As I deal with business-related lawsuits, credit card disputes, refund issues, and life in general, I’m becoming increasingly disenchanted with the whole game of business, in which the only way to get anything done is to aggressively assert your rights, be well-connected, or both…
Airlines Are Still Dragging Feet On Refunds And Even Flight Credit
The direct context for this piece is Scott McCartney’s Middle Seat column in the Wall Street Journal this week. His focus is on airline refunds that have delayed or denied. He talks about the Schiller’s problem with Alitalia. The Brown’s problem with United. The Krawll’s problem with American. Oh yes, and the Blouch’s problem with Frontier.
All four of those customers were getting the runaround from the airlines. Mr. Schiller was barred from traveling to Italy because of restrictions imposed by the European Union. Despite calling Alitalia twice concerning this, Alitalia claimed he was a no-show and denied him even travel credits. Mr. Brown found his San Francisco – London journey on United cancelled. United wanted to get fly him through another hub and get him to London six hours later. He refused, but United denied him a refund.
Mr. Krawll spent over $10,000 to book his family to St. Thomas. When his trip got cancelled, American only offered a flight voucher issued in the name of each passenger. With many logistical and pandemic-related hurdles, a large family trip is unlikely to occur later this year or next, making the vouchers worthless.
Ms. Blouch learned the hard way that Frontier’s credit is only valid for 90 days. She had cancelled her family trip to Cancun and was unaware the $4,000+ in credit and to be used quickly.
It Pays To Be Well-Connected
Thanks to McCartney’s public persona and implicit pressure, Mr. Schiller received Alitalia credit, Mr. Brown received a refund from United, Mr. Krawll received a lump-sump travel credit he can use however he chooses, and Ms. Blouch’s travel credits were reinstated.
Nice outcomes for everyone, right?
But why should it be this way? Why should Blouch have to read tiny fine print to discover her flight credit on Frontier is valid for less than three months from date of issue? Why should Brown have to accept travel credit for a nonstop trip that was cancelled and a rebooking option that got him six hours later? Should Krawll and Schiller really be forced to eat the cost of their tickets due to events beyond their control?
The answer is no, especially considering these same airlines so greedily suck the taxpayer teat.
When I read stories like this, I do get angry. I left out all the details, but every passenger noted above wasted hours if not days on the phone trying to fix their respective situations. Why should consumers be forced to lose billions while airline pocket billions in subsidies, payroll support, and preferential loans bankrolled by taxpayers? It just isn’t right. Any further aid to airlines in the USA and around the world should be conditioned upon cutting out these distasteful practices. Is that really too much to ask for?
In this world of injustice and enmity against one another, we have to fight for our rights or we often forfeit them. Expecting fair play and mutual respect is apparently too much to ask for. Exhibit A: the way airlines treat their customers. Good luck with your refunds without the help of a more powerful voice. It should not be this way…