I don’t want a $150 voucher. I want El Al to refund me in cash


Geoffrey Small pays an extra $150 for an economy plus seat on El Al, only to find that nothing in that seat works. As compensation, El Al offers a $150 voucher. Is that sufficient compensation for Small’s malfunctioning seat?

Question: I paid the base price, plus an additional $150 for extra legroom, on El Al for an economy plus ticket from Kennedy Airport, New York, to Tel Aviv, Israel.

But 90 minutes after takeoff, my seat malfunctioned. All of the electronic amenities in the seat, including the light, TV and radio, stopped working.

I asked the in-flight supervisor to reseat me, but he said the flight was fully booked and there was nothing he could do for me. I had to sit for eight and a half hours in the dark, not being able to read, watch a movie, or do anything else.

After the flight, I complained to El Al, but I was told that my airfare is nonrefundable and was offered only a $150 voucher for a future flight. This is insulting. I do not plan to fly El Al ever again. Can you help me get a cash refund instead? — Geoffrey Small, Boynton Beach, Fla.

Answer: I’m sorry you had to sit for a long time on a flight in the dark in a malfunctioning seat. That’s definitely not my idea of an enjoyable flight.

That said, while a refund of the $150 you paid for the economy plus seat would be fair, the aggressive tone you repeatedly took in demanding it in cash was neither appropriate nor likely to persuade anyone at El Al to issue you a cash refund.

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El Al’s conditions of carriage don’t contain any language that promises you a refund if your seat amenities don’t work, or any warranties of a seat that’s fully equipped with the latest electronic entertainment systems. The airline’s offer of any compensation for your broken seat electronics, especially given that your airfare is nonrefundable, seems like a generous gesture of goodwill by El Al.


Unfortunately, you responded to this offer with the following:

I find your response insulting and certainly not appropriate for someone who
works in Customer Relations. …

I expect a refund of the extra fee I paid for this seat, not a token. …

I suggest you rethink your response and do the right thing.

and

An electronic discount voucher is not a refund. This is giving me the “sleeves out of your vest” and is good for one year. I do not travel to Israel every year. The right thing to do is to refund the $150 in a check directly to me.

You are starting new service out of Miami in November, and negative publicity will not be beneficial to El Al. People in Florida read the Sun Sentinel.

I am asking what I requested in the beginning which is a “refund”…not a credit on future flights.

Had you written polite, concise letters detailing your problem to the executives of El Al listed in our contacts section, giving each person a week to respond before escalating to the next person in the corporate hierarchy, it’s possible that El Al might have been willing to offer you a refund in cash or in points, which you were willing to accept as an alternative.

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When El Al didn’t give you a response that you found satisfactory, you contacted our advocates for assistance in getting a cash refund.

Despite the aggressive tone of your correspondence to El Al’s customer service representatives, we reached out to El Al on your behalf. You have since notified us that you wrote to El Al’s CEO, whose assistant told you that a check for $150 is in the mail to you. While we’re happy that you persevered and are awaiting the refund check, we advise our readers to maintain a polite tone when requesting help from a business.


Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

  • AJPeabody

    It might be instructive to see how the advocates worded things to counteract the OP’s ill-advised tactics.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “I want you to be nice…until it’s time to not be nice.” This quote from Dalton (Patrick Swayze) in the movie, Road House, should be the mantra when dealing with customer service. There are too many people that act like this OP then they are surprised when they don’t get what they want.

  • The Original Joe S

    Like the polar bears and the Eastern European who got 8 up, the Czech is in the male……..

  • SirWIred

    I’ll never travel again without my trusty Kindle Paperwhite. Lightweight, compact, can hold hundreds of books, backlit (but not too bright), the battery can last far longer than any tablet, and the screen is shartp and super-easy on the eyes, and it’s not even particularly expensive, as far as gadgets go. ($119 new, and I’m sure there are plentiful used ones available.)

    It easily fits in the pocket of my sport coat, and I always have several unread books on it. (I usually get books on sale for $2-4 or check e-books out from my library.) I need never fear not having anything to occupy my time, no matter how long I’m stuck somewhere.

  • redragtopstl

    With that attitude, OP is lucky he got anything from El Al!

  • IGoEverywhere

    You guys are so very nice. I would have told the OP that he just burned the ropes at both ends.
    It is so very important that people remain civil and polite.
    Delta, not known to be the best in customer service, just finalized a compensation package for my wife and me. Because of a mechanical, we missed the once a week flight from Atlanta to Grenada.
    1) They got us to Miami first class
    2) $60.00 in food vouchers
    3) paid hotel room at the Miami airport
    4) Refunded Atlanta to Grenada
    5) Refunded preferred seating
    6) Holy crap Batman, refunded the American additional cost air tickets.
    7) Never would have thought how being nice can get you great treatment, but they gave us each a 100.00 gift card to Bed Bath.
    YES, being polite does help when you allow the airline to assist you.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I agree that being nice is more productive. But I also agree that for many passengers who do not regularly fly translatlantic, a $150 voucher, unless transferrable, is of very limited utility, so the OP was right to want some compensation.

  • Alan Gore

    Never take a long-haul flight without considering that the entertainment may not be working at your seat. Kindles are great if you exclusively read books on a flight, but general-purpose tablets like the iPad will hold all the music and movies you can eat – and all formats of ebook, including Kindle, as well as digital magazines.

  • Travelnut

    Often the carrier is one you may never use again. I experienced a long delay on the train from London to Edinburgh where they offered all passengers compensation, but in the form of vouchers. I tried several times to reason with them to get a cash refund because I might never use that line again, and it certainly couldn’t be within the next year, but they refused. I think it’s pretty cruddy to offer forms of compensation that the company knows full well might not reasonably be able to be used, ever, by some customers, and I’m sure they bank on that. That is not compensation at all. Vouchers on a major airline are a little better, since I fly 3-4 times a year, but if you don’t fly often a voucher is pretty useless.

  • jsn55

    I agree with you, Harvey … and if the OP had asked politely, he probably would have received a refund. Why people think it’s a good idea to go off on a CS rep after a problem is beyond me. You want the rep to HELP YOU, don’t you? If you insist on being ugly, you should direct your complaint only to the person or department that caused your problem.

  • vmacd

    Yes, but they’re starting to ban tablets on international flights – nothing larger than a phone.

  • SirWIred

    The laptop/tablet/whatever ban was lifted months ago, unless there’s a new one I haven’t heard of.

  • joycexyz

    They don’t need to compensate you for any of the inconveniences the OP experienced. Sad, but true.

  • SirWIred

    Yes, tablets are totally an option, and I always travel with either my iPad or my laptop (in my backpack.) I’m just pointing out the advantages of having a Kindle reader, as it will work in many situations where a tablet will not, or would be less-than-optimal. (And given a choice between reading on my iPad or my Kindle, I’ll take the Kindle any day of the week.)

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