Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Travel lessons from small claims court

I didn't expect to find inspiration for today's blog posting at small claims court, but that's where I found it. I was there to lend moral support to a friend, and though his case ultimately got postponed, the proceeding that took place while we waited was quite relevant to my recent blogging about airlines.

Last winter, a JetBlue customer arrived at his flight less than 20 minutes ahead of time, and was denied boarding. Tonight, he had the airline before the judge. To me, it seemed pretty clear-cut; the airline's contract of carriage specified the time frame by which ticketed customers have to check in, and it seemed the airline was within its rights to shut him out. But I was impressed that the judge did not take a by-the-book approach in evaluating the case. He chided the airline representative for letting the flight take off early, instead of letting the one-minute-late customer aboard.

The lesson I took away was to be sure to book your entire itinerary together. This guy had separately booked tickets from Phoenix to Denver, and then from Denver to New York. So when his flight from Phoenix was late, and he thereby arrived at the JetBlue gate with only minutes to spare, JetBlue did not know to expect him, and so he was considered a no-show. Had he booked his entire itinerary through a service like Orbitz or Travelocity, he would have been covered—and he would have saved himself the trouble of taking the airline to small claims court.

If you're wondering how the case turned out, you'll have to remain in as much suspense as I did. The judge told them he'd mail his decision, leaving the rest of us in the dark. Maybe I should sue.

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