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Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

Koh Chang, Thailand
Level Contributor
12 posts
67 reviews
Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

I booked a flight on Air Berlin's web site for my 12 year old grandchildren and have been trying since 01.03.2013 to buy the Unaccompanied Minors service for a flight on 22.03.2013 which is offered an the Ar Berlin web site..

I received an Air Berlin booking reference and Air Berlin ticket numbers, and paid Air Berlin. My contract is with Air Berlin as far as I'm concerned.

It turns out the flights will be operated by Etihad. Now that has become my problem.

I emailed AB and was given a number to call in Bangkok, which I did. They told me that because the flight is operated by Etihad, it is not possible for them to give me the service, I will have to call Etihad. This I did, and gave them my booking reference.

Etihad could not help me because the booking reference and ticket numbers are those of Air Berlin. They said I must go back to Air Berlin. Which I did. Air Berlin then gave me a different booking reference number and said I must go back to Etihad, which I did by Facebook and then by the email address they gave me with a detailed explanation of all the hassle I've been through.

Another day goes by and Etihad come back and say they cannot help me and I must contact Air Berlin.

ENOUGH!!! If 2 airlines decide to code share, that really is not my problem, or am I wrong? Why can't they sort it out between them? As I said, my contract is with Air Berlin, surely? I have now spent the past 5 days being bounced from one airline to the next. I'm stuck in "no man's land" here. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!

Air Berlin even had the audacity to offer me my money back 1 week before these 12 year old children are about to go on a holiday of a lifetime! Doe anybody have any advice? Is there an Ombudsman one can call? Or how about IATA?

UK
Level Contributor
49,562 posts
92 reviews
1. Re: Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

As I said, my contract is with Air Berlin, surely?

======

Well yes but there are two complications at least I can think of.

First complication is, that the service you bought from AB does not include UM. You are trying to add that on after the initial booking. So you actually have no contract from AB to supply it and no reason to believe they can offer it. It may be, had you tried to buy it all in one go, they would have said, "sorry we cant do that".

Second complication is, in the airline world, when there are code shares, often responsibility devolves down to the operating carrier, for very good reason. For example, checking in.= is done at the desk of the operating carrier for obvious reasons. And, UM service cannot only be supplied by the operating carrier, again for obvious reasons.

Now unfortunately you are stuck in a situation it seems neither airline designed their systems for, but to me it seems to be Etihad in the wrong. I would call Etihad back now you have the right reference number, and ask for a supervisor. Other than that you can try the facebook route and hope you find someone there that can help. Good luck.

Koh Chang, Thailand
Level Contributor
12 posts
67 reviews
2. Re: Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

Many thanks. You add a good perspective I hadn't thought of. It must be Etihad who should provide the service because it will be their staff on the flight, that make logical sense.

In the end it does seem that it is a "systems" problem codeshare airlines didn't design for because both airlines keep telling me that their systems don't allow it. We've been taken over by machines!

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
Level Contributor
24,655 posts
6 reviews
3. Re: Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

While I agree that code shares are often a PITA - I have to use them for business - I have to say in this case a little more research on your behalf could have avoided this. As you booked on AB's website, it shows very clearly who the carrier for each flight is, much more clearly in fact than any other airline website I've seen. The right hand column, next to the flight number, is called "Carrier", and for the dummy booking I just ran it very clearly shows the Etihad logo (which is essentially ETIHAD in bold type). I can't see how you could have missed that, and I would have thought that would trigger a call to AB to see what effect that would have for unaccompanied minors. In any case, a call to AB before booking any UM package would have been sensible.

Koh Chang, Thailand
Level Contributor
12 posts
67 reviews
4. Re: Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

Thanks for the comments USBusinessTraveller. I agree, I should have done more research, but you know what they say, "hindsight is twenty twenty vision".

I agree with you that when I booked the flights on Air Berlin's web site, it most definitely did show me that they would be operated by Etihad. But so what? What is not made clear is the implications of that. There is nothing on Air Berlin's web site, or their FAQ's on this subject that show that if you fly on a code share you cannot buy the UM service.

On the other hand, and again with hindsight, I can now see that Etihad's web site does clearly say "To book tickets for them (UM's) on our website, please select the adult option, ensure the flight is Etihad operated only and does not include any partner airline sectors. After booking, contact your nearest Etihad office."

I'm just a simple customer, and I don't understand what code share means. Who does? What other implications are there?

What this boils down to is that I would need to cancel the booking with Air Berlin, wait until I got all my money back, and then re-book the exact same flights on Etihad in order to get the service? In today's modern world of computers and systems, doesn't that just sound bizarre? Why can't the airlines talk to each other and sort it out between themselves? Is that so difficult? Instead as the customer I have this incredible frustration of being bounced between the two. Passing the buck. Not their problem, and never mind the customer. Speaks volumes for so-called "customer service". I hope others take notice of the implications of code share flights.

At the end of the day, Air Berlin offer an UM service, and Etihad offer an UM service. But I cannot buy the service from either one of them. In plain simple English as a simple consumer, this is ridiculous.

Bangkok
Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
Level Contributor
15,056 posts
73 reviews
5. Re: Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

Hi,

"In today's modern world of computers and systems, doesn't that just sound bizarre? Why can't the airlines talk to each other and sort it out between themselves? Is that so difficult?"

==> Actually, it can in fact be "that" hard.. Why? Remember that if we looked at each airline, we'd probably see about 85%+ the same operationally and on the ticketing side.. but.. it's that last 15% that is the hard part..

Additionally, that 15% variation can vary WIDELY from carrier A to carrier B.. and given how many carriers one can have code-share agreements these days, in some cases, you just can't get down to a true 100% cross-carrier compatibility level on each and every passenger ticketing situation.

So, to that end, I can appreciate how a situation like the OP's can come to be..

Even as something as basic as names can vary from carrier to carrier.. Some carriers ask for and have "space" for a middle name.. some don't.. others allow for two middle names, other don't. Some allow for hyphenated names, others don't. So even on the one of the more basic things-- names, it's still not 100% uniform across the industry.

Does IATA have a role here? Yes, but their role isn't at the passenger intervention level. They don't have the authority to intervene in a passengers case with a carrier.. They operate more as a industry trade group and develop 'standards' that all members inherently agree to follow.

That said, I do think that between Air Berlin and Etihad, that a solution (if there is in fact one) or an explanation should have been offered a little sooner in the process and that a second 'round' of back-and-forth was and is unnecessary.. to that end, I think this should have been handled earlier in the timeline.

Travel Safe,

Nannup, Australia
Level Contributor
3,647 posts
26 reviews
6. Re: Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

<<it's that last 15% that is the hard part.. >>

And that's where the airlines don't appear to be putting in the effort to resolve issues such as this. Seat allocation is another example we have seen here recently. Some code share airlines seem to be able to offer a solution, but others don't. If you can have interline baggage agreements surely you can have interline UM policies. Code share services are usually promoted by the airlines concerned as offering 'seamless service'. It obviously ain't!

Koh Chang, Thailand
Level Contributor
12 posts
67 reviews
7. Re: Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

Thank you both. Appreciate the comments.

I had thought about IATA, but you're right GOPBI, when I looked at the IATA site I see that it is an airline body, not a consumer body.

And Numbat, you're absolutely right, I tried to at least book my grandchildren nice seats, but got an error message to say "that service isn't available". Now I understand why, again it's because this is a code share flight! I do hope they at least serve meals on the flight! ;)

Consumers should definitely be made aware that code share flights have pitfalls. If you're aware ahead of time, no problem. I wasn't.

White Beach...
Destination Expert
for Tasmania
Level Contributor
1,250 posts
80 reviews
8. Re: Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

It seems that Air Berlin should share some of the blame for accepting a booking for a minor on a flight that does not allow minors to travel. Unless the ailines allows minors to travel without any supervision, they should not have accepted the booking in the first place. Would Etihad allow them to travel alone?

Koh Chang, Thailand
Level Contributor
12 posts
67 reviews
9. Re: Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

Thanks for the comments Jill M.

I was worried that because I couldn't buy the Unaccompanied Minors service, my granddaughters would not be allowed to board the flight. But surprisingly, the only reason for the online booking system asking for your date of birth is to set the price of the ticket, not to bar minors from flying.

AirBerlin did give ms some comfort a few days ago that they can fly, no problem, it is just that I can't buy (and pay for) the service of having the crew and ground staff take care of them en route from their Mom to granny and I.

However, I have since heard from Etihad who say they will ask the crew to look after them. Which is a great reassurance, but still slightly worrying because it isn't a formal offer. I'm really looking forward to being able to conclude this post in a few days and say that the kids arrived safely, that they had a great flight and were treated like "rock starts"! I'll keep you posted.

White Beach...
Destination Expert
for Tasmania
Level Contributor
1,250 posts
80 reviews
10. Re: Codeshare airlines - passing the buck

I'm sure they'll be fine. My 14 year old niece flew from Scotland to us in Australia unaccompanied and was fine. We met her in Melbourne and she was fine. At lead they will have each other!