Yes, you should be informed of the cost of preselecting your seat — before you are charged

Robert Rosofsky books and pays for a round-trip flight, with one leg on Delta Air Lines and the return on Virgin Atlantic. When he goes to select seats for his return flight, he finds he’s being charged an additional $76. Can he use our contacts to obtain a refund?

Question: I booked a round-trip ticket on the website, flying out from Boston to London with Delta and the return trip on Virgin Atlantic Airways. After I booked and paid for the flights, I was directed to the Virgin website to select my seats. However, there was a cost and I had to purchase the two seats for a total of $76.

Delta failed to disclose at the time of purchase, that there would be additional costs for the entire itinerary. Thus, I made a purchase without being fully informed of the additional costs. — Robert Rosofsky, Milton, Mass.

Answer: Robert, you most certainly should have been informed of the cost of booking your seats before you purchased your tickets, not afterwards. As you rightly pointed out to Delta, it was misleading at the very least.

I’m pleased to see that you used our Delta Air Lines contacts to ask for a refund of the cost of booking seats.

When you emailed Delta, you followed our advocates’ advice, which is to send a brief polite email, just setting out the facts without any unnecessary information. You never threatened to take your business elsewhere or made any derogatory comments about its employees — a mistake that often gets letters tossed in the trash. Instead you asked for a reasonable solution — a refund of the extra charges and nothing more.

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The first response you got was that your refund request had been sent to Virgin on the grounds that it collected the payment for the seats.

You were surprised by this response, finding it ridiculous because you expected Delta to be responsible for the refund. Given that it was Delta that had failed to inform you of the extra charges, I can see why you thought it should be Delta that provided the refund.

When writing to a company, we always recommend waiting one week before you move to the next person on the contact list. You patiently waited over 30 days for a response from Virgin and Delta, and when you didn’t get a response from either, you wrote to the next person on the contact list.

It was good to see that you hadn’t made the mistake of writing to all the contacts at the same time, as some people do, because once you do that, you have no one else to write to.

You approached the matter in the right way and you got not one, but two calls from a Customer Solutions Specialist working in the Executive Office, as well as an email. Here is her reply:

On reading your note, I immediately picked up the phone and attempted to call you twice. Unfortunately we weren’t able to speak, but I did leave you a message on the first call. I wanted to get in touch with you as soon as possible so I’m now emailing you.

I’m sorry to hear that our website failed to disclose the additional costs for your seats. You’re right this does seem misleading and I can certainly understand your concerns. As stated in my voicemail to you I will be happy to send you a check in the amount of $76 for reimbursement for this fee.

This is a good result, and you have shown that self-advocacy can work. I also hope that because you took the trouble to write back to Delta thanking it for the resolution, it will continue to try to help other customers in the future, knowing that helping resolve issues can make a difference.

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You were happy with the outcome and said, “This is just a thank-you for your Sunday Boston Globe column and your website, which I follow closely. Thanks again for your articles and website.”

Robert, you’re most welcome — I‘m glad you were able to use our contacts to resolve the issue.

John Galbraith

John is a UK based lawyer and writer. He loves to travel and can be frequently found in remote locations in a suit and cravat. Read more of John's articles here.

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