Always a bridesmaid, never a refund from Southwest Airlines

The rules of logic and reason don’t apply to airlines — not even when weddings are involved.

Jordan Harband found that out the hard way. First, his wedding bells rang, but then alarm bells went off when he found himself stuck with two unusable air tickets.

Harband requested our help in seeking a refund from Southwest Airlines for two tickets he purchased for his wife’s bridesmaids. He paid $1,100 for them to fly from Texas to his destination wedding in Mexico as a gift to his bride, because otherwise neither of the bridesmaids could attend the wedding — and neither did. Nor can either bridesmaid reimburse Harband for the cost of her ticket — and neither has done so.

Before canceling the tickets, Harband called Southwest, only to learn that federal regulations prohibit paid-for tickets from being reissued to anyone other than the original passengers for one year after purchase — after which he’d likely be able to get a voucher from Southwest. Since neither of the two bridesmaids travels, Harband canceled both tickets in the hope of receiving a voucher — only to learn one year later that “while domestic tickets may have their funds extended, international tickets, by policy, never can be.” Harband then turned to our advocacy team to help him get any compensation “so I don’t feel like I set fire to a pile of money.”

Southwest’s Contract of Carriage clearly indicates that:

Tickets are Nontransferable. Tickets, and any travel credit issued for unused Tickets, are nontransferable unless specified explicitly on the Ticket. Carrier is not liable to the holder of a Ticket for use or refund of such Ticket when presented by a person other than the person to whom the Ticket was issued….

(i) General. The fare paid for unused travel by Passengers who purchase restricted, nonrefundable Tickets are not eligible for refunds, except as provided in this Section and Section 9b. Taxes, security fees, and Passenger Facility Charges associated with a nonrefundable fare are also not eligible for refund except as required by applicable regulations….

(ii) Travel Credit. Unless otherwise stated by Carrier, the fare paid for unused nonrefundable Tickets, including taxes, security fees, and Passenger Facility Charges, may be applied toward the purchase of future travel on Carrier for the originally ticketed Passenger only. The new Ticket may be more or less expensive or subject to different terms, conditions, or restrictions from the original Ticket. If the fare is lower, travel credit will be issued for the difference. No cash refund or credit card adjustments will be made for nonrefundable Tickets.

Thing is, nowhere in the Contract of Carriage does Southwest define what constitutes “refundable” or “nonrefundable” tickets. There is no mention that it considers international tickets “nonrefundable.”

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And airlines have issued refunds to jilted brides. Maybe that’s why Harband thought we could help him.

But unfortunately, we know of no exemption from any airline’s ticket restrictions on named passengers — which have nothing to do with security and everything to do with profitability — applying to no-show bridesmaids whose tickets were paid for by the bridal couple.

So Harband and his wife are out the $1,100 — an expensive wedding gift and a valuable lesson to future brides and grooms: Before paying for your wedding party to fly to your wedding, make sure their tickets are refundable — and don’t do it for international flights. Otherwise, like Harband, you’ll burn a lot of cash if they don’t come to the wedding.

Should we advocate for Jordan Harband?

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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 Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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