-- Question:I used Delta frequent-flier miles for an award ticket to Singapore. I booked the ticket over the phone and received e-mail confirmation with the itinerary, which was Philadelphia-New York-Singapore (the New York-Singapore segment was on Singapore Airlines, a partner of Delta). The itinerary did not show an arrival date in Singapore, so I called Delta and was told I would arrive the following day — not two days later, which was the true arrival time.
On my departure day, the first leg of my flight was canceled due to a storm. I made reservations for the following day for the same flights, figuring I would arrive one day later than originally planned. It turned out, however, that my trip was already one day shorter than I suspected. When I failed to arrive in Singapore on the date I had given, my husband and the organizers of the conference I was attending spent hours trying to figure out where I was.
Had I known all this, I would have planned differently or canceled my trip altogether after the storm changed my original departure date. Since my trip was 30% shorter than planned and thus less productive, and I incurred other costs, I propose that Delta restore my miles used for the trip. Can you help? — Margaret King, Philadelphia
Answer:Crossing time zones and the International Date Line can be confusing, but flight itineraries should specify arrival dates as well as departure dates.
King's original e-mail itinerary from Delta didn't. But that's because Delta was awaiting confirmation from Singapore Airlines about King's ticket to and from Singapore, so the booking class and seating information showed up as X's on her itinerary. Neither did the itinerary show her flight's stopover in Frankfurt, Germany, which could have aided her in spotting her true arrival date.
King should have received a follow-up e-mail with a detailed flight itinerary, including arrival dates, according to Delta representative Anthony Black. She also could have checked online for her updated itinerary.
When travelers purchase over the phone, reservations agents should repeat the departure and arrival cities and the scheduled arrival and departure times, including the date, according to Black. Any changes to the original itinerary should result in a verbal reconfirmation of the actual arrival and departure dates and times as well.
"Reservations agents are trained to handle thousands of flights per day across multiple time zones over several days," Black says. "This is the first time I've ever heard of this occurring."
It's impossible to know the details of King's conversation with the Delta agent who told her she'd arrive the next day.
"This is an unfortunate situation clouded by a number of events including weather," Black says. "Based on the limited ability to confirm the claims, we felt it best to err on the side of the customer and refund the SkyMiles."
Delta reinstated the 75,000 miles used for the award ticket.
How can you avoid trouble?
• Take notes when booking over the phone, jotting down dates and times as the agent confirms your itinerary.
• Read over the written itinerary, paying close attention to date changes for international flights.
• Ask specific questions, get specific answers: "One day later" is not a date, for example.
Linda Burbank first began troubleshooting travelers' complaints for the Consumer Reports Travel Letter. She now writes regularly for Consumers Union publications and is a contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler. E-mail her at email@example.com. Your question may be used in a future column.