Reader Question: Etihad Airways Forces To Purchase New Ticket At Check In?

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A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me an email about an issue with Etihad Airways that forced the reader to purchase a new ticket for the flight at the time of check-in.

Reader Question Etihad Airways

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You can access Etihad Airways here.

Here’s the email from the reader:

Last week I had a major issue with Etihad airways while check in for Toronto-Abudhabi-Ahmedabad flight.

I came across your blog and found it interesting that you write tips and other suggestions on how to deal with airlines (specifically middle eastern ones.)

I am wondering if you could help me in this matter and provide some suggestions on how to get resolution with Etihad. I have been mentally devastated by this horrendous experience.

In a day or two I am going to formally lodge a complaint with Etihad as following.

*******************************************************************************

Booking Ref# REMOVED

Ticket# REMOVED

This is REMOVED, a Canadian citizen, writing this with a great deal of pain, humiliation, mental anguish and suffering that I was subjected to by Etihad and its staff on 28th Feb. at the Toronto airport check-in for the Toronto-AbuDhabi-Ahmedabad flight .

I had made the above reservation,  

Toronto-Abudhabi-Ahmedabad: Dep: 28 Feb. 2017 and Return 31 March 2017,

on 17th November 2016 on the Etihad airways website. I had paid 1298$  with my own MBNA mastercard and Etihad confirmed the booking and happily took the money on the same date. I am the holder of this credit card with my name on it. I paid my credit card for this transaction and there was no issue/communication/flags at all regarding this ticket purchase with the credit card company.

Fast forward 3.5 months, on 28th Feb.

· I reached the Etihad’s Toronto check-in counter at 10.30AM (departure at 2PM), I was asked to present the physical copy of the CC, now since I was travelling to another country I was carrying a limited number of CCs (with no foreign fees) and was not carrying the MBNA mastercard as it was left at home. I was refused the boarding by the check-in agent! Then on, my painful ordeal started with Etihad.

· Knowing that I don’t have the physical CC in my hand, I was immediately started being treated as criminal by Etihad staff, I was asked to talk to another check-in agent , I showed all my other identities (other CCs and Canadian driver’s license) but he also refused boarding.

· I was then referred to the on-site duty manager from Chicago <name>, I pleaded my case but he was very determined to harass and humiliate me and demanded physical copy of CC, I explained to him now since I live in a city 1.5 hrs drive away from the airport, it was not physically possible for me to go get the card. Knowing this, he was very determined to not let me board the flight and vehemently demanded physical copy of the CC and later refused any further conversations.

· I was made to run around, wait at the counter and time was running by, then I was referred to the station manager, with . Again I pleaded, begged my whole situation with her and

o I showed online CC statement on my phone for Nov. 2016 clearly showing the transaction of 1298$ that Etihad charged – They refused to accept

o I offered to have them talk to my CC company – They refused

o I offered if my friend go to my house, take a picture of CC and send it to me – They refused

o They were not interested in any resolution, they just wanted physical copy and kept referring that “Abudhabi finance” department won’t allow any resolution.

· What was disturbing was that the duty manager <name> derived wicked pleasure from harassing me and kept asking me to go home and get the card even though him knowing fully it was not physically possible within the time limit.

· Station manager then asked me that I need to buy another ticket, and promised me few times that It would be the same price (1298$) as the original since It would not be fair to charge more since I booked the original well in advance 3.5 months back. And she told me that I would get refund for the original ticket once I showed the proof of CC.

· I agreed to follow that and was referred to again to book a new ticket, then called somewhere and remained on phone for next 15 mins., He came back and to my utter shock, he mentioned Abudhabi finance and call centre (PCC check) won’t allow the same price (1298$) and I would be levied huge penalty on “cancelling” my original ticket and buying a new ticket with current price.

· The station manager was also shocked since she promised and offered the same price resolution, so then she went on and talked to Abudhabi offices for next 15-20 mins. – to my most utter shock, she came back and said that Etihad can not do anything anymore, I can’t buy a new ticket with the same price and can’t let me board on the original ticket. They asked me to buy a new ticket on my own and refused any further conversation on this topic and washed their hands off of the matter.

· During this entire ordeal I was not allowed to speak with any of their Abudhabi offices.

· It was 12.30PM at that time, and the check-in was closing at 1pm – I was standing there completely harassed, humiliated and mind well, being refused boarding the flight that was paid 3.5 months in advance.

· Left with no resolution, I was forced to call the call centre and buy a new ticket with current price of 2066$!

o Booking Ref# REMOVED

o Ticket No: REMOVED

· The check-in completed at 1 pm and with so much mental pain, stress, anguish I proceeded to security and boarded the flight.

· So now, I have paid twice, 1298$ and 2066$ (total 3364$) for the same flight, which is absolutely unacceptable, disgusting that I have come across with any merchant.

Credit Card proof attachments:

· I am attaching the proof of MBNA master card (ending with 0080) with which I made the original reservation.

· Please note that this mastercard has now been discontinued by MBNA and replaced with MBNA VISA card (their business decision). I am also attaching the copy of the VISA card.

· I am attaching a copy of online CC statement for Nov. 2016, clearly showing Etihad purchase transaction. You can notice that all past MBNA mastercard transactions are shown under new MBNA VISA card number.

· Now, I also spoke with MBNA credit card company and they confirmed that this purchase was completed successfully in Nov. 2016 and there was no fraud signals/issues at all.

All these proof must be more than sufficient to prove that I am the original Credit card holder and It was a valid purchase.

In light of these proofs, it is clear that Etihad illegally and unjustifiably denied me boarding the flight and failed to provide services for which I had paid 3.5 months ago without any issues with the CC company.

As a result of all this, I request that,

1. Etihad refund me the price of the ticket (2066$) that I was forced to buy at the last moment even though I had the valid ticket purchase for the same flight.

2. Etihad provide compensation for all the harassment, humiliation, mental stress, pain and suffering that I was subjected to during that 2.5 hour ordeal at the check-in. I have been cheated and robbed by Etihad and I wouldn’t have expected this from a reputed airlines in my wildest dream. I was treated like a criminal/fraud and it was the most disgusting and worst experience of my life dealing with any merchant/vendor.

I request that this issue be brought to the earliest resolution by Etihad to my satisfaction meeting the above requests.

Some airlines sometimes require the credit card used to make the ticket purchase to be shown at the airport at the time to of checking in to prevent “fraud”.

This is really problematic because credit cards get compromised all the time and new cards sent to card members or cards can be switched as was the case here from MasterCard to Visa.

I never make airline ticket purchased on airlines’ websites as long as there is no promotion that requires this or the same fares are available using OTA’s such as Expedia. If the reader had made the purchase on Expedia’s Canadian website or using a travel agent, there would NEVER be a requirement to show a credit card at the time of check-in.

Etihad dropped the ball here and doubt that merely sending a complaint to them would achieve anything.

There are three things that the reader could do:

1. Open a complaint with the Canadian Transport Agency (access here).

2. File a small claims court case against Etihad Airways in Ontario, Canada.

3. Dispute the second charge because the traveler already had a valid ticket to the flight in question.

Conclusion

I have never understood this requirement of having to show credit card used for purchase when checking in (this used to be prevalent in Asia) and it only applies when the booking has been made directly with an airline. You can book using a travel agent or OTA and the requirement vanishes.

There is always small credit risk when business accepts credit card payments, but dealing with cash is not free either.

Seems that Etihad Airways was very inflexible here. They should have refunded the first ticket and charged the same amount using one of the credit cards that the reader had in his wallet. Why did they make it this difficult?

I believe that the best course of action is to hit the Etihad Airways with a small claims court case and see how they respond. The way Etihad behaved here is not the right way to conduct business in western countries and it’s highly likely that a judge would not be sympathetic to the airline.

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