Like many parents, Bryson and Jenn Meunier spend most of their time juggling work, school and kids activities, leaving them little time alone. So when a chance to take a trip to Paris popped up, the Park Ridge parents of three didn’t think twice.
“This is like what we considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to not only go to Paris but to spend two weeks just the two of us. So we were really looking forward to it,” Jenn Meunier said.
It was a trip months in the making, booked through United Airlines, with a meticulously crafted plan to drop off the kids at grandma and grandpa’s house in Akron, Ohio the day before the flight.
"The most economical and expedient way for us to do that was to actually drive our kids to Ohio which is a 7-hour drive, fly back to Chicago and then we planned on flying out of Chicago later," Bryson Meunier told NBC 5 Responds.
All systems were go, until the Meuniers hit check-in for their United flight out of Akron.
"It wouldn’t allow me to check in without my passport so I thought that was very strange that they would ask me for my passport going from one US city to another," Bryson Meunier recalled.
Certain it was a mistake, they went to United’s customer service desk. That’s when they learned that what they saw as a quick flight from Akron back home to Chicago to get their luggage and passports for a flight the next day was, in United’s eyes, the first leg of an international flight. And if they wanted to catch that flight to Paris, the Meuniers said they were given two choices: show their passports then and there, or buy two new tickets.
"Our stress level went from like zero to 100 in about five minutes," Jenn Meunier said.
Their trip in jeopardy, the Meuniers said United wouldn’t budge, forcing them to shell out $870 for two new tickets, plus $600 in change fees. Surprising, the couple said, given the tough headlines United already endured this year, including the 69-year-old doctor dragged off a crowded flight, and the mother who said the airline took away her toddler’s ticket and made him sit on her lap for a three-hour flight.
Once the Meuniers returned from Paris, they tried to get their $1,400 back. But their letters to the United CEO and phone calls got them nowhere.
"It was three months of just nonsense," Bryson Meunier said.
"We felt really powerless. We felt that we went through all of the appropriate channels to attempt to get our money refunded," Jenn Meunier recounted.
That’s when the Meuniers asked NBC 5 Responds to take a look.
A United spokesperson said in a statement that "all passengers are required to present proper documentation during every leg of an international itinerary, including the original departure point."
But that spokesperson also said due to the "unique circumstances," United refunded the $1,400 to the Meuniers as a "gesture of goodwill."
And that’s not all.
"Once NBC 5 Responds got involved they did the right thing. They gave us a $400 voucher in addition to the refund," Jenn Meunier said.