AirTran Airways Denied Boarding

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Involuntary Bumping vs Involuntary Denied Boarding by AirTran
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Rating: 1/51
ATLANTA, GEORGIA -- I booked flights for myself and spouse on Oct 20, 2013 from BWI to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic Airtran Flight 817 depart at 9:08am on Sunday, Dec 22nd, 2013, arrive Punta Cana at 1:52pm, a four-hour flight, and returning on Dec 28th, 2013. I also purchased two advanced seating assignments for the round trip tickets. Airtran called on Oct 31st, asking if we were willing to take a later flight on Dec 22nd from BWI to Punta Cana, DR because Airtran sold us an overbooked original scheduled flight. They offered two flight options that were both incomparable and unacceptable because of the departure times, one leaving at 7:55am from BWI connecting through Atlanta with a six hours layover, and arriving Punta Cana at 8:57pm. I did not accept the offer to be put on any alternative incomparable flights. AirTran called again on Dec 19th, informed me that my flights have now changed leaving on Dec 22 from BWI at 7:55am arriving Atlanta when I stopped the caller (agent) and asked her why they are changing my flights. The agents answer was that our original scheduled flight leaving BWI at 9:08am is overbooked. I called Airtran and spoke a supervisor, Heather(agent 489), who offered a refund of two one-way tickets and fees for advanced seating assignments. Because we were not given any alternative comparable flight choice and our trip is scheduled in two days, Dec 22nd, we were forced to take FLT 133 departed BWI on Dec 22nd at 7:55am, arrived Atlanta at 9:55am, over 7 hours layover in Atlanta, departed at 5:40pm, arrived in PUJ 10pm! All day of our first day family holiday vacation wasted!

Heather informed us that the Involuntary Denied Boarding (IDB) Rule does not apply because we were involuntary removed (bumped) from our original flight 2 days prior to Dec 22; subsequently AirTran avoiding DOT rule for IDB, which is legal business practice by AirTran! Overbooking flights is also legal business practice! DOT defines involuntary bumping. AirTran has the right to involuntary bumped lucky passengers from any of their flights any time, except that we were involuntary bumped on Dec 19, so rule does not apply to us in terms of 400% compensation; our flight was on Dec 22! What are our rights as customers and as consumers! DOT is reviewing my case!
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Outright voucher fraud
Posted by on
I was on a flight from Boston to Atlanta. AirTran had overbooked the flight and announced that anyone who would volunteer to give their seat up would receive a free round trip from AirTran. Great for me; I had flexible plans. I gave up my seat, got a voucher sat around the airport for an extra 8 or so hours.

Fast forward 9 months. I'm trying to redeem the voucher for another Boston-Atlanta round trip (typically <$200 value). AirTran refuses to honor my voucher because they say "there's no record of you receiving a voucher." Their records show that I was booked for the earlier flight, got a boarding pass, surrendered the boarding pass, got a boarding pass for a later flight and took the later flight. But they simply will not accept that they gave me a voucher. After 2 hours on the phone with them, they finally offer to let me redeem my voucher for a free one-way trip.

This is just outright fraud, outright lying on the part of AirTran. And their phone agents want to yell at me when I tell them about it.

IF I ever fly AirTran again, and they try to offer vouchers for people to give up their seats, I will tell every living soul in my vicinity how AirTran issues these vouchers and then refuses, quite abruptly, to honor them.

And then, you have to wonder about AirTran's overall integrity. You trust airlines to do small things right, and big things right. Small things would be: give you good pretzels, be at least pleasant when they talk to you, not abuse your checked-in bags. Big things would be: keep the planes in good working order, not let terrorists on the plane, and ***HONOR THEIR WORD AND THE WRITTEN DOCUMENTS THEY ISSUE***. In my opinion, once they've demonstrated that they are not able or willing to fulfill any of their major obligations, then it seems like you'd have to worry about how well they fulfill the rest. In other words, if AirTran is going to be this cavalier about reneging on bedrock issues of solvency, I absolutely cannot trust them to safely maintain a fleet of planes.
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Anonymous on 01/16/2010:
How are they saying you came into possession of the voucher? Is it an automated voucher generated by the computer or hand-written? Also, I think that not honoring a voucher and maintaining aircraft do not go hand-in-hand. I mean, the agent denying you use of the voucher doesn't then go do an engine change, do they?
Ytropious on 01/17/2010:
Maybe they used your voucher on the flight you scheduled later on. I don't fly much so idk how it works, but do you get a free reschedule AND a voucher?
bostonToAtlanta on 01/17/2010:
They simply don't address the fact that I have an actual voucher certificate; they base their decision to grant me a compensation or not only on the contents of their own internal database. The certificate is a card, about 3x the size of a business card, and an agent just wrote the reservation number and date on it. I figure the only way I'll get them to confront the actual documents they gave me is if I take them to small claims court.

I think you're being too forgiving if you resist recognition of the connection between this de facto fraud and the potential for a major disaster. I am seeing two symptoms of poor management: 1) a gate agent making a "small" mistake that is not only going to cost AirTran a lifetime of business from me and my family, but may also cost them a trip to court, and 2) a customer service organization doing everything in its power to allow AirTran to escape its obligation here.

As far as 1) goes, what's the difference between a gate agent forgetting to indicate in their database that I got a voucher and a mechanic forgetting to run a pre-flight diagnostic or replace a bolt? Certainly the latter is much worse, but both of these are so egregious that the airline should do everything humanly possible to prevent either. Whereas the mechanic probably has a written checklist, the gate agents are constantly looking over each others' shoulder. Possibilities aside, in my experience, problems like this indicate two employee problems: poor attitude and poor training. Those are determined by decisions -- viz. compensation/payraise tables and quality assurance budgeting -- that originate from the very top of the company. They affect every leaf on the tree. So if gate agents have poor attitudes (due to overworking, underpayment, and/or poor treatment by AirTran) there's no reason to believe the same problems don't exist with their aircraft mechanics.

Now 2) indicates to me that AirTran has become very stingy, and has *set its policies* to squeeze money out of customers at every turn. Up to an extent, that's the name of the game in business. But when it comes to violating basic social contracts (I.e. "honor your written word") that's a company that you cannot generally trust to do anything, at all. Now, if the airline would let you check backgrounds of its pilots and audit its maintenance records, then you could probably make an exception to their untrustworthiness and feel safe on their planes. But they don't, and all you have to go on is their overall integrity.

Note that I emphasized that AirTran has set its policies to rip customers off. I emphasized that because the time (3.5 hrs now) that I've spent talking to AirTran phone agents is almost certainly nearing the cost of the round trip ($190) I was seeking to book. Policies aside, any competent manager would realize that it's in the companies financial interest (God forbid they care about things like their reputation) to just give me the benefit of the doubt. I almost cited that a separate symptom of bad management, but I guess over time my collective view of the talent levels at call centers has become quite dim.
bostonToAtlanta on 01/17/2010:

Yes, they promised both a voucher for a future round trip, *and* to put me on a later flight that day or the next.
Ytropious on 01/17/2010:
Oh, well thanks for the update. If you had a physical voucher from them printed off that they would not honor then that kind of sucks. As long as it didn't have an expiration date or something.
bostonToAtlanta on 01/18/2010:
Ytropious, the voucher does have an expiration date on it, but that date is just over 3 months from today.
Anonymous on 01/18/2010:'re saying that they are denying you have a voucher. Why can't you make a trip to the airport and redeem your voucher? I know we are spoiled with online bookings and telephone reservations but make it an adventure like then olden days. Get in your car and go to the airport, redeem voucher, send them a letter saying, I told you so, and be happy.
bostonToAtlanta on 01/19/2010:
Judge, after 4 hours on the phone with them, and after emailing hi-res scans of the front and back of the certificate to the AirTran CEO, they finally decided to honor the voucher.

But they get the last laugh: I still have to pay the $6/flight seat reservation fee.

It'll be a loooooooooong time before I give AirTran another try.
Anonymous on 01/19/2010:
Absolutely ridiculous to make you jump through hoops for doing them a favor. I'm glad you'll get your ticket but don't give them 6 bucks per seat. Make sure you're at the airport 2 hours ahead and you'll get your seat and if not, they'll have to compensate you again. Play their game and win.
wgaguy1984 on 01/20/2010:
Complete service failure. There are multiple ways to verify if you volunteered or not. Maybe at first you got a new or lazy employee who either didn't know how to resolve this or didn't care to. But if you escalated this to a supervisor or corporate, and it still took 4 hrs to get what you were promised, that's atrocious. I'd call or email back and ask to be compensated for my wasted time. At the very least, they should give you your seats, you've earned that $12.
bostonToAtlanta on 01/21/2010:

AirTran said their databases showed no record of any voluntary change vouchers at all being issued for my original flight. As I recall there were around 6 of us who gave up our seats. I told AirTran this, and I actually asked if they could perhaps contact the gate agents for that flight. I wouldn't expect the gate agents to remember me individually, but I would expect they'd remember giving out 6 vouchers.

AirTran admitted their records would tell them which gate agents changed me off the original flight. (Remember, they're playing the amnesia card to rebut my voucher, so getting them to admit this was a victory) But they said something like "If those employees were still with AirTran, we could try to contact them. But that would take a lot of time." Translation: I'd have to spend another 10 hours on the phone bird-dogging AirTran's efforts.

Judge, You're right that I should be compensated for the wasted time. No one made any such offers to me. But I am 100% done with AirTran, probably until the next decade starts. If you guys continue to see egregious breaches of integrity, as I've reported, you can probably expect AirTran might be the next airline to have a spate of mechanically caused incidents. I really really hope they right their ship before anything tragic happens. But in any case, I've "seen the elephant" with them, and I'm NOT going to let them and their broken management continually put me at risk, of any kind. (Especially when Delta offers precisely the same flights at the same fares)
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Arbitrary Boarding Policy and Procedures
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ATLANTA, GEORGIA -- Our first AirTran flight took off 30 mins late from SAV, so I knew we would be pressed to make our connecting flight to LAX. I informed the gate agent in SAV of the tight connection and was assured we would arrive in Atlanta in time to connect with our LAX bound flight. We landed and deplaned at gate C2 and I walked over to gate C1 and saw the plane sitting at the gate, I walked straight up to the gate agent, but when I tried to board I was told I was too late and that the flight was closed. I then watched the gate agents begin a process of calling people to the podium and boarding them for the LAX flight over the next 15 mins.

The explanation I was given for my denied boarding was that AirTran has a boarding policy that if you are not at the gate 10 mins before departure the flight is closed and you are denied boarding on that basis.

I was given a customer service package with a $7 food coupon and a $25 future flight purchase.

Five and a half hours later we boarded our delayed flight which was scheduled to leave at 9:05PM, then changed to 9:44PM. We finally were seated and ready for take off at 10:30PM. Then there was an additional one hour wait at the gate with no explanation.

Until, without any explanation again, five very hurried passengers were boarded, immediately seated and we then took off-

This is an Outrageous! Hipocritical! Arbitrary and Inconsistent Boarding Policy! How dare they do this to people.

I am convinced that they overbooked my first LAX flight and gave away my seat to someone, and therefore I am owed compensation under the terms of the contract of carriage.

In the case of the 5 people we waited for in the plane, as this was the last flight to LAX for the night, it is obvious that they held the plane for them from a connecting flight so that AirTran would not have the expense of putting those people in a hotel until the next LAX flight in the morning.

So instead, I had to pay for a hotel room in LA because by the time we arrived it was 1AM and impossible for me to arrange ground transportation to my home over 1 1/2 hrs away in Orange County.

AirTran should be avoided at all costs, you will be at their mercy and have no recourse but to put up with how they "chose" to handle you. Stick with Delta, American, or Rent-a-Car, you'll get there quicker.
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Denied Boarding
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We did get on after all. It was a flight from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham. But I'm convinced that things others are saying are true. The agent tried to deny us boarding even though we were at the gate 30 minutes before departure. Other customers were startled at the early boarding. The agent acquiesced and allowed us to board, but not until calling up some standby passengers and re-assigning seats. I have rarely boarded a plane more than 20 minutes prior to departure. This agent was arguing that boarding was "closed" 30 minutes prior. I asked what time it closed, she said 9:25. The clock time was still 9:05. I am convinced that she was trying go give our seats to somebody else, and we thwarted her plan by showing up. This is unbelievable.
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THartmann9374 on 06/26/2007:
If you board 30 minutes or less, you will be denied boarding. You need to be there at least one hour or more. So, I don't blame this airlines.
MRM on 06/26/2007:
Why would the agent try to give your seat to somebody else? I wonder if she was being discriminitory?
Anonymous on 06/26/2007:
MRM - The agent was on drugs, probably and did not know what the heck was going on. She was probably smoking pot and did not know even what time it was.
Ponie on 06/26/2007:
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Not able to board
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SFO, CALIFORNIA -- Needless to say - I'll never fly with them!!!!
1. We were at the airport (SFO) over an hour prior to the flight departure time.
2. Their initials are the same as ATA so we were directed to ATA. Then we were told to look for AirTran Airways at the international part of the airport, although we had a domestic flight.
3. Finally we get to their kiosk with 40 min left to departure and no one is there. We didn't even carry luggage to check in. Called Expedia and they contacted the company who said that they close the kiosks 45 min. prior to departure. There were more people like us unable to get to the plane. Every one was extremely upset but we all had to go home.
4. They offered to put us on a next day flight in business class if we pay $400 per ticket more or on a 24hrs later flight and pay over $160 per ticket. Or to give us credit (minus penalties) towards future flights with them.
Who would ever want to fly with this awful company anyway?!

P.S. I had missed a flight with “United” years ago and they simply put me on the next flight 40 min later.
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Adira on 04/05/2006:
If you miss your flight on AirTran, you can go standby for the next flight between the same cities at no extra charge on that same day. Unlucky for you that you were probably on the last flight out of SFO for the day. Next time, check with your carrier about rules and restrictions before you travel.
RobDFW on 04/29/2006:
I think you share some of the blame here as well as you went to the wrong airline first. 40 minutes is not enough time to check in.
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