SF woman rebooked on flight that didn’t exist after Delta Air cancellation in Tahiti

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — A San Francisco woman found herself scrambling to get home after learning her return flight from Tahiti had been cancelled. What are a customer’s rights if that happens to them?

Warm ocean water, tropical beauty and exciting adventures made for a wonderful trip for Lily Lee and her mother.

But dark clouds moved in when the young San Franciscan learned from Delta her flight home had been cancelled.

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Delta rebooked them on partner airline Air France for the next day, December 30. Then they received more bad news after they arrived at the airport.

“There actually is no flight on the 30th. There’s nothing scheduled on the day at all. We’re kind of like panicked,” said Lee.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for Lee and her mom.

Delta suffered hundreds of flight cancellations that same day in the East Coast and the Midwest due to a severe winter storm. The airline’s automated phone message warned of hold times of six hours.

Lee found it impossible to speak with anyone at Delta and the airline did not have an agent at the Tahiti airport.

But this was urgent.

“Oh, my God,” exclaimed Lily while playing with her new poodle, Spock.

She had previously scheduled to meet a flight nanny at SFO the day after her return to take possession of her dog. Desperate, she paid premium pricing to book a same-day seat on United.

“And we also had to pay for hotels, like food, an extra day. She also missed work, I missed work as well,” said Lee.

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Scott Keyes is with Scott’s Cheap Flights.

“When an airline cancels or significantly changes your flight, you’re entitled to a full cash refund whether an airline mentions it or not,” Keyes said.

Unfortunately, the regulations do not define what’s considered “significant,” so Keyes says airlines have a lot of wiggle room. He thinks those regulations don’t go far enough.

“Unfortunately you don’t have legal protections for additional compensation. The airline is not legally required to put you up in a hotel or provide you meals,” he said.

Delta agreed to refund $750 of her $2,100 round trip fare, but declined to offer any compensation for any extra expenses

Lee took to TikTok to vent her frustration.

“Now the problem is, how do I get that compensation?” she asked.

Lee also contacted 7 on Your Side.

The airline eventually agreed to reimburse her another $750 for additional expenses and tacked on a $400 voucher.

Lee is pleased but points out the reimbursement does not cover all her extra costs.

The airline told 7 On Your Side: “Delta apologizes for the customer experience with a booked connection with a partner airline.”

Lee has since put in a claim using the travel insurance that comes with the American Express credit card she used to book the flight. American Express declined her claim, saying Delta has already reimbursed her. Lee appealed that decision, saying she still has not been made whole.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!
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