Q. My husband and I just got back from a trip using US Airways. We were supposed to fly out of Buffalo, make a connection in Philadelphia and then be in London the next morning to catch a cruise departing that day.

Because of mechanical problems, the flight out of Buffalo was delayed so late that we weren't going to make our connection later in Philly. We spent an hour at the ticket counter pleading with them to put us on ANY flight, any carrier, any connections or layovers, we were willing to even travel separately. We let them know the cruise situation and made all kinds of suggestions, including flying out of Rochester, NY.

The woman insisted that there were absolutely no flights out anywhere at any time that evening that she could put us on. We then spoke to her manager who assured us of the same thing. We found it hard to believe there was absolutely nothing available on a Wednesday afternoon and pushed a little more, which is when she informed us that she'd been working in her position for over 20 years, and if there was any way at all to get us there, she'd do it, but there definitely was NO way we could ever get to London by the next afternoon.

Now I understand that mechanical problems are outside of the ticketing agent's control, and we were very grateful when, four US Airways agents later we finally found one who helped us re-route to Oslo, Norway, our ship's first port of call.

But here's the thing: I called my mom from the airport and told her the story and she was able to go online, just using Expedia and the internet at her own house, and SHE was able to find a flight for us!! There was one leaving out of Rochester, that, if when we had arrived at the ticket counter, they would have put us on, we totally could have made. It left plenty of time for driving there plus checking in, and we would have had 45 minutes to still make our connection in Philadelphia. WHY COULDN'T US AIRWAYS FIND THAT???

So, we missed the first two days of our cruise and had to get hotel accommodations in Norway (not to mention food, and travel to the port over there, which all had already been paid for with the cruise). Should they be compensating us in any way? Not just for the missed flight, but really and mostly, for the lying about no flights being available and refusing to help us when it was clearly within their power to do so?

Is it worth writing a letter just to let US Airways know what happened to us, or is this level of "customer service" just becoming standard acceptable practice these days?

A. We're not sure why US Airways fibbed here, but you should definitely contact customer service. It's unlikely that they'll pick up your Norwegian hotel tab, or even come close, but it's possible they'll throw you some small bone for your troubles. 

Also, your trip insurance (Please tell us you bought trip insurance) should kick in and compensate for some of your losses.

Next time, avoid arriving on the day of your cruise. That's cutting it close, and should fate throw a wrench your way (which, unfortunately, it did) you won't have much time to recover. We suggest arriving one full day before you ship out.

As for airline reps, don't rely on 'em. If you absolutely must get there, do research yourself, even if it contradicts what you've been told at the gate. If there are "no flights out", whip out your cell phone and call their 1-800 number to speak with an agent. It's worked for us!

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