Hey US Airways, do you really want my eyeball to explode on a plane?

Jennene Colky can’t fly because she has a detached retina. Why won’t US Airways refund her ticket?

Question: I was recently forced to cancel a round-trip ticket between Chicago and Bangor, Maine, on US Airways, for which I paid $494, including a $50 seat upgrade charge.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Global Rescue -- Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

About a month before I was to fly, I had emergency surgery for a detached retina in which a gas bubble was inserted in my eye to hold the retina in place during the healing process. This meant that I could not fly or even travel to elevations over 1,000 feet. Two of the airlines on which I had flights — United and US Airways — asked for medical documentation of my surgery, which I sent them.

United, bless their little hearts, fully refunded the cost of my ticket to my credit card within days. But US Airways took a different view, refusing to refund the fare.

The facts are that my eye would have exploded at a high altitude, even in a pressurized cabin, and I had a letter from a retinal specialist attesting to this. If exploding eyeballs aren’t a good enough reason to credit or refund the entire amount of an airline ticket, just what is?

I have subsequently received email notice of two $25 credits from US Airways (not yet posted to my credit card) which, I assume, is a refund for my seat upgrade. Not good enough. Can you help? — Jennene Colky, Oak Park, Ill.

Answer: Exploding eyeballs are one of the best reasons to bend a refund rule. I can assure you that no one — and this includes your airline — wants any part of your face to spontaneously explode in flight.

US Airways’ refund rules are fairly strict, and they are strictly enforced. On a nonrefundable ticket, you or your travel companion have to die before it will return your money. (To be fair, I’ve seen other exceptions, but they are few and far between.)

So how do you deal with life’s little uncertainties, like detached retinas? US Airways would argue that you should buy a more expensive ticket that can be refunded. Unfortunately, those tickets can cost up to four times more than a nonrefundable ticket. At that price, you might as well buy a nonrefundable ticket and throw away the ticket if you can’t use it.

But wait! US Airways, like the other major American air carriers, offers you a ticket credit (minus a change fee) that can be applied toward a new ticket. Once you’ve recovered, you can re-use the credit within a year of your initial booking date. That would give you plenty of time.

If for some reason you’re having trouble reaching someone at US Airways, I have a full list of contacts on my site.

I spoke with a US Airways representative, who reviewed your record. Turns out you had only requested a full ticket refund, which the air carrier denied. The airline offered you a ticket credit and agreed to waive the change fee as a “one time” courtesy, a resolution with which you were happy.

I hope you get well soon.

Should US Airways have waived its ticket change fee for Jennene Colky?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

130 thoughts on “Hey US Airways, do you really want my eyeball to explode on a plane?

  1. Dramatic much? It makes for a good headline, but basically she’s just another customer that bought a non-refundable ticket, who asks Chris to help get a refund they don’t deserve. These stories are a dime a dozen. I’m normally more sympathetic, but I’m annoyed how the LW used descriptions like “exploding eyeball” and “bless their little hearts” to make her letter more dramatic.

    1. Of course she doesn’t “deserve” a refund. If she did hopefully she wouldn’t need assistance. I’m happy to pay a little extra for my ticket (and I’m usually the one advocating against adding extras in and increasing cost) so that the airlines can show some compassion when the truly unexpected happens, e.g. unexpected medical issues, legal issues, etc.)

      1. I’m not in the business of subsidizing compassion for every day medical issues. Shit happens, let the plane ticket go.

        1. I find the lack of compassion here stunning, honestly.

          It is not as if she had any idea of her medical situation when she booked the ticket. When we become so beholden to rules and the almighty dollar that we lose sight of both flexibility and compassion we become a cold and heartless culture.

          1. @565c168cc7e329ddb0dec32698178f8f:disqus I may feel compassion and empathy for her situation but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to take money out of my pocket (the longer term effect of refunding non-refundable tickets is an increase in prices) for her poor decision making. Buying something non-refundable and not covering it with insurance or being wiling to walk away is a poor decision. I buy trip insurance when I’m not willing to walk away why shouldn’t she have to?

          2. All I can do is shake my head at the selfishness and greed embodied in this reply.

            You criticize her for poor decision making yet fail to realize when she purchased her ticket she likely had no idea she would end up with a detached retina or that she even had one developing. Furthermore as I said in another comment not all travelers are as experienced as many who follow Chris here. Purchasing travel insurance may not have ever occurred to her . . . purchasing a non-refundable ticket is often not an option because they can be prohibitively expensive for many.

          3. I spend $300 a year to add a comprehensive package to my auto insurance policy to cover myself in case of “Mayhem” (roll the Geico ad). If she opts not to purchase the coverage, should her Auto insurance company cover her if a tree falls on her car? How about the automobile manufacturer?

            She bought something, she didn’t insure it and a true “act of God” happened. Why should someone else be forced to make up for her error?

            I can feel sorry for her but it doesn’t mean that I’m willing to pay for her mistake. If you are, I’m sure Chris has an address where you can send the check.

            Edit: Chris sent me a note that the last line of this was misunderstood by some… The intent was to sent the OP the check not Chris. Sorry for the confusion

          4. The short answer is that the risks of something happening to your car is well appreciated. I’m on the road with a million other cars driving ay 70+mph. We’ve all had dents, scrapes, etc. I had my car stolen right after graduation.

            Unless you have a pre-existing condition, it doesn’t even enter into our minds that the trip may be delayed/canceled for circumstances outside of our control.

          5. Carver … I disagree. The risk associated with an accident are well know but the comprehensive policy is covering events outside someone’s control (ie nothing to do with flying down the interstate at 70+ or 5- which is what seems to happen to me). Someone may make the choice to save the money on the comprehensive portion and limit themselves to the state minimums. That’s fine but there’s a risk involved in that. When it doesn’t turn out to their favor, they end up having to bare the burden of that.

          6. And both bodega3 and you are 100% correct. I look at this as a case where we could celebrate US Airways if they’d waived their normal rules, but where there’s no reason to vilify them for sticking to them.

          7. Perfect answer – nice of them to waive a restriction, but not NECESSARY to always have to, regardless of what folks on this site seem to think.

          8. So admittedly you play the Risk Vs. Reward game Carver. Millions drive on our roads daily and current laws do not require motorists to have comprehensive insurance. It’s purely legal to drive with Minimum Liability.

            Therefore,insurance is a gambling sport. Depending on where you live, rates fluctuate tremendously. Places like Ohio cheaper (At Fault) than Michigan (No Fault) where rates run you into the thousands per year.

            One might argue the money invested has more potential than picking up an insurance policy. So why do people buy insurance at all?

            More to gain than to lose.

          9. Every financial decision should be made with cold hard facts and logic, factoring the risk/rewards of each decision, with a backdrop of one’s risk aversion levels. Its not a gamble (several close friends who are professional gamblers) in that luck is not a factor, but simply statistics and probabilities.

            One might argue the money invested has more potential than picking up an insurance policy. So why do people buy insurance at all?

            One might, but one shouldn’t 🙂

            Like all investments, it depends on the specifics. You live in Silicon Valley. Average house cost 1M. You’ve paid it off (lucky you). If your house burns down, falls down in an earthquake, etc . Can you replace the house. Probably not. Thus insurance is a very prudent purchase in that case.

            Same with health insurance. A hospital stay a year ago was over 200K for 4 days. Very happy I had insurance.

            I don’t buy car insurance from the rental agency because it’s a terrible deal. My auto insurance deductible is $500. I’m not paying $20-40 a day to insure a $500 deductible. An amazing terrible deal.I rent maybe 75 days a year. I’d have to get in an accident every 12 to 25 days to break even.

            Same reason for not purchasing the fuel option. The odds are stacked against me.

          10. Carver,
            We’re in agreement here whether called “Gambling” or “Statistics”. The name of the game remains the same “Beat the Odds”. Insurance is about hoping nothing happens, but being prepared for the worst.

            None the less, thanks for your sentiments regarding my health. Sorry you’ve experienced health concerns, too. I’ve ended up in the Emergency Room TWICE in 2013, and each visit reminds me how much I HATE hospitals. I imagine you sympathize here.

            My ongoing care has cost $100,000+ and climbing. Surgeries, ER visits, Post Op, etc etc.

            Moral of the story. Know your own health and circumstances.

            Travel Insurance:

            My Case (Ongoing Health Concerns) – Travel Insurance Makes Sense.
            Healthy – Probably unnecessary unless traveling to 3rd world Countries.

            Car Insurance:

            Assets: Good Policy Makes sense. Can be sued for Millions
            Broke: Liability – Unless planning to come into money
            You get the point. I believe we agree 100%.

          11. Hi John – “Mayhem” isn’t GEICO, it’s Allstate. (Sorry, I work for one of their competitors and I pay attention to their ads.)
            In principle, I agree that if you want to be able to get a refund on your ticket then you would buy a refundable ticket. Also that, while exploding eyeballs would certainly cause a mess in flight, is that any more valid of an excuse than any other unforeseen issue? The problem with nonrefundable tickets, as Chris has stated, is that they are so expensive relative to nonrefundable that people decide to take their chances. I know I do. But it seems to me that the price differential isn’t calculated fairly relative to the chance that I as a nonbusiness traveler will need to cancel my trip. I usually opt for the nonrefundable hotel rate since it’s just a few dollars more. If that was double, triple, four times the nonrefundable hotel rate, I would again just take my chances. Is it really related to the loss that an airline would incur if I canceled, or is it mucho inflated because business travelers have their corporations covering it?

          12. Darn it… Guess I have my excuse to watch more tv… Here’s the key thing that sticks out in your post (and you repeat it) “I … take my chances.” You get it. You understand risk. More importantly you understand that if it doesn’t work out, its a loss. Honestly, I think the airlines don’t want to sell refundable tickets. Based on the accounting rules behind them, they are a pain. I think they’re priced to a level where the airline is willing to deal with the added headaches associated with a refundable ticket. I think the non-refundable tickets are priced with the actuarial types making assumptions on how many abandoned tickets there will be. If things happen that change the actuarial assumptions, it changes the cost of the ticket.

          13. Having heard stories that ended up being lies (the worst offender was a local judge) you do get a bit jaded. But the bottom line is that if you buy a nonrefundable ticket, then accept the terms and conditions. If you do write to the travel entity and get a partial refund, count yourself fortunate. When you get a no, don’t expect sympathy when you run to a consumer advocate.

          14. I think it would have been nice for them to waive the normal rules, but it’s not exactly the end of the world that they didn’t. Sometimes life throws you a curve and you end up having to waste a plane ticket you can’t use, skip a game you had tickets for, etc. The fact that travel insurance never occurred to her isn’t the airline’s problem, it is hers. And I’m not trying to be heartless, but that’s just the realities of life.

          15. In reference to the post I responded to, that people should be happy to pay the airline more for tickets so that the airline can show compassion, I can show compassion without it costing me money directly out of my pocket. Why should I pay more for every ticket I buy so that other people can have refunds on nonrefundable tickets? Why is my money worth less than their money? If that’s how an airline funds their “compassion,” I’ll find another airline.

        2. Perhaps you should change business? Beware the admonition…

          Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business.

      2. But is there an option to “pay a little more”? No, as per the article, you have to do a total upgrade.

        The one-year credit is a decent solution if she can fly within that time period. Yet another argument for a longer credit lifetime or, God forbid, transferability. Do aitlines really enjoy having to play doctor?

        1. There is … I just walked through booking this exact ticket and a TI policy from Alianz was a whole $29.

          Bullet one on trip cancellation under the Description of Coverage …

          Injury, illness or medical condition
          You or a traveling companion are seriously ill or injured.

          Specific requirement
           The injury, illness or medical condition must be disabling enough
          to make a reasonable person delay, cancel or interrupt their trip.
           A doctor must examine you or a traveling companion and advise
          you or a traveling companion to cancel or interrupt your trip
          before you cancel or interrupt it. If that isn’t possible, a doctor must
          examine you within 72 hours of your cancellation or interruption.

          That would seem to meet your requirements. $29 and she gets a full refund in this case… Oh and you can’t miss the pitch

          1. Does it discuss preexisting conditions? The writer doesn’t mention whether her eye issue is new or a worsening condition.

          2. Sorry forgot to check that one… I did check my normal policy that does have a pre-existing wavier and it was ($47) … Again a lot less expensive than a refundable ticket

          3. Trip Insurance can be great if you cannot use the credit. But, if the only concern is the price of the airline ticket, the math doesn’t work out very well for passengers. A $47 insurance policy to protect against the loss of a $100 – $200 change fee i a terrible deal.

          4. Not all insurance companies pay your right away for your ticket. Some have been known to wait to see if you can reuse it, during the one year for which the ticket use is valid.

          5. Risk versus reward Carver.

            I would take the law of 10-15%. If you buy a 500 dollar ticket, and it costs $47 dollars to cover X conditions, then you’re within a reasonable baseline.

            Insurance polices are there IN CASE an accident happens and are generally not for every day uses. Car Insurance, Medical Insurance, etc are protections when life rears its ugly head at the most inopportune moments.

          6. Respectfully, That’s not the analysis. On a domestic trip, if you can use the credit, all you are insuring against is the change fee. A simplified example given the space constraints.

            You buy a $1000 ticket to see a friend. You get a jury summons and have to postpone, but can fly out a month later. Rebook, pay the $150 change fee, your loss is the $150 change fee.

            The same analysis is true regardless of the cost of the ticket. Whether the ticket costs $200 or $5000, if you can use the credit, the only risk is the change fee.

            This assumes that the major risk is the airline ticket.

          7. Carver,

            You’re comparing funny money (airline credit) to cold hard cash. Trip / Travel insurance affords one a refund. Not just coverage of change fees.

            All depends upon the policy riders. I’d rather have my money back than a voucher.

          8. Of course I’d rather have my money back. But is the potential of missing a trip for a covered reason, a sufficient justification to pay the insurance premium every time you fly?

            I travel monthly. If I paid $25-50 on every trip, I would add a $300-600 premium to my annual travel expenditures. Given the relatively low odds of needing the insurance, combined with the relative frequency of travel, and the average ticket costs $350, it’s not a particularly good expenditure, much like rental car insurance.

            Using your 10-15% premium, you would have to miss a trip for a covered reason every 7 to 10 trips to just to break even.

          9. I’m not sure what happened to my post – Sorry if it appears twice:

            Carver, there’s a huge difference between funny money and cold hard cash.
            I’d prefer a refund over a voucher. Depending upon the rider of one’s travel / trip insurance, remuneration includes more than just the change fee.

          10. Carver,

            Given the choice between cash and a voucher, I’ll run for cash. You miss the point that vouchers a carry risk, and little reward. Booking fee is nominal in comparison.

            Vouchers expire. Cash does not.
            Vouchers have Conditions. Cash does not.
            Vouchers lock you into an Airline. Cash is good anywhere.

            I’d rather have a refund through Trip / Travel insurance if all else fails than Airline Funny Money.

            Who’s to say down the road X airline (U.S. Airways et. al) has the best prices on flights? With a 500 voucher, you have no choice but to spend there. With 500 in Cash, I can purchase a ticket on another carrier.

            P.S. Insurance is a risk / reward. I suffer from MAJOR health problems right now. I wouldn’t buy an expensive ticket without insurance. Those who are healthy can risk gambling, and probably win most times.

          11. Hi Justin

            I’m sorry about your health problems. For someone like yourself, trip insurance might make sense. I’m talking about the rank and file traveler in reasonable health which includes, presumably, the OP.

            There is no question that cash is better than vouchers. But that’s not the issue at all. Vouchers are a distraction when talking about trip insurance. The sole issue is whether or not the risk justifies the insurance premium. That’s the same question to be asked in any and all insurance purchase, whether health insurance, trip insurance, auto insurance, etc.

            Consider, let’s assume the worse case scenario, that you would lose the entire cost of the airfare. Say you can’t even get a credit or voucher. The entire value is gone. Using your number of a premium cost of 10-15% of the ticket cost, you’d have to miss your flights 1/10th to 1/7th of the time to break even. If your flight track record is better than that, and I assume most people’s are, then trip insurance is a poor purchase. Self-insure. Put that 10-15% in the bank and use it for the unexpected situation when you cannot make your flight.

            Getting a voucher an added benefit, making the numbers even better, but much harder to quantify a voucher has a “soft” value which depends on the individual.

          12. Exactly what I did on my journey to Europe, knowing I suffer from severe medical problems right now.

            I’m not sure if some existing conditions are covered, but I figured if something happened, I’d cross that bridge when it happened.

            Odds are you’d still get some forbearance instead of an outright wash.

          13. While I applaud your decision to cover yourself for medical situations by taking out coverage, usually international fares give you this protection. It is in the rules of most nonrefundable international tickets departing from the US.

          14. I am not sure the Carriage Contract on international travel, seeing all but my recent trip have been domestic.

            Even if medical conditions are given substantial leeway, an international ticket doesn’t afford medical evacuation, hospital coverage, and trip assistance if required.

            I opted to be responsible and take out a policy. While I’m glad the policy sat unused, better safe than sorry.

          15. Yes, travel insurance is for more than refunds and when traveling internationally, it is highly recommended. Many DIY’ers don’t read the rules of their fare and don’t know what situations are actually covered.

          16. and she gets a full refund in this case

            She MIGHT get a full refund.

            Or, if there’s a pre-existing condition, or if this was a sports injury (to list just some of the possible exclusions), she MIGHT NOT be covered at all.

      3. Situations like this one are why I try to book on Southwest Airlines whenever possible. At least you can cancel a non-refundable reservation and get a full credit good for one year from the date of ticket purchase. They also tend to be more compassionate than other airlines. If, for medical reasons, the passenger is not able to fly during that one year period, they have been known to allow the credit to be used by a family member.

      4. Well, I had a medical issue, had to change my flight, had to pay the fee. It wasn’t the airline’s fault, the airline wasn’t expected to pay.

      1. Heh . . . still Chris, see my comment above about compassion. More and more today I find myself disgusted by our culture’s compassionless chase for money.

          1. Perhaps . . . but it is not an excuse for treating people the way the often are by businesses and individuals alike

          2. It looks like most of the readers agree that US Airways did the right thing by waiving its rules. And before you say anything Carver, I know, I know … ad populum. I can do Latin, too. 😉

    2. Agreed. Yet another one to file under “why should you get something for nothing when travel insurance would have covered it if you’d bought it?”

        1. Not everyone thinks of everything . . . perhaps to an experienced traveler travel insurance is second nature, or asking for a ticket credit, but not everyone who travels is that experienced or savvy.

          1. Maybe instead of being told “no refund”, the airline should have said “no refund, but we can offer a ticket credit”?

        2. yes- WHY do people always ask for a full refund then when they say no “WAAHHH the evil corporation is keeping my money!”

          Credits are EASY to get- you don’t even have to talk to anyone. when i canceled a trip- the moment I pressed “cancel flight” i was walked through how to get a credit, and how to access my credit.

  2. If you file a request for a full refund on a non-refundable ticket and you aren’t dead or dying, a denial is what you should expect. Like it or not, US Air charges change fees, and the fact that some people will end up paying them is “baked” into the initial fare price.

    Pretty much everyone that cancels a non-refundable flight has a good reason for it, and issuing a full refund for everyone that cancels their flight with a good reason isn’t sustainable if you want airfares to stay low.

    I think this is a lesson that asking for something well beyond what you are entitled for sometimes backfires. If she had asked for a change fee waiver to begin with, she might have been more likely to get it without further assistance. But since she asked for a full refund, her request got routed to the refund dept. (instead of customer service) and it’s pretty natural for them to deny it.

    Also, would 1,000ft really cause her eyeball to explode? I can understand it might cause the surgical repair to fail and therefore would be a REALLY bad idea, but the difference in pressure between MSL and 1,000ft is only 10%.

    P.S. A non-refundable ticket wouldn’t have been the only solution to cutting the problem off ahead of time; she could have purchased trip insurance, which almost certainly would have covered this emergency situation and provided a full refund. (And before you mention it, yes, trip insurance is a profit center (they wouldn’t offer it otherwise), and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to insure a simple domestic plane ticket, as most people could absorb that kind of loss, but the option is there, and it’s not 3x the base fare price.)

    1. You make some good points. I would just point out that not everyone is an experienced traveler, may not know the difference between customer service and the refund department, and may not even know that the credit is an option.

      Its very hard to put ourselves in the mindset of someone who very inexperienced. I remember stumbling across a term paper I did in law school for my economics professor. I got an “A”, but in reading it for fun, I was appalled. By my standards today, 20 years later it was truly dreadful.

    2. If my doctor told me that anything over 1,000 foot elevation would risk my eyeball exploding, darn tootin’ I would find me a place on the beach and ride it out. But, you go ahead and test the theory, I’m sure you’re correct with the whole pressure differences thing. I bet an eye-patch will look cute on you.

    3. You say trip insurance “almost certainly would have covered this emergency situation”. As someone else here has pointed out, they may not covered the cost of the ticket if this were a pre-existing condition. They also may have found other reasons or excuses for denying the claim. The consumer is not on a level playing field when dealing with many of these companies.

      1. If it was a preexisting condition… All the more reason to purchase travel insurance and one with a preexisting condition waiver. Oh and insurance is a regulated market, they have to deny a claim for a reason or answer to the state insurance board. I’ve never heard of a legitimate claim for a medical reason denied.

        1. Perhaps, but factor in the price and an attorney with really good eyesight to read all the fine print. I’ve been drafting contracts since I was a law student. I am always amazed at how much leeway there is interpreting some of these contracts.

        2. One could argue that LIFE is a pre-existing condition 🙂 How about that little genetic flaw in your DNA that predisposes you to cancer? You go merrily along for 55 years then, BAM! cancer. Sorry, we can’t pay for that. It was a pre-existing condition. Don’t think that the insurance companies aren’t looking long and hard at all of the genetic research going on these days in order to be able to charge each and every one of us the “correct” premiums based on our DNA tags.

    4. Yes, it would cause a rupture to her eyeball. I have been in that EXACT situation twice. It is not a pre-existing condition.

      Because I know now that my retinas may detach at any time, I buy travel insurance. However, the first time it happened to me, I was in LA by myself (having driven out from Colorado). It is so rare that someone of my age that no doctor in CA thought of it. It wasn’t until I drove back (seeing through one eye!) to Colorado, that my eye doctor (who is brillant) figured it out. I have no side vision now due to the fact that it took so long to figure out the issue and repair it.

    1. Maybe.

      But with all the horror stories read here about travel insurance, I trust travel insurance companies almost as much as I trust airlines…. which is not very much. So, no guarantees that the travel insurance would work.

  3. Conversely, if exploding eyeballs aren’t a good enough reason for the OP to forgo the entire amount of a nonrefundable airline ticket, just what is?
    The facts are that her eye would have exploded at a high altitude, even in a pressurized cabin, and she had a letter from a retinal specialist attesting to this. It seems that she took a risk buying an uninsured, nonrefundable ticket, but the risk of an exploding eyeball should have outweighed that.

  4. Yawn … Another “I bought a non-refundable (fill-in-the-blank), I opted not to buy travel insurance, I can’t go now and so (fill-in-the-blank) is being mean to me and lacks compassion” or “Non-refundable means I get my money back because rules don’t apply to me and my case is special” story

    I think someone else said it best already. If there was ever a reason to completely walk away from a ticket, my eyeball exploding would be one.

    Chris, nice that you got the change fee waive but undeserved.

  5. I voted yes because I’m looking at this as an opportunity for US Air to come out of this smelling like a rose. Here’s my thoughts on the positive and negative aspects… as if I were coaching US Air in their public relations/advertising departments:


    Exploding eyeball is a dramatic, horrific event. I’d recommend refunding the full fair, wishing the traveler a full, successful recovery of her vision, contingent on the use of her name and the story in a PR release. PR releases are free advertising, at at national rates, this saves lots of money. Perhaps a picture of the traveler and the CEO with the caption, “US Air didn’t want her eyeball to explode.”

    This need not set a precedent; how many tickets would they have to refund for emergency retinal detachment surgery?

    The negative aspects, as this story of their intransigence makes the rounds costs them money. The traveling public gets a negative impression of the airline and in future opportunities where a choice of carriers is available, and US Air is one of them, people will choose the other carrier.

    Penny wise…. pound foolish.

    1. I can spell, but I have editors just in case. Having mediated this case, I can tell you her attitude was not one of entitlement. She was just hoping US Airways would make an exception to its refund policy. If she’d demanded a refund, I probably would have politely declined to send her case to US Airways.

      1. Chris someone “just hoping US Airways would make an exception to its refund policy” doesn’t contact the media when they get told “no.” Someone who feels they are entitled to a refund does.

        EDIT: I still would have ran with the story just so you could run the headline… One for the ages 🙂

        1. I don’t see these folks as contacting the media more as contacting a consumer advocate who happens to be in the media.

          Contacting the media is what I did when a business cheated my client out of 10k. I sent NBC after them.

      2. Refund, credit it’s the same! You bought a non refundable ticket. PERIOD.
        Either buy a refundable ticket OR buy insurance.

      3. Requested or demanded. Depends on your point of view which it was.

        I would call this more of a request than a demand because there was none of the “fixed income single parent handicapped military don’t they know who I am” rhetoric.

        Just glad an agreeable resolution was reached.

      4. Anyone stating ‘… Not good enough.’ certainly reeks of an air of entitlement, intended or not. Clearly she’s upset and in medical duress but she bought a non refundable fare.

  6. This is what insurance is for. I am a TA and I have clients that will purchase non-refundable fares to save $20.00. She knew what she was buying and it’s not the airline’s fault she couldn’t fly. Heck no, she doesn’t deserve a refund.

      1. LOL. I would love to be your travel agent, but I was speaking in terms of general travel – hotels, cruises, everything. Sometimes I am shocked by the terms folks will agree to in order to save a couple of bucks. And insurance for another $30? Oh no…..I am going on this trip NO MATTER WHAT. It makes me cringe!

        1. “I am going on this trip NO MATTER WHAT” — Cue the screaming child on my 8 hour return flight…(sick, fussy, or tired, who knows)…

          But hey, the FAMILY DID TRAVEL… Substitute my experience for the countless other horror stories.

  7. No way and shame on you United for picking and choosing who is to be today’s entitled excuse! Insurance is offered for this very reason and this is the 5??? th person wanting to be the exception. Stick to your rules USAir.

  8. Intervention by Chris would not have been necessary had USAirways’ personnel been better trained to handle the situation to keep the customer happy while still denying the refund. She should have received a denial of her refund request that said “we can’t do that, but here’s what we CAN do – a full credit and waive the change fee”. Instead of resulting in an angry customer (whether they deserved it or not), it would have defused the situation right from the start. You never want to tell a customer a flat-out no if you don’t have to…a qualified no is so much better.

    1. Exactly. If the refunds department can’t refund a specific ticket, why not transfer the issue to the customer service department to allow them to offer something to the passenger instead of a flat out “NO”. Even without the waived change fee, we might never have seen this issue here if the airline had not simply said no without offering options.

    2. Because if you cancel, they automatically let you use that ticket with the change fee – they aren’t going to try and figure out more ways to give money away – and once she asked for a full refund, they will only address that issue.

      1. That, to me, is poor customer service. All it would take is “I’m sorry, we can’t offer you a refund, but we can give you a credit”. And most likely the everyone goes away happy.

  9. If exploding eyeballs aren’t a good enough reason to credit or refund the entire amount of an airline ticket, just what is?

    The answer, OP, is that your non-refundable ticket is NON REFUNDABLE. That means, whether your cat dies, or you have the flu, or your grandma passes away or your eyeball might explode, it’s non-refundable.
    See, here’s the thing…your ticket is dirt cheap. My ticket costs about four times what yours does and I can change it at at any time.

    I thought you were dropping all “I bought a non-refundable ticket but I have a good reason so it should magically become non-refundable” cases?

  10. I am sympathetic to the woman’s plight, as I suffer from very severe medical problems right now.

    So then, why didn’t she purchase trip protection or travel insurance?
    I did when I traveled to Europe.

    Travelers have a duty to mitigate their own risks first.

    1. your point is well taken . . . but she might not have had any idea she had a medical problem when she purchased the ticket. Also . . . as I’ve said in other comments, not all travelers are as savvy as many here who follow Chris on his various sites. I could go to any of my next door neighbors and do an informal survey about the need for travel insurance and most would likely respond that they’d never thought about it.

        1. Unfortunately many travelers are forced into that very situation as brick and mortar Travel Agents are disappearing thanks to the online booking sites which provide next to no customer service.

          1. My take is that DIY bookings are made as people don’t want to pay for a service or think they will get a better deal online.

          2. Exactly. Life is filled with expensive lessons, and I have made more than a few. You chalk these lessons up as a learning experience and move on. Sometimes, there’s no fixing what’s happened, but you dare not repeat.

            If the OP couldn’t undertake the legwork to research responsible travel, Travel Agents are there to assist.

      1. Cynthia,

        I understand that Chris’s blog is disproportionately comprised of the travel savvy. So our biases do shine. Then again, when in Rome, act like the Romans. If you are unsure how to maneuver uncharted waters, research, ask, and learn.

        For those who do not wish to undertake the legwork, travel agents are there to assist. DIY is not for the faint of heart if the time cannot be invested.

        1. very good points . . . yet not all communities are filled with travel agencies anymore. I live in Hilo, Hawai’i and while there are agencies on the island they can be a bit difficult to locate . . . even in Kona which is admittedly more vacation oriented. Then there are folks who live out in rural USA where they might have to drive an hour or more to find a travel agent. It is not as simple as saying they should have used a travel agent.

          1. When face to face isn’t possible, there’s always a phone. Asking the right questions can prove invaluable, as options ALWAYS exist. They just take a little extra legwork.

            Worst case, there’s always your local AAA for help!

          2. Let me see if I’ve got this correct? Just open the phone book and call an agent you can’t see and don’t know? Sounds a lot like online to me. As for AAA I’m on Hawai’i 200 miles from O’ahu and the AAA office is in Honolulu I’d have to fly there to see them.

          3. No one said flip through the local Yellow Pages at random. Again, take time to ask friends, research, look online, and see who people recommend.

            After a little due diligence, make a few calls and see what turns up. If you are comfortable with the other person (after research), then proceed. Of course, everything needs to be in writing.

          4. Sounds reasonable . . . yet it is not always so easy.

            My main point is there was once a time when companies were far more flexible about these things. They took a more compassionate and friendly approach. It wasn’t just about the $$s but also about what is known as goodwill. Then the profit motive got way out of control to the degree every penny of profit has to be squeezed out and in so doing there is no longer room for flexibility or compassion. That’s the real issue at hand here.

          5. Goodwill hasn’t been in the airline industry since “smoking sections” existed on airplanes.

            Just sayin’…

          6. There was a time when travelers didn’t lie, didn’t change their mind like they change lanes while driving. I actually had a local court judge lie to me to get a refund. Run a business and you hear all sorts of stories and get phony documentation. What I feel is an issue here for the OP is that she received something from one carrier and not the other and that is a decent reason to question why and ask for help IMHO.

          7. So you penalize the vast majority of travelers because of the acts of a few?? That sounds to me like still trying to squeeze every last penny out.

          8. No one is being penalized. You might feel like its a penalty but all they are doing is enforcing existing rules . They did stop making exceptions due to the acts of a large number of people over a long span of time.

            Eventually everyone tires of being taken advantage of. When the airlines could no longer trust the notes they were receiving, they either had to investigate all of them (costing more $), raise airfares to compensate for effectively every ticket being refundable or stop making exceptions. They chose the last.

          9. Curiosity has gotten the better of me. Do we have a second resident lawyer on Chris’s blog?

            Local Court Judge lying….Those with the most power are given more chances to abuse.

      2. I have long term care insurance. I am in my early 40s and healthy. Today. I spend the money on the insurance because I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. People do think about it but they take their chances. People are only concerned about today. Not enough save for retirement, why would they ‘waste’ money on insurance. Then complain when non refundable is exactly that.

        1. Long term care insurance and travel insurance are different animals. Insurance yes, but a different logic applies when people decide to purchase or not. Honestly has it reached the point where besides the ticket we now have to purchase insurance? What about insurance for when the travel insurer does not perform as advertised?

          1. When one decides to purposefully purchase a non refundable ticket should one not be surprised when funds are not refunded? Nobody has to purchase insurance. But everyone should understand the risk/reward in their decision making. Buying the cheaper option (reward now) with no wiggle room (risk later) may be mitigated with some insurance. It isn’t as cheap as it was (risk) but is offset with more wiggle room (reward). Interesting (to me) note, I never have taken insurance on my personal domestic travel flights and I do usually buy the non refundable. If I’m hesitant on my dates I’ll try to go on Southwest due to their flexibility and ease of changing flights. But I know what I’m getting myself into when I click to buy non refundable. It doesn’t say non refundable unless you have a great reason.

          2. All very good points . . . I am however, arguing that the hunt for the most profit has turned businesses into cold unfeeling entities. I’ve made this point before, but will say it one last time and then I’m dropping out of this discussion. There is much room for compassion and flexibility and still being able to make a profit. Today if every last penny is not squeezed out then managers are just not happy. We need to refocus on a more caring less greedy way of doing business.

            Anyway . . . as I said I’m dropping off this discussion . . . Malama pono . . .

  11. Insurance, Insurance, Insurance! It is not right that I explain to my clients the rules of a fare and they decide to purchase insurance then someone else who doesn’t purchase insurance gets the same refund!

    1. Why?

      Anyway, life isn’t always fair, for good or for bad. I always buy trip insurance for my overseas trips, but I don’t go crying when someone else who didn’t gets something without the insurance.

  12. I’m more than a little floored at the lack of compassion here on the site. I’ve been coming here a long time and I kind of knew going into this article that most of you would give a, “Too bad, so sad” response, but this one is being taken to a whole new level.

    I agree she couldn’t have known her retina would require emergency re-attachment. I also agree she shouldn’t have had to fight to get back her airfare from her cancelled trip. I ALSO agree John Baker on here had the best suggestion, that she should be getting trip insurance the airlines offer on the page just before finalizing your purchase. It’s a nominal amount, generally under $30, and would have resolved this one completely.

    As another poster stated in a completely inelegant manner, stuff happens. It’s better to be prepared and not have to use the insurance, than to not have it and need it.

    1. I guess most folks are perplexed at the logic used by some. I totally get it; medical issues before travel are total bummers. They are like friction in physics – they always take away, never give (serendipitous exceptions excluded).

      That being said, when an individual experiences a medical issue before travel, why is the first recourse of many to visit the cost of the issue on the airline, the hotel, the cruise ship, the resort, etc.? Is it because the airline is faceless and therefore easier to burden with the financial hardship imposed by the condition?

      I cringe pressing the button for insurance. But I ask myself if I’m OK with eating the cost of the trip/flight in the worst case. It’s not an automatic decision, but like you, I don’t regret having been covered.

  13. The decision as to whether to fly or not is up to the passenger in this case. The airline just wasn’t giving back money. The title is a bit too dramatic.

  14. “So how do you deal with life’s little uncertainties….”. Really? Again? Another non refundable ticket purchaser wanting to be refunded? I’m sure her medical issue is a particularly scary one but non refundable is well, non refundable. A refund of the upgrade is accurate and a credit is sufficient.

  15. It’s nice that they did it but wait (as you said) – do the airlines offer to make refunds based on health issues like this? Don’t most of them offer travel insurance to cover these sorts of things? If they do, while I applaud the flexibility in this case, they really had no obligation to offer the refund.

  16. The government should just regulate out the non-refundable fare. Then we’d do away with all of these whiners that can’t deal with life happening and someone else not paying for it.

    (No I’m not serious)

  17. I think this is covered by that impulse-aisle travel insurance option you can add to the ticket when you purchase them at websites like Expedia. Right? For a nominal premium, the passenger could’ve executed the coverage when the need to cancel came up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: