Granada vs. Grenada: Whose Fault Is It?

I wasn’t going to write about this story because I don’t have a whole lot to add, really, but it’s also the story I’ve received more emails and comments about than any other this week. It’s the story of an American that redeemed British Airways Avios thinking he would end up in Granada, Spain, but instead ended up in the Caribbean, in Grenada.

Grenada

Via CNBC:

Gamson, who said he clearly told the British Airways agent over the phone Granada, Spain, didn’t notice the mistake because his e-tickets did not contain the airport code or the duration of the trip. It was only 20 minutes after departure from a stopover in London that he looked at the in-flight map and asked the flight attendant, “Why are we headed west to go to Spain?”

“His response was: ‘Spain? We’re going to West Indies,’ ” Gamson said.

After nearly three days of transit, Gamson just barely made it to the conference, but his vacation was ruined: He’s out the more than 375,000 frequent-flier miles he had used to book his first-class tickets, and he said the airline was less than helpful.

British Airways offered him and his partner $376 each and 50,000 miles, Gamson said. But he figured the pre-booked hotels, trains and other tours they had planned cost upward of $34,000. So he sued the airline, and he’s representing himself.

First of all, I don’t think the passenger intentionally booked this to be an “ambulance chaser” (or perhaps “Avios chaser?”). At the same time, it’s kind of amazing if he genuinely didn’t “catch on” to flying to the wrong place for so long. I mean:

  • The cost in Avios is so much higher for this award, so if he looked at the award chart he would have realized the cost difference.
  • Presumably he had to change airports in London, since the service to the Caribbean is out of London Gatwick Airport, so you’d think at some point in the transfer he would have caught on.
  • The flight from London Gatwick to Grenada stops in St. Lucia, so I don’t know if he didn’t notice that on the departures board, during boarding announcements, etc.
  • British Airways cabin crew love making excessive pre-departure PAs, so I have a hard time imagining they didn’t state the destination at some point, or the flight time.

I’m not trying to say he did it intentionally (because I don’t think he did), but at the same time I can’t help but feel like it would take a lot of “looking the other way” not to catch onto any of the signs.

British-Airways-Itinerary

And to be clear, that doesn’t even begin to address the incompetence on the part of British Airways. But I kind of expect incompetence from the airlines, so I tend to think we have to look out for ourselves.

On the plus side, at least he was in first class — here’s to hoping it was the new product!

British-Airways-First-Class-1

What do you think? I think it goes without saying that both British Airways and the passenger are partly at fault, but who do you think is more at fault?

Comments

  1. Well, if he really made it clear that he wanted to go to Spain, nobody should have booked him a ticket to Grenada. I’d say the airline did screw up, but at the same time, never in my life have I had an itinerary or e-ticket from an airline that did not show all necessary info, including airport codes, flights times, and flying times. I guess I am partial to agreeing with Simon above…

  2. I would have thought that during his call to make the reservation/award that the agent would have repeated the details of the ticket. Perhaps numerous times. If the agent doesn’t repeat everything to me, then I ask for them to repeat the details. Last night, an American agent had started to do an award and I interrupted and asked if she had been doing this award for 2 people. She hadn’t, so it was a good thing that I stopped her. But details are so easy to overlook. I don’t know what the original email had as a destination. I mean it might have only stated Grenada. Then it is British Airways fault, because as an International carrier, they should know better.

  3. This is why you always research & say the airport code along with the destination, triple check with the reservation agent, then again when you get the itinerary. I realize not everyone is a travel expert, but at some point you have to use some common sense. If you’re spending this much money, at some point you need to put a bit of effort in to make sure you’re getting what you want.

    I agree that this guy probably didn’t do this intentionally. My guess is that he’s had many other times in his life where he’s never double-checked anything & been completely clueless. This time it just happened to end up with him thousands of miles away from where he intended. If he truly spent $34k in pre-bookings for hotels, trains, and tours, he clearly has more money than sense.

  4. This guy’s just an idiot, and he’s looking to blame someone else for his idiocy. I have zero sympathy for him.

  5. To be fair, St. Lucia (UVF) on my ticket would not have triggered anything in my mind if I was not a Social Studies teacher, or an airline freak. It’s not like it said there was a stop in Beijing or Sydney. Most people have no idea where St. Lucia is anyway. It could conceivably be thought of having been somewhere in or near Spain.

    While I agree that the passenger should have been more proactive, I think the fault lies with BA on this one. Why BA does not list the country next to the city and airport code is beyond me when EVEN UA does it ???

    Mon., Jan. 5, 2015 | Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
    Depart:
    5:20 p.m.
    Mon., Jan. 5, 2015
    Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles)
    Arrive:
    7:10 a.m. +1 Day
    Tue., Jan. 6, 2015
    Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
    Travel Time:
    7 hr 50 mn
    Distance:
    4,081 miles
    Flight:UA989
    Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
    Fare Class: United Global First (A)
    Meal: Dinner

    Tue., Jan. 13, 2015 | Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles)
    Depart:
    11:25 a.m.
    Tue., Jan. 13, 2015
    Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
    Arrive:
    2:35 p.m.
    Tue., Jan. 13, 2015
    Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles)
    Travel Time:
    9 hr 10 mn
    Distance:
    4,081 miles
    Flight:UA988
    Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
    Fare Class: United Global First (A)
    Meal: Lunch

  6. Last year I redeemed AA miles for a trip to southeast Asia. I told the agent that I wanted to fly CX to Bali but was told there was no availability even though I found availability using BA’s search tool. I kept calling back and hanging up, and finally, one agent said, “Cathay Pacific does not show flights to Bali, Cameroon.” Oops. I told her I wanted to fly to airport code DPS… In my case, I don’t think I would’ve ended up in Cameroon anyway because CX doesn’t fly there and even if they did, I would’ve noticed the mileage difference. In any case, I’ve learned that CX flies to Denpasar and not Bali šŸ˜‰

  7. Hmm… Was the guy being evil or just stupid? I’m with stupid. At least he has the consolation of obviously being rich, although rich and stupid don’t usually make a great combination.

  8. I would have thought the flight times would be a big giveaway. However the ‘average’ US citizens geographic knowledge is somewhat lacking.

  9. Other airlines read the itinerary back in full at end of booking. Given that BA charge for “free” tickets, they would make more revenue from selling wrong ticket therefore I would place more liability on BA however I would only make them pay for proven loss, there is no question of punitive damages as neither side behaved in a reasonable manner.

  10. There is something more to this than what meets the eye. Surely fishy. Let me be devils advocate. This person seems to be a very frequent flyer going by the no of miles he has redeemed for this trip. Being a FF he would be in the know of all the tricks of the trade. He was aware the Granada vs Grenada goof up has happened before by the BA agents and on purpose booked this to file a claim and get some compensation from the airline as anyway this wasn’t a revenue ticket and the loss for him in case he loses the appeal are the miles. I mean unless this person was a first timer or some idiot how can he not find out he was flying to the wrong destination till he saw it on the screen. As pointed out by you there were so many signs he over looked during the trip. I mean a FF can be so stupid ?

  11. Did the agent not get confused by the rather indirect route to the West Indies? Or did he just chalk it up to F maximizing?

  12. Considering this has happened before, it may be in BA’s best interest to add a warning to agents to reconfirm destination (Grenada island vs. Granada, Spain), but ultimately the fault here lies with the passenger IMO. There were numerous opportunities to recognize a mistake here.

    Plus, Spain isn’t 9+ hours from London. The stop in St. Lucia: even if you don’t know where St. Lucia is, flying nearly 9 hours from London to an intermediate stop, then continuing onwards for another hour would land you nowhere near Spain. It sounds like this pax has a remarkably bad grasp of geography.

    Always reconfirm your airport codes and flights. Not the airline’s fault this specific customer appears to have more money than sense.

  13. This is why they have the term “the perfect storm.” Because it takes more than one screw up to pull this off. BA has to screw up and the customer has to screw up, multiple times. That is just what happened.

    Shame on BA for reading back / mailing an itinerary w/o reading both the city and country of the destination. They are an international airline, not Allegiant or Spirit. That is inexcusable conduct.

    However, I do not let the traveler off the hook. He is responsible for his own travel, and he is a total, complete idiot. BA should offer to pay him back in UA miles just to get rid of him! He is clearly a frequent flyer, yet had so little intellectual curiosity that he failed to ever check the airport code, the length of the flight, the correct amount of Avios miles for his award, etc.

    Oh, and as mentioned above, $34k for 3 days of hotels and tours? Is this Charlie Sheen on a bender? $34k is beyond idiotic. There must an adjective in the English language, but I don’t know what it is, to describe that level of foolishness.

  14. I dont think he booked it on purpose… but a bit strange that the agent booked him a flight from US to Caribian… who would want to fly this on an award? DoesnĀ“t even give you any miles… 34k seems a bit too much for 3 days, specially if he had to do part of it by train (and not by helicopter)…

  15. hmm. I’d say it wasn’t intentional, but SS’s theory does hold up if you think about it….

  16. Has anyone actually verified that the American guy said Granada, “Spain”? If he did, indeed, say the Spain, then BA would have a much higher liability. But that’s not to say the guy wasn’t at fault too. Honestly. If some of the other reports were true, and that the guy was supposedly a dentist on ‘a trip of a lifetime’, then I suppose he would have been able to spot something earlier on…

  17. How on earth could this guy at no point realize he was going to the wrong destination? I don’t buy his explaination, and it sounds like he’s just wanting to get a free vacation.

  18. I can’t believe someone is thinking he did this intentionally. The article indicates he was going to Spain as a side-trip — his main destination was Portugal for a conference. Secondly, flight crew on a flight to St. Lucia “told him the same thing had happened a week before”.

  19. We have an expensive and tedious Aeroplan award itinerary from EWR>BRU/LHR>FRA>BKK>LHR>EWR for Sept, but that’s another matter. Yesterday, I was thinking of having LH WorldShop deliver some new luggage to the gate in FRA before our flight to BKK, so I looked up the itinerary to see how much time there was between flights . . . Spelled correctly, we had a NEGATIVE Five Hours. Aeroplan had booked us to arrive in FRA at 19:25 for our TG A380 First Class flight departing at 14:45.

    My partner booked on the phone and he’s pretty careful. When I looked at it originally, I was grousing about the 10 hour United First Class to BRU on our way to London. And I never looked at the times.

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