Reader Question: United Airlines Award & Thai Airways Drops Koh Samui Flights?

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A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me a question by email regarding an award issued my United Airlines miles that had an issue after Thai Airways ended flights to Koh Samui.

Bangkok Airways

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Here’s the email from the reader:

A question for you to see if there is any further recourse available to us for seeking reimbursement of some sort for the additional expenditure we’ve had to make due to the cancellation of our flight to our destination?

Thanks in advance for any advice you may have!

— The background:

I had booked an award ticket on 03/31/2017, for myself and my fiancé. The scheduled itinerary was ALB-EWR-OSL-BKK-USM, originating on 01/27/2018. The itinerary had been “ticketed and confirmed” for months without issue.

The final leg to our destination was scheduled to have been on 01/29/2018, Flight TG 281, BKK to USM.

However, last week I noticed that the final leg of the itinerary had disappeared from the reservation record on my UA account.

I called UA customer service, and was ultimately told that Thai Airways had cancelled all of their flights from BKK to USM. (Indeed a search for revenue tickets confirmed this: all of Thai’s BKK-USM flights for that day now said: ‘operated by Bangkok Airways’.)

Additionally, I was informed by the UA rep that since there is no other UA partner airline that flies to USM, we would have no other choice but to purchase a revenue ticket on a different airline in order to complete our travel to our final destination (USM) to begin our hotel stay on 01/29/2018.

However, the Supervisor that I ended up speaking with indicated that after purchasing the revenue ticket, I should attach the receipt and request reimbursement for it, via UA’s customer service form.

I made the request to be reimbursed for the ($422 total) revenue tickets we had to purchase in order to complete travel which originally was to have been provided by our award ticket reservation.

— This morning I received UA’s reply:

Please forgive our delayed reply. Due to a recent increase in customer emails, we have been unable to respond to our customers as quickly as we would like.

I am also sorry to learn that you have been affected as a result of a change to Thai Airways’ service. I can understand you are disappointed to have your carefully-made travel plans disrupted.

As outlined on our “Schedule Changes” page, we try our best to provide you with options that minimize the disruption to your travel plans. In cases where the available flight options don’t work for you we will authorize a full refund/redeposit so that you may make other plans. I regret, however that we do not provide compensation or cover/reimburse added travel costs related to another carrier’s change in service, as it is a situation that is entirely out of our control. I apologize for any misunderstanding in this regard.

Your record has been documented with a no-fee cancellation authorization, should you prefer to make alternate arrangements. . All ticket transactions must be handled by United Reservations, so please do not hesitate to contact a reservations representative for additional assistance: 1-800-864-8331

Please know that whenever possible, we try to accommodate our customers’ requests. I am sorry that we cannot do so in this instance.

We appreciate your email and look forward to welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.

The problem with the Koh Samui flights is that the airport is owned by Bangkok Airways and surprisingly there is no competition if you plan to travel there unless you prefer wasting day of your life and taking a flight and ferry combination (wouldn’t recommend).

Thai Airways used to have two daily flights between Bangkok and Koh Samui. I wasn’t actually aware that they had discontinued them altogether (checked and seems the case).

The supervisor who suggested that you buy a revenue ticket and request reimbursement from United Airlines was wrong. I hope that you got the name of the agent down or that United recorded the conversation.

I would file complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection unit (access here) based on the fact that you were told to purchase a replacement ticket for the last segment and promised reimbursement that was then declined.

Conclusion

There is also an issue here flying on separate tickets unless the reader leaves plenty of time between the flights when fly to/from Koh Samui. If they had been on one ticket, the protection would have covered rebooking in case of missed flights due to delays. Now there is none.

It doesn’t surprise me that United agent (or any other airline for that matter) had given incorrect information over the phone. Sometimes they do this simply for you to end the call so that they can move to next one (performance is often measured on how many calls the can handle during their shift).

Not sure what happened to the plans of building second airport to Koh Samui on the other side of island that would have been a public one? Would certainly make it easier and cheaper to fly to the island.

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