A partial refund for canceled Spring Break? Not good enough

The Udoviches Spring Break vacation to Fort Myers, Fla., just wasn’t meant to be. The family made it halfway from Texas to Florida before having to turn around, in part because of a late-arriving crew. Now they want their money back for the inconvenience, plus a travel voucher so they can re-do their trip.

But Delta Air Lines has other ideas. It offered the family a partial refund, in accordance with its contract of carriage.

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Who’s right?

Actually, it doesn’t matter. Delta has rebooted a program called First Point of Contact that should ensure passengers like James Udovich don’t walk away from their flight experience unhappy. I met with the folks running the program earlier this week, and came away believing that the Spring Break flight fiasco for this family might have been a missed opportunity for Delta.

But let’s hear from Udovich first:

The travel problem arose from scheduled travel from Dallas to Fort Myers, with a connection in Memphis. Due to Delta’s flight crew arriving late the day prior, our 6:05 a.m. departure from DFW was delayed, causing a missed connection in Memphis for us (a family of four) as well as nine others on our flight.

Being Friday of spring break, Delta was not able to schedule us to get into any Florida airport with confirmed seating until three days later. The ‘best’ alternative to arrive in Florida offered by Delta was to fly from Memphis to Nashville, then to Atlanta. Once in Atlanta, we would wait for standby into Orlando.

We chose to go back to Dallas.

Udovich sent Delta a letter explaining what had happened, and it offered him a flight credit for the unrefunded portion of the trip. “Delta even commented to us on how generous they were to offer us the vouchers,” he said.

Rule 260 of Delta’s contract covers involuntary fare refunds. Here’s the section that applies to this scenario:

If a portion of the ticket has been used and termination (interruption) occurs:

a) At A Fare Breakpoint – The refund will be an amount equal to the fare paid for the unused transportation from the point of termination (interruption) to the destination or next stopover point named on the ticket, or to a point at which transportation is to be resumed. No refund will apply when alternate transportation is provided by Delta and accepted by the passenger.

b) Within A Fare Component – The refund will be an amount equal to the percentage of unflown mileage to fare component mileage by prorating the fare paid for the fare component, from the point of termination/interruption to the destination, or next stopover point named on the ticket, or to the point at which transportation is to be resumed. No refund will apply when alternate transportation is provided by Delta and accepted by the passenger.

So there are two ways Delta could have handled this — both involving a cash refund, not credit.

I asked Delta to have another look at this case. Earlier this week, I learned that Delta had refunded the entire purchase price of the tickets as well as the baggage fees. It also offered $500 of travel vouchers.

The Udoviches will never be able to get their Spring Break back, but this will go a long way toward helping them.

(Photo: sbisson/Flickr Creative Commons)

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