Mom died, but US Airways won’t refund my fee

When Patricia Clay’s mother dies unexpectedly, US Airways promises to “consider” a refund of her change fees. Why won’t it pay up?

Question: I recently flew from Washington to Chattanooga, Tenn., on US Airways, because my mother was ill. I planned to stay three days, but her condition worsened, and we put her in hospice care. She died five days after my original return date.

My sister was in the same position and flew on Delta Air Lines. The airline representatives were very sympathetic. They changed her flight, waived the change fee and told her that they could change the flight again if she needed to stay longer; they even found her a cheaper flight home. They just needed my mother’s name and the name and phone number of her hospice service so they could confirm that she was a patient.

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A US Airways agent told me that she could not waive the change fee, though I could request a refund after the fact by submitting my mother’s death certificate. I was told that once this was received, US Airways would “consider” refunding the fee. The agent didn’t even say she was sorry about my loss. I also had to make multiple calls to change my flight, several of which were with rude or indifferent agents.

I finally spoke to a helpful and sympathetic reservations supervisor, and while I had her on the phone I asked about what it meant to “consider” a refund. Why would some death certificates be accepted and others not? She said the death certificate would be accepted only if it listed me as a relative.

My mother’s death certificate listed my father as her spouse, but not any of her children. This nice, helpful reservations supervisor said that an obituary also would suffice, and that maybe I should submit both. She also suggested that the safest way to get the refund processed was to do it online, and she directed me through the rather non-intuitive series of drop-down menus I would need to use for an online submission.

Once home, I tried this online method and spent at least an hour on different formats for the death certificate in order to meet the maximum file size of 1.1MB. When I hit “submit,” the screen went to a blank white page. I called US Airways and was told that the form had not gone through and that I’d have to try again. I did and got the same result.

After several more tries and several more phone calls to US Airways, a representative told me I was using the wrong Web browser. Apparently, the airline’s refund form only works with Internet Explorer.

A couple of days later, I tried to submit the form using the right browser, and I discovered something I had not noticed previously: The form only allows 13 digits for a ticket number, but my original ticket has a 14-digit number. My revised ticket with the new return date and the same confirmation number, however, has a different 13-digit number, so I used that. I still got a blank page.

I’m just trying to get my $200 change fee refunded. Can you help? — Patricia Clay, Washington

Answer: I’m so sorry for your loss. At a time like this, an airline shouldn’t be charging you extra for your ticket, and if it does, it should promptly refund your fees if you can show that you’ve had a death in the family.

Kudos to Delta for the way it handled your sister’s bereavement fare. That’s the way it should be done.

US Airways, which recently has merged with American Airlines, did not handle this by the book.

I mean, think about it. If US Airways only accepted reservations through Internet Explorer, how much business would it be turning down? Similarly, limiting your upload to 1.1MB, when a lot of scans can routinely exceed that, is certain to turn away some grieving passengers. And the business about listing you as a relative ignores the reality of today’s relationships. Modern families don’t always have the same last name.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say US Airways is making the process as difficult as possible in order to avoid sending you a refund.

You could have appealed your case to one of the airline’s executives. I list their names and email addresses on my site.

Remember, though, that US Airways is under no obligation to refund anything. Strictly speaking, it can keep your fare or your change fee. An airline may waive its own rules when you have a death in the family, but it doesn’t have to.

However, if a representative says the airline will reverse the change fee, it should do so without a hassle and a headache. Especially at a time like this.

I contacted US Airways on your behalf and emailed the paperwork directly to it. The airline has processed a refund.

Should airlines offer a ticket refund when there's a death in the family?

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130 thoughts on “Mom died, but US Airways won’t refund my fee

  1. Well they considered your request and were disinclined to acquiesce to your request. Thinking about it no more obligates someone to grant a request then me asking Kate Upton on a date and thinking about it is somehow a confirmation and agreement.

    Airlines are businesses, they don’t owe you sympathy, what they owe is their shareholders an acceptable return on their investment. If they were smart they should have given you the option of either flying as scheduled or requiring you to buy a whole new ticket at full fare, why because it would make them more money. If that was unsatisfactory to you, you could have driven, taken a bus or a train. Why should they have done that, because it would generated more revenue for the airline, they know you’re going to stay with your mother, they could charge you anything they wanted. Thats called “business”, because airlines are charities.

    Another option would have been to buy a refundable ticket or one with less restrictive change fees and options, or travel insurance, etc.

    1. There is also this thing call goodwill. Part of the airlines analysis is how will its actions affect its future business. Any business can choose to act in a rigid, unyielding manner. Similarly, other potential customers have the choice to patronize other businesses. That choice is part of the business model. It’s one of the reasons that so many people patronize Southwest.

    2. I haven’t flown on either American or US Scareways in over 15 years,
      and reading stuff like this, it’s VERY unlikely that I ever will again.

      Carver said it very eloquently below. I would just say, “Karma’s a b**** “.

    3. I hope you never have to deal with this type of situation. You will find that, of the many details demanding your attention, change fees, insurance, etc. are items you have neither the time nor the energy to deal with. Stress is high, and time is of the essence.

    4. Airlines use taxpayer provided resources to run their business. These include the Air Traffic Control System, FAA safety inspections, the security screening of the TSA and the building of airports and runways subsidized by taxpayer dollars. The airlines therefore owe something to the traveling public in return for all of the freebies that they receive. Showing compassion when their is a family death is a good place for them to start repaying their debt to us.

    5. Yes, charging the $200 fee would make US some money this one time. Forcing the passenger to buy a whole new one way ticket at walk up price would also make some money for US this one time. But it will be the last time this customer spends any money with US and would probably be a Delta customer in the future because Delta showed compassion.

      I don’t disagree with you that businesses should do what they can to make a profit. That’s why I accept airline fees even though I don’t like them. If they don’t make a profit they won’t be a business for long. However, your thinking of maximizing the profit from a single transaction at the expense of retaining a customer is the exact thing that is wrong with most companies today and it seems to be coming from what is taught in every MBA program now days. A long term customer will make more profit for a company because of multiple profitable transactions. Chasing a customer away because of inflexible policies makes no profits for the company. There is not an infinite supply of customers to replace those that are chased away.

      Allowing the passenger to change a flight to a few days later because of a death in the family without charging more to make the change would have been a good thing to do from a customer service standpoint. The customer was not asking for a refund of a nonrefundable ticket. It doesn’t cost an airline more to fly you on Wednesday instead of Friday as long as there are seats available. And I am not stating that airlines should get rid of change fees for other types of changes. Sure, if the passenger knew that her mom was going to die (and we don’t know that she did at the time she flew out) she could have made different choices for her flights and could have bought insurance that may have provided some financial coverage for the change fees.

      1. There is not an infinite supply of customers to replace those that are chased away. What ever happened to the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute”? 😀

        I totally agree with you, and its very sad that the current business belief is that business must maximize the profit on every transaction. That has been slowly creeping its way into busienss and is now wide spread. I am of the opinion that one should maximize service and quality in order to build long term profits. If you have people who love your work, they will come back, and they will pay more for it.

        One time, many years ago when I was between consulting gigs, I decided to try my hand at selling cars. I had never seem more underhanded back stabbing busienss dealings. The main goal was to screw the customer for every penny, and some sales people were so good at it they could rob a customer blind and make them leave happy. I couldn’t do it. And when I asked them if they worried about the customer realizing they were ripped off and never coming back, they didn’t care, because there would always be more customers. I think airlines have this same belief.

        1. There might still be a sucker born every minute, but airlines are chasing them away every second. Eventually you catch up with the flow. 🙂

    6. While I as a shareholder would like a larger profit, I would also like the company to have a good PR image and not a bad one. The extra $20 the company may make on her transaction may not offset any lost ticket sales due to bad PR and bad customer service.

      I think it is perfectly reasonable to businesses to offer changes and refunds based on circumstance, and policies like this can make me more money in the long run.

      1. In this case it looks like she was playing by the rules and their IT deficiencies were preventing her from following through. I fully understand the need for her to send verification – any number of people would game the system with deaths in the family any time they wanted to make a change, and especially if word got out they were not requiring verification – but if they put a process in place, they need to make it work. It seems to me she could have sent this one by postal mail instead of fighting the defective system in place.

  2. I’m going to beat my normal drum… I just went through the US Air booking process. Guess what that last step is? I accept or decline trip insurance. $20. That’s it. $20 on $400 ticket. Oh and I checked… It covers trip interruption due to death of a family member…
    Would it have been nice for US Air to have covered him her… Yes! But, he she knowingly declined an option that would have covered him her in this case to save $20. That’s a choice and I’m not sure why US Air should pay for his her choices ….

    1. First, the OP is a “she”. Second, “It covers trip interruption due to death of a family member” is a MAYBE. Some trip insurance policies exclude family members beyond spouse and children (I searched), do not cover pre-existing conditions (based upon death certificate and medical history), or have age limits.

      When booking an emergency flight it’s stressful enough without having to stop and understand the nuances of US Airways’ (or any others’) insurance coverage. US Airways final response was, in my opinion, right, reasonable, and appropriate.

      1. @vor61:disqus fixed it thanks…
        Here’s my view… If the OP writes in and says, I did everything I could including buying the insurance on your website and they won’t cover it… I would absolutely support a refund in that case. The OP did everything reasonable to protect themselves but that isn’t the case here. She had an option to cover herself and declined it. That’s a choice. I’m not sure why she should repeat the benefits as if she had accepted.

        We all wish we had better car insurance after the accident… just few are willing to pay for it before…

        1. As I said in my reply to “common sense”, it’s unfair to ask someone in an emergency to think about trip insurance. It’s not straight forward by any means. Every carrier treats “family” and preexisting conditions a little differently. Her focus was getting there and all the details that entails. Stopping to check out insurance is not a realistic expectation in my opinion, as I have been there.

          1. But here’s the thing… US Air makes you make a choice… The trip insurance option isn’t prechecked in either direction. So she had to make a choice … She didn’t have to research… didn’t have to call anyone… just had to click “yes” instead of “no”

            That’s a pretty low standard to me.

          2. I’m sorry, John, but you are wrong. Having purchased the “click” insurance multiple times only to discover later the policies were useless for my circumstances, it IS necessary to do research. Are there age restrictions? Medical? Employment? What proof is required, and how long will the likely delay be.

            Edited: IMO, the worst thing anyone can do in hurry is choose the click through insurance. It has many restrictions. Finally, I did check US Airways as well, assuming that she would have to depart within 2 days. Lowest airfare I found was $700, which was about $50 for insurance (as shown an Allianz’ website.

          3. Yes but as I said above… If the OP decides to purchase the insurance and it doesn’t cover them, in that case I fully support asking and US Air granting the request. The OP took a reasonable step by purchasing the insurance to cover themselves.

            In this case, she declined to have ANY chance on being covered if thing went south and she expected that US Air would cover her.

            Oh and I have yet to find a travel insurance policy that doesn’t cover death…

          4. So she has to buy the click through, and THEN petition US Airways for a mercy rule? Anticipated response: “We can’t help you because you bought insurance”. End of discussion (for her).

            Death yes, but how they handle it is another matter. Proof varies, and some decline saying it was pre-existing.

            Again, I’m sorry, but that doesn’t fly with me (no pun intended) …

          5. Ah yes — and if you are going to Europe this Fall, do made sure your trip insurance covers interruptions due to volcanic eruptions. I just looked at the terms of some recent trip insurance, and lo and behold: “In addition to any other exclusions that may apply to a particular benefit, no coverage is provided for any loss that results directly or indirectly from any of the following unless as specifically included: …
            natural disasters; … expected or reasonably foreseeable events or problems”

            So, with Bárðarbungu given a likelihood of erupting, I’d guess that the travel insurance would call this a “reasonably foreseeable event” as well as a “natural disaster.” And once again, that travel insurance isn’t worth the paper on which it is written.

          6. That’s funny but the trip insurance company I use covers it… Sometimes you get what you pay for…

          7. Most travel insurance was updated the last time an Icelandic volcano erupted to specifically exclude volcanic eruptions as covered events. Suggest you re read a current copy of your coverage.

          8. I did
            Under trip cancellation coverage (TravelGuard Gold Policy)

            (f) the Insured’s Destination being made Uninhabitable or Inaccessible by flood, tornado, earthquake, volcanic
            eruption, fire, wildfire or blizzard that is due to natural
            causes;

            I also asked…

          9. This company is still allowing coverage if a policy is purchased. Once the volcano erupts, no coverage can be purchased.

          10. “destination” is the key word – if you’re flying to the UK not Iceland, and your flight is cancelled because of the volcano, you are not covered!

          11. If you can’t reach the UK due to ash… it becomes inaccessible and you’re covered. In 2010, TG actually covered the ash cloud as a weather event.

          12. Considering that volcanologist can’t agree if there will be an eruption much less when… Good luck on arguing it was foreseen.

            As noted below… my policy specifically covers this event…

          13. Actually, one insurance vendor has stated clients can still get coverage for this, but one it erupts, no.

          14. Why didn’t the nitwit woman buy a refundable ticket? Mom was in hospice – not a place you can expect recovery. She was just cheap/stupid and now wants a freebie she doesn’t deserve.

          15. Pretty easy for any of us to say until WE have to pay. Two days out with a 5 day stay right now shows approx $525 more for a refundable (i.e. “flexible”) fare. We don’t know anything about this AP’s finances, so I disagree. And at the risk of redundancy, I would cut her a LOT of slack for the emergency preparations.

          16. Mom was not in a hospice until AFTER the passenger flew out.

            It must be nice to predict the future and never make a mistake when booking travel.

          17. I understand what you’re saying, but the reason insurance exists is to cover the unexpected. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I’ll have a car accident today.” Yet we carry insurance because the risk of getting into an accident is very real and the cost of paying for an accident out-of-pocket outweighs the cost of the insurance.

            If I’m booking a simple plane ticket worth less than $300, my general rule is to not buy insurance because the risk is generally low and I can afford to absorb such a loss, plus I fly frequently enough to pay the $200 change fee and use the ticket later. When my family took a trip to San Juan over New Years, EVERYTHING was non-refundable: flight, hotel, tours, etc to the tune of around $4,000. In that situation, we decided that we weren’t prepared to absorb a $4,000 loss if something were to occur, and thus found a very reasonable insurance policy through our research which met our needs.

            The passenger needs to make sure they are fully covered, and needs to understand the consequences should something happen and the travel is not insured. I’m no airline fanboy but I think they do a pretty good job of making the T&C’s of the ticket itself well known. From there, the consumer can make an educated decision. And just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong in ASKING for an exception. But making a big stink about it by going to a consumer advocate who uses the power of the press/internet/social media to shame the airline into giving in, is not good business practice IMO. It’s essentially a way to apply public pressure to a company to give you what you want and let you out of what you freely agreed to. IMO, it screams entitlement.

          18. All of those decision were made without the pressure of limited time and stress of an impending death.

          19. Perhaps you’ve never faced a death in the family, or perhaps your finances are robust enough to pay $500 more for a flexible fare. This person made a call under dire circumstances. I’d hardly call that cheap OR stupid.

          20. As someone who sells airline tickets, I can tell you that a refundable last minute ticket is usually not what most can afford. Often there are good one way fares that work out well, even if a change has to be made.

          21. Great idea. Maybe she could have booked them separately. But … although many split it evenly, some airlines charge a lot more, which is where the airlines and possibly a TA could help.

          22. Sometimes flying into a nearby airport, which might require a bit more driving, will save you hundreds. When you are stressed, you don’t often think about these things. And don’t expect the airline’s res agent to think of alternative airports, especially if they are located offshore.

          23. I was thinking of my brother’s recent flight, which I researched and booked for him. Tried EVERY airport near both origin and destination. Best one way (on one airline) was $450 vs. RT of $750. Ended up splitting between two airlines to save them $300, but it took a lot of research. In an emergency, hard to think about it and work through the nuances. And two one ways would have been more than a RT fare.

            A good TA can certainly help when facing a time crunch like the OP.

          24. A good TA with a GDS can be very helpful. I have been without a GDS at times and have had to use the internet. What takes me minutes with the GDS takes me a heck of a lot longer online. So many options, too many places to look, where the GDS has it all in once place. I have assisted many people in emergency situations and that gives them time to work on other details for their quick get away. I have some great thank you notes that I have kept over the years and the common thread is, they could never had done it all in the time I got their arrangements set in place.

          25. the mother was NOT in hospice when the OP originally flew. that didn’t occur until after she got there.

        2. Buying car insurance is fairly common, well known, and the decision is made with calm, dispassionate thinking. One can make an informed decision. I have no sympathy for someone who doesn’t buy or buys too little auto insurance.

          Buying trip insurance when dealing with the impending death of a loved one is radically different. Its metes and bounds are not well known to the lay person. Add the rush and mental stress of an impending death of a loved one, I don’t see how one can be expected to read through the minutiae of an insurance policy to see if it even applies.

      2. Also, I think they would take the position that this trip wasn’t interrupted due to death of a family member, it was extended.

        1. With proper documentation, the airlines will be very helpful in the extension. That was what was so great about bereavement fares. They allowed for that extension, as you never know what you might encounter.

      3. When booking an emergency flight, if you don’t want to deal with the nuances, then use a travel consultant who issues tickets. We can save you the stress.

    2. Two years ago I booked a flight on US Airways and PAID for the insurance, which, at the time anyway, was supposed to cover deaths in the family including aunts and uncles. My godmother had been ill, I was concerned that she would pass and my plans would have to change. And that’s exactly what happened. My aunt died just before I was about to fly.

      When I tried to use the insurance to change my plans I was told that, in addition to the death certificate, I had to get her doctor’s signature that she had not been diagnosed with an illness prior to my buying the insurance.

      Essentially, the insurance is useless. I save my money now and consider it a $20 credit toward the next time I have to pay a $200 change fee.

      1. Yours would be a case I would support… Most reasonable people would class Aunt as a family member. If their trip insurance doesn’t cover it, they should waive the change fee…

    3. The insurance offered by US for the $20 click would not have covered this as it specifically excludes “pre-existing conditions” for family members and mom was ill before she purchased the plane tickets.

      And no where does it state that the LW did not purchase that insurance.

    4. John, you are so right. Travellers can either buy the insurance with every tix … or just estimate how many trips they’ll make vs how many tix they might have to change and just eat the occasional fee. If you buy 10 tix a year and pay $20 insurance for each, you could skip the insurance but be ready to pay $200 in change fees. Or maybe not … I booked non-ref tix for YEARS before I ever needed to pay a change fee; all depends on your comfort level.

  3. Usairways or the new American could take a few lessons from delta. I’m just saying. I’m usually all why did you not purchase a refundable ticket, but in situations like this where she was more than willing to submit whatever she needed makes me think about a lot of factors. Like, what if my mom was terminal and I was worried about the cost of a funeral and everything else i would be like a zombie going through the process without really reading anything of detail, and that if any ticket restrictions should be overlooked it would be for things like this. Irregardless, if she did buy a non refundable ticket knowingly they should have handled it as delta did. They make enough in fees to have compassion for deaths of immediate family and if they can send good old Tom off with his pockets weighed down they can certainly afford to look at the customer in a human light. They’d have earned a lifetime customer and her word of mouth but no that 200 bucks wasn’t worth it. This is the world we live in fueled by greed. I’m so sorry for her loss.

    1. In the rush to travel when a family member is ill, with it’s added stress, asking a flyer to research trip insurance to ensure coverage is, in my opinion, an undue burden. I know because I’ve been in that situation. Your focus is to get there, and everything happens WAY too fast. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time to check out trip insurance so I could find it faster than some if I were in this situation now. But it’s hard to think of anything but the loved one.

      Seems to me that this is an instance where a trusted TA (note NOT an OTA) could be of great assistance.

      1. You are so right. When my father was dying, I was only focused on getting to see him before he passed away (because he went very, very quickly), not on trip insurance.

    2. I don’t think that most travel insurance policies would cover the extra expenses incurred by a traveler extending a trip because the deterioration of the medical condition of the person that they were visiting.or the death of that person.

  4. Giving a refund certainly is the compassionate thing to do.

    It also makes good business sense. It is a lot cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new one (Of course there are some customers that just need to go away). The effect of articles like this and all the associated word-of-mouth conversations can be larger than a lot of expensive advertising.

    1. Yeah. Having read this blog for quite some time now, I have in mind which airlines, boat ride companies, hotel chains and others to avoid.

  5. No, US Airways is not required to refund any fee they charge. They are in the business to make money. If that means they don’t want to show some compassion in a case like this until a consumer advocate gets involved, that’s their choice. But that might not be the best business decision in terms of keeping customers flying on their planes.

    As much as I hate Delta, they were great with not charging change fees for me and my family when my father was very sick and then died a couple of years ago. I had to change flights multiple times based on how fast his health declined and when we were able to schedule the funeral after he died. They could have had the attitude of US Air, but they didn’t, which made an extremely difficult time just a little easier.

        1. Well, I try to avoid US carriers, especially on overseas runs. In CONUS, Jet Blue ain’t bad – my wife’s a fan, and they’re OK. For overseas, since the PC toads forced airlines to let flight attendants work until they make my grandmother look like the Gerber baby, we have the senior elephantine mamba personalities on the overseas runs. They’d clog the exit doors if, heaven forbid, we hadda get out in a flash.

          Couple that with the general disdain for the patron shown by the US airlines in general, and it is a breath of fresh air to fly on foreign carriers where the FAs actually know the meaning of customer service. Friendly, courteous, etc. One example: upon boarding, looked for today’s newspaper. FA said “Sorry, we’re out.” OK. About 30 seconds later, she’s sprinting down the aisle, waving a paper over her head, with “Sir! Sir! I found you one!” Holy Smokes! We must be out of the alpha quadrant, somewhere in the delta quadrant!

          Another flight: Fell asleep watching a movie. Woke up too late to see the end. FA said, “That’s OK. Stay in the seat. When everybody gets off, I’ll turn it back on for you to watch the last 10 minutes of the movie.” What US airline would do THAT?

  6. The passenger did not ask for a ticket refund, she just asked to have the change fee waived. USAirways spent more money dealing with the woman than the price of the change fee. They also lost a lot more money in good will and future bookings. They are the latest poster child for “penny wise and pound foolish”.

  7. There’s some irony. I was in Seattle on business last year when I got a call that it was my father’s last day… in Philadelphia. I looked into same day one-way fares, and found the cheapest direct flight was about $1700… in coach. I then checked the first class fares, if only for a laugh, and found a US Air first class fare for $740 or so. No coach tickets were available on that flight.

    The difference between coach and first class flying home to California was only about $100, on short notice.

    1. I flew from SF to Philly on United when my grandmother died last year. First class tickets ON THE SAME FLIGHT were less expensive than coach tickets. Both prices were high enough that I don’t think it could have been a fat finger fair (and United never raised any issue). Something weird about flights to Philly.

      1. Sometimes I suspect that the algorithm for pricing coach tickets doesn’t take into account first class tickets and vice versa. I’ve seen fully refundable coach tickets for the same price as non-refundable tickets and I’ve seen First Class tickets for the same or less than coach tickets. And like you I knew it wasn’t a fat fingered fare because the First Class ticket was its normal price, it was the coach ticket that skyrocketed.

        1. Sadly you don’t see what I see in my GDS to understand the whys, which often puts DIY’ers saying things about fares because they don’t know the reasons for the pricing at that moment.

          1. Perhaps some elaboration might be useful, e.g. what specifically are you seeing that explains the pricing disparity.

          2. I see all the classes of service, available and sold out, for every flight. I see all the fares in a market, available or not.

          3. I don’t see how that’s relevant to the discussion. Okay, so coach has sold out of all of the lower fares, and the only fares that are available are higher than the first class fare.

            The point remains, the superior product is now selling for less than the standard product. One rarely finds Filet Mignon selling for less than ground beef. One would expect that the sales paradigm would allow for some sort of correction.

            The question that I have is this, does the pricing model, whatever it may be, take into account coach seat availability when pricing first class?

          4. The point is that I know why it is, you don’t. Right now many coach fares are allowing the upgrade. Did you know you know that? I did because I see the rules. The V class fare, which is usually for coach, actually has to be booked in Z, which is a discounted first/ business class, to get the upgrade. I can look for flights with Z in availability to get it…I can actually ask the computer for all that carriers flights with Z for that day, for the routing. I was asked if I could see the fare and I can. You can’t online. BTW if Z isn’t available, then the fare becomes a coach ticket.

          5. Yes, I am familiar with coach tickets that book into first when available. They are often used by business travelers to circumvent client restrictions preventing first class travel. Unless the client pulls up a seating chart, the client will never know that the person sat in a premium cabin.

            I can’t speak for other airlines, but American displays, with a small amount of sleuthing the fare classes. The situation that I have encountered, more than once, is when a restricted coach ticket, (I forget the class) costs the same or more than a first class ticket.

            So I repeat the question, does the pricing model for first class take into account how coach is selling?

          6. To answer your question, I would say no. The reason is, that I am finding these UP fares for booking well out in advance. I did two of these for next spring.

          7. I am dying to know what you see. I don’t have a current example, but I often would see last minute BOS-DEN R/T in first class for $900 while coach was $1,200 on UA.

          8. I think UA has taken the approach that it is better to sell the business/first seats at a steep discount rather than give them as “free” upgrades to their frequent flyers.

            I see UA 1st seats from DEN – IAH going for around $500 now nearly every weekend. They used to be not less than $900. But coach has gone up around 20% on the same flights. The discounted 1st seats are almost always less than the Y UP or similarly classed seats and occasionally less than highly discounted coach. I do know that I see the upgrade wait list at around 40+ passengers on every UA flight I take now and no one seems to be getting an upgrade.

          9. So true. Before the merger booking a few weeks out I was paying around $300 R/T for coach on DEN-BOS every week, and when I looked of F for fun, it was always $2,000 to $3,000, never less than $2,000. From the upgrade list, it appeared that at least half of F went to “Free” upgrades. I got upgraded often.

            After the merger, booking a few weeks out, coach was typically $500 to $600 and F was often $900, a few times in the $800s. The list grew, and ti showed almost no “Free” upgrades. I even heard a few people talk about getting last minute upgrade offers in the $40-$100 range. I keep hoping for one of those offers 🙂

          10. Oh, and there are 117 people on the upgrade list for my flight tonight on UA to IAH. Yes, 117. That is not a typo. This is on a 757-300 that seats just over 200.

            And it is running 90 minutes late into Denver. But we are departing on time! But on time departure was 10 minutes ago and the plane is not here yet. Don’t you love airlines. 😉

          11. At least I have my lifetime Club membership. (Well I do until UA changes their definition of “lifetime”.)

          12. That’s good. I never bought one. Always knew I would get off the road one day. But I probably should have.

          13. Yes, they have a coach fare that you book in z class to get the upgrade. Z is discounted business or first, depending on the type of plane. I bought tickets for us on AA to the Caribbean with a similar upgrade for next spring. BTW, it does require a 3 day advance purchase and is based on space available.

        2. Funny … saw the same sort of thing this morning when I jumped on US Air’s website to check on the trip insurance thing…

          A non-refundbable 1st class ticket on one flight was $1000 more than the refundable 1st class ticket which was only $50 more than the non-refundable coach….

          Might be a fat finger but I would have grabbed it in a heart beat…

      2. That is probably because you were booking on short notice, so APEX fares weren’t available in coach, but there was a discounted first class fare that was pricing lower than an unrestricted coach ticket. DIY’ers don’t see the reasons for the pricing that agents do in their GDS.

  8. Compassion is good business – it is for my business, anyway. It’s how you get customers you can keep. If your business can just file another Chapter Eleven every few years when its policies catch up with it, not so much.

  9. If everyone is honest then airlines (or some airlines) won’t require death certificates and etc. to waive fees and etc…just think of George Costanza and Seinfeld episode when he went to a funeral of a relative of a his girlfriend.

    In regards to US Airways, I think that they were compassionate in dealing with my situations. When my father went into the hospital in January 2008 and my father thought that this hospital visit was the final one (he spent over 100 nights at the hospital in the year of 2008), I was at a job site and we were flying to see my parents in a week. I called US Airways and they waived the change fee on two reservations (the one for the jobsite and the one for my family a week later) so that we could fly sooner to see my parentsfather.

    When my father passed away in 2008 (December…almost a year later from the above situation) and my mother passed away in 2011, we had no existing tickets with US Airways to change. US Airways told me both times to send in the death certificates by mail so that they can work with me in reducing the fares since our travel were less than 7 days.

    A while back, I read an article where one employee used the ‘death of my grandmother’ eight times over five years as an excuse for missing work. Again, if people were honest than some airlines won’t require paperwork.

    1. And that is the point – if she had such problems online, call and ask where to fax over or mail in. End of drama!

    2. Well, given the modern family structure of multiple marriages, it is not impossible to have 8 people you consider to be your grandmother. Whether or not your employer agrees is another thing totally.

      1. In the article that I read, he had only two grandmothers and both were living. The fact was that he was lying. The article was about employees who gave bad excuses, etc. for their attendance.

        The bottom line is that as long as people are dishonest, their actions are going to affect the honest folks.

  10. Definitely a difference in “should” and “required.” For the measly amount of $200, US Airways could have kept this lady’s business. I’d be willing to bet the farm she flies with Delta next time.

  11. I didn’t vote. I can go both ways. She bought a non-refundable ticket with a change fee, and she changed it. I wish US airways either said Yes or No upfront, so she wouldn’t have to go though all of this. I also though US Airways removed the death clause form their CoC, so they really don’t have to give a refund no matter what. It might have been easier if they simply said No, and the OP didn’t waste all of her time.

    One time I was on US Airways and my wife had food poisoning and ended up in the hospital with dehydration. I went to the airport, and said I needed to change our tickets, and pulled out my credit card for the change fee. The agent said no one ever offers to pay and always fights it, and since I offered, she will waive the change fee. I was very impressed! However on another US Air flight very recently, my flight was delayed 3 hours and the next flight to the same destination was about to leave, I asked about goign standby and was told I had to pay a fee. I found in the CoC that I didn’t have to pay a fee if my flight was delayed and mentioned this. The agent countered that they flight was full, too bad. That agent walked away for some reason, and I went up to another agent, she put me on the other flight, didn’t charge me, and I had a whole row to myself. The flight was 60% full tops. I was shocked as I hadn’t seen an empty seat in years. I think its all about the people.

    Now if the OP were my customer, I would waive the darn fee and move on. But I only answer to myself, not stock holders.

    1. I have a client who gets her tickets changed all the time, at the airport, for no fee. It all depends on the agent. One trip she takes twice a year to see family requires a certain routing to get the lowest fare in that market. Returning it is a double connection, even though there is a single connection option, but it is for a higher fare. Each and every time she gets to the airport, an agent looks at her travel day and always changes her to a single connection trip. She became ill in India, got her flight changed to fly home early, for no fee. When she got to BKK, which was a separate ticket, was told there was a fee, so she got a hotel, came back to the airport the next day and got out for no extra cost. Then got to LAX, walked up to a UA gate, explained her situation that she was in a few days early, was told there would be a change fee and an add collect. She said thank you, walked to another gate and that agent put her on the next outbound flight to SFO for no extra charge. Each and every time, my client is polite, says thank you and gets what she needs. I never know her return, so wait to hear from her and her story 🙂

    2. I was buying a ticket in Penn Station Noo Yawk [O, como se dicen hoy dia, Nueva Jork] for the Lung Gailand Railroad, and I axed [regress to local dialect for simpatico here] the agent “How old do ya gotta be to get the AK discount?” He said “65”. I said, “Oh, OK. I ain’t that yet for another coupla months.” He handed me an AK ticket and told me “Limp away from here for appearances, OK?”

      I suppose he was so used to getting the “Gee, it’s only another 2 months; why not?” bleat that when someone just said, “OK, no big deal”, he was happy not to have to go through the horst shirt for the umptheenth time that day.

  12. US Airways has always been the rudest and most difficult airline, and they infect every company with which they merge. America West was a decent airline until they merged With US Airways.

    To everyone who says, “US Airways shouldn’t refund fees and tickets because they should try to make as much money as possible,” you are losing the forest for the trees. Bad customers service, difficult processes and rigid policies send customers to other airlines. THAT is the true threat to the bottom line.

  13. Another scammer looking to get something for nothing. Since when does non refundable mean something else? This nitwit knew her mother was about to die but booked a non refundable ticket anyway? Hope US Airways tells her no. All it does is raise prices for the rest of us.

    And shame on you Elliot for being part of the shakedown to scam US Air out of their money.

    1. Yes, this US Airways is a scammer looking to get something for nothing. What did it cost them to change a ticket because SOMEONE DIED? Nothing! They are scamming the letter writer.

    2. She was not asking for a refund of the ticket. She only was asking for a refund of the change fee. Learn how to read.

    3. Most of the time, people who ask for Chris’ help have me shaking my head but the LW received different treatment that her sister for doing exactly what the sister did. I have had clients get different treatment with an airline, too, even though what they went through was exactly the same. It all depends on the agent of the carrier that you are dealing with and often, how you speak to them can get you a different result. If clients need to deal with the issue themselves, I always tell them that if they don’t like what they are told, hang up, wait a few minutes and call again. That often works well. I have worked with carriers for decades on illness and death situations. I find the carriers to be very willing to assist and be very helpful. I am happy to say, that DL was the best when I needed to get a member of the military home to his father’s funeral. Thumbs up to them!

  14. When to use an agent? Wasn’t this was one of your recent articles. A simple airline ticket has no need for an agent was the final diagnosis. NOPE! We have this type of issue a couple of dozen times a year and no client has ever had to do a thing other than an obituary / death certificate (each airline has different paperwork) to get their refunds, credits, change fees waived. It is such an emotional journey when a death occurs and there is no reason to have a fight with an airline. Hours are spent spinning wheels, emailing, fighting a computer, in this case further contacting Chris to get the easy job done. People who use a good agent get the benefit of all kinds of support and service. Patricia, my heart goes out to you for the airline treating you like they did.

  15. Awful what US Airways put her through. Her sister’s experience matches mine with Delta when my adult son had emergency bypass surgery and my return date kept changing. Then, while I was in Italy working, he unexpectedly died five years later. A Delta supervisor got me out of Pisa and into his home city within 24 hours. The cost: 60,000 FF miles for routing that had no FF-seat availability. “I just created those seats for you,” she told me. They did it with no proof that what I was telling them actually happened. I am so glad Delta is the main airline out of my city, and that US Airways, United, American are not.

    1. And, once again, it is too bad that it took the intervention of a consumer advocate to get this for her — just so US Airways could avoid a negative hit in public media.

  16. This case is a perfect example of how the free market is supposed to work. we have a choice of vendors. Delta determined it was in their best interest to work with a customer and US did not. Now let the free market decide, do you fly Delta or US next time you have a choice.

    As a side note even though I despise the way airlines treat their customers, I have to attend a wedding at the end of September and am unable to get the time off to drive. So I am booked on guess who? US Airways. When purchasing the tickets my wife and I made the conscious decision to self insurance our trip. We discussed the insurance cost and coverage and declined it.

  17. That’s USAirways for you. After all the experiences I had with them, I’m not surprised at all. What else would anyone expect? Of course, threatening not to fly them ever again is an empty threat, because I know I will fly them if the price is right, and sometimes I have no choice anyway. Delta seems unaware of the fact that domestic air travel has basically become a shared monopoly, but USAirways knows it all too well.

  18. Let me suggest another consideration: I have recently decided to sell off shares I own in companies that carry out certain businesses (coal mining, dirty fuels, etc.), or that act in ways with which I disagree (poor employee relations, etc.). In each case, I then invested in competitors which acted more to my liking. My personal decision, sure. But, If companies continue to act solely for the purpose of making a profit for their shareholders, and the public be damned, they may actually be hurting their own bottom line. Profit alone doesn’t work – there’s always another company making a similar or better profit and doing its business in a more socially acceptable manner. In this case, between Delta and US Air, which will likely be the one in which I invest? How does that help US Air?

  19. Condolences on the loss.
    I’m thinking here……wouldn’t the time you are going to see someone who is sick and may pass on be exactly the time when one would shell out for travel insurance?
    I get it every time with my credit card, but if I were having to buy it, certainly this is the situation in which I would do so.

  20. I have had bad experience with US Airways customer service representatives as well. They are rude and unwilling to hear you out. It is more of a customer disservice than customer service.

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