Couple learns tough lesson with plane ticket mix-up

Tiny mix-up, big price: What can you learn?

(Courtesy United Airlines)

If you haven't flown in a while you may not know all of the airlines' rules and regulations. Darlene and Charles Infantino learned the hard way that one tiny mix-up can cost you thousands of dollars.

The Sterling Heights couple said the whole experience was stressful and embarrassing. They were headed to Las Vegas in April and it was the first time the couple had traveled by plane in many years.

"We do not travel very often," explained Darlene Infantino.

Don Chaffin, a family friend, made the reservations for the three couples that were going on the trip. He bought the tickets from Smartfares.com and booked the flights on United trying to get the best deal.

"Smart Fares said they would beat anybody's prices," said Chaffin.

Each couple paid $931 for two tickets to Las Vegas.

The night before their flight, Darlene printed their boarding passes. "I said something to my husband that I think we're gonna have a problem because the boarding passes number one did not match our drivers license," she explained to Ruth to the Rescue.

One of the boarding passes said Chuck Infantino, while the other read Dar/Chuck, which are not the couples legal names.

Airport Standoff

Unfortunately, Darlene was right. United Airlines would not let the couple board the plane since their driver's licenses did not match their boarding passes. Since the tickets were purchased through SmartFares.com, the airline said it could not change the names on the boarding passes.

"I was totally embarrassed and upset." said Darlene Infantino. She contacted Smart Fares from the airport and the company said they could not help them out at the last minute.

"At that point, the airline controls the ticket. So, there's no intervention for most situations," said Peter Harders vice president of LBF Travel, the parent company of SmartFares.com.

The Infantinos only had two choices at that point, to buy two new tickets to Las Vegas or to go home. They chose to buy the tickets which cost them a total of $3,336. "We booked our vacation. My husband blocked the time out at work and we wanted to go on vacation," said Darlene Infantino.

The flight to Vegas ended up costing them a total of $4,200.

Battle for refund

As soon as the couples returned to Michigan, they contacted Smart Fares and United to get some sort of refund.

Darlene Infantino told Ruth to the Rescue,"I don't want anyone else to have to go through this same situation we went through, it was terrible."

Ruth to the Rescue contacted both Smart Fares and United. A spokesman admits that Smart Fares made a mistake with the names that ended up on the tickets.

Harders warns that you must review the conformation e-mails you receive after booking your trip. "Make sure you check these e-mails because they're going to tell you if you're going to Paris, Texas, versus Paris, France, for example. Have they misspelled your name?"

Once SmartFares confirmed the mistake they did refund what the Infantinos paid for the original tickets. United Airlines also responded saying as a gesture of goodwill it would refund most of the money the Infantinos paid for their last minute tickets. The $4,200 cost was cut down to $676.

"It certainly was a lot of money we were charged. I do want to thank Ruth to the Rescue because I don't think we could have done it on our own." said Darlene Infantino.

If you have a consumer problem you think Ruth to the Rescue should investigate, email ruthtotherescue@clickondetroit.com or leave a message at 313-298-WDIV.