Yvette Law Lui pays extra for her seat assignments on Virgin America. She doesn’t get them. Is she entitled to a refund?
Question: I recently booked one-way tickets from Los Angeles to Newark for my family of four on Virgin America. I paid an extra $79 per person for priority check-in, baggage fee, and “preferred” seats. I selected seats 11A, 11B, 11C, and 11D, so that the whole family could be seated together.
When I checked in for my flight, I noticed that my previously selected seats were all changed to: 11F, 12A, 12C and 12D. I went online and initiated a chat with a Virgin America representative. They were not able to change the seats back for me.
I phoned, and another representative said it was a “glitch” in the computer system. She promised to refund the seat fees.
It’s been more than a month and I haven’t received a refund yet. I would like Virgin America to honor its word. My paid-for item was not given to me, so it should provide a refund — $25 per selected seat, for 4 seats. — Yvette Law Lui, Hong Kong
Answer: If Virgin America promised you a refund, it should have delivered one. Promptly.
I can understand why it would hesitate. These so-called “ancillary” revenues, such as seat assignment fees, are a major source of income for airlines. Refunding them is not part of their business plan.
Interestingly, the federal government is about to put a damper on collecting fees from families who want to sit together — and not a moment too soon. You’re entitled to sit with your kids, period.
Also, there may have been a misunderstanding. The seats for which you paid might have been considered premium, either because they were farther up front or had a little extra legroom, and the representative erred in promising you a refund.
Even so, a promise is a promise. Virgin America should have done what it said.
You could have appealed this to one of our customer service contacts at Virgin America. But it looks as if you’d already tried to reach the carrier in several different ways, and it was just ignoring you.
That’s actually highly unusual for Virgin America. It’s one of the better U.S. airlines and gives us the impression that it cares. But Virgin America does collect ancillary fees from its customers like there’s no tomorrow.
I contacted Virgin America on your behalf. The airline said it was “in the process” of refunding the money. It should be in your account by now.