No nonrefundable blues for this JetBlue customer

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.

Andrew Der

Der is an environmental consultant and travel journalist specializing in water science, nature, eco-travel, and cultural destinations

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