Hawaiian Airlines leaves Marine stuck with huge fare change

By | June 29th, 2016

What’s a company’s word worth? If you said “nothing” then you must be acquainted with Elaina Savino, whose boyfriend is having trouble flying from Honolulu to Boston on Hawaiian Airlines.

Savino’s boyfriend is a U.S. Marine who is about to be deployed. He purchased a ticket to come home for an affordable $896, which is a real bargain, considering that it’s a 5,000-mile journey.

“His leave days got changed,” she says. “He wanted to switch his departure date so that he didn’t waste his extra leave day. He called to switch his ticket and an agent said this transaction could only be done through e-mail.”

So Savino’s boyfriend tried email. The response? Sorry, tickets can only be changed by phone.

“When he called the airline back there was now a large amount of money — between $600 and $1,000 — in fare difference he needed to pay.”

Now, those of you who know the system are probably tut-tutting right now. (“He should have used a travel agent. He should have read the fine print. He should have bought insurance.”)

Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Here’s a young man who is putting his life on the line for his country. Do you think he has the time to study Hawaiian’s fare restrictions? Neither do I.

“When my boyfriend originally called, there was no fare besides the change fee,” says Savino. “If that agent hadn’t misinformed him, he wouldn’t have to pay that fare because the ticket prices were even.”

That’s the real question. Should a company be good for its word?

The Marine who called Hawaiian had every reason to believe it would do what it said. It’s one of the bedrock principles of the Corps.


This is the bedrock of our character. It is the quality that empowers Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior: to never lie, cheat, or steal; to abide by an uncompromising code of integrity; to respect human dignity; and to have respect and concern for each other. It represents the maturity, dedication, trust, and dependability that commit Marines to act responsibly, be accountable for their actions, fulfill their obligations, and hold others accountable for their actions.

Honesty is also part of Hawaiian’s mission statement.

Our values

Integrity – communicating clearly, openly, and honestly; being true to our word, our plans and our responsibilities

Diversity – valuing the abilities, knowledge and perspectives of others as differences that make us collectively stronger

Achievement – setting and achieving our goals individually and as a team

Responsibility – each one of us taking responsibility for ourselves, each other and the company

Teamwork – helping others achieve their objectives

Passion – putting positive energy into everything we do

Change – continually improving what we do as individuals and as a team and how we do it

Hospitality – always projecting the aloha spirit to our guests, to the community and to each other

In other words, if a Hawaiian agent said the Marine could make a change without paying extra, he had every reason to believe it.

And yet the airline insiders reading this will tell us (wait for it in the comments, please) that’s not how the system works and it’s incumbent upon this Marine to know the system. Never mind that the system is not logical or fair. If he doesn’t like it, he can take the slow boat to the port of Long Beach. Halfway through the journey, they will point out, his leave time will be up and he’ll be AWOL.

Savino has tried to help from her end.

“I talked to multiple ticketing agents, corporate, and customer service agents, supervisors, and managers,” she explains. “No one was of any help, and most of the people I spoke to were very rude. The company wouldn’t give me a solid answer about if they could waive the fees or not and continued to forward me to different departments claiming that ‘this department will definitely help you.’ I’ve filed many complaints. None of them were answered.”

Should our advocates jump in and try to make this situation right? Or is the Marine wrong?

Should we take Elaina Savino's case?

View Results

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  • ctporter

    Take the case! You have proved over again and again that your help does work in encouraging a company to do the compassionate thing (I do mean the compassionate thing, and not the “right” thing, which would be to follow the rules, but to waive them for compassionate reasons) You might have a real leg to stand on in this case though, albeit a weak one, in that due to the delay in making the request as a result of the “call in – email- call in” run around he evidently got the fare did increase. Although, before you do take the case, you should hear directly from him, not the girlfriend.

  • Alan Gore

    Scheuke changes caused by military orders are exempt from airline rules. This shouldn’t even be an issue.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Except it sounds like this wasn’t a “need to change schedule because orders require me to be back sooner” but rather a “I get more leave than I thought, so I want to spend more time in Boston.”

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I voted no. I’m going to hell. The idea behind a “non-refundable” ticket is that you agree to a set date in order to make the more flexible passengers and walkups (usually businessmen) pay more. If all fares were refundable or didn’t have a change fee, then the flat rate would be more.

    The Marine apparently wasn’t going to be AWOL for returning a day early. He wanted an extra day of leave and that’s neat, but quite frankly, I now add a buffer day or two into my schedule in case there’s a flight cancellation, delay, or mechanical issue. I remember an article a few weeks ago about a guy whose Spirit flight was cancelled and he didn’t want to miss 2 days of work so he paid $800. Unless you’re a brain surgeon, it’s not worth spending $800 to go home early by 2 days. Get a cheap hotel and hang out for day days. Hit a few museums. Chill out. Your boss will usually understand and if you’re flying Spirit, you better not be a brain surgeon.

    All that said, airlines should be flexible and respect servicemen/women and help adjust their schedules to comply with their deployment requirements. I think some don’t even assess them baggage fees for all their gear they need to lug around.

  • MarkKelling

    Unfortunately these days unless you are a brain surgeon or are someone in a job with similar education requirements and respectable opinion in your community, your boss will probably NOT be understanding or flexible. The best you can hope for is they will simply not pay you for the missed days. But what is most likely is you will be terminated for failure to show up. There are dozens of other people looking for a job just like yours who will probably do it for less pay.

    Why is it this way? Too many people abused the understanding and flexibility of their managers so that company policies have been tightened so that all of us suffer.

  • Matt

    His vacation days changed and he wanted to shift flights. The fact that he is a Marine is irrelevant. Sounds like he got bad information on the first phone call which is an issue that is worth addressing for any customer.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Seems to me you missed the point – he wasn’t asking for a no-charge change. Re-read this passage:

    “When my boyfriend originally called, there was no fare besides the change fee,” says Savino. “If that agent hadn’t misinformed him, he wouldn’t have to pay that fare because the ticket prices were even.”

    He was willing to pay the standard change fee – just not a fare difference that essentially doubled the fare. He was initially told there would be no fare difference. But he was then shoved back and forth between phone calls and emails, and they subsequently told him there WAS a fare difference – of quite a substantial amount!

    THAT is what the complaint is about – being told “no fare difference”, then after initiating the change, suddenly there’s a big huge fare difference that he has no choice but to pay.

    Even non-refundable tickets can be changed. The rules do not state they cannot be changed AT ALL. You just have to pay a fee. He was not asking them to violate any rules, just that they do what they initially told him they would do – change it without this huge fare difference.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I disagree that it is irrelevant that he’s a Marine. The brave men and women who put their lives on the line for our safety and security, for little pay and much sacrifice, deserve more flexibility than the average citizen. Their sacrifice means that they do not have the ability to know their schedules far enough in advance to be able to follow the airlines’ stringent rules for fares.

    The airlines should do the right thing and accommodate them.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’m happy to say that I’ve worked even cleaning floors and haven’t had a problem with unexpected absences where I notified the boss and could show cause and just took the days off unpaid. I do know of some pretty lousy bosses though. My wife worked at a chain restaurant (rhymes with Soonos) as a waitress and the boss wanted her to do cleanup at base pay (minimum wage of 2 bucks an hour) but no tips. I told her that was nonsense. Also, the boss was constantly asking her to show up for double shift work, etc. when she was a part-timer. I told her to leave and she could find a new job easily and did. Jobs like that were easy to find and the reason the boss was constantly calling her to work the extra shifts was that he couldn’t find decent labor. He wad angry when she gave notice but it was his fault for not treating her with respect.

    The few times in my life when I was really on my bottom dollar, I didn’t go on vacation for a full year or even go out. I put every dime I could save into building a nestegg which I referred to as “eff you” money. If a boss was like you described, I could afford to leave. It’s heartless, I know, to tell someone that if they’re too poor to take a few extra days off, they shouldn’t take a vacation but I also tell people that if they claim they’re too poor to eat out without leaving a tip, then they shouldn’t be eating out. One shouldn’t fly Spirit for vacation if they’re that broke. Keep the hundred bucks and spent it going to a local winery and then fishing over the weekend. A lot less can go wrong.

    I think it’s great we hold businesses to account for how they treat consumers, but us consumers shouldn’t act like a bunch of small children claiming that we’re powerless in our lives.

    Finally, I’m amused at how you say that sympathy policies were abused and then ultimately undermined the compassion of bosses and companies but that’s sort of what I think is happening here. A serviceman got an extra day off and wants to extend it and wants to engage Chris’s team to make a huge case about something that shouldn’t be worth it. If this was perhaps a week or a month, sure. But a day? When irregular operations happen all the time and padding your schedule seems prudent anyway?

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I apologize for perhaps being imprecise. Yes, I agree he was wiling to pay the fare difference and is upset that one agent said there was no fare difference but later, another didn’t. Sometimes agents can be mistaken. Heck, much of the time I’ll call one and get a bad answer I don’t want, then wait a few minutes and call a different one and they help me. It’s called “Hang up and try someone else.” Great strategy, BTW. Another tip (perk up your ears). If one agent doesn’t help you, wait about 12 hours. They’ll shift the call center sometimes to a different timezone where the agents are better trained and more helpful. Or call an agent at an overseas office. I’ll sometimes call an airline to their European office for better service.

    Hell, I’ll even take an agent who speaks my language with some fluency and thank God for my fortune. That alone gets me to break out champagne.

  • Lindabator

    It may have been true at the time the first agent was contacted. But if later the class of service was sold out, the fare can and does go up. Cannot guarantee a fare until ticketed, as the space sells out and fares rise all the time. And unfortunately, the longer you wait, the higher it goes, so any follow up now is not going to do any good

  • Lindabator

    IF was actually booked as a military rate — going home on leave generally does not qualify, as it is usually just a standard fare (which are usually less expensive as more restrictive)

  • Lindabator

    But fares change CONSTANTLY. Waiting only ensures the class of service sells out, and fares go up. What was true on the original call does not stay that way.

  • Lindabator

    not necessairly – when he called his same class of service may have been available — when he called back, sold out, so higher cost

  • MarkKelling

    Yes, back in the day when I mopped floors and scrubbed toilets as part of my daily job, I had some remarkably understanding bosses. Now, I have a boss that expects me to take my laptop with me to a funeral I am attending this Friday and call into a conference call during the service time. Probably why I have such a negative opinion of current employers today.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Can you believe this is what we have to put up with? For such an essential industry to be so darn BAD at customer service – mind-boggling.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, this is true…but this doesn’t change anything in his case. When he first called, he was told there was no fare difference, only a change fee. Which he was willing to pay. But then rather than change his ticket as he’d requested (and they said was possible), they shuffled him to email. Which then shuffled him back to the phone – and by that time, just like you say, the fares HAD changed and he now was stuck with a huge fare difference.

    He wasn’t the one who wanted to wait. THEY delayed the process, resulting in a fare change.

    They should have changed his ticket when he first called. That’s what this case is all about.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I have a good friend whose below me in the condo complex whose boss was having him work on father’s day. I was annoyed as heck too. I have pushed back on mine and sometimes it shocks them. One had their subordinate invading my personal space to push me on a project and I said I was on an important conference call and they persisted. I documented the incident and they were shocked, but fell back. Sometimes, working in the USA really stinks.

    Even so, I continue to push back and about 90 percent of the time, I get good results. The boss respects me and seems to regard me with more respect than the frightened mice that scurry to please them. In the 10 percent camp, I had one that quietly walked to the door and opened it and waited for me to leave. I laughed at his face and walked out. He was NOT pleased.

    That’s why I remind friends and the family that there’s nothing more valuable than “eff you” money. Having a savings account with a few months in it, or more, for something like unexpected illness if not being stuck waiting for some Spirit airlines delayed flight. Most people I know don’t seem to “get this” and spend money on a few pair of boots while complaining they can’t tell their bosses off. I’d rather have the same old pair of boots from 5 years ago than not be able to tell him off.

    I sometimes find myself struggling with my frugality and can ruin a good time (just ask the wife!) but largely, it’s been a good instinct to have. Although people may see me as living a rather constrained life, I feel a sense of freedom in having a nestegg and in (as much as I can) control of every dollar I spend. I rarely have to beg or feel vulnerable to economic abuse. I choose to not fly Spirit because I can AFFORD to and I’m not a brain surgeon.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Hehehe. I remember dealing with the telephone company 30 years ago. You think airlines are bad? Try getting a new phone line from a phone company that says they can roll a truck out next month. Oh, and you could go to the other phone company. NOT!

    “Some things will never change.
    That’s just the way it is…”

  • HawaiiShoeGirlie

    I find this hard to believe, but only because I’ve worked with Hawaiian in the past when my flights needed to be switched and the representatives were extremely helpful and friendly. Hawaiian really pushes the customer service aspect, unlike American, so to hear that she’s been belittled and getting the run around is extremely out of character for them. I hope it gets settled in the end and that Hawaiian waives all the fees as a Mahalo for this Marine’s service to his country.

  • And the bad info given about email was the cause of the delay. Bad info, bad customer service, causing this person to have to practically double their fair. It’s as if the phone rep didn’t want to bother with it, so she pushed him off. How is he to know all this about price changing, etc etc. The airline should step up and do the right thing, give him the ticket change with the change fee only.


    I normally agree with many things you say, but the problem seemed to occur when they said the change had to be made by email. Then they were told they had to call. If they had not sent him off on the goose chase then he would have made the change and paid the change fee. Hawaiian owns a great deal of this problem because of the wrong information they gave.

  • Matt

    If someone is travelling on official public business (and I’d include educators, social workers, etc. in addition to military personnel) then I would agree to mandating more flexibility. After all, they are doing work for the common good. But this is not the case. He was going on vacation as a private citizen and should be treated as one.

  • LeeAnneClark

    It would appear that you didn’t read my reply, as you seem to have missed my point.

    It doesn’t matter whether they are on official or private travel. Our military personnel suffer severe restrictions on their schedules overall, including their PERSONAL time, and often get very little notice as to when they will have an opportunity to see their families.

    This Marine is about to be deployed, which usually means a very long time away from one’s family. This is an enormous sacrifice, from which YOU benefit, through the safety and security our service people provide.

    This was not a “vacation”. It states right at the beginning of the article that the ticket was for him to come HOME. His job defending our nation means that he rarely gets to go home – he is away from his family, and can only go home on a very limited basis. For you to suggest that this is no different from a vacation is, frankly, heartless. One must assume you have no members of your family in the military.

    I do. And trust me, any accommodation they can receive in order to have those rare, precious days with their family is much appreciated. How sad that you don’t consider their sacrifice to be worthy of it.

  • Matt

    Actually I did read your reply. I just disagree. There are all manner of public servants who sacrifice for the common good and I don’t agree that one group should be singled out while others are not. And it is clearly vacation/leave. He’s choosing to travel to home as do plenty of people who are working on remote contracts far away from friends and family.

  • Rebecca

    I side with airlines relatively often, although I’m not an insider. I just think there’s rules for a reason. That being said, military exceptions are an exception that any reputable company should, and normally does, make. I’m really hoping this is just a matter of getting it to the right person, and the OP spoke to an overseas agent that was so busy reading a script they didn’t hear the reason. It’s totally unacceptable that someone busy serving our country should have to jump through hoops. It should have taken one phone call.

  • Rebecca

    I side with the company all the time. But someone serving 5,000 miles from home deserves an exception. Any company I have worked for, this is a non-issue. The rep grabs a supervisor and you override it. If anyone questions your overrides, helping military members with their leave is always acceptable, and I did it plenty of times.

  • LeeAnneClark

    The difference is that very few public servants actually put their very lives on the line and are willing to DIE for the public good. To suggest that the sacrifices made by our service people are no different from any other public servants is, well, shockingly obtuse.

    Obviously you do not hold our military personnel in the same regard. Again, how sad. As a military mom, let me just say this on behalf of my son, who IS willing to die for you and all other Americans: YOU’RE WELCOME.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Rebecca, after seeing some comments in this thread that indicate not everyone in here considers the sacrifices made by our service people to be worthy of exceptional accommodation, let me just say THANK YOU. Thank you for recognizing that their sacrifice is worthy of that.

    As a military mom, I can assure you that every single moment with my son is precious. They are so few and far between. An additional day means the world to me – and to him. Especially given that I might not see him again for more than a year – and, if the worst happens (which we are constantly reminded is a distinct possibility) – possibly even never again.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Thank you.

  • Rebecca

    I have to disagree. Both my husband’s and my family have a strong military tradition. My father-in-law served from before my husband was born until he retired while my husband was in college. He was often out to sea, even during peacetime, deployed while his wife and children lived near or on base. An extra day of leave could be one extra day with his children that he sometimes didn’t see for months at a time. For that reason, exceptions should, and normally are, made for our military members.

  • Rebecca

    As you were writing this, I was replying to a comment below about how my father-in-law was always out to sea. He didn’t retire from the Navy until my husband was away at college. And one extra day of leave meant one extra day with his children and his wife that he often didn’t see for months at a time. We both have a significant amount of family members that served or are serving in the military. I was just as horrified as you. I really thought it was a non-issue. I’m glad we see eye to eye here.

  • Rebecca

    Also, I am calling now calling the savings account I have for emergencies my “eff you account.” I love that!

  • Matt

    Lots of public servants — police, fire fighters, teachers, social workers — risk harm everyday. On behalf of these folks, you’re welcome.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Funny how not one of the public servants you mentioned are required to spend months if not years away from their families, or devote what precious little time they get off visiting their families just so they can see them at all. Vacations to them actually mean going places or relaxing at home, rather that squeezing a few rare moments with the families they so rarely see. They get to go to bed every night safe at home, with their loved ones, rather than in dangerous places where death could come in the still of night at any moment.

    Your comparison completely lacks any validity.

    And your utter lack of gratitude for the sacrifices of our military, including my son, who put their very lives on the line for you every day, is horrifying.

    I have nothing more to say to you.

  • Travelnut

    I definitely have an FU account, and that’s what I call it. :)

  • Jim

    As soon a Chris contacts someone in power at the airline the ticket will be changed the same day.

    He is in the military and they will not want to look bad at all once this gets higher up the food chain.

    Does not matter if you agree or disagree, right or wrong, they won’t risk offending anyone else who may fly with them who has military service.

  • joycexyz

    Bad information seems to run rampant through the industry. How do you know who to believe?

  • Blamona

    I thought there are military exceptions? Thank you for serving our country!

  • Matt

    It is clear that we’re not going to agree. I must admit I’m a bit shocked to hear that my opinion horrifies you. I’m simply of the belief that all public servants working for the public good deserve to be treated equally. Again lots of public servants risk harm (or take on a lower salary) for the public good and I admire and am thankful for them all.

    But when public servants are on their own time (not carrying out official duties) that they should be treated with the same respects as all citizens. To me it seems to be fundamental to democracy.

    I can’t understand why this is objectionable or horrifying. Or why this means I “lack gratitude”. Personally my own family who have served in the military are much more concerned about decent VA benefits and not being sent off to war under false pretenses than how airlines treat them. But taking care of those issues costs real money and political capital which in my book is a much better metric for gratitude.

  • Tigger57

    I voted yes only because he is a Marine. But I don’t like the fact that you are trying to make us think that because he is a Marine, he is honest, noble trustworthy etc. Just like every aspect of society their are good ones and bad ones. But thank you for serving our country!

  • William Leeper

    OK Guys, moderator here. While I can see both of your points of view, let’s not have an argument in the comments please.

  • JimLoomis

    As a long-time Hawaii resident and a frequent flier on Hawaiian Airlines, I do not find it credible that “most of the people” she spoke to at Hawaiian Airlines were “extremely rude”.

  • Matt

    William. Sure. No problem. Cheers….

  • IGoEverywhere

    If it were for military deployment orders, all that need be presented is a set of orders and he would immediately be put on a stand by list. I have surrendered my seat a dozen times for that exact situation. But…..this is not the case, the orders play absolutely no part in this situation and only serves to raise a sympathetic feeling for the situation. Pay to change the flights!
    Now having used airline GDS (Airline reservation systems) for 40 years (yes they have been around that long and more), when the original agent said that they could change the ticket for free, looked at the availability, then went to sell the new seats, panic would have set in. The computer would never allow the change with out a penalty and add-collect. That would take a supervisor override. Not going to happen for this situation.
    BS 101 – distract the caller send them to the internet and let somebody else handle the problem; on to the next call. Did the fiancé get the name and id of the agent? We do, but only agencies with decades of experience would know to do that. Then I can go on to have blame evaluated to fight the error.

  • cscasi

    Where did you find the hat (cover) and uniform for this picture of a Marine??

  • AAGK

    Military aside, when he called to make the change the fare had not increased yet. The agent incorrectly referred him to Email and a fare increase “coincidentally” occurred in that gap. Hawaiian must honor the fare at the time of his first phone call. If Hawaiian declines to do then the issue is much larger than just incompetence.

  • John Grier

    1. why should anyone get special treatment ever ?

    2. Who says he’s putting his life on the line ?

    “Here’s a young man who is putting his life on the line for his country. Do you think he has the time to study Hawaiian’s fare restrictions? Neither do I.”

    3.Can’t he read?

    4. Armed forces types, aren’t there cos they are rocket scientists. Many are there to stay out of jail or cos they couldn’t get any other work. No one held a gun to their heads & said join the military.
    This sense of entitlement has to end now.

  • John Grier

    I stubbed my toe, I want a 200% refund & a free flight.
    Why does this crap even get written about. 1st world problem, but I guess USA is more like the 3rd world everyday. Glad I don’t live there.

  • llandyw

    Military trips (active duty, civilian or anyone part of the DoD) for
    official business are booked through the Defense Travel System (DTS).

    The only “benefit” those not on official business (Leave, vacation, etc.) get is their known traveler number on their DoD ID that gives them access to TSA Precheck.

    Change of leave dates, start or end, would not be counted in the exemption. only those trips that are directly related to the orders (official business, PCS, TDY, etc.) would be considered. Since the DoD uses a specific travel agency (changed a few years ago to Manassas), most airlines won’t even recognize a traveler as DoD, even with the ID if the ticket/change was not initiated by the particular travel agency.

    So, unfortunately the exemption doesn’t apply to personal travel as is being done here. Even with the destination being a DoD (or contracted facility) such as the ones on the big island or Orlando, etc).

    Sure wish it did though.

  • Take his case. This is totally stupid.

  • Don Spilky

    Regardless of official “policies”, ALL companies should bend over backwards to accommodate our active duty service men and women. Its the least that we can do to show appreciation for their daily sacrifice for us and our country.

    They shouldn’t be the ones bending over.

    Happy July 4th to one and all.

  • moonshin

    im going to get flamed for this but no.his being a marine doesnt mean he should get anything extra. Joining the military is a choice. IM tired of hearing “but he’s putting his life on the line for us”. so do cops,firefighters etc… and being a cop is more dangerous than being in the military.
    he bought a non refundable ticket. he wants to change it to spend an extra day so he shoudl pay the change fee

  • moonshin

    no they dont deserve more flexibility. they choose to be in the military usually because of what it can offer them later in life after they retire.
    I dont see cops or firefighters claiming they should get more flexibility and their jobs are as dangerous or even more dangerous than being in teh service.

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