Code Share - Mutual Responsibility or Mutual Deniability

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Apr 23, 2018
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#1
Hello Forum Team,

How can I get Iberia executives to acknowledge my emails? My problem involves an Iberian-American Airlines code share ticket. American appears to want to help me (maybe?), but the two Iberia executives in Christopher’s contact list have not even acknowledged receipt of my emails over the 25-day period I have tried to correspond with them.

So, I am seeking advice or assistance with two matters:
  1. Can you help me establish a dialog with Iberian officials who have the power to make hopefully favorable decisions in my case? If I can accomplish that, I may be able to satisfactorily resolve my main goal, which is…
  2. Given the rather unique technological circumstances surrounding my case, which I describe below, can you advise or help me get a corrected ticket without incurring horrendous additional costs in fees and fare differentials? Since I’ve been pursuing the correction since the day I bought the ticket, I would be willing to pay a reasonable fee for the change, but not have to re-book at today’s much-higher prices.
I have prepared a complete narrative of all the facts and steps so far, but, for the sake of conciseness in this first post, I’ll try to stick to the most significant points of the problem. (It is still very long, for which I apologize.)

Here, in summary, is my tale of woe.

On March 22, I purchased an SFO-CDG-SFO ticket on Iberia Airlines’ website for flights entirely operated by American Airlines but for which two of the four segments, the trans-Atlantic ones, carried Iberia flight numbers. (The outbound connection is at ORD, the inbound at DFW.) In short, I have a code-share ticket. I purchased the ticket on Iberia’s site for $678 because American’s site offered the exact same flight for over $1,100. (And their website also shows the trans-Atlantic segments with Iberia flight numbers.)

My ticket has an incorrect middle name. It says, (as an example) “John Smith Smith,” instead of “John Jones Smith.” I believe this occurred because Iberia’s Passenger Details form asks for “Name,” “Surname/Last Name,” and “Second Surname.” I believe this is in accordance with the Spanish naming custom of using both the father’s and mother’s first surnames. Nowhere does the form ask for a middle name or initial. Because I don’t have a second last name, I left that field blank; I didn’t put my middle name anywhere.

It seems that the system automatically repeated my last name into the field that I had left blank. I can’t say with 100% certainty that Iberia’s system did it, or whether my Google Chrome auto-fill feature did it, although if the latter, I feel I would have noticed it because the feature turns the data fields bright yellow. In hindsight, I probably should have populated all three fields in the same sequence as my full name, but It would have been helpful if Iberia had provided guidance for those of us who do not have Spanish-custom names. All they would have had to do was add “or middle name” to the descriptor of whichever field was the correct one.

I recognized the mistake when I received Iberia’s confirmation email shortly after pulling the trigger on the purchase. (I don’t know if I should have been able to see it before pulling the trigger, because I can’t recall if any of the subsequent pages showed my name. If they did, my bad. However, on seeing the email, I immediately called American’s customer service desk to request a name correction. I called American because they were the ones who would be checking me in and issuing boarding passes. American told me that only Iberia can change the name because they issued the ticket on their stock. And I’m sure you know what happened next. The Iberian agent told me that they can’t make the change because American would be operating the flights. Joseph Heller, here we come! (But really? I would have thought that if airlines agree to share profits, they would also agree to help each other out in solving problems. Silly me!)

The Iberian agent did tell me that, because I was in the 24-hour period, I could cancel and re-book. I checked the website while we were still on the phone and saw the price had gone up to around $950 in less than 24 hours, so I declined, thinking that I had time to pursue a sane and sensible simple name correction. My second bad!

I followed up with American (again, because they would be the only employees I would be interacting with during my flights) by emailing Christopher Elliott’s listed primary executive contact. Mr. Bentel immediately handed my case to an officer who responded within 24 hours. I believe he really tried to help me over the next few weeks.

According to him, Iberia uses two different reservation systems for their code-share tickets, neither of which is the system that American uses. Thus, three reservation systems are in play for this flight operated by a single carrier. Moreover, apparently, the Oneworld desks for both airlines have to get involved. (I had never heard of Oneworld before this case, and I still don’t know how it operates. Is it a sort-of clearing house for code share transactions?) Apparently, this creates technological problems for even minor changes to data in the ticket. American’s emails describe these thoroughly, while placing responsibility on Iberia to fix it. America has also told me that they cannot do as Air New Zealand did, and provide instructions to their airport personnel to issue corrected boarding passes.

In his final email, the American agent gave me their bottom line – “When I called Iberia, the agent reiterated their stance on name corrections - name corrections are only permitted for tickets with all flights operated by Iberia. Neither Iberia phone agents nor airport agents would be able to circumvent that. Your ticket (xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx) still shows “John Smith Smith”. Iberia also advised that check-in would be impossible without a matching ticket and passport. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that the airport agent can issue a boarding pass with the correct name “John Jones Smith.”

I then wrote to the first Iberia contact on Christopher’s list. After ten days with no reply, I wrote to the second, higher executive. Now, more than fifteen days after that email, I have received no acknowledgement from Iberia. My emails were not returned as undeliverable (and I did not include any attachments) so I must assume Iberia has chosen to ignore my plight.

Before deciding to ask for your help, I also researched the following, which produced some nuggets that might be worthy of your consideration:
  1. I purchased the Allianz travel insurance policy offered on Iberia’s website. My reading of the coverage indicates I am covered for cancellation/interruption coverage, but I assume that’s only if it’s due to the airline’s action or failure to act. Could this cover possible technological errors?
  2. I read carefully both airline’s conditions of carriage. The Iberia one states, under “Conditions of Contract,” “An air carrier issuing a ticket for carriage over the lines of another air carrier does so only as its Agent.” Could this be interpreted to mean that Iberia, as the agent, must comply with instructions from American, the principal? If so, maybe American can instruct Iberia to make the name change or otherwise solve the problem?
  3. I researched the TSA’s Secure Flight program and their security checkpoint boarding pass review requirements and found they are not directly related to each other. I called the TSA information desk agent, who explained the difference and offered that minor name discrepancies should not pose a problem for the TSA security agents checking my boarding pass against my passport. They simply want to know that I am who I say I am. However, I don’t have this in writing, and one cannot be sure that the TSA agent I present myself to at the airport would consider my error to be a minor discrepancy.
  4. Since Iberia sold the ticket, might there be any EU regulations that might apply in my favor?
  5. There appear to be five Iberia offices in the USA, all located at airports. Might they have any personnel who can help in the absence of responses from the Madrid executives on Christopher’s contact list? (The Iberia website lists only street addresses for the USA offices, no emails or phone numbers.)
To conclude, I have to acknowledge, I made some mistakes:
  1. I didn’t think through my confusion about the customer data input screen. I should have called the airline for clarification before proceeding with the purchase.
  2. I didn’t double-check my name on the subsequent screens before pulling the trigger on the purchase. (However, I don’t know whether the subsequent screens continued to display my name.)
  3. I perhaps did not assign enough weight to Christopher Elliott’s advice that there can sometimes be problems with code-share tickets (although I’ve flown Delta/Air France code-shares several times without problems).
  4. I didn’t take Iberia’s advice and cancel and re-book the flights within the 24-hour grace period (because the ticket would have been about 50% more expensive). I acknowledged this in my emails to Iberia. American advised me that Iberia might still be willing to cancel and refund my ticket, even though it is non-refundable.
There are still almost eight weeks before my departing flight. I think there is still enough time to get this problem solved. To date, I have simply asked the airlines to correct my ticket, but given my possibly partial culpability in this fiasco, I am willing to compromise to some extent on fees to make the correction. However, I can’t afford to abandon my $678 ticket without a refund and buy a new one at today’s prices of around $1,500. That would amount to a total cost of almost four times what I contracted for. And, after all, I’m not trying to change my flights; I’m only trying to get a clerical error corrected.

So there you have it. How can I get Iberia to at least acknowledge my problem? And is there anything else I can do at this point? I’ll appreciate any advice or advocacy the team can provide.

Many thanks!
 
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jsn55

Verified Member
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#2
I'm so sorry for your plight. I wish we had a magic wand for cases like yours. We see them far too often. I really tried to follow your narrative, and ... essentially, your name is wrong on your tix, right? You need to correct it. Please forgive me if I'm missing some facts.

Your emails have been ignored because nobody is willing to read it all. Iberia is not communicating with you because they've already offered you a solution and you declined it. It's all in your record. Eventually you have to cancel and rebook under your correct name. What I would do is make a concise, chronological list using of the facts. Admit that you erred, and ask them for an exception to their rules. If you can get someone to read your complaint, you might get some help. But don't forget that every week that goes by will see an increase in the fare.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#3
No Eu regulations cover user error, particularly when you had the 24 hour rule to correct this.

Chrome autofills too often, if you type quickly the yellow disappears.

I would not even try to answer the "as agent" issue, that would take a team of lawyers.

Insurance does not cover user mistake unless one has cancel for any reason insurance.

The problem is that you did decline the normal channel which is cancel in 24 hours to rebook; this is basically shooting yourself in the foot; that is precisely why the 24 hour rule exists, and you chose not to use it.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#4
Thanks, JSN55 and Neil for your responses. I have concluded that your advice is my only way out of this mess. I only hope my foot heals before I travel.:)

I do have some procedural questions for when I write my email:

1. Should I write to the same Iberia executives who ignored my previous emails? That would be Mr. Perdiguero first, then Mr. Arconada second?

2. Based on your experience, do you think my chances for a no-penalty cancellation would be better if I ask them to re-book the exact same flights and dates at their current best price? (Example - Today's price is $2,130, meaning I'd have to pony up another $1,452. On the other hand, I can buy a Delta ticket today for about $1,630. And if Iberia refuses to refund anything, my total cost would be about $2,300.)

Thanks again for your help.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#6
Hi Christina. Thanks for your interest. I just reconfirmed with an Iberian agent on the phone that the ticket is non-refundable if cancelled, and I cannot change the name on the current ticket; I have to cancel and re-purchase at today's price. If I simply wanted to change my itinerary or dates, I would only incur a fee of $275. But the changed ticket would still carry the wrong name. The agent reiterated that Iberia cannot change them name because American is operating the flights. And, as we already know, American says it cannot change the name because it is an Iberian ticket. Any thoughts? :)
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#7
Oh, and the agent told me there is a $25 fee for cancelling the ticket. I asked what would happen if I simply didn't show up for my flight, and she had to admit they wouldn't be able to charge me the fee. Go figure!
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#9
She did not, but I did not ask the question that way. But I did ask if I could apply the ticket price against a re-booking, and she said no. Should I be asking specifically for what you describe? Is there a rule I can cite? If that's the case, I would receive a credit for $678 minus the cancellation fee of $25, which would be a great help.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#10
I should add that, in order to get the information she provided, she had to put me on hold for about five minutes. I might presume that was so she could speak to someone higher up.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#12
My "Booking Confirmed" email states as follows:

"Changes - Changes permitted with a penalty of 190 to 330USD
Refund (In each direction) - No refunds."

In your experience, is this terminology definitive? If I were to ask again, should I call and ask to speak to a higher-up?

Thanks for your continued interest in helping me.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#14
There are some reports of people getting name corrections by calling Iberia in Spain —-

There may be a fee but it is reasonable

+34 913 894357

Stress this is a correction and see if the middle name can be changed — say that all other info is correct so it does not sound like the ticket is being sold.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#15
I realize this is a Forum page, not a Blog, so I apologize if this post is too long.

I had to take some days off for medical reasons (happily resolved) and I’m now back pursuing my case with Iberia. But I changed my strategy. I am no longer asking them to correct the name on my ticket. I am now asking for a cancellation and refund of my ticket price. I felt I had to cut my losses by weighing the odds of getting the name corrected against the constantly rising fares for my trip. The name-change odds looked pretty low, given all the trouble I’d had so far, and I knew I’d be out of circulation for a while.

So, on May 01, having waited 11 days with no reply from Mr. Arconada, and knowing I would not be able to fly on a ticket with my incorrect name, and looking at the odds of getting it corrected, I decided to purchase another ticket. Iberia’s price for my exact same ticket – dates and flight numbers – was now listed at over $2,100 (I did not make a note of the exact price). This was about three times more expensive than my current ticket. I then purchased a ticket from Delta Airlines for $1,633, about $500 less than the Iberia price but still 140% more than my original ticket. And if I’m unsuccessful in getting the Iberia refund, my cost for this essential trip will be astronomical in comparison with my original booking. All due to an incorrect middle name…..Sigh….

Unfortunately, Christina’s advice came a day too late. By then, I was off my computer due to my eye procedure. However, I have since used the Spain direct number she provided to pursue my new strategy. (Thanks very much, Christina.) On May 08, I telephoned to request the cancellation and waiver of the no refund rule. The agent tried to resolve the problem over a pleasant 35-minute conversation, including going off line “to find a supervisor.” (It was after hours in Spain.) Not being successful, he recommended that I file a claim on Iberia’s website and gave me detailed instructions. He suggested I attach images of my Iberia and Delta flight receipts.

I wrote a polite description requesting that they waive the no refund policy, describing my attempts to get my name corrected, how it had happened in the first place, and telling them I had purchased another ticket and why (also showing the comparative prices). I was fully transparent in my description and accepted possible responsibility for the mistake.

And guess what? When I pushed “Submit,” the system would not accept the Claim. After several attempts over two days and using two browsers, I called Iberia’s 800 number for help and was told that I had to select the “Cancellation” option rather than the “Ticket/Refund” option I had been advised when I called the Spain number. The “Cancellation” option doesn’t provide for any comments or explanations of the problem, but the agent advised me that a real live person from Iberia’s Complaints department would contact me. Sure enough, when I submitted the form, I got a page informing me of just that.

So, that’s all the news so far from Lake Woebegone. I am not second-guessing my choice to change strategy. Knowing, going into medical treatment, that I had a perfectly workable ticket was very important. All I have to worry about going forward is whether Air France will be flying when it’s time to catch my code-share flight home. The strike situation doesn’t look too good at the moment.

Although I am not second-guessing, I’d be happy to hear any advocates’ opinions and/or suggestions. And many thanks to all; I’ll keep you informed.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#17
Yes. First Mr. Perdiguero, then, after 10 days, Mr. Arconada, referenced above. I heard not a peep from either one. That's when Christina advised me of the phone number in Spain. I'll be glad to post those emails if it will help.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
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#18
It just goes on and on, GAT. I remember when the first kiosk appeared at SFO ... I wondered if anyone really understood the significance of dealing with a machine instead of a human being. No, they did not, and the airlines are having a high old time not taking care of their customers. "Don't bother us with your problems, just use our website". It's really disgraceful.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#19
Within 24 hours of filing my claim, I received an email asking for more information, including the "reasons" for it. So, they have given me an opportunity to attach my story, and they now have it for consideration.