This past November, I wrote about my trip to Athens for the Marathon. (see Trip Report)Before departing, there was intense fog at London Heathrow that forced Virgin Atlantic to cancel my Upper Class flight. The issue was that I was supposed to connect from London to Poland and from Poland to Athens on two separate carriers. That was no longer a possibility.
First I called Wizz Air to explain the situation so I could cancel the flight to Poland. They said they knew nothing of the fog and since the ticket to London was independent of them nothing could be done. Then I called up Aegean, a member of Star Alliance. I explained the situation again. I was given the same explanation.
After that I called Virgin Atlantic to see what I should do since I still needed to get to Greece. They said they couldn’t help because they don’t fly to Athens and they do not have a codeshare agreement with anyone that does. (This was not the case for Ms TPOL who I managed to get to Athens from LHR on first via Air France thanks to great Delta service.) The Virgin agent did say that I should find a way to get to Athens and not worry since Virgin customer service would sort it out later.
Well later was yesterday when Virgin agreed to reimburse me half of my expenses even though they technically were under no obligation to do so. However, the only reason they did so was because the aforementioned agent provided erroneous information, a fact that was verified by analyzing the phone call.
The official response was as follows:
We are not liable to cover your costs but as a gesture of goodwill and given the fact the wrong information was given to you by the agent over the phone I am happy to reimburse 50% (£150.87).
As your Europe based flights were booked independently we would not be liable to cover any costs you incur getting to your final destination. The delay to our flight was our responsibility and we would have had to look after any passenger who booked an onward connection through our system. We call this type of ticket a ‘through ticket’. But, this is not the same for passengers who book onward travel independently. Our responsibility is to get those passengers to their final destination as booked with us. In your case, this was London Heathrow.
It’s always advisable to take out travel insurance before you commence the very first part of your journey as it’s virtually impossible that you would be covered should you attempt to take a policy out half way through.
I know that there is a risk when you fly on airline A but then connect with airline B. For example, I was terrified when I took my round the world trip which began in San Diego that my Southwest flight from Phoenix would be delayed creating a chaotic mess. (I took the 6am flight to SAN and arrived 7 hours before my scheduled departure.) I also was scared of missing my Etihad connection from Cairo to Abu Dhabi should I experience any delays on EgyptAir from Sharm el-Sheikh back to Cairo, something that almost happened due to a stupid taxi driver.
When booking disjointed flights, passengers assume the risk that nothing will go wrong. The alternative, as mentioned by the agent, is to take out travel insurance, something that I, out of habit, never do. Up to this point, luck has been on my side and I never had an issue. I’m sure that many travelers are either unaware that they won’t be covered in the event that something does happen or just take on the risk believing they won’t encounter any problems.
Call me stupid but it is highly unlikely that I will purchase travel insurance in the future. Instead, I will be more focused on purchasing through tickets i.e., fly Virgin on Delta which has codeshare partners, than just hoping for the best by flying Virgin to London and going from there.
I’m still going to lobby for a refund from Wizz and Aegean and pray they do so out of the kindness of their hearts. Having said that, it was nice of Virgin to cover some of my costs.
What would you have done differently in the booking? Travel Insurance? Really?