NBC 5 Responds

Travelers Seeks Compensation for Broken Business Class Seat

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A couple contacted NBC 5 Responds after paying for business class seats on a honeymoon trip. They say one seat didn’t recline for the flight to Europe and subsequently asked for compensation.

After a 2020 wedding on Zoom, Shari and Phillip Walsh set out for a belated honeymoon to Rome this summer.

“We saved all the money that we would have spent on a wedding to have this experience and go to Italy,” said Shari Phillips.

The Walshes purchased business class seats for the round-trip on American Airlines.

On the day of their flight to Rome, the Walshes learned Shari’s seat wasn’t working. It didn’t recline and there wasn’t another seat for Shari in business class. The Walshes said they decided to fly with the non-reclining seat that day.

“We had set up childcare, we had taken time off of work, we had already purchased all the hotels, the excursions and things like that. Even missing the flight by a day would delay us and cost us more money,” said Shari Phillips.

After the trip, the Walshes asked American Airlines customer service for compensation for the seat that didn’t recline.

“You're sitting straight up, you have a little more legroom, but it definitely wasn't like the $7,000 seat we were anticipating and expecting and excited about,” Shari Phillips told NBC 5 Responds.

The Walshes showed NBC 5 emails from American Airlines customer service initially offering 5,000 miles then $200 each in trip credits.

“We're not even asking for the full $7,000 back, but if they could have made a reasonable offer and to me, what's reasonable is we didn't get the business class experience in that seat, so charge the economy price and give us the difference,” Shari Phillips said.

American Airlines tells NBC 5 Responds it offered the Walshes a seat in the economy section for the economy price, but they declined. It wasn’t clear if there were two seats that would have allowed the Walshes to sit together.

American Airlines also said it followed up with additional trip credits.

Last week, the Walshes shared an email from customer service offering trip credits totaling $1,600 dollars.

They said it wasn’t enough to make up for the seat that didn’t recline on their trip.

In one of the emails with the Walshes, American Airlines customer service pointed to the contract of carriage

Charlie Leocha, President & Co-Founder of the nonprofit Travelers United, tells NBC 5 that most airline contracts of carriage address getting the passenger to their destination – it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the seat.

“Normally, I tell consumers that they're buying a ticket from point A to point B, and that's all they can really expect from the airlines,” Leocha explained.

Leocha said the best approach for consumers is to ask about traveling another day with an upgrade. If a consumer can’t travel another day, Leocha said it’s possible to negotiate with the airline.

“If you're flying in business class, they try to take better care of you,” said Leocha. “They'll normally give you some sort of a make-good: they'll give you some money for a broken seat, they’ll give you some extra frequent flier miles, but there's a lot you can negotiate.”

The Walshes told NBC 5 Responds they feel their negotiation never really took off.

NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and a resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.

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