No nonrefundable blues for this JetBlue customer

By | June 12th, 2016

Gordon MacEwan bought five nonrefundable JetBlue round-trip tickets for a family vacation to Florida — and then couldn’t go.

His wife had taken ill. Seriously enough to keep the whole family home.

MacEwan, of Duxbury, Mass., was ready to eat the five cancellation fees as a small price to pay for his spouse to get well. He knew in advance his lower priced tickets were, after all, nonrefundable — right?

Not so fast.

Our forum cup continues to runneth over with ticket refund issues and no relief on the horizon as airlines look for ways to be more “competitive.” The Airlines Reporting Corporation, an airline-owned IT tracking system providing the travel industry with analytical data information services, reports to-date total sales for 2016 of $23.3 billion including refund and exchange fees.

And fees there are — plenty of them. But according to Money, CNN, and CNBC the airlines may not be keeping as much of it as we think. That is not for me to decide, and am not worried. If any of this is correct, then prying a voluntary refund of a nonrefundable ticket (there’s that phrase again) out of the clutches of any airline is even more of an accomplishment.

“My family booked five round-trip tickets to Florida on JetBlue,” began MacEwan. “Unfortunately, my wife had to have radiation treatments the week we were scheduled to be away. I called JetBlue to cancel all five tickets and the agent couldn’t have been nicer. She informed me of the cancellation fee for each ticket, which I fully expected.”

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Refunds are customarily provided when there is a death in the family or an unexpected medical predicament prevents travel. Without this documentation, airlines may provide refunds for coach tickets as a credit.

MacEwan was not entirely aware of this. And that’s OK. Not everyone is.

Airlines balance lower, nonrefundable coach fares with the sky-high prices of refundable tickets in response to supply and demand. And, let’s be honest — some fliers accept the risk of cheaper, nonrefundable fares only to complain later when they miss their flight and no medical or family emergencies exist. Trying to get a refund under those circumstances diverts the airlines’ attention from truly deserving refund requests.

JetBlue’s change and cancellation policy is clear and no pushover.
So, what now?

“After the tickets had been cancelled and the paperwork was done, I asked the rep if there was any provision for a refund of my wife’s ticket for medical reasons,” MacEwan inquired. “I was only hoping for relief from my wife’s fees because the rest of our family could still have flown.”

“The agent apologized profusely for not asking why we were cancelling at the beginning of our conversation.”

Profusely? They really didn’t do anything wrong.

“The agent spoke with a supervisor who immediately refunded my wife’s refund fee,” added MacEwan.

“And my fee as well.”

“And reduced the fees for the other three members of my family.”

Without documentation?


JetBlue could have stopped at the first refund after graciously granting MacEwan’s request, but not this time. Even though he did not think to ask.

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“Since people are always seeking your help with problems, I wanted to share a very good experience,” he went on.

That kind of empathy shouldn’t be extraordinary. Let’s do our part to help encourage it by taking a moment to recognize a good deed as MacEwan did — instead of only complaining.

“This is just another example why JetBlue is my favorite airline,” he concluded. “Thanks for listening and keep up your great work!”

We intend to, and so should our readers.

  • Peter Varhol

    Wish I had thought of you last year, when I had to cancel two tickets to Romania at the last minute when I was admitted to the hospital with suspected pancreatic cancer. I canceled, and survived, which more than made up for the loss of money.

  • Mel65

    Glad this worked out for the family! Good on JetBlue!

  • Rebecca

    I like these good news stories. I’m glad the OP’s wife is recovering and that JetBlue was able to help. One constant theme I’ve noticed in these columns, which doesn’t surprise me in the least, is that the OPs that report great service are always what I would call good people. They’re gracious and never entitled. I think the reason they get such great service is because they go in with a good attitude, don’t expect extraordinarily special treatment, and treat the customer service reps with kindness and respect. These qualities tend to pay back dividends. You reap what you sow.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Good for Jetblue (but on a flight like this from Boston to Florida, I would have chosen Southwest even if it had been a few dollars more just because the cancellation policy is so much better. With Southwest, this sort of story wouldn’t have popped up because no exception would have been required, just rebooking as the OP wished).

  • judyserienagy

    Lovely, lovely article, Andrew. Makes me so nostalgic for the good old days when an airline was interested in your business and always took care of you. I hope they have a wonderful family trip when the medical issues are under control.

  • Blamona

    I’ve always had great customer service with JetBlue. Once coming back from Bahamas thru Fll I scratched my eye and had to go to emergency room (at the beach, not in transit). JetBlue could see the tearing, offered to change tickets for all 3 of us for next day I charge. Next day they asked how I was doing! Awesome

  • Richard Mengelkoch

    Just what does OP stand for? Thanks

  • Stephen0118

    Original Poster

  • Pegtoo

    Wow! That’s personal service!

  • jim6555

    I attended a reunion event this past weekend. One of the people there mentioned that he had something similar to the LW’s experience happen to him a few weeks ago when he told the JetBlue agent that he was canceling his trip due to needing to attend the funeral of his sister-in-law who died suddenly. The agent offered to rebook his flight without any extra fees. Not every airline is as greedy as the three legacy carriers or the super discounters.

  • joycexyz

    JetBlue is my favorite airline also. I forgive them for charging for the first checked bag. BTW, has everyone noticed that when you book the cheapest fare you pay $25 for the checked bag, but if you buy an upgrade for only $15 more your checked bag is free?

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