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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  • Jill Gillham

    Deutsche Bahn tickets require you to present the credit card used for purchase to the ticket checker on the train if you don’t have an EU passport. They make it quite clear when you purchase a ticket online for future travel, IIRC. I’ve also heard it popping up on rare occasions with US airlines for what are seen as riskier routes from a fraud perspective like some African destinations, and, oddly enough, occasionally flights between mainland and the US Virgin Islands.

    Really is no risk of carrying the useless piece of plastic with you if you need to show a card that has been cancelled or deactivated since time of ticket purchase.

    • Stefan

      For Deutsche Bahn tickets the credit card is no longer required! You just need an ID with your name, an international passport is perfectly ok for that.

  • William

    It is actually quite a standard practise among most of the international airlines to ask for the physical CC for online purchase of tickets at the time of checkin, UNLESS the CC is already verified at the time of purchase (e.g. Verified by Visa, American Express Safekey . . . . ).

  • maclover

    Hi john,
    I usually really appreciate your advice but – sometimes – you give to me the impression you go the extra mile to defend whiners.
    This blog, in my opinion, should help to make aviation culture into “normal” pax as well and giving out correct informations should be mandatory.

    When not following the rules (even they are not the most clever ones) you sometimes learn it the hard way.
    And this is what happen to your reader

    • Barbarella

      Couldn’t agree more. Especially, since Etihad *emphasizes* when buying a ticket that one’s credit card needs to be validated at the airport and sends this request in an email along with one’s e-ticket. Please forgive me my sarcasm but the above reader seems to be pretty proficient in English.
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cc5cb309406bbe3170b52a54d257689660aeb23ecd31c6c34445d5c29d15691f.jpg

      • “For Your Protection”…….

        • Barbarella

          John, credit card fraud is a fact. And a plague. Usually tickets costs $$$ and I do not blame Etihad for this.

          • My point was that Etihad certainly doesn’t do this for our protection. There’s always credit risk involved in most businesses. Cost of doing business.

          • maclover

            John, whatever the rule is for, like it or not, it’s there and it’s pretty clear.

            What’s the big deal bringing a “piece of plastic” as required?

            To go US, as a European, I need ESTA. Still I have a valid passport: why should I do extra paperwork and pay few $?
            Do I like it? No
            If I want to protest, I’d simply not go to U.S. instead of whining on a blog that I’m mentally devasted if I’m denied boarding.

            I can get how this reader is upset but, imho, you simply tell him that he has to blame himself for not following rules.
            Still you suggest small claims or the like. This is what I really can’t understand.

      • Citizen of the Universe

        I wonder if the actual physical plastic card should be presented, or webbanking app on mobile is enough? Or any other electronic wallet app? Or a photo of the card? The requirement to show a piece of plastic is similar to saying “we only communicate through telex messages and faxes” in the 21st century.

        • Barbarella

          Etihad accepts credit & debit cards only. Oh, and PayPal
          So they request to see the physical plastic

    • I believe that Etihad could have just refunded the ticket 1 and charged it using the credit card that the reader had with him. Problem solved.

  • Sameh Emam

    it isn’t the best way to conduct business period! UAE is way ahead when it comes to business than all of the Middle Eastern countries, they should know better! Plus I work in the fraud risk managment, them cancelling the ticket, then issuing another for the same price would have solved the problem. He should dispute the transaction with his bank and let the bank take care of it. Risk of doing business is a fact that any company consider when operating and planning their finances

  • MV

    Here is what I do to avoid this kind of situation:
    1. I keep all of my canceled / closed credit cards. I never discard any of them.
    2. If the booking email said ‘your card may be needed to be presented at check-in”, if I travel prior to the “suspected fraud trip”, I go to an airport agent and show them the credit card and booking reference. They may be able to clear the fraud alert and allow for step #3 below.
    3. I check-in online the day before to make sure everything is ok with my ticket.
    HTH

  • Attention All Passengers

    I will never understand how anyone would go through all this harassment and then hand over more money to Etihad with yet another fight on their hands to get back the original amount and more. Take a delay and pay ANOTHER airline to get you where you need to go !

  • Malcolm

    I assume the notification to present the physicalCC is sent at the time of booking which in this case was over 3 months earlier. I know that it would have slipped my mind to bring it along. Allowing the passenger to board without seeing the CC will be a disclipinary offence so the front line staff willfollow procedures. It seems to me that someone up the food chain should have suggested cancelling the booking refunding to the CCand rebooking at the original price.
    Malcolm.

  • John-in-Melbourne

    A couple of years ago, I booked an Etihad flight for my partner in Egypt to come to Australia. When he got the confirmation email there was no ticket, only a message to say the credit card used to make the booking had to be presented at the airport, or to Etihad 24 hours before the flight. Bit hard since the card was in Melbourne, Australia, and he was in Egypt. Needless to say, I had to front up at the Etihad office in Melbourne next morning with the card. Took an early train and I was waiting outside the door for them to open which annoyed them! Luckily they were one of the very few airlines that have a city office anymore. If not, I would have had to trek out to the airport to fix the problem. I refused to leave the office until they had issued the ticket, and I had confirmation. I also got them to put my email on the booking as well, so we both got copies of the ticket, and any further correspondence. Prior to that my partner and I had an awful flight from Cairo to Kuala Lumpur on Etihad cattle class. Sadly my partner had to endure it again going back home to Egypt. I would never ever fly such a disgusting airline ever again. When he came back to Australia in 2016 I booked him on Emirates. Again I had to present the card to the Emirates office in Melbourne to confirm the online booking, but they were more pleasant to deal with.

  • Yes, rules are rules and Etihad can enforce the policy they clearly warned about. I don’t think a small claims court is going to get them very far – they just have to admit to themselves that it was their own mistake.
    But it’s just terrible customer service by Etihad and I’m sure that the indiviudal and plenty of others won’t fly Etihad again because of it. I have a flight booked on Etihad and stories like this don’t make me look forward to it!
    Requiring a physical card to protect against fraud is outdated – there are better ways to do that today. And if they truly were just concerned about fraud (and not opportunistically tried to make some extra money) they could have just cancelled and rebooked the ticket at the same price.

  • Every seasoned traveller knows of this requirement, so like it or not, don’t be surprised if what is described happens. As someone has already commented the complainant’s English is excellent, so judging by the way he describes his emotions, he would be better served channeling his efforts in the direction of, medication, a shrink, or a bottle of whisky if he is SO surprised and devastated at the outcome of his relative stupidity!

    • Barbarella

      LOL

    • Max Mustermann

      I flew around 30-50 flights a year, and was never asked for a physical card I’m using during the booking. But maybe it’s also location and airlines dependent. I’m mostly travelling with European and sometimes Asian and US airlines.

  • MWDB

    While I agree that in this case the traveler should have simply carried his CC, I do not understand how a transaction that was completed 3 and a half months ago without dispute can still be flagged as a potential fraud. I book tickets for my family online all the time with my credit card. Never had an issue (Visa verified!).

  • JanetteS

    It does seem like there was an ulterior motive by Etihad or some sort of internal company profiling going on. I’ve flown 40+ flights with Etihad over six years and have never once been asked to present CC. Curious to know what Etihad’s response would have been if the passenger’s booking CC had since expired (can easily happen if booking a flight far in advance) or had been re-issued for another reason.

  • PPS

    *Solution Found for when this happens again*

    We had this happen on Etihad in Singapore who were really helpful… but is was an operational problem and they were not permitted to print a boarding card without viewing the cc (which had been stolen) – and no-one was going to lie about seeing it.

    The rule seemed to be you need to show the credit card that ‘last touched’ the booking. So we went to the ticket office and changed the return date on the ticket – paid about 50 USD to do this – using a cc we physically had with us. Now the new card was in the system, we were able to show this and board the flight.

    Additionally, the ticket office said they’d make a note on our booking as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to refund the 50 USD if we rang up customer services after the flight and said we had to make the change . Which we did, and the money was refunded.

    The staff were apologetic and sympathetic, but were unable to make allowances for us not having the card.

  • Gaijinsan

    Etihad is quite notorious for this CC issue. There was a fairly infamous error fare a couple years ago where Etihad was one of the most used carriers and they turned into a royal PITA to try to wiggle out of honoring it. One of the requirements was to demand the original credit card at the point of departure, even when the booking was from Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, etc. It’s my understanding that the airline can’t even see the card used in those cases, but they were demanding it in any case.

    In my own experience, in recent years the only time I recall having to show my card was on Sri Lankan when checking in at MLE. They couldn’t even see which card I used, and I couldn’t remember so had to pull out a few likely cards and have them try each one until their system approved it. A lot of airlines “say” you have to show it at the airport, but it seems quite rarely enforced.

    • Just made couple of award bookings on Etihad and paid partially by cash. There was no note to present a credit card on the confirmations received.

      Cannot remember the last time I had to show a credit card. Must have been 5+ years ago on Bangkok Airways and I had used virtual card number issued by one of the Thai banks. No issues.

      • Gaijinsan

        How did you get around the virtual card number? I can see that being a major problem for airlines who want to check.

  • kuldeep singh

    you are right such demands are common in asia, mostly in India, where credit card fraud is rampant. They demand the credit card even on domestic flights within India