Marcie Derosas’s hotel problem was solved within minutes of contacting me. “It’s time for a 24-hour rule for hotels”
The U.S. House of Representatives’ suspension calendar is an unlikely ground zero for a midsummer battle over airline ticket advertising. But then, almost nothing about the oddly named Transparent Airfares Act, a bill championed by the domestic airline industry, has followed a likely trajectory.
“How airlines plan to have their way with fare disclosure”
Rules are meant to be broken, right? Well, you might be forgiven for thinking so if you’re a regular reader of my work.
As a consumer advocate, I routinely help people bend rules when circumstances warrant it. Of course, that brings out the usual chorus of rule-lovers, trolls and haters, who accuse me of threatening the foundations of Western civilization by convincing a company to waive its often ridiculous policies.
But rules are important. Just ask Congress, which is on the verge of shutting down half of the U.S. government because of disagreements over the budget and healthcare reform. As I write this, I’m in Washington sitting next to a government executive who is worried sick that her office will be shuttered tomorrow. It probably will be.
The law-and-order folks have a valid point, once you get past their often angry personal attacks. Some rules are not meant to be broken.
For example, here’s a request I received from Mary Anne Fontaine on behalf of a friend who flies once a year and had found an inexpensive ticket on Allegiant Air.
“When to bend a rule — and when to break it”
It seemed eerily familiar: A JetBlue aircraft, a freak storm, passengers stranded on an aircraft for hours — and all happened near the media capital of the world.
Except that it wasn’t Valentines Day 2007, the infamous ice storm that cost JetBlue its golden reputation, made a small-minded mainstream media obsessed with tarmac delays and led to tough but largely unnecessary new government rules on tarmac delays.
It was happening right now, in real time.
“Here we go again! Another tarmac stranding incident — beware of outraged talking heads on TV”
Ana de Pascht’s airline ticket from Albany to Raleigh/Durham came with all of the usual restrictions: nonrefundable, nontransferable and non-changeable without paying a hefty fee.
But it wasn’t the usual flying experience. On her way to Albany, she got a flat tire.
“I called US Airways and asked what could be done,” she says. “I was told that I had to buy a new ticket and also pay a change fee of $150 — a total of $273 — if I wished to travel on the next flight out. I did question the agent about any other ways to avoid paying all that money and was told that was my only option if I wished to fly.”
Interestingly, most airlines used to have what’s called a flat-tire rule that allowed airline staff to rebook passengers like her on the next flight at no extra charge. But in an era of “no waivers, no favors” the loophole was quietly closed.
Well, sort of. Ticket agents still have a lot of flexibility in dealing with passengers who can’t make a flight, and US Airways could have bent its rules. It chose not to.
“Can this trip be saved? A flat tire on the way to the airport — and a $273 fee to fly”