October 28, 2021

Bucks Blog: Getting Change Fees Waived for a Canceled Flight

A traveler at an American Airlines terminal.Associated Press A traveler at an American Airlines terminal.

Airlines take a lot of heat for indifferent customer service — and it’s often justified. But I recently had a pleasantly reasonable experience with American Airlines, although it did take a little time to resolve.

This past weekend, I was scheduled to fly with my two daughters to Connecticut, to attend my niece’s college graduation. The event would also serve as a family reunion. We planned to get to bed early Saturday night, because the Sunday morning flight was quite early.

At about midnight, my 11-year-old appeared at my bedside — never a good sign. “Mom,” she whimpered. “I feel sick.”

Thus began an endless night of vomiting. Was it a stomach flu, or was the hot dog she had for lunch rancid? Who knows. But when dawn arrived, it was clear that we were not going to be able to board the plane. Rescheduling was too risky — what if she was contagious, and the rest of us were about to fall ill, too? I pictured us holed up at an airport restroom. Or worse, getting sick at the commencement. No, thanks. So, bleary eyed, I called American to cancel our flights.

“Do you want to rebook?” she asked. Not yet, I said, explaining that a member of my family was ill, and I wasn’t sure when we would next travel. She asked if it was one of the ticketed passengers who was sick. “Yes, it’s my daughter,” I said. “She is vomiting. You don’t want her on your plane.”

Since the tickets were nonrefundable, she said, we would receive a credit for the amount paid — but, a change fee of $150 a ticket would be deducted when I booked a new flight. That meant an extra $450. Ouch!

I asked if it was possible to waive the change fees, given our situation. She seemed puzzled: Waive all three fees, even though just one person was ill?

I explained that the ill passenger was a child; because she was sick, I couldn’t fly, and neither could her sister. Even though I was tired and grumpy, I tried to remember what a travel expert — and my husband — had told me: Customer service reps are stressed, too. Be nice, and you’re more likely to get what you want.

The representative put me on hold for what seemed like a very long time. I was losing hope. But then she came back on the line, to tell me that the airline had waived the fees. There would be a permanent notation on the tickets — she gave me all three of our ticket numbers for future reference — so when we re-booked, we wouldn’t have to pay the extra amount.

How often does something like that happen? Kent Powell, a spokesman for American, didn’t provide statistics. But he said in an e-mail that customer service representatives are trained to consider “extenuating circumstances that warrant exceptions to our policies and procedures.”

In other words, it can’t hurt to ask. The waiver didn’t replace the disappointment of missing our family big event, but it did help lessen the financial sting.

Things took a little longer when it came time to rebook the flight. I decided to use the credit for our family’s planned summer  vacation in late July. I had to call American to rebook, since I couldn’t apply the credit using the Web site. All went well until it came time to actually waive the change fee. Although the agent could see the notation on the tickets, she needed approval from the “pricing” department. The pricing gurus then referred her to customer service, which again bumped her back to pricing, she told me. All this occurred while I was on hold — for a total of nearly 30 minutes.

I then tried to add my husband to the reservation, which complicated things. Because he hadn’t been on the original trip, I had to make a new reservation for him. That would cost me an extra $25, the agent said, unless I went and paid online. She created a reservation for me and gave me a record locator number. But when I went online to pay for it, the system told me I couldn’t — because the reservation hadn’t actually been created online. So I had to start over to create a new reservation online for his ticket.

In the end, I got my new reservations without the extra fees — but it took much more time than I expected to complete the transaction.

Have you successfully had a change fee waived? How did you manage it?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/getting-change-fees-waived-for-a-canceled-flight/?partner=rss&emc=rss

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