How the European Calendar Cost Us a Flight — Reader Mistake Story

Oct 26, 2017

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We often publish stories from readers that illustrate how points and miles can help you get where you want to go. However, it’s important to learn from our mistakes as well as our successes, so I’m calling on you to send us your most epic travel failure stories. Email them to info@thepointsguy.com and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, we’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure!

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Delia, who mixed up the date and month on the return portion of a business-class ticket. Here’s what she had to say:

Last summer my grandmother came from Luxembourg to stay with us for an extended visit. I booked her a business class ticket on Condor — a German airline that offers non-stop flights from Frankfurt to Baltimore. Condor business class was a great value compared to other airlines, and my grandmother enjoyed her outbound flight. She usually flies economy, so the added comfort of the angled-flat seat and extended legroom meant she wasn’t completely exhausted when she landed after a seven-hour flight.

Unfortunately, due to my mistake she didn’t get to enjoy business class on her flight back to Frankfurt. I had booked her tickets in early spring, so by summer I didn’t remember her exact travel dates. Her flight confirmation read 08/07/16, which I read as August 7, 2016 when I briefly looked over her reservation sometime in June. However, as a European company Condor uses the Day/Month/Year system of writing dates, so her return was actually scheduled for July 8. 2016.

I only found out about this when I got an email on July 9 to rate the flight. I called Condor customer service and learned my grandmother had in fact missed her flight, and that I could not change the date or get a refund. After a lot of pleading on my part, the representative agreed to refund the taxes, but I still had to book a one-way trip back to Frankfurt.

By that time, business class seats for the next month were either sold out or too expensive, so I ended up booking my grandmother a seat in premium economy. She later told me that was not bad at all, but if I had read those two digits correctly, she wouldn’t have missed her flight in the first place.

Delia's mistake
Delia’s mix-up cost her grandmother a trip home in Condor business class.

I see a lot of stories involving simple mistakes like missing a time change, using the wrong airport code and mixing up travel dates. Simple mistakes are easy to make, but they can be just as costly as more egregious blunders. Delia’s case involves a bit of bad luck — if her grandmother’s travel date had been after the thirteenth of the month, the unfamiliar calendar format would have been obvious. Still it’s a good reminder to always double (or triple) check your travel plans.

The day/month/year format is predominant nearly everywhere outside the US, not just in Europe. Most major travel websites use a popup calendar or an abbreviation for the month to avoid confusion when selecting dates. Many airlines even have regional sites that format the date based on your location, but take extra care any time you have to enter dates manually, or when referencing dates in an existing reservation.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Delia for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels.

I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card sign-up bonus or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image by Westend61 via Getty Images.

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