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Denied Boarding ATL-AMS confirmed rez, gate agents incorrectly claimed I was standby

Denied Boarding ATL-AMS confirmed rez, gate agents incorrectly claimed I was standby

Old Jan 23, 19, 3:57 pm
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Exclamation Denied Boarding ATL-AMS confirmed rez, gate agents incorrectly claimed I was standby

This is my first post in a long time. Possibly should be cross-posted to Delta since Delta issued the ticket and they're the ones I have a case open with (DL opened a case with KLM and won't "let" me speak to KLM). The story:
  • We booked a trip with Delta for early November: JAX-JFK-EDI. JAX-JFK was delayed by weather. I understand I'm not owed anything for this, this is just for full disclosure.
  • We were rerouted JAX-ATL-AMS-EDI to arrive a few hours later than planned.
  • Boarding passes were marked "confirmed" but with no seat assignment. DL agents told me that is normal, that they can't assign KL seats from a DL gate in JAX.
  • ATL-AMS and AMS-EDI were operated by KLM.
  • KLM gate agents in ATL are actually DL employees
  • We arrived at the gate three hours before departure. We waited for the gate agents to arrive to get seat assignments. We were third in line.
  • Gate agents told us we were standby and that they would see what they could do for seats.
  • We were civil and calm but privately went into panic mode at this point. We live in JAX. We would not have flown 45 minutes to ATL with a four year-old child to fly standby and probably sleep in a hotel or airport instead of our own bed in JAX... we only did this because we were confirmed. But the gate agents insisted we were standby.
  • Tried to look at options. None were great. All were for the next day at that point. So we waited in the hope of getting on the AMS flight.
  • Obviously since I'm here writing this, we did not get seats on that flight. I believe we were the only three.
  • To be clear, we were confirmed all the way to EDI on the second itinerary. The issue is not the weather delay, but being denied boarding on a confirmed, non-delayed flight.
  • We did eventually make it to EDI, arriving Sunday night instead of early Saturday morning.
Delta agents at ATL the next morning were basically unanimously in agreement that I was IDB, but that I'd have to contact Delta corporate to get the ball rolling with KLM since it was a KLM-operated flight, which I did after we returned to the States.

Delta says they've turned it over to KLM, and I've been in a holding pattern for about two months. I believe it's pretty straightforward that we're owed IDB compensation according to the USDOT Aviation Consumer Protection page... which in this case would $1,350 per passenger (since the delay was more than four hours on an International flight) for three passengers, which comes out to $4,050 total for my wife, my child and I.

This took a huge chunk of my family's time meeting with my sister-in-law (a.k.a. my wife's sister, a.k.a. my child's aunt, who lives abroad and who we were meeting in EDI for only five days), and also caused us to miss our only weekend with the close friend we were visiting who lives and works in Edinburgh. This isn't really relevant from a regulatory standpoint, but I don't think it's dramatic to say the DL/KLM gate agents lied to us by telling us we were standby (when "CONFIRMED" was literally stamped on our boarding pass), and caused a huge downgrade in the quality of our trip for no legitimate reason that I can see.

I am not happy with the gate agents, with the apparent dragging of feet, etc. and am wondering if KLM is actually ever going to contact me. Do I have any recourse short of a small claims case? KLM's CoC doesn't mandate third-party arbitration and doesn't specify a legal venue, so small claims might be an option if they don't get back to me in a reasonable amount of time? It's not what I want to do but $4,000 is $4,000, and I would not have voluntarily traded those two days for my wife to spend with her sister even for $4000 so I really want to at least get what I think we're owed.

I've attached a picture of our boarding passes for the flight we were denied boarding on if it matters on here. I was once a very frequent poster and I know readers here rightfully take everything here with a grain of salt but I'm trying my best to be fair and accurate.

Any advice or assistance would be appreciated.


Last edited by judolphin; Jan 23, 19 at 4:05 pm
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Old Jan 23, 19, 4:10 pm
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I am no expert in this, but I believe you have a very valid case for compensation.

Originally Posted by judolphin View Post
  • Boarding passes were marked "confirmed" but with no seat assignment. DL agents told me that is normal, that they can't assign KL seats from a DL gate in JAX.
This is pure B.S.
DL can of course assign seats on KL flights that are open for check-in
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Old Jan 23, 19, 4:42 pm
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I'd contact the USA DOT pointing out not only the IDB compensation due (however, the $1350 per person depends on how much the original ticket cost) but also that KLM/DL (I suspect that the GAs were really DL employees, and if the flight were under DL airport control, DL agents would be the only ones able to assign seats) violated the rules by failing to ask for volunteers before you were denied boarding. If DL's IDB rules apply here, they also violated their own policy (as required to be filed with and approved by the USA DOT) in not considering elite status (for all three if it was a single PNR). A GM should never experience a IDB.

Did you ask for a redcoat or some sort of supervisor/manager at ATL?

BTW, the DL codeshare and DL ticket for a KLM operated flight make the USA DOT IDB regulations more problematic and allow the partners to point fingers at each other, but who ends up paying the compensation isn't your concern, nor is how they negotiate the assignment of responsibility. You're just entitled to compensation from one of these supposed partners.

Also BTW, I can't see from the "seat request" boarding passes whether your FF number and GM status were properly reflected on these documents, nor whether everyone was all on the same PNR. Sometimes PNRs get split during IROPs, unfortunately.

I'm also wondering whether some lazy DL GA in AYL didn't want to deal with the issue of having your four year old seated near a parent and thought that he/she could get away with a nice and easy IDB instead. If you three were the only ones who didn't get on the flight, I wonder whether you noticed a longer standby list on the gate monitors (or maybe even the DL app), where you were on the list, and whether the priority shown on the list was properly followed. I would hope that heads would roll if the GA decided to instead board some nonrev friends and family.

I think you should post something about this in the DL forum so that people more familiar with IDB rules for codeshares might reply and also so that maybe some kind DL employee who participates on FT can see whether any genuine standbys or nonrevs flew the flight on the given date. However, the travel was in November and "normal" DL employees no longer have access to such information. Surely someone on the DL board can say more about how ATL departures on KLM metal are handled by DL, especially when it's a codeshare ticket.

Since KLM is an EU carrier, you might also want to check what EC261 regulations say about this situation. The resulting delay could be worth a lot of cash, but I suspect that you can collect either under USA DOT of EC261, but not both, but you would probably be allowed to choose. IMO the definitive thread on this is in the BA forum as it includes technicalities of how compensation (or whatever it's called) should be calculated in great detail, including for award tickets, but I don't recall seeing very much about codeshare issues beyond the observation that the passenger should get the cash and the involved carriers can fight between themselves about who should really contribute the funds.
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Old Jan 23, 19, 4:58 pm
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EC261 compensation would be less than $1,350pp and EC261 says that any other compensation received lowers the compensation mandated by this regulation, so OP is better off pursuing DOT rules.
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Old Jan 23, 19, 7:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Fabo.sk View Post
EC261 compensation would be less than $1,350pp and EC261 says that any other compensation received lowers the compensation mandated by this regulation, so OP is better off pursuing DOT rules.
Does the US DOT rules mandates the duty of care? EC/261/2004 does mandate the airline to provide duty of care to the passenger.
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Old Jan 23, 19, 7:25 pm
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Unfortunately, you might not have a case.

Per IATA guidelines, interline partners have upto 24 hours to confirm/deny interline inventory requests. When being endorsed to another carrier during IRROPS, standard practice is for the endorsing carrier to confirm inventory with the operating carrier via EDIFACT message or via telephone.

If the DL agent that endorsed your ticket did not follow this procedure, KL may have denied DL the inventory, which would have put you on standby status. Unfortunately, no recourse in these situations, although you may be able to request a customer service gesture from DL for improperly rebooking you.

That said, if the agent that rebooked you at JAX did get approval from KL, then you have a pretty good case for IDB, in my opinion.
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Old Jan 23, 19, 11:46 pm
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Originally Posted by PVDtoDEL View Post
Per IATA guidelines, interline partners have up to 24 hours to confirm/deny interline inventory requests. When being endorsed to another carrier during IRROPS, standard practice is for the endorsing carrier to confirm inventory with the operating carrier via EDIFACT message or via telephone.
Again, I am no expert in this so I can be wrong, but KL (and AF) and DL are not simple interline partners. They are Skyteam and JV partners and have special procedures and contractual arrangements.
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Old Jan 24, 19, 2:32 am
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Originally Posted by Fabo.sk View Post
EC261 compensation would be less than $1,350pp and EC261 says that any other compensation received lowers the compensation mandated by this regulation, so OP is better off pursuing DOT rules.
I think you are referring to Art 12 (1), which in fact says the opposite: "1. This Regulation shall apply without prejudice to a passenger's rights to further compensation. The compensation granted under this Regulation may be deducted from such compensation."

However, Art 3 (1) (b) has already clarified that, the Regulation does not apply to passengers departing from an airport located in a third country to an airport situated in the territory of a Member State to which the Treaty applies if the operating air carrier of the flight concerned is a Community carrier if "they received benefits or compensation and were given assistance in that third country" - so you cannot claim IDB/late arrival compensation under both this regulation and any other country's regulation, as suggested - it's either/or.
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Old Jan 24, 19, 2:39 am
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Originally Posted by Goldorak View Post
Again, I am no expert in this so I can be wrong, but KL (and AF) and DL are not simple interline partners. They are Skyteam and JV partners and have special procedures and contractual arrangements.
Even more importantly, they operate an anti-trust immunised "metal-neutral" joint-venture across the Atlantic - including (of course!) ATL-AMS and JFK-EDI. As such, they are effectively a single entity where transatlantic flights are involved.
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Old Jan 24, 19, 4:41 am
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Originally Posted by irishguy28 View Post
Even more importantly, they operate an anti-trust immunised "metal-neutral" joint-venture across the Atlantic - including (of course!) ATL-AMS and JFK-EDI. As such, they are effectively a single entity where transatlantic flights are involved.
I am unclear of the relevance of this to the OP's query. You can a fully immunised JV and yet have reservation systems and processes that communicate imperfectly with each other and conversely you can have a plain vanilla interline agreement and yet better coordinated systems and reservation processes.. Having anti-trust immunity does not in itself magically change anything to the reservation processes of the airlines concerned nor does it change the legal relationship between the passenger and those airlines.

They may be regarded as a single entity for certain competition law purposes. That does not make them a single entity operationally.
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Old Jan 24, 19, 6:09 am
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Originally Posted by NickB View Post
They may be regarded as a single entity for certain competition law purposes. That does not make them a single entity operationally.
However, we know that DL handles all KL issues in the US - even EC261/2004 payouts.

Perhaps, though, you are sufficiently convinced by Goldorak's post # 7 that the issue of their "co-operation" is a red herring. Making reference to IATA rules and codeshare partners in post # 6 was the veer off topic, which I think we have now successfully dragged back on track.
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Old Jan 24, 19, 6:37 am
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Originally Posted by irishguy28 View Post
However, we know that DL handles all KL issues in the US - even EC261/2004 payouts.
Agreed and that is the key point: that AF/KL and DL have processes and agreements that, in all likelihood, make IATA standard procedures largely an irrelevance, as you and Goldorak have pointed out. What I was saying is that the fact that there is an an immunised metal-neutral JV is not AIUI particularly relevant.

That said, it does not necessarily follow from this that gate agents at airports have full access to systems that enable them to fully rebook on KL and that, even if they have, the gate agents at JAX had issued the right commands to effect that reservation. To that extent, I do not think that we are in a position to determine whether the OP's party was properly rebooked on KL, with the consequence that they were improperly IDB'd at ATL and therefore in principle eligible to EU compensation or just denied boarding due to the correct processes not being followed by agents at JAX, in which case DL would be potentially liable but presumably on a contractual basis in that case (or under any relevant US regulations).
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Old Jan 24, 19, 6:46 am
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This is not as simple as it is made to appear. The flight from which OP was denied boarding was KL-operated and thus it is KL which is responsible for any compensation, either under DOT's 14 CFR rules or EC 261/2004. DL is a complete red herring for purposes of mandatory comprensation (but not a customer service gesture). The fact that DL may serve as the ground handler for NA and may even cut compensation checks, does not change the fact that OP's complaint is to and about KL. A DOT complaint about DL will simply yield a response that the matter has been referred to KL as the operating carrier. Forget about alliances, JV's and immunity agreements. Those may govern how DL and KL interact, but they do not place any burdens on DL vis-a-vis this passenger in this matter.

This is where OP falls into no man's land. For "day of" IRROPS such as this, DL should have called KL and confirmed positive space. KL would presumably have authorized the transaction and awaited the e-tickets. It would not be uncommon for KL to have continued selling its flight (lots of other IRROPS on the East Coast) and by the time OP's e-tickets "arrives" he was a SB passenger.

DL's position is that it is not the operating carrier and thus not liable for compensation either under US or EU rules (EU in particular because for DL purposes it matters that this was a departure from the US). KL may say that it is not liable because it did not ever confirm positive space and thus OP was not IDB under US / EU rules. Thus, no reason to call for volunteers either.

OP is making a mistake by dealing with DL. If compensation is due, it is due from KL (even if it is DL which processes the claim and pays out the funds). If this is DL's fault because the JAX agents were too harried to get this done right, then that is a matter betweem KL and DL and not OP's worry.

Because this is a public forum and others face similar problems, there are some things to do which can lessen the risk and which, when one has time as here, will help:

1. Call the operating carrier of the new flight and confirm that it has you confirmed for positive space (and seats assigned).
2. While agents hate this, ask the agent handling the reroute to issue paper tickets. Agents hate this, will tell you that it can't be done. But, it can. This process forces the issue in the booking system and means that you have physical tickets (as opposed to BP's which are relatively meaningless).
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Old Jan 24, 19, 10:47 am
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I agree. If KLM never confirmed (HK1) the PAX on their flight there is no basis for IDB. The "confirmed" on the BP does necessarily means that the PAX were confirmed. The unassigned seats/the DL agent being unable to assign seats strongly suggests that the PAX were never confirmed on the KLM flight.
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Old Jan 24, 19, 10:56 am
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However, the passengers were confirmed on the codeshare, under the DL 9XXX flight number. Can't DL sell and confirm its own allocation of seats on KLM operated flights? AFAIK the need to get confirmation from KLM would apply only if DL had rebooked them using the KLM flight number, but I'm not an expert on how this operates within the JV and I think different codeshare partners can have different bilateral agreements between them regarding how the codeshare flights are handled.
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