Adoption Travel Issues

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Jan 5, 2016
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#1
I would like to determine the appropriate path to take concerning a flight situation (and significant expense incurred) that my family encountered in December.

My wife and I recently adopted five (5) children from Latvia and this process required three (3) trips to Latvia.

We ran into a problem on the return portion of our third trip:
· My wife had booked round trip tickets for seven (7) of us on Aeroflot.
· During travel for the third trip, the children leave the US with their original Latvian names and return from Latvia on new Latvian passports with their new American names. The US Embassy documentation that we carried with us also included files on their name changes.
· When originally booking the flights, my wife attempted to buy one-way tickets on Aeroflot (with their Latvian names on the flights from the US to Latvia and their new American names on the return flights) but they would not allow her to do so since there weren’t valid passports associated with the children for the return trip (the passports wouldn’t be available until the day before the return flight).
· So, on Friday, December 11, 2015, just after midnight, we arrived at the Riga airport for our flight to Moscow scheduled for 2:20 AM (with a connecting flight to LAX).

o CHECK-IN
§ The personnel at the check-in counter would not accept our documentation and sent us to the ticket counter to have them address the name change issues.

o TICKET COUNTER
§ The ticket counter personnel attempted to contact personnel in Moscow to determine/confirm that they could accept the documentation and allow us to proceed to the US once we arrived in Moscow. Based on the time of day, they could not find the appropriate person to confirm this and noted that they would not be able to let us take our flight (this process took long enough that we missed our flight). Based on this, they advised me to speak to Aeroflot directly.

o AEROFLOT PHONE SUPPORT
§ During my conversation with Aeroflot, their representative was not able to assist me in a satisfactory manner and since the flight time of 2:20 AM passed during the conversation, he also informed me that the tickets we had purchased were no longer valid.

o PURCHASE OF ONE-WAY TICKETS
§ Being stuck in Latvia, now with no valid tickets home, we purchased new one-way tickets on Lufthansa Airlines and proceeded to fly home via Frankfurt. Unfortunately, same day international travel is expensive and the total for the seven (7) of us was over 19,000.

Our desired resolution would be to maximize the amount of money that we can get back through either Aeroflot, Lufthansa, or a combination of both.

When I assessed our situation, I viewed a number of potential paths below.

Contact Aeroflot
  • One approach could be to request that Aeroflot figure out a way to make the situation right. I'm not sure what type of verbiage would be most effective. How would we be able to make Aeroflot address our costs incurred directly with Lufthansa?
  • An alternative would be to request for Aeroflot to reduce the fare to 50%, however, this seems far less effective and would require us to go directly to Lufthansa to request relief on our fares (see below).
Contact Lufthansa
  • Since we changed airlines, Lufthansa was only a party to this debacle once things had gone south. I believe that it would be possible to contact them and plead our case requesting an adjustment in the fares (relying on their sympathy). Perhaps requesting a reduction in the fares to match what they would normally give as a bereavement type fare or similar (any suggestions on what type of fare to reference?). Any money that they have received as part of this trip is effectively "found money" and almost 100% profit as the plane was not completely full (extra fuel burned and food consumed being the only tangible costs).
Any insight/suggestions are appreciated.
 
Mar 17, 2015
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#2
Jim, I think you are going to have to leave Lufthansa out of it. You went up and purchased expensive tickets, they did nothing wrong here and were not a party to your denied boarding. Bereavement and this type of fare have long been gone from air travel. You can always try, but not sure you would get anywhere, I guess you could spin it as a good PR campaign...
Let me be sure I have this straight. You attempted to purchase 2 sets of one way tickets with the correct names, but were not allowed to. So, you purchased 1 set of round-trip tickets, even though the return had the wrong name on them, but you had all documentation showing the name changes and the new passports.
Did either of you call Aeroflot when attempting to purchase the tickets to see what the procedure is for this? To see if they could make an exception for the "not valid" passport at the time of booking? I do not know if Aeroflot did anything wrong either, because if the name on the ticket and the identification do not match, I do not know what options an agent (who is not a customs agent) has other than to deny boarding. It would have been nice of Aeroflot to re-book you on a later flight with the correct names and I think this is where you may be able to get some recompense from them. I think you can request a refund from Aeroflot for the portion of the trip you could not use. I would keep the explanation short, as you did above, leaving out emotion and say that you know this would be an exception, but this is an exceptional situation.
This is a tricky situation because you may have just been in between a rock and a hard place, as was the ticket agent. If your family had been denied entry upon arrival because of faulty documentation, then the airline faces huge fines. You may not have been allowed through security if the name on the ID and the ticket did not match (not sure about Russian air travel, so no idea about security there), in the US, you would not have made it past the TSA, unless you had valid ID's that matched the names on the tickets.
 
Likes: krisseye

Neil Maley

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#4
I hate to see thing like this happen to good people and you are a good person to be adopting these children. They are lucky to have you.

Unfortunately the airlines did nothing wrong, they cannot change names on tickets, the tickets have to be purchased in the names as they are on the passports.

Couldn't you have used the American passports for the return home that had the names they went to get there under?

This is a situation where a travel agents that specializes in adoption travel could have helped.
I honestly don't have an answer. Have you contacted any adoption specialists or an attorney to ask how to handle this?
 
Jan 5, 2016
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#5
Jim, I think you are going to have to leave Lufthansa out of it. You went up and purchased expensive tickets, they did nothing wrong here and were not a party to your denied boarding. Bereavement and this type of fare have long been gone from air travel. You can always try, but not sure you would get anywhere, I guess you could spin it as a good PR campaign...
Let me be sure I have this straight. You attempted to purchase 2 sets of one way tickets with the correct names, but were not allowed to. So, you purchased 1 set of round-trip tickets, even though the return had the wrong name on them, but you had all documentation showing the name changes and the new passports.
Did either of you call Aeroflot when attempting to purchase the tickets to see what the procedure is for this? To see if they could make an exception for the "not valid" passport at the time of booking? I do not know if Aeroflot did anything wrong either, because if the name on the ticket and the identification do not match, I do not know what options an agent (who is not a customs agent) has other than to deny boarding. It would have been nice of Aeroflot to re-book you on a later flight with the correct names and I think this is where you may be able to get some recompense from them. I think you can request a refund from Aeroflot for the portion of the trip you could not use. I would keep the explanation short, as you did above, leaving out emotion and say that you know this would be an exception, but this is an exceptional situation.
This is a tricky situation because you may have just been in between a rock and a hard place, as was the ticket agent. If your family had been denied entry upon arrival because of faulty documentation, then the airline faces huge fines. You may not have been allowed through security if the name on the ID and the ticket did not match (not sure about Russian air travel, so no idea about security there), in the US, you would not have made it past the TSA, unless you had valid ID's that matched the names on the tickets.
Thanks Tanya.
I understand that Lufthansa has no obligation to do anything and any reduction to the fair would be based on goodwill/PR.
Your assessment of the tickets is correct (round-trip vs. one-way and names).
The tickets were purchased by my wife directly from Aeroflot. She attempted to buy one way tickets and they wouldn’t let her since we did not have valid passports with their new names yet. It is likely that the person my wife was speaking with did not have the appropriate training to deal with our situation and no clean path or exception process was presented.
 
Jan 5, 2016
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#6
I hate to see thing like this happen to good people and you are a good person to be adopting these children. They are lucky to have you.

Unfortunately the airlines did nothing wrong, they cannot change names on tickets, the tickets have to be purchased in the names as they are on the passports.

Couldn't you have used the American passports for the return home that had the names they went to get there under?

This is a situation where a travel agents that specializes in adoption travel could have helped.
I honestly don't have an answer. Have you contacted any adoption specialists or an attorney to ask how to handle this?
Neil,
Unfortunately, the children arrived in Latvia on their Latvian passports with their birth names. Those passports were taken away during the trip when we applied for new Latvian passports with their new American names. The new Latvian passports were about 2-1/2 days old and the US immigration visas barely had the ink dry (they were about 10 hours old) when we went to the airport. The children do not have US passports. We could get them now, but don't need them as they are dual citizens and can travel on their Latvian passports (with their new names).
We are in the process of determining what options/path to take.
Thanks for your thoughts.
 
Jan 5, 2016
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#10
Jim, I think you are going to have to leave Lufthansa out of it. You went up and purchased expensive tickets, they did nothing wrong here and were not a party to your denied boarding. Bereavement and this type of fare have long been gone from air travel. You can always try, but not sure you would get anywhere, I guess you could spin it as a good PR campaign...
Let me be sure I have this straight. You attempted to purchase 2 sets of one way tickets with the correct names, but were not allowed to. So, you purchased 1 set of round-trip tickets, even though the return had the wrong name on them, but you had all documentation showing the name changes and the new passports.
Did either of you call Aeroflot when attempting to purchase the tickets to see what the procedure is for this? To see if they could make an exception for the "not valid" passport at the time of booking? I do not know if Aeroflot did anything wrong either, because if the name on the ticket and the identification do not match, I do not know what options an agent (who is not a customs agent) has other than to deny boarding. It would have been nice of Aeroflot to re-book you on a later flight with the correct names and I think this is where you may be able to get some recompense from them. I think you can request a refund from Aeroflot for the portion of the trip you could not use. I would keep the explanation short, as you did above, leaving out emotion and say that you know this would be an exception, but this is an exceptional situation.
This is a tricky situation because you may have just been in between a rock and a hard place, as was the ticket agent. If your family had been denied entry upon arrival because of faulty documentation, then the airline faces huge fines. You may not have been allowed through security if the name on the ID and the ticket did not match (not sure about Russian air travel, so no idea about security there), in the US, you would not have made it past the TSA, unless you had valid ID's that matched the names on the tickets.
@Jim H.
Where are you from? What airport?
We are from the Los Angeles area and our trip originated from LAX.
 
Oct 5, 2015
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#11
We are from the Los Angeles area and our trip originated from LAX.
There is actually a difference between Round-Trip and One-Way fares on Aeroflot.
Below are the cheapest Base Fares (before taxes and fees).
upload_2016-1-5_19-53-36.png
I know this is Monday morning quarterbacking on my part...
If the passengers will return using different names, you could buy one-way LAX-RIX tickets only for the kids. And if they require onward tickets to get in that country and you know their new names already, then you also can buy oneway RIX-LAX for the kids.
 
Likes: VoR61
#12
I'll add my good thoughts for doing such a good deed - and like most good deeds - it did not go unpunished. . . .

I would send a note to LH and ask them if they would reduce the fare to a reasonable advance purchase fare in consideration of the good you are doing in the world - you don't have to put it like that - but thats what you would say. . .

how about:

Dear LH:

We adopted five children from Latvia and brought them to the United States on your flight number xxx on date xxx. We were forced to purchase last minute international airfares after we had visa issues with Aeroflot.

We had purchased APEX fares from Aeroflot at $$XXX. Due to the process involved in obtaining US passports names were changed to reflect anglicized and Americanized names for these children in America. Thus, the names we bought the itckets under were not the same names that the children would be traveling under. They were using American passports and entry documents rather than the Lativian passports they had before. Aeroflot was befuddled and unable to work through challenges for these children, and they were unable to travel.

We contacted LH and your staff was able to process the tickets for them using their new passports. We had to abandon the Aerofloit tickets and spent over $19,000 Euro for the new last minute tickets.

I am writing in the hope that LH might be able to adjust the fare we paid to an otherwise available advance purchase fare generally available on the date we bought the Aeroflot tickets, which was [date]. Any consideration which LH might want to provide would allow these resources to be used elsewhere in the acclimation of these adopted children to the United States. It might also be good public relations for the company, working to do good in the world.

Thank you for simply reviewing our request. . .

VTY - parents"
 
#13
We are from the Los Angeles area and our trip originated from LAX.
If you don't want to consider writing LH - maybe you could put some pressure on Aeroplop to refund the unused tickets by contacting the TV stations out here- this is great human interest story and the big bad corporation acting stupid is a great tag.

I will point out that you bought RT tickets for the kids and they were not going to use the return portion in order to get lower fares? If so - that clearly violates Aeroflots conditions of carriage - and creates a entirely new problem in the event you are looking for a refund. . . .
 
Mar 4, 2015
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#14
@Jim H. , when you write to Aeroflot, be sure to use the emails for our Aeroflot Company Contacts:

http://elliott.org/company-contacts/aeroflot/

Our standard recommendation is to email one contact at a time, and give them a week to respond, before escalating to a higher level contact if necessary.

Did you have any documentation for the name changes with you at the airport? If so, and if the Aeroflot contacts are unhelpful, you may also want to inquire with the US Dept of Transportation. Unless there is a super-ceding Russian regulation tying Aeroflot's hands (I doubt it), then the US DOT suggests that you can bring documentation proving a recent name change:

* You will need to show a government-issued photo I.D. when you fly. It is important that your name as it appears on the ticket is the same as it appears on the I.D. you will be using. If your name has recently changed and the name on your ticket and your I.D. are different (or will be different by the time of your trip), bring documentation of the change (e.g., a marriage certificate or court order).

http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/publications/flyrights.htm

Good luck and keep us posted.