A long-awaited trip to Ireland turned into a disappointing ordeal for Doug Lee, 76, and his wife Nancy, residents of Souris, P.E.I., due to a minor discrepancy in Doug’s airline ticket. The couple’s dream, which doubled as a belated honeymoon 50 years in the making, was halted at Halifax airport last August when a three-letter difference between Doug’s ticket and his passport prevented them from boarding their flight.
A Discrepancy with Dire Consequences
Doug’s airline ticket, issued for a codeshare flight operated by Porter Airlines and booked through Air Transat, bore the name “Doug” Lee. However, his passport read “Douglas” Lee. This inconsistency led to their denial of boarding, a decision firmly rooted in federal law requiring a match between a passenger’s ticket and their government-issued identification.
According to Doug Lee, the shock was profound. “That kind of caught me by surprise,” he said, recalling the surprise and frustration of the moment.
Efforts to Rectify the Situation
The couple, along with their friends, engaged in a frantic, more than five-hour long effort to resolve the issue before the flight’s departure. Their plight was compounded by the complexity of their codeshare flight arrangement — a growing trend among airlines post-pandemic, as noted by aviation experts. Despite efforts, including a correction in Air Transat’s system and numerous appeals to airline staff, the correction was not reflected on Porter Airlines’ end.
Air Passenger Rights Advocate Weighs In
Air Passenger Rights advocacy group president Gábor Lukács emphasized the responsibility of airlines to correct minor issues like this. “An airline can’t walk away from a contract by way of a clerical error,” Lukács said, underscoring the need for airlines to cooperate reasonably in such situations.
A Heartbreaking Outcome
The resolution never came, and Doug and Nancy Lee had to bid a tearful farewell to their friends, missing out on the $10,000 trip. Nancy Lee described the moment as “heartbreaking” and “unfair.”
Communication Breakdown Among Airlines
Brad Cicero, Porter Airlines’ director of communications, indicated that Air Transat was responsible for facilitating corrections as it “owns the ticket.” However, Bernard Côté, director of communications for Air Transat, noted that both airlines are updating procedures for name changes. This statement, however, did not clarify why such a system was not in place earlier.
The Role of the Booking Agent
FlightHub, the online travel agency through which the tickets were booked, was also implicated. Air Transat suggested that FlightHub should have made the correction. However, the agency indicated that it was too close to the flight’s departure to amend the ticket when contacted by the Lees at the airport.
Expert Opinion on Customer Service
Customer retention specialist Anne Miner described the situation as “egregious,” criticizing the poor handling by the airlines. She suggested that Air Transat and Porter need to make significant efforts to rectify the situation and protect their reputations.
Partial Compensation and Ongoing Frustration
Following inquiries by CBC News’ Go Public, Air Transat agreed to refund the cost of the couple’s tickets, approximately $2,200, as a goodwill gesture. This, however, fell short of covering the near $8,000 loss for the Irish tour. Lukács called the offer “an insult,” advocating for full compensation to make the couple whole.