For his egregious technical error, Len Steinke, owner of Morgan
Travel Service in Fort Morgan, Colo., received a debit memo from
Northwest for $358.88.
Steinke was told that he had failed to "end the record" properly
on a seven-day advance-purchase reservation for an elderly client.
His 80-year old client had booked a $470.72 seat from Denver to
Fargo, N.D., but she had failed to stop by for the ticket within
the required 24-hour time limit.
When she appeared a week later, Steinke canceled the old
reservation and rebooked her at the same $470.72 fare as still
priced in the agency's Apollo reservations system. He assumed
everything would be OK. There was nothing wrong with the new
ticket. But shame on him. He had failed to hit the "end of record"
button while canceling the original reservation.
When he inquired about the $358.88 debit memo -- charging him,
in effect, for the coach fare -- the airline's auditor told him,
"Pay it, it's our airline."
Why Northwest would treat anyone like that -- let alone its
sales agent who could have booked his client on United -- is beyond
It ought to know that CRS vendors do not make it easy for agents
under fire, taking call after call, to transfer data. There is a
time-consuming process to end one record and then start
When we asked our own bright, cheery and articulate agent if
airlines could make the process simpler, she said, "Oh, please! The
airlines do not miss any opportunity to screw travel agents. They
are trying to make it as difficult as possible for us. I'm
convinced of that."
The $358.88 bears no relationship to the cost of this innocent
slip. It was not money collected from the passenger, who paid for a
7-day advance-purchase fare. The "punishment" -- if that's what it
is supposed to be -- does not fit the crime. What's more, there is
no appeals process. If it's not quite theft, what is it?