The death of a customer doesn’t guarantee survivors a refund

Marlene Eckert was looking forward to a spring river cruise in southern France, which included planned ports of call in scenic Lyon, Beaujolais, Arles and Avignon, along with an extension to Nice. But in January, her husband suffered a massive heart attack and died.
Read more “The death of a customer doesn’t guarantee survivors a refund”

Wrong name on plane ticket means son won’t be home for Christmas — what now?

Mariana Damon thought she had booked a ticket for her son to fly home for Christmas when she called Travelocity.

Not quite. For some reason, the reservation was in her name. Repeated attempts to convince Travelocity to fix the ticket have been unsuccessful. I’ve tried to help, too, and I’ll get to the results in just a moment.

Damon’s case raises several important issues, the most obvious of which is: Who is responsible for getting the name on a ticket right? Should passengers read a confirmation email, and verify the accuracy of a name and other details?

What if they never get the confirmation? And what, exactly, is a service guarantee worth when you’re booking a ticket online?
Read more “Wrong name on plane ticket means son won’t be home for Christmas — what now?”

My $800 mistake

jalIn just a few days, the next phase of TSA’s Secure Flight initiative goes into effect, which streamlines the watchlist matching process and requires air travelers to give the government more information about themselves.

Travel experts have already begun warning their clients about the repercussions. But Heather Lorusso didn’t have to wait for a Secure Flight problem when she booked a flight on JAL through Expedia.
Read more “My $800 mistake”

Yes, the name on your airline ticket can be changed! (Thanks, Expedia)

For years, we’ve been told that names on airline tickets can’t be changed. Never, ever. Wouldn’t be safe.

Usually, our only option was to buy a completely new ticket, even if the name was a small mismatch, like an obvious typographical error.

Well, it turns out that isn’t our only choice. And it took an aspiring lawyer to figure that out.

Here’s the note I received from Nathan Hasiuk a few days ago:

I will be starting law school at Temple University in August. I had booked a trip on Expedia to Ecuador, Peru, and Miami for two weeks in August prior to the start of classes. The flights alone cost $3,500.

Anyway, my girlfriend dumped me. Now, not only am I heartbroken, but apparently I’m stuck with $1,750 worth of American Airlines flights that Expedia tells me can only be used my girlfriend on the same airlines in the next twelve months. I have a friend that wants to come with me, but all the searching I have done has given me the same result: non-refundable and non-transferable.

I called Expedia and told them my story and that I’d be more than willing to pay whatever fees or penalties they asked, along with the difference in the new tickets.

After being transferred several times I still got the same response. I’m at a loss for what to do. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Like most experienced air travelers, I believe the non-transferrability rule for tickets is bogus. It has absolutely nothing to do with security and everything to do with money. Forcing someone to buy a new ticket means the airline sells another ticket — and that is the primary reason for the rule, in my opinion.

I suggested that Hasiuk send a brief, polite e-mail to a manager at Expedia, explaining his predicament and asking for help.

It worked! American Airlines agreed to rebook the tickets in my friend’s name. It ended up costing me an additional $800 after the differences in fare and fees, but all in all I feel it was a great success. It all happened in less than 24 hours. Thank you so much for the advice!

Ah, another happy customer.

In fact, American’s name policy is surprisingly flexible — if you read it in a certain way. This is from its travel agents-only page, buried deep on the airline’s Web site:

Legitimate changes to a passenger’s name will be accommodated. The agent will need to call AA Sales Support to complete the name change and retain the inventory. Legitimate name changes include spelling changes, changes to last names due to marriage or divorce and changes to prefixes (for example, Mr. to Dr.).

I guess it all hinges on how you define “legitimate,” doesn’t it? I certainly think Hasiuk’s request was valid, and I’m glad Expedia and American Airlines agreed.

If only the rest of the industry were so accommodating.

Joe “the skunk” calls off wedding, but Delta Air Lines saves the day

It had all the makings of an unsolvable case. It involved a canceled wedding, nonrefundable tickets and an airline that refuses to answer my e-mails. But never say never.

Sandra Castiglia explains.

Last year, my daughter booked nonrefundable honeymoon flights for herself and her then-fiance on Delta Air Lines, putting the charges for both tickets on her own credit card. Not very smart of her.

Now, Joe a.k.a. “the skunk” has called off the wedding, and my daughter is not only heartbroken, but out some $450 for Joe’s ticket.

A very nice Delta agent split the two itineraries at my request, issuing a credit for a future flight for my daughter, less a $100 change fee, which we were happy to pay.

Joe’s ticket was a little more complicated. They tried to sell the ticket back to him. No luck.

They asked Delta to re-issue the ticket to Castiglia’s daughter, but it didn’t respond to her written request.

Could I help?

Well, yes and no.

Delta has refused to acknowledge my inquiries lately. I’ve tried to contact several people at the airline, but they seem to have gone into radio silence. I don’t know why. (If it’s an attempt to reduce the number of times I write about Delta, you can see how well that’s working.)

I suggested Castiglia send a brief, polite e-mail to a customer service manager at Delta.

While Delta doesn’t answer any of my e-mails — even its media relations department, which is supposed to field queries from journalists — its customer service executives promptly respond to inquiries from aggrieved passengers. I’m told that mentioning my name is often helpful.

It apparently was this time. Last week, I heard back from Castiglia.

I received a call from a Delta agent, who changed the name on the ticket, and gave her a credit for a future Delta flight. Keep up the good work!

Nice job, Delta. You waived one of your least flexible rules in order to help a jilted bride. Maybe you do have a heart.

If Delta wants to give me the cold shoulder, I’m fine with that. As long as it takes care of its customers.

Update (10:16 a.m.): Delta has responded. A spokeswoman acknowledged another e-mail that I had sent last week and suggested that I follow up to future inquiries with a call. “A phone call with an e-mail follow-up is always the best way to reach us,” she added.