa Bárbara Airlines were fully operational and on schedule. We have absolutely no control if there is a cancellation or delay of flights.

As per the booking receipt, it is recommended that all passengers reconfirm their flights at least 24 to 48 hours prior to departure.

We understand that the flight cancellation caused Mr. Johnson to modify his trip. However, it is the airline’s responsibility to accommodate the passenger in these circumstances. The airline is responsible to find an alternative flight-solution or offer a refund of the fare paid.

Please also be advised that most airlines’ telephone numbers are listed on our site or can be found elsewhere. Our records show that we were contacted only once by Mr. Johnson (by e-mail).

As Mr. Johnson correctly stated, the refund was promised to him by the airline directly. His contact has been solely with Santa Bárbara Airlines and not CheapOAir.com. However, CheapOAir.com will work with Santa Bárbara Airlines to expedite the refund.

MAURICE CHRISTIAN, Customer Service Manager, CheapOAir.com, 213 W. 35th St., Ste. 1201, New York, NY 10001

In follow-ups sent as recently as Jan. 11, 2008, Mr. Johnson told ITN, “On July 18 we faxed photo IDs and passports per Mr. Amato’s request, and he had assured us our request for a refund would be further reviewed. . . . Since this began, Santa Bárbara Airlines has been purchased. Supposedly, someone is wading through our claims, but I am not putting any more energy into this bad experience.

“Incidentally, Santa Bárbara Airlines’ number was not on the list on CheapOAir’s website.”

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My domestic partner, Karen, in December ’06 found a delightful price for a flight from Miami to Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Feb. 9, 2007, through CheapOAir.com. The cost was $467 each plus a $50 agent fee for two round-trip tickets with Santa Bárbara Airlines (of Venezuela). We would overnight and the next day fly to San Cristobal, Galápagos Islands.

In January ’07 I e-mailed CheapOAir to obtain a telephone number for the airline. I received no response.

A friend in Miami located the airline’s number, and when I called them I was told that the connecting flight from Caracas had been canceled for the night of our flight. Our tickets had been rebooked automatically for Feb. 10.

That simply would not work, however, as we had a boat chartered out of San Cristobal and the date for that could not be changed.

On Feb. 5 I e-mailed CheapOAir for help. Again, I received no response.

The next day I reached Juan Amato of Santa Bárbara Airlines and explained our problem. He called Caracas and learned that the plane was out for service on Feb. 9. Santa Bárbara Airlines has no affiliation with any other carrier, so they were unable to put us on another airline. (According to the Internet, Santa Bárbara Airlines had a fleet of 17 planes.) (As of Feb. 25, 2008, and following a crash in Venezuela on Feb. 21, the airline has 10 planes. — Editor)

Mr. Amato told me he would move our reservation to Feb. 8 if we could change our American Airlines tickets from Denver to Miami by one day. (We were meeting friends in the Keys after our Galápagos trip, so we had a round trip from Denver.)

I telephoned American Airlines and learned that, in addition to the cost of the original tickets, the cost to change our tickets was an astonishing $464 each! I called other carriers without having any luck in finding an inexpensive way to get to Miami.

I telephoned Mr. Amato with the information. He volunteered to obtain a refund of $934 for us since the airline could not provide what had been purchased for Feb. 9. On Feb. 7 I sent him all of the requested information, and on March 18 I sent a follow-up letter. I received no response.

Karen and I purchased new round-trip tickets from Miami to Guayaquil, flying on Avianca Airlines (of Colombia). The booking and flights were good experiences.

CheapoAir.com charged us $25 each to book our original flight and has never responded to our pleas for help. We will not purchase tickets through CheapOAir.com again. (CheapOAir.com is not to be confused with the company CheapTickets.com, with which we have purchased many tickets and had very fine service.)

We have some recommendations for our traveling friends. Use proven booking agents/engines. Go with more major and reputable airlines, if possible. Do the complete trip as a total package, if possible.

A. WAYLAND JOHNSON

Byers, CO

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Santa Bárbara Airlines (Calle 3B, Edificio Tokay, Piso 3, La Urbana, Caracas, Venezuela) and to CheapOAir.com. The former did not reply, and CheapOAir.com replied as follows.

We are in receipt of your letter regarding our clients Anthony Johnson and Karen Scott.

Please be advised that CheapOAir.com does not control any airline’s flight operations. At the time of booking, all flights for Santa Bárbara Airlines were fully operational and on schedule. We have absolutely no control if there is a cancellation or delay of flights.

As per the booking receipt, it is recommended that all passengers reconfirm their flights at least 24 to 48 hours prior to departure.

We understand that the flight cancellation caused Mr. Johnson to modify his trip. However, it is the airline’s responsibility to accommodate the passenger in these circumstances. The airline is responsible to find an alternative flight-solution or offer a refund of the fare paid.

Please also be advised that most airlines’ telephone numbers are listed on our site or can be found elsewhere. Our records show that we were contacted only once by Mr. Johnson (by e-mail).

As Mr. Johnson correctly stated, the refund was promised to him by the airline directly. His contact has been solely with Santa Bárbara Airlines and not CheapOAir.com. However, CheapOAir.com will work with Santa Bárbara Airlines to expedite the refund.

MAURICE CHRISTIAN, Customer Service Manager, CheapOAir.com, 213 W. 35th St., Ste. 1201, New York, NY 10001

In follow-ups sent as recently as Jan. 11, 2008, Mr. Johnson told ITN, “On July 18 we faxed photo IDs and passports per Mr. Amato’s request, and he had assured us our request for a refund would be further reviewed. . . . Since this began, Santa Bárbara Airlines has been purchased. Supposedly, someone is wading through our claims, but I am not putting any more energy into this bad experience.

“Incidentally, Santa Bárbara Airlines’ number was not on the list on CheapOAir’s website.”