My wife and I recently flew from New York to Rome. On our outbound flight on Delta Air Lines, we purchased "Comfort+" seats, which offer more legroom. We tried to pay for the same upgrade on our return flight, but because it was a codeshare flight with Alitalia, I was told I had to buy it directly from Alitalia.
I then contacted Alitalia and bought comfort seats for me and my wife for $95 each. When we checked in online before departure, we were assigned seats that did not appear to be comfort seats. When I tried to select what were designated as "comfort" seats, I received a message on the Web page stating that they would cost an additional $75 per person.
I then contacted Alitalia by phone and was told that our comfort seats were reserved and I would have to go back online to cancel our check-in, and begin the process over again in order to get the comfort seats along with our boarding passes. I tried to do that, and once again I received a message that we would have to pay $75 per person for the seats. So I did.
When we arrived at the airport the next morning, I explained the situation at the baggage counter, and a helpful employee was able to offer us the comfort seats but advised us that they were in an exit row.
Because my wife is fearful of flying and takes medication to enable her to fly, sitting in an exit row is not feasible, as she would be unable to assist in the case of an emergency.
To add insult to injury, Alitalia charged me for my checked bag, even though I had frequent-flier status with Delta. I've requested a refund of $265, which covers the denied upgrade and baggage fee, but, so far, Alitalia has refused. - Carmine Costa, Hartford, Conn.
Answer: If Alitalia sold you "comfort" seats, it should have provided you with them. And if you were entitled to a "free" checked bag, you should have received one.
But let's take a quick step back from this discussion. The "comfort" seat you paid extra for has about the same amount of legroom as the typical economy-class ticket of a decade or so ago. Every coach-class seat should have at least that much space. Curiously, calling them "comfort" seats implies that the rest of the economy seats are uncomfortable, which they are.
And when it comes to luggage, do you know anyone who doesn't fly with at least one bag?
My point is, no one should have to pay extra for these items. Airlines (and it's not just Alitalia) are charging you for something that should be included in their product. Maybe all of us deserve a refund.
But back to your issue. Although there appears to have been a glitch with the upgrade that forced you to pay for it twice, Alitalia eventually offered you and your wife a "comfort" seat, albeit in the exit row. By the way, exit-row seats are coveted by experienced air travelers, because they have even more legroom than the upgraded economy seats.
When you couldn't use the exit-row seats, you should have received an immediate refund. Ditto for the baggage fee. It looks like you appealed this to one of Alitalia's executives in writing (http://elliott.org/company-contacts/alitalia/), which would have been my next suggestion.
I contacted Alitalia on your behalf. It said the first upgrade fee of $95 had been refunded, but because of an "oversight," the second upgrade fee was overlooked. Alitalia is reimbursing you for the full $265.
Christopher Elliott is ombudsman of National Geographic Traveler magazine and author of "How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler." For more travel tips, go to his blog, elliott.org, or email him at email@example.com.