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Soldier left stranded on trip to Africa

Monday, June 03, 2013

A delayed flight left a Fayetteville soldier stranded. Now, he's sharing his story hoping no one else has to go through his travel nightmare.

When it comes to flying, there can be headaches. A weather delay caused a major roadblock for Sgt. David Bazi, and he says instead of the airlines helping, they just made him pay up.

Bazi enjoyed his leave from the Army visiting his family in Africa, but he didn't enjoy what it took to finally get him them.

"I tried to save money and end up paying close to $3,000 just for the ticket," said Bazi.

It was a big expense Bazi was not expecting when he used a travel agency in Fayetteville called "Concierge Travel" to get him from Fayetteville to Africa.

"The way he wanted to do it is getting a ticket from Fayetteville to New York, which wasn't that much," said Bazi. "Then in New York, New York is a big airport so you can get international flight cheaper from New York compared to Fayetteville."

Concierge Travel booked the two separate flights on two different airlines which cost Bazi about $1,700. His flight left out of Fayetteville on time, but the problems started with his connection through Atlanta.

"It was raining so they got delayed like three hours and I had to be in New York at like 3:30," said Bazi. "So with a three hour delay, I got to New York around 6:30 and my flight was gone."

Bazi thought the airlines would just rebook him on a later flight, but that didn't happen since his tickets for each flight were bought separately.

"It was basically a situation I had to handle by myself." said Bazi. "The travel agency didn't want to help. The airline company didn't want to help."

Bazi actually spent four extra days in New York trying to figure out how he was going to get to Africa. He said the airlines would not work with him.

"They told me this is not a situation that they can help because it was not their fault because of the weather situation," said Bazi. "Well, my answer to them is if it wasn't my fault, why do I have to take the loss."

Bazi eventually had to pay $1,000 for a new ticket to get home to see his family in Africa. He now has this advice for other travelers.

"If you can get insurance, make sure you insure your tickets," he said.

Besides considering insurance, I talked with both airlines involved in Bazi's situation, and they both said the reason he was not rebooked on a later flight was because his flights were not combined, meaning he did not buy his flights from Fayetteville to Africa as one combined flight. He actually bought two separate flights -- one from Fayetteville to New York and then a flight from New York to Africa.

In that case, the reps say if you don't make it to your second flight on time, you're considered a no show and your reservation is typically canceled.  

If Bazi would have a combined flight, the airlines reps said passengers are entitled to full assistance if something goes wrong.  They add while combined flights are typically more expensive, they do offer assistance guarantee.

Bazi says the travel agent he went through booked the flights as two separate ones to save money. That rep says he doesn't tell his customers the rules of flying, he assumes they know them.  

He adds he also books people according to their means, and as far as Bazi, he said he tried to help him when he missed his flight in New York, and offered him options and assumed he got taken care of.

Bazi, however, says that is not true, but regardless has learned his lesson. While buying two separate flights may save you some money, it could also end up costing you big time if you encounter any kind of delays as airlines are not responsible unless your connecting flights were bought as one combined ticket.

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