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.

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