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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Consumer reporter and ombudsman

Michelle Couch-Friedman is the founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. She is a consumer advocate, ombudsman columnist, mediator, writer, and licensed psychotherapist. Michelle is a public speaker, and her expert guidance has been cited in MarketWatch, Consumer Reports, Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Popular Science, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, CBS News, National Geographic, Travel Weekly, Reader's Digest and more. You might even catch Michelle on TV reporting on a situation. :) Michelle is also the travel ombudsman columnist for The Points Guy and is the former executive director of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy. During her six years in that position, she resolved thousands of cases for troubled travelers and other consumers. You can read hundreds of 5-star reviews Michelle earned during her service to the nonprofit since 2016 here on Great Nonprofits. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Today, she continues to spend as much time as possible fiercely defending consumers and traveling the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Couch-Friedman or on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.
This traveler made a passport mistake that ended with her in "jail." Here's how you can avoid this fait.

Welcome to Switzerland. Now you are going to jail!

Elena Pavlova just made the worst travel mistake of her life. Before setting off for her dream vacation to Europe, she neglected to check the entry requirements for Switzerland. Then she managed to board her Swiss Air International flight (SWISS) to Zurich with an invalid passport for her itinerary to the Schengen area. Not surprisingly, her vacation plans came to a screeching halt when she landed. She was denied entry and border police took her into custody.

Now Pavlova is asking why SWISS allowed her to board the plane with an invalid passport in the first place. And she’s demanding that the airline share the $3,000 cost of this travel mistake.

It’s critical to know and possess the required entry documents for your intended destination. If you don’t, you too may take an unpleasant international round-trip odyssey — no vacation and no refund included.

It is not possible to use a library card to fly internationally. So why did this passenger think she could?

No, it is not possible to fly internationally with a library card!

Elgy Gillespie was on her way to the airport for a trip to Ireland when she lost her passport. No problem, she thought. Having recently read an article that suggested she could fly with just a library card, she was confident that she could talk her way onboard her international flight.

But when a Norwegian Air Shuttle agent unequivocally denied her boarding without a passport, she was stunned by his lack of understanding.

Now she wants our advocacy team to intervene.

Elgy’s story serves as a warning not to believe everything you read online. It also is a reminder of the importance of ensuring that all of your required travel documents are firmly in hand before stepping up to the airport check-in counter.

If you lose your passport on your flight, you could end up in jail. This passenger found out the hard way.

I lost my passport on my flight and ended up in jail!

At some point during her international flight from New York to Madrid, Alberta Chen lost her passport. As a result, she ended up at the immigration window in Spain with no passport to show to the officers. What happened next was a traveler’s worst nightmare. Chen was taken from the airport, placed in detention overnight and then deported back to the United States the following day.

Now she wants to know how she can get a $2,400 refund for this vacation fiasco.

Alberta’s distressing misadventure underscores the importance of safeguarding your passport and other travel documents at all times. If you don’t, you might find yourself in a similar predicament on an express round-trip international journey — no sightseeing included.

This couple's honeymoon ended in disaster at the airport. Whose fault is this and can we help?

My honeymoon ended in disaster at the airport! Who owes me $7,000?

Daniela Jedlicki’s honeymoon recently ended in disaster before it even began. She says a series of mistakes caused the couple to be denied boarding their honeymoon flight to Turks and Caicos. Jedlicki blames both her booking agent and insurance company for those errors.

Now she’s asking our team to find out who owes her $7,000 for this honeymoon disaster.

Unfortunately, the culprit of this travel fiasco is someone she never suspected.

Why did Norwegian Cruise Line force this couple to stay in their cabin for the entire cruise?

Norwegian Cruise Line made us stay inside our cabin for four days! Is this legal?

Norwegian Cruise Line forced a triple-vaccinated husband and wife to stay inside their cabin without reprieve for four days. And when the ship finally returned to New York, two burly NCL crew members inexplicably continued to prevent the couple’s escape. How is this possible? That’s what the bewildered COVID-negative duo wants to know.

Kelly Cotto and her husband had never taken a cruise before their bizarre experience. But after what they endured aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Gem, they likely never will again.

This Royal Caribbean passenger bid on an upgrade so how did he end up with a $4,200 downgrade?

Royal Caribbean accepted my $4,200 upgrade bid for a downgraded cabin

Royal Caribbean offered Stan Fernald and his wife the opportunity to bid on an upgraded cabin for their upcoming cruise. So they did. Then just days before the Liberty of the Seas set sail, the cruise line accepted their $4,200 RoyalUp bid. But this wasn’t welcome news for the couple. Not at all. By that time, they had paid Royal Caribbean thousands of dollars to switch to one of the largest suites onboard the ship.

The cabin Royal Caribbean awarded the couple through RoyalUp was actually a RoyalDown.

These friends took a cruise without their luggage. How did this happen?

My luggage went missing on the way to the cruise. I want a full refund!

If your luggage goes missing on the way to your cruise, should you get a full refund? Pamela Shane thinks so. She says her pre-cruise hotel failed to deliver her suitcase to the dock in time for the ship’s departure. Now she wants $7,000 in compensation for the mistake that left her without her own clothes for the entire cruise.

But wait! There’s a plot twist here. The hotel says it doesn’t even offer such a luggage delivery service.

Carnival denied boarding of the Mardi Gras cruise ship to this passenger by mistake.

My Carnival cruise ended at the pier! Why was I denied boarding?

Stephen Delisle is a seasoned traveler with a proven track record of successfully navigating the globe – even during the pandemic. But Carnival Cruise Line put an end to that success streak. His family planned to celebrate Thanksgiving aboard Carnival’s newest ship, the Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, they never made it past the pier on the day of embarkation. That’s where Delisle was summarily denied boarding the cruise by the boat’s medical personnel.

Delisle says the crew members made an awful mistake when they refused to let him board the Mardi Gras. That error caused his family to miss their much-anticipated Carnival cruise.

To add insult to injury, Carnival firmly rejected Delisle’s refund request for the missed cruise. Now he’s asking us for help. He wants our advocacy team to properly investigate and prove this was the cruise line’s mistake, not his.

Can we do it?

This passport mistake is one that will easily ruin your vacation. This traveler wishes someone had told him sooner.

This passport mistake will ruin your vacation every time

Trevor Seamon made a devastating passport mistake, and it ruined his family’s dream vacation. In all the preparation for the journey to Italy, he neglected to check the validity of their passports. That error led the Seamons to arrive at the airport with passports expiring within 90 days — invalid for travel. Denied boarding, they missed their eagerly anticipated trip and ended up right back home at the end of the day.

Seamon believes Air France is responsible for this passport mistake, and he wants our team to negotiate a refund. But is the airline responsible for the family’s ruined vacation?