My mom died before I could visit, and JustFly won’t help me get a refund

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By Christopher Elliott

Winnie Lanoix’s mother dies before she can visit her in Fort Myers, Fla. But neither her online travel agent, JustFly, nor American Airlines, will refund her fare. Why not?

Question

I made the mistake of buying tickets through JustFly three times to go from Philadelphia to Fort Myers, Fla., to visit my mom, who was in bad shape after Hurricane Irma.

I did not pay attention and was still working and distraught. So I bought insurance for the first two tickets but not the third, thinking we’d be with her for Christmas. I don’t usually use companies like JustFly, and normally would have checked references, but I was not thinking straight.

Sadly, my mom died the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

We canceled the flight in time and were told we had a credit for the third flight. But when we called to schedule a flight for March for the memorial service we were told that we’d have to pay an additional $500 per person for the ticket above and beyond the credit of $1,600.

I paid $1,600, including an extended cancellation policy of $39. This seems absurd, given the cost of flights we found online. Can you help?

Winnie Lanoix, Lafayette Hill, Pa.

Answer

I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. At a time like this, you’d expect an airline and online travel agency to do everything they could to ease the pain of your loss.

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Now, I know some of the folks reading this will say, “Rules are rules!” Maybe so. But the next time a loved one dies, I’d sure like to read their comments back to them. Rules may indeed be rules, but in your case, Winnie, the rules were made to be broken — and you’re in the right place to do some rule-breaking.

My first suggestion: Reach out to our JustFly executive contacts. If you’ve seen our previous JustFly stories, you can probably guess the answer. (Here’s how to get a refund on a nonrefundable airline ticket.)

What about JustFly?

The rejection was followed by a few days of soul-searching. The lead advocate on this case reminded you that the tickets you purchased through American Airlines were highly restricted. Also, airlines don’t normally refund tickets if a relative dies, but they will consider waiving change fees if you can show a death certificate. (Related: Turkish Airlines made him miss his flight. Then it lost his bag.)

Still, you had purchased three round-trip tickets and your travel plans had been foiled by a hurricane and the death of your mother. This seemed like a real hard-luck case.

Yes, you could have avoided this by buying travel insurance, but JustFly wasn’t really an advocate for you. It took your money and then threw the rule book in your face. As a travel agent — even an online travel agent — it should have tried to help you.

A happy ending, thanks to American

I contacted American Airlines on your behalf. The airline would have been well within its rights to refuse a refund, but your story was compelling and heartbreaking. I know that if this had happened to me, I would not want someone telling me “rules are rules.” I mean, I wasn’t coming down to Fort Myers to go fishing.

American offered you a refund as a goodwill gesture.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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