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Deported from Costa Rica (American Airlines)

Old Dec 29th, 2005, 03:53 PM
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ZR
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Deported from Costa Rica (American Airlines)

My family and I had a vacation planned to the Paradisus Playa Conchal for December 10th-15th, but we never got the oppurtunity to experience it because we were deported from the country at Liberia Airport. I have nothing negative to say about the resort or about the airport in Liberia, and we are still eagerly looking foward to our rebooked vacation in February, but I'm looking for advice concerning action to take against American Airlines. Trust me, the story of our nightmare on December 10th is very long, so I will not go into gritty details, and I will just explain the gist of the situation. I had booked our vacation online in October, and later called American Airlines reservations to see what proper documentation my eight year old son needed to enter Costa Rica. I was put on hold, and then told that an original birth certificate with a raised seal would suffice. Seeing that all the other memebers of my family had passports, I had no reason to distrust the "expert" adivice of American Airlines and spend the extra money on a passport for an eight year old when he didn't need it. Subsequently, I called the the Costa Rican tourism board to see if my family needed any vaccinations, and I was politely told no. When we arrived at Laguardia airport at 4AM on Saturday morning, December 10th, we were officially checked in by an American Airlines employee, who told us that after December 31st, 2005, anyone leaving the United States will need a passport to return (the validity of this statement is now in question, and I think that rule goes officially into effect in a year). Anyway, we were checked in by American Airlines for an international flight with insufficient documentation. We connected in Miami after a two + hour layover, and actually flew to Liberia, Costa Rica, and were promptly turned away and put back onto the nest flight back to Miami. I cannot express the emotional stress and devastation this event has caused my family, and the series of events that followed once we returned to America (including a lost bag that went from Miami to Liberia to BOGOTA to Liberia, and then on Delta to Atlanta to Laguardia, and gotten to us on December 14th). We have rebooked our vacation to Costa Rica for February on American Airlines at the Paradisus Playa Conchal, but we are looking for everything to be covered by American Airlines, Contacting a customer service representative at the airlines was very challenging, seeing that there is no customer service phone number. After a lot of research and prying, we were finally put in touch with Tim Rhodes, a senior executive of customer service at American Airlines, who informed us on December 12th that the situation would be resolved by December 14th. This wasn't the case, and we are still told that out mishap is being investigated, and ultimately it is the passenger's responsibility to find out what documentation is required for travel. However, this is not what we were told by American Airlines in October, and once they checked us in at Lagauardia, it is my opinion that the fault rests with them. Please, any feedback or advice on the next step to take would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 04:33 PM
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I think you should go to www.flyertalk.com under Travel and Dining and post your problem there. It gets more activity than here.
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 04:51 PM
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I agree that the AA staff should have known the current entry requirements for permitting you to board and had no business giving out dated information. That said it is very easy to search the Internet for information on such matters. It took me less than two minutes to find this by searching Google:

"U.S. citizens - regardless of their age (*) - need the following documents to enter Costa Rica:

a valid passport with at least one blank visa page. The expiration date of your passport must be greater than 30 days from your date of entry to Costa Rica.

And

a pre-paid airline ticket to exit Costa Rica or proof of financial resources ($400.00US - $1,000.00US in cash, traveler checks, and/or ticket (either to return to your home country or to go to another country)

(*) If a U.S. minor (U.S. Citizen under the age of 18) does not have his/her own passport, he or she must have a joint passport with one of his/her parents, legal guardian or the person traveling with him/her."

I suspect that the source of the confusion is revealled below. AA was two years out of date:

"Note: The government of Costa Rica decreed that after November 17, 2003 the practice of accepting U.S. driver licenses/IDs and U.S. birth/naturalization certificates as entry documents is discontinued on a permanent basis."

Good luck with AA and check entry requirements yourself next time!
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 05:47 PM
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You the traveller is the ONLY person responsible for having the correct documantation when traveling internationally. Not the airline, not a travel agent, etc.

Sorry about this situation, but that's the fact.

This is straight from www.aa.com:

Planning on traveling internationally? Visit the U.S. State Department's website* for passport services and information.

Because documentation requirements vary based on the countries included in your travel, we strongly recommend that you contact the nearest applicable Consulate(s) for the latest updates.


and

Check the U.S. State Department's website for entry requirements to any country.
Please contact the nearest Consulate of the country to which you are traveling for additional information and the latest updates.

Note the following:
U.S. and Canadian citizens require a valid passport for travel to Costa Rica.
U.S. citizens require a valid visa for travel to Brazil and Paraguay
Many countries require proof of return/onward travel (such as the itinerary/receipt offered by American Airlines) and sufficient funds for your stay. Please contact the nearest Consulate of the country to which you are traveling for additional information.

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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 06:22 PM
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As pointed out, there's no question you were not in possession of the proper entry documents and thus Costa Rica was within its right to refuse entry. It also seems that AA was indeed wrong with their information in October.

However, it was still your responsibility to check information received and to have had proper documentation. AA's error in October is just that, an error which had weeks to correct.

At the airport, AA permitted you to board. This was probably in error. However, that was NOT the cause of the problem because if they had refused boarding you would be in the same position as you subsequently found yourself (notwithstanding the baggage problem, which is a red herring in this case). AA's possible error only affected WHERE you would be turned back.

I don't see any liability on AA's part and no way they should have to pay for a whole new vacation, although you can probably wrest a few hundred dollars from them. Heck, even if they had cancelled flights and you missed your vacation they would not be responsible for any resort costs.
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 06:39 PM
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Besides, you were not deported from Costa Rica, you were simply refused entry because of lack of the proper documents.

AA will probably have to pay a fine to the Costa Rican government. I don't know what the standard fine is for allowing a passenger without proper docs to arrive in the country, but AA will pay for this one. The TA at LGA will get reprimended or possibly fired for this debacle, but as far as who is ultimately responsible for having proper docs? It's YOU!
Put this in the "lesson learned" department, but don't expect anything beyond that. AA may throw some miles or a travel voucher your way, but I would not expectand free flights, vacations out of this.
For everybody reading this, it's a long known fact the the passenger is the one responsible of having proper docs, not the airlines, not the travel agents.
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 09:32 PM
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ZR
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I'm sorry if there has been any confusion with my original post, so I will try to clarify some things.

My family consists of me, my wife, and my three sons (17, 13, and 8). The only one without a passport was my eight year old son. Upon booking the vacation I was unclear whether he needed a passport, because when we flew to Mexico, a passport wasn't necessary, and I just wasn't sure what the requirements were. I called the airlines for the documentation information because I trusted them (which was obviously a mistake). After I was given the wrong information by an American Airlines reservationist (who again, I really had no reason to distrust), I called the Costa Rican tourism board about vaccinations, etc., and looking back on it, I definitely could've and should've asked about documentation requirements for minors (but again, I had no reason to clarify American Airline's information). This was the first mistake American Airlines made.

The second mistake that American Airlines made was checking us in for an international flight in New York. As we were later told, the emplyees who check flyers in at Laguardia are told that all people, no matter what age, must possess passports. The employee who checked us in in New York disregarded this information, and checked us through with improper documentation. The fact that we were travelling internationally with improper documentation for entry into Costa Rica was labled as a "security breech" by both the emplyees in the airport in Liberia, and by American Airline's employees. Obviously, it was not a breech of security, but in another situation it may have been, and I suppose they consider all incidents equally. For this "security breech," American Airlines is being fined (not sued) by the Costa Rican government for $10,000 dollars.

I absolutely agree that it was somewhat careless of me to not doublecheck information before travelling to Costa Rica, but when I am trusting and airline to fly me around the world, I trust that they will give me correct information. American Airline's policy is that customers must seek information themselves, which is what we should've been told initially. However, since we were given improper information, I saw no reason to doublecheck information (which again I probably should've done anyway).

My problem with this entire situation is that we were flown to Costa Rica. If one employee made a mistake on the phone, then another employee should've corrected it by turning us away in New York, where we could've gotten home in fifty minutes and attempted to regroup without the stress of everything that actually took place.

What I neglected to mention in my original post was that the accomodations given to us in Miami were awful (one room for five people infested with ants, and a lack of food in the hotel), American Airlines could not cover almost any of our expenses over the next few days we spent in Florida, and we had to incur over one thousand dollars attempting to resolve our situation within two days of being turned away from Costa Rica. Our original intention was to attempt to get my son a passport on Monday (via some twenty four hour passport service in Miami) and fly back to Liberia Monday or Tuesday. We later found out that American does not fly to Liberia on Tuesdays, costing us an extra day in Florida.

I made an error by not rechecking information that was essential to the success of our vacation. However, American Airlines made several mistakes that have drained us financially and emotionally. Additionally, American Airline's has handled the situation poorly since our first contact with customer service, and there has been a delay in any response or resolution. As we are told daily that a resolution will be coming later that day or the next day, this creates a problem for me.

In my opinion (and obviously I am biased), my errors were far less in extremity than American Airline's. We are looking for financial restitution for airfare, differences in the rate at the hotel between December and February (the rates are about $2000 higher), and coverage of any expenses we had to incur in Florida. Although I'd like American Airlines to cover any expense that this vacation will cause us, it seems very unlikely to me.

I am seeking any kinds of advice towards dealing with American Airlines before they come to a decision of our resolution, and potentially after the decision, if it is unsatisfactory. I am looking to not take legal action, but if I must, then I do not have a problem doing so. This is the most obvious choice to me, so I am looking for some alternatives.

I apologize if I have been unclear in my previous posts, and I hope that I am understood now. If anyone has anymore questions about the situation please feel free to ask, and please feel free to have me clarify anything else.
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Old Dec 29th, 2005, 09:46 PM
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I thought you were very clear in your original post, but the fact of the matter is that it's YOUR responsibility to have the right documentation, NOT THE AIRLINES! The airline will pay the fine because their employee did mess up by allowing you to travel at all, but if you can be honest for a minute, if they did refuse to issue BPs at LGA, would you be any less upset? I have a feeling you would not, because you would still blame the agent on the phone.

Again, put this in a "lesson learned" department and from now on, check requirments with the OFFICIAL sources before traveling abroad.

It's simple.

You could sue all you want, and it won't get you anywhere.

But, if you choose to, good luck!
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Old Dec 30th, 2005, 04:49 AM
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I am sorry about a whole thing. I agree with AAFrequentFlyer you were very clear in your original post and you are responsible or having a proper documents. Sometimes we all have to learn a hard way. I hope this incident won't stop you from flying and yes, recheck entry requirements yourself next time! Check all official sites. At least you did not go all the way to Australia or Africa.
Instead of focusing on this stressful situation think about your next trip and plan everything in advance.
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Old Dec 30th, 2005, 05:02 PM
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Much as I feel for what a miserable experience that had to be, and as often as I've had differences of opinion with AA, I don't think you'll win this one. Mostly because thier contract with you is to take you from point A to point B. That's the service you buy. But, despite the impression we may have that they're more knowledgeable than the rest of us about the ins and outs of travel, foriegn entry requirements are not the business they're in. They owe the fine to Costa Rica because it's Costa Rican regs, I would presume. But that doesn't write it into your contract with them.

For what it's worth, and I don't know about anyone else, but half the time I have to hang up and call back to get a right answer about the business they ARE in. Often have to find the right rep just to get a award ticket or the right routing. No way should you trust any airline to supply info beyond the price and routing of that ticket. Certainly they aren't accountable for a bad answer to a question that's not their business anymore than a cab driver who recommended and dropped you off at a bad hotel. His (and AA's) job is o pick you up and drop you off. Anything else is a freebee, and worth no more than that.

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Old Dec 30th, 2005, 06:29 PM
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Since you seem intent on blaming someone else, I think you should go after the Costa Rican government. I mean it was their rule that kept you from entering their country...
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Old Jan 2nd, 2006, 05:46 PM
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Like others I'm truly sorry you had to learn the lesson of documentation at such cost. It must, indeed, have been stressful for you.

However, it seems you made the mistake of assuming that there is only one kind of trust. To trust that someone is doing or saying something in good faith is one kind of trust; to trust that they were competent to do say or do the thing they did is another, quite separate kind of trust. Airlines are not the agency responsible for issuing passports, visas, etc., and thus they are not to be trusted to be competent at giving out information about rules for when such documents are necessary. You trusted them to act in good faith, and indeed the employee might have told you the information he or she did in good faith. Alas, this does not make it the correct information. Nor does it make the airline liable, sorry. To give an analogy: if a government employee were to give out information about what time a given AA flight was to leave, would you take her word for it, or confirm her information with the airline?
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 09:32 AM
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Sorry, but I must concur with the other posters here. ZR, you were quite explicit in you first explanation; nevertheless, the ultimate responsibility for obtaining the correct information lies squarely on your shoulders. Should AA have had the correct information? Yes. Should the GA at LGA refused you boarding? Yes. But, that doesn't absolve you of primary responsibility.

Let's face it -- customer service is dead, and this includes the airlines. When was the last time you got truly good customer service? It's sad to say, but I just have come to expect clerks/agents who have the I.Q. of a cat and who just simply don't give a damn. And, now more than ever, this especially rings true for the legacy carriers. The airlines keep cutting staff, so the survivors get to do the job of 2 or more people, and to top it off, they are forced to take pay cuts or they'll lose their jobs. Not exactly conducive for building happy employees, IMHO . . .

But ZR, please don't sue. Our country already has too many lawsuits and greedy lawyers who are sucking the lifeblood out of this country. Just accept your responsibility, take your lumps, and consider it a very painful lesson learned.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 09:49 AM
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please don't sue?,

I hope s/he does. It will be a great joke around the courthouse.

American Airlines is just that, an airline. Their contractual obligation begins and ends with taking you from point A to point B. Nothing more, nothing less. The GA's mistake will cost AA money and I'm sure there will be some repercussions if not a dismissal of the employee for blowing the big one. But that's where it ends for AA.

www.AA.com is an online travel agency, part of the AMR Inc, which also happens to own AA. They have more of a responsibility of helping their customers with the right information as to needed travel documents and such. If the OP took the time to look at www.aa.com, s/he may have found the following page:

https://www.aa.com/content/travelInformation/internationalTravel/passportInformation.jhtml?anchorEvent=false

where it specifically states:

U.S. and Canadian citizens require a valid passport for travel to Costa Rica.,

STILL, that does not dissolve the travelers responsibility to inquire with the consulate of the country s/he is about to visit to make sure there have been no changes. That has been and will be always the responsibility of the traveler. PERIOD.

I hope s/he tries to file a suit. Would love to see the judges face when they read the lawsuit papers. The only one that may get something out of that would be the plaintiff's lawyer, because I'm sure they would not do this on contingency basis, only money up front.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 05:44 AM
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We just had a similar experience returning from the U.K. I am a U.S. citizen. DH is a U.K. citizen/U.S. resident. He forgot to take his green card on our trip. I urged him to have a neighbor overnight it to us in the U.K. he brushed it off. Time to go back home- he couldn't board the plane. Period. Had to have our neighbor overnight it to him. I missed my flight and a days work and left the next day. He has missed three days work and is just now on his way home. Is British Airways to blame? No. We should have known to bring the proper documents.

American Airlines is not at fault for this. Hindsight is always 20/20
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 04:34 PM
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ZR
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Just to update everybody, we are going back to Costa Rica February 5th. American Airlines has refunded us fully for flight expesnes, and is paying for us to fly back to Costa Rica.
The airline has taken full responsibility for everything that happened last month, besides initial traveller research. They have acknowledged that once we got through the airport in New York, the blame is with them. They have regretted that their mistake of checking us in in New York to fly to Costa Rica with improper documentation was far greater than not having the documentation (due to an employee error) in the first place.
I contacted six Costa Rican consulates around the country to double check that re-entering the country after being denied entry would be ok, and it is. Six Costa Rican Consulate Generals blame American Airlines entirely for our situation.
Not to offend anyone, but everyone should not be so quick to jump to conclusions when it comes to situations that you think you are experts about. A lot of the times there are extenuating circumstances, and a situation becomes completely different then you expect. In this case, the outcome was in my family's favor, and against the general mood and thought of people posting on this board. Just a thought.
Thanks for everyone's time, I appreciate the constructive advice people have offered me. Safe travels to everyone, and thank you.
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Old Jan 19th, 2006, 04:48 PM
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I'm glad things worked out for you, enjoy your trip.
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 02:55 PM
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To those who think a lawsuit would be a joke, do you remember the McD case where a woman put a drink in her lap, burned herself, it was all her fault, but who paid? Yes, McD.

The original poster called the airline, and if the call was recorded, and misinformation was passed on to the airline's client, good luck AA! ZR would be laughing all the way to the bank if he had a good layer.
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Old Jan 21st, 2006, 09:24 AM
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Congratulations ZR on your upcoming trip to Costa Rica. Nice of AA to admit their fault. Have a great time!
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Old Jan 21st, 2006, 11:05 AM
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a piece of information about the McD's suit -- the coffee was very very much hotter than the "accepted" range for served coffee, including whatever the manager was supposed to learn in Burger College. It would be hard to get the level of burns that woman did if you poured the coffee you usually get at a fast-food place over your lap -- but don't do that, please, just to test the hypothesis. I've forgotten what the "accepted" range for served coffee is, but that coffee was close to boiling.
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