- Andrew Spector said his family had been told there were no tickets for the flight home from Nigeria.
- Spector said United had not issued business class tickets to its partner Lufthansa.
- He said the family had to spend over $4,000 to return home two days later than planned.
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Andrew Spector, Onyi Iweala and their three children hoped the answer would be a lost bag while traveling from Durham, North Carolina to Abuja, Nigeria.biggest travel problemfrom their 10-day family trip.
However, when the family of five arrived at Abuja airport on the day of their flight home, they found that they had no tickets, even though they had receipts for them.
Spector said it took two days, three flights and $4,000 to get home.
A month before the family's flight, Andrew Spector discovered a missing link in their itinerary
According to receipts obtained by Insider, Spector purchased five tickets from United Airlines in mid-March for $10,181. The family was due to fly in from Abuja in August on United's partner airline Lufthansa.
The route would take them from Abuja to Frankfurt, Germany. Before thislong plane flightthe family spent $3,450 to upgrade their seats to business class.
From Frankfurt, they planned to take a United flight to Chicago, Illinois. For this flight, the family upgrades to Premium Economy for $1,375.
After arriving in Chicago, the family was to travel to Durham, North Carolina, where they flew again with United Airlines.
On July 1, Spector received an email (seen by Insider) detailing the schedule change. He said he noticed that the Abuja to Frankfurt flight had disappeared from their itinerary, so he logged into his Lufthansa account. He said it was his confirmed booking andimproved business class seats. He thought the family was ready.
A few days before the flight from Abuja on August 11, Spector said he called United because he was concerned that his family would miss their scheduled connection due to delays caused by the flight schedule change due tomilitary coup in Niger. Spector said he would see if he could reschedule a Lufthansa flight to an earlier date.
Spector said a United customer service representative told him they couldn't change his flight without incurring a fee. In a statement to Insider, a United representative said the family contacted the airline days before the flight.
Spector said he stuck to his family's scheduled flight and that in the event that he missed the Frankfurt-Chicago connection due to delays, he believed United would be responsible for finding another flight home.
The family arrived at the airport and found that there were no tickets
When the family arrived at the check-in counter at Abuja Airport on August 11, a Lufthansa agent told them that United had not provided Lufthansa with a ticket number and therefore the airline could not issue family tickets.
"The ticket sales manager says, 'The problem is you don't have a ticket,'" Spector said.
Spector said he was confused and shocked. "We booked these flights in March," he said. "We have the seats, I have the reservation number, I have the receipt."
The Lufthansa office said there was nothing the airline could do and Spector was asked to contact United. However, Spector said United told him the opposite: United could do nothing and had to talk to Lufthansa. Lufthansa did not respond to an Insider's request for comment.
"It felt like we were in a strange circle where everyone was adamant that there was nothing they could do about it," Iweala, the mother of the family, told Insider about the United and Lufthansa employees we contacted.
Spector said everyone he spoke to on the phone wanted to help, but United told him there was nothing they could do to help because they did not have the power to bypass the airline's computer systems. "United has such restrictive computer systems that it simply wouldn't do what it had to do to fix the problem," Spector said.
"It was extremely frustrating," he added.
The family was at a dead end. After several hours of phone calls, no one was able to find a solution. By then, the airport was closed for the day, so the family returned to Iweala's mother's house.
United found another way home to family
"We proposed several options and eventually rebooked the family to Turkish Airlines," a United representative said.
The family's new route departed the next day from Abuja to Istanbul. From Istanbul they traveled to Munich, then to Washington, and finally to Durham.
The family successfully boarded a flight to Istanbul, where they had an hour and a half stopover before boarding a flight to Munich. However, Spector said that due to delays caused by the military coup in Niger, the family missed their connecting flight from the Turkish city. "An hour and a half will inevitably fail," he said.
Spector said a Turkish Airlines employee originally suggested the family take a round-the-world trip, but the family vetoed the idea. Ultimately, the airline booked a flight for the family from Istanbul to New York and then on to Durham, Spector said.
Spector said the family lost $4,000 and spent two extra days returning home
On August 14, Spector said the family returned home two days later than expected.
In total, he said, the family spent more than $10,000 to return home from Abuja - $4,000 more than originally planned.
Spector said he hoped to get a refund for the entire flight, but would like at least $4,000 back, including hotel expenses in New York and Istanbul, seat upgrades for flights they didn't board, and return transportation costs. to and from your hotel in Long Island, New York.
In addition, Spector requested a refund of the baggage fees for the Turkish Airlines flight. Spector said the family spent $644 to return the bags home - a fee that would have been paid had they boarded the original flight, said the father-of-three. Turkish Airlines did not respond to an Insider's request for comment.
In a statement to Insider, a United representative said the company had "refunded all reseat fees for changed flights" and that baggage fees were based on the airline, in this case Turkish Airlines.
On Tuesday, Spector said he had applied for a refund but had not received any money. He also stated that there was no charge or refund for a premium economy family upgrade on his bank statement, and that he had not received a refund for a business class upgrade for the original flight they were supposed to take from Abuja to Frankfurt.
Both Spector and Iweala stated that they wanted to know why this could not have been prevented or addressed after bringing the issue to United and Lufthansa's attention. According to the couple, people they spoke to at both airlines understood the problem, but couldn't find a solution in the computer systems.
"For me, it's the most important thing that stands out," Iweala said. "They're desperate to help, but they're excited."
For future flights, the couple stated that they would stay with one airline.
They're not the only ones whose travel plans have been thwarted by a booking problem
This summer Trevor Boffone, a teacher from Texas, told Insider that he was part of ita group of 31 students, teachers and parents got stuck in Japanand had to travel around the world for 48 hours to get home.
The group completed anine-day trip to Japanorganized by EF Tours. They flew from Osaka Domestic Airport to Tokyo with Japan Airlines, partner airline American Airlines, then flew to Dallas and finally to Houston.
However, when they arrived at the Japan Airlines check-in desk in Osaka, they were told they had no tickets.
Boffone said the flights were booked through EF Tours and the group had proof of payment for the paid flights when they showed up at the airport.
In a statement to Insider, a Japan Airlines representative said the travel agent had requested tickets, "but unfortunately the board was already full" and "wasn't able to make reservations for passengers." The representative added that in his opinion "the travel agency was aware of this situation".
Following the announcement, Japan Airlines said the group had no confirmed booking. There is a possibility that the group had a ticket but not a reservation," the spokesman said, refusing to elaborate on differences between the two.
In a statement to Insider, an EF Tours representative said: "We regret that the group's flights were disrupted due to what appears to be a miscommunication regarding bookings between American Airlines and Japan Airlines. Group flights are always listed in the EF Tours booking information, which has been confirmed in our system.” American Airlines did not respond to an Insider's request for comment.
Wparent whose son was travelinghe told Insider he felt "thrown into the unknown". As for Boffone, he said he wanted itspent money at the hotelwhile stationary.
Do you have a travel nightmare you want to share? Insider wants to hear from you. Send an e-mail to Mhumphries@insider.com.
Editor's Note: August 23, 2023 - Following publication, a spokesperson for Japan Airlines told Insider that the group had no "confirmed booking" despite having tickets. The article has been updated to reflect the latest statement.