Airlines Should Not Bend the Rules for Those With Family Emergencies

One of the more contentious customer service issues in the airline industry has long been around how airlines deal with people who have family emergencies. This comes in a lot of different forms. Some people may need to buy a ticket at the last minute to get to an ailing family member 06_10_31 Sador to a funeral. Other times, a trip might be interrupted due to an emergency back home, requiring a change of plans.

Either way, this kind of thing usually means shelling out a fair bit of money to buy a new ticket or change an existing one. While some airlines will give you a bit of a break in these situations, most won’t. That rubs some people the wrong way, but I’ll argue that the airlines shouldn’t be giving people a break here except in rare instances.

The Elusive and Annoying Bereavement Fare
Traditional legacy carriers tend to have bereavement fares, but they are far less common than you might think. For United, it’s a 5 percent discount off the published fare. For others, it’s a filed fare that’s a discount off full coach. That, however, may often be more expensive than other discounted fares in the market. For the most part, these fares aren’t worth it because of the hassle involved. As Seinfeld fans know, you need proof of the emergency.

This might mean bringing a copy of the death certificate or a doctors note. In other cases, you can provide the details of the funeral home or hospital and the airline can follow up directly. This might sound callous, but let’s be honest. People will try to take advantage of this kind of discount if proof isn’t required.

But the bereavement fare is sort of a vestige of the past. It used to be that last minute travel was very expensive while planes were empty. So airlines knew that they could discount fares for bereavement travel and fill up a seat with someone who isn’t going to pay the full fare.

Less Need for Special Fares
Travel today is different. In markets with low cost competition, the spread between the last minute fare and the advance purchase fare is less than it used to be. And airplanes are a lot more full. So the result is that most low cost airlines don’t bother with bereavement fares at all. Customer service stars like Southwest, for example, do not do anything out of the ordinary.

Should airlines have these kinds of fares? I’d say no. While personal tragedies are awful, they happen all the time. At last check, about 7,000 people die in the US alone each day. Many, many more get sick. And there are multiple people wanting to travel for each tragedy. So while it seems like an incredibly rare situation when it happens to you, in reality it happens all the time. This isn’t a one-off type of exception for an airline to make. It’s a big piece of business.

Many Disagree
Of course, many people disagree with this and think that if they have a family emergency, then the airlines should go out of its way to help them get there. I just have a hard time seeing a reason for that with one exception. I would like to see airlines oversell a full flight to get someone onboard at the prevailing rate. If a flight is full and there are no other options, it could mean the difference between someone seeing a relative before they die and not. But that’s more of a corner case and it would still carry a hefty price tag.

Some think that this is crazy and that airlines should just throw the rules out the window when it comes to helping people in trouble. Here’s a recent case that we can use to discuss the point.

An Example to Review
Someone named “The Answer Guy” was in LA for a memorial service when he found out his fiancee’s father was gravely ill. They both needed to change their Virgin America tickets to get back to New York sooner.

The blog post really tries to make it sound like Virgin America is a terrible airline, but I think the airline did more than it needed to. There was a $100 change fee and a $434 fare difference to make a change at the last minute for a redeye home. The Answer Guy was livid and thought Virgin America should have let him travel on an earlier day for free.

Virgin America offered to waive the change fee but not the fare difference. And why should they? That gesture alone of waiving the change fee was above and beyond what the airline needed to do. And from the tone of the email, it sounds like he’s flown Virgin America occasionally, but he’s not a super duper fancy customer who Virgin America would want to work extra hard to keep happy.

But he wasn’t happy and has gone ranting and raving, even trying to threaten the airline with his standing as the author of “a customer service web site that is regularly read by several tens of thousands of small business owners; I expect that’s not an audience you want aware of and discussing what follows, nor the manner in which VAA has thus far handled things.”

Yeah, that’s a good way to handle the situation. Trying to pretend you’re important is never going to garner sympathy (regardless of whether you’re actually important or not).

He brings up the Peninsula in Beverly Hills as a counter example. They let him check out a day early without penalty. But that’s usually the policy at most hotels. Few will penalize you if you need to check out early. Though I don’t know the details of his rate, that’s most likely in the rules and that’s not any kind of exception.

The reality is that on that Virgin America flight, there were probably few seats left at such a last minute. There’s a going rate for those seats, and if the author doesn’t want to pay it, then somebody else very likely will. At least, that’s the general assumption if the revenue management system is doing its job.

So now I’ll turn it over to you. Should airlines make special exceptions for the many bereaved travelers or not? I say no, but I’d like to hear your thoughts along with an explanation either way.

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96 Comments on "Airlines Should Not Bend the Rules for Those With Family Emergencies"

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David Johnson
Guest

It’s very easy to give an argument when life is going ok, but when a relative is dying emotions tend to come to the fore – at which point people tend to take a slightly different viewpoint.

Setting policy in a comfortable office is one thing, but if you’re on a ticket desk at an airport telling someone whose parent is dying that they need to pay an extra $800 or they don’t get the seat while looking them in the eye, then it’s a very difficult job to do.

A
Guest
I agree, corporate policy is easy to set when it’s not personal, but when you actually see the people that it’s affecting it’s hard not to have compassion. Personally I’ve never been in that situation so I’m not sure how I would feel. If I was asked to pay a huge fare difference for a flight that had empty seats or non-rev passengers I can imagine I’d be pretty mad. Now if the flight was full and I bumped someone it seems only fair that there would be a significant expense for doing that. I’ve bumped people when flying on… Read more »
noahkimmel
Member
I have flown in this situation, and I can tell you, cost isn’t the issue. You are stressed and looking for help and a smile. Generally, price is not at the top of your mind. I agree with Cranky. If airlines were more consistent, people would accept it. But its the range of answers, and personalization that makes people crazy–the idea that “you” get it, but “I” dont. Its not the airlines fault life got in the way, and they dont owe you a piece of their profit. Customer service is not about discounting price, its about providing value. They… Read more »
William D
Member
I know that when I was seriously I’ll as a 13 year old and needed to be flown to hospital – with a heavy and bulky dialysis machine in tow, and my mum and brother, emotions were high for our family as it was. My mum was in a complete state and I felt so bad for her. Air France didn’t hesitate to accept the 50+ kg machine without a fee – they didnt even ask – and I don’t think they charged us the full fares either. I think as David righty says its easy to think it through… Read more »
Jeff Yablon
Guest
The simplest way to respond would be, of course, to “agree to disagree”, and move on. I think you deserve better than that, as do your readers, and mine. Brett, I completely hear you when you say that (and I’m paraphrasing, but I think this is what it comes down to) that “rules are rules”. And I agree that there was no way the person I spoke to on the phone when I initially contact Virgin about my need to change travel plans could have done anything about that. I think I was clear about that in my post at… Read more »
FT_Roy
Guest
I went and read your article, Jeff. And to be honest, I think it makes you come off as an entitled jackhole (not that you are, necessarily, just the tone I’m hearing). Unless VX has a specific bereavement policy, you weren’t entitled to anything, which generally calls for a softer tack than you chose to sail. Because let’s get one thing straight: you’re neither the boss of, nor the mother of, these CSRs – to go in with the mindset that you’re going to “talk some sense” into them is to set yourself up for failure. I haven’t ever had… Read more »
john96
Member

@FT – love the term ‘jackhole’ never heard it before – but it is lovely.
@ Jeff – Cranky is far from myopic, he is typically outside the box.

Courtney
Guest
Should it be policy? No Should airlines do it? Yes To The Answer Guy, I’m sure it felt like the airline was taking advantage of his situation. Because he had a family emergency, he suddenly has to pay a lot more. On the surface to an occasional traveler not privy to the inside business, it would certainly feel that way. From an airline’s point of view, I could see these types of requests becoming major hassles. Not hassles in dealing with those with legit issues, but hassles in keeping those without legit issues from taking advantage of it. What should… Read more »
Neil
Guest
Couple of things: Overall, I mainly agree with Brett. Airlines should do what they can, but given the amount of times these emergencies happen, they’d be losing a lot more than they already are if everyone got discounts on these types of tickets. Comparing the Peninsula to Virgin America is apples to oranges. One is a luxury hotel known for outstanding customer service and attention to detail, and the other is a money-losing discount airline. I’d expect the Peninsula to excel, and I’d expect VA not to – and that’s what happened. And finally, I love social media, blogs, and… Read more »
ptahcha
Guest
While bereavement fares may not be cheapest, they do offer more flexibility than typical discounted tickets. For example, AA’s bereavement fare is booked in W class, but you can make changes without penalty. Unfortunately, it’s only available if that booking class is available. On a related topic, I think it would be interesting to compare the medical waiver with a ticket that’s already booked. UA used to be able to provide credit voucher with a doctor’s note – now they want to charge $50 processing fee. AA does not have a medical waiver – only death of the passenger or… Read more »
Austin
Guest
I generally have to agree with Brett here. Specifically, why do people single out airlines for such a discount? Do people generally expect the florist to offer a bereavement discount when told that the arrangement is for a funeral? Do people generally expect the caterer to give a discount when told that the spread is for the post-funeral reception? I would say the answer is no to both…so then why then do people expect the airlines to offer a bereavement discount? And if your response is that you don’t necessarily need to have flowers or food at a funeral, but… Read more »
Kris
Guest

Austin, there are to key differences between airline bereavement fares and all other examples, history and fare escalation.

The airlines had bereavement fares for years under deregulation and through 2001-2005 timeframe. The bereavement fare was unique to the airline transport industry.

WRT Fare escalation, in no other industry does the product increase dramatically in price as the supply dwindles. What I paid for banannas yesterday is the same or nearly the same as all recent previous grocery trips.

Austin
Guest
Actually, basic economics dictates that prices increase (occasionally dramatically) as supply dwindles. Using your bananas as an example, I am sure you pay more for produce in the off-season, for example. And just a few weeks ago, there was a news “story” making the rounds that there would be a bacon shortage (which was actually the UK variety–closer to what US folks would call Canadian bacon)–in reality, we won’t run out of bacon, but the prices will go up to reflect the shortage. The real problem with your banana example, however, is that bananas (and most everything else we buy)… Read more »
Marks
Guest
To use you rental car (or florist) analogy Austin, suppose I went into the rent car company and said that I did not want a car tomorrow, but I do want one today…and the rent car company has a car spare today. I can understand a small change fee, but to charge me for the spare car today PLUS a great chunk of the car I was going to use tomorrow is pretty nasty. Especially if the reason is that I have had a bereavement. Most rental car companies, I believe, would do the switch for a small (if any)… Read more »
Fred
Guest
In general, I agree that there really shouldn’t be discounts for whatever sort of emergencies. However, one big advantage of Bereavement Fares (at least formerly) was that they tended to be quite flexible. I’d say that waiving change fees is understandable, but unless a relatively expensive flexible fare was bought in the first place, there’s no need to waive fare differences or charge cheaper fares. And I’m not saying this because I haven’t had to travel because of family emergencies. A few years ago I had a family member die, and they day before that, I got a transcon ticket… Read more »
Pilotindave
Guest

Hi Cranky, A few grammar/typos in this post. It seems to be becoming a continual issue, please don’t let the quality of the blog slide.

Collin
Guest

There’s a few grammar errors in your post. I find that ironic.

David SF eastbay
Member

Does a hospital give you a discount on a hospital stay if you die…no

Does a gas station sell you gas cheaper if you need gas to rush to the airport/hospital to see a loved one before they die….no

Does a grocery store give you a discount for all the food you are buying to feed people at the house after the funeral….no

So why does an airline have to give you a discount/special treatment for a family emergency? Not saying they don’t or shouldn’t, but you shouldn’t expect them to, or complain if they don’t do more.

Nick Barnard
Member

I’m going to nitpick. The hospital does give you a discount if you can’t pay. It also gives your estate a discount it can’t pay.

That being said this is a built in cost of doing business for them, an hospital pricing is pretty opaque. Airlines probably used to build this cost in, but since people buy airline tickets based on price they cut this cost out and lowered their fares. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Don
Guest
First off I truely feel bad for Jeff and his fam.ily. I hope they can make it through the tough time as death and decline of health in a friend or family member is never easy. I think in his situation he was looking for more of compassion in dealing with him when I read what happened. His complaint dealt mainly (from my perspective) the customer service aspect. While I don’t think he deserved a fare reduction that he wanted; I believe they could have been more careful how they handled his situation. This is just my opinion on his… Read more »
james
Guest
I agree with the post 100%. Unless it’s a major holiday weekend you can get fly most major city pairs one way for under $500. I’ve had to fly to the midwest for plenty of funerals over the past 10 years and while stressful at the time most people know (especially now) who’s cheap, how to Kayak, and alternative airports as well. But I?d also posit that the rules and terms are going to become less static “off the record” due to the power of social media. The threat of immediate negative publicity, at an unknown level, thrusts PR and… Read more »
chinger
Guest
The biggest problem is, as you already pointed out, fraud. Without proof that such an emergency exists, there are unfortunately people who would consistently take advantage of potential bereavement fares and any other form of sympathy. I think there is room for some sympathy from the airline, but unfortunately this is going to be limited. While I sympathize with Jeff, that does not change the fact that he came off extremely hostile in his emails to the airline (And seriously everyone seems to think that having a blog is some sort of major status symbol. Seriously, there’s this one called… Read more »
Chris
Guest

I agree Cranky. This should be the domain of insurance policies rather than airline policies.

Chicago Chris
Member
I mostly agree with the article. Last minute travel is expensive and comes at a premium. Everyone travels for a reason, be it business, leisure or the untimely death of a family member. –That said, airlines may consider extending additional customer service to these customers. It’s a gesture of goodwill and something they’ll remember when they need to fly again. It could be a no-bump policy or seat towards the front to get off earlier. As some pointed out, compassion goes a long way in any industry. The reason airlines like Southwest are known for their service is because employees… Read more »
Aunt Benet
Member
I say no — and I say that as someone who has used these fares in the past. You wouldn’t go to a funeral director and ask for a discount on their services. You wouldn’t ask the flower company for a deal on flowers. You wouldn’t go to the grocery store and ask for a discount on food for the service. You don’t go to any part of the funeral chain and ask for a discount, so why should airlines do it? Airlines are a business, just like other service providers like restaurants, clothing stores, etc. They are not a… Read more »
airmm
Member

The fact is, we wouldn’t even discuss this if so many people hadn’t scammed the airlines and claimed they needed a bereavement fare when they didn’t. Years of being scammed led to more stringent rules now. So we can blame – us – for these rules today. That said, airline should many exceptions when they believe it will help the customer and their reputation. More frontline employees should be empowered to make special exceptions, though few do today because their managers come down hard on them. Extreme-situation flexibility is still something airline customer service is learning.

E
Member
Lots of good comments here on both sides. As already mentioned, the florist, rental car company, hotel, or caterer aren’t cutting their rates. Why is the airline expected to? In a lot of cases, the airline is probably already the cheapest part of an unexpected trip for a funeral… I do agree with the idea of airlines waiving penalties for changes, and maybe issuing a refund when situations warrant, but that’s about all that they should be offering. When I was a ticket counter supervisor a bazillion years ago, I received exactly two “bad letters” from customers. One was from… Read more »
john96
Member
So really the issue is about fairly assessing change fees and fare increases. I am a fairly frequent flier, and I have to tell you, since most of my domestic flights are short to medium haul, I take Southwest because of the lack of change fees. Since they are adding wi-fi to most of their aircraft, I could take WN cross country as well (on a non stop – certainly not on the Texas milk run). Here’s the thing, I get why airlines charge a change fee – you took some of their inventory when it had a certain value,… Read more »
speaketh
Guest
John, I would be interested to see a system where you can “return” your original tickets to the airline to be resold. Instead of paying change fee + fare difference, you pay change fee plus new ticket upfront, and if your original ticket re-sells, the airline sends you a check for how much they sold it for. It’s a way to do airline ticket resale (closer to) within current regulations. The change fee would be necessary to keep this from turning into a stock market. The chanciness of the system could be annoying, but would make flyers much less mad… Read more »
John G
Guest
I’m not without sympathy for The Answer Guy, but he simply does not understand the airline business. Time is money in this business. Simply put, one ticket is not the same as another. A ticket for a flight tomorrow is worth more than one for a flight in three months. That’s because the value to passengers is different. A businessperson needing to get there tomorrow is willing to pay more money; a leisure traveler is not. So the next-day ticket has a higher value to the consumer. Consider tickets for an NBA game. A ticket on the floor is worth… Read more »
DC
Guest

When I read the post title, I expected that I would disagree. Once I read Jeff’s presentation of events, my sympathy quickly evaporated.

haolenate
Guest
John, When I stumbled on your article that you posted in the comments section of another forum at first it made me angry. It wasn’t how you were treated, but how YOU treated the situation. I work for Cranky Concierge and I’ve NEVER name dropped this blog or Brett when trying to fix situations. In the past 10 or so problems, I’ve only ran across 1 person who knew “what we were” and even then, the agent followed procedure and we got the customer taken care of (he mentioned if this would end up on the blog, I told him… Read more »
Jeff Yablon
Guest
Thanks. That’s kind of what I said above: “You have a $100 ?change fee? per ticket? You know what? I get that. I think it?s high, but maybe not; enough people might need to touch that order that maybe the $100 actually represents something real-ish. So charge me that fee. But the fare change? Once again, refer back to the lie, and it?s ABSOLUTELY unconscionable.” And I realize I come off a little bit, shall we say, forceful, but at the end of the day this really was all about the way I was handled, not the outcome. And I… Read more »
haolenate
Guest
Jeff, not john..my bad! And one of our “secrets” that will help you or anyone in the future: If you don’t like what you hear on the phone, hang up and try again. OR head to the airport. Airport agents are more willing to help than someone on the phone and typically have more “power”. This is one reason many frequent flyers were mad (and still mad) that the City Ticket Offices have closed – it was easier to go see a human and take care of things. In the midst of everything going on, I know a trip to… Read more »
Jeff Yablon
Guest

One of the people I spoke with at VA after the fact suggested going to the airport, as well. Funny thing is that she also said the airport agents MIGHT actually charge MORE, so … well I left that out of the story when I wrote it.

Appreciate it . . . and of course, it’s advice I hope to never need to remember!

jaybru
Member
Of course, airlines like any business can offer a discount for almost anything…AAA or AARP membership, corporate affiliation, military status (someone as an active member, sometimes as a retiree), for spending at your friendly supermarket, and yes, for bereavement. Or, they might not want to make discounts for anything. That’s their prerogative. (Be careful though. Don’t get caught discriminating.) We all know travel occurs for many reasons, some more serious than others. Surprise: we all want to get the lowest fare and airlines want to make as much money as they can. What makes so many of us unhappy with… Read more »
Kheart359
Member

Easy to be, easy to say….”the armchair quarterback” (you)…unless you’ve been in the situation of either a trauma of family member, death of a family member, or other catastrophe at home then lets leave the decision making to those in charge….Enough of this lip service already………………….

Sally Smith
Guest
I was in a bereavement situation in 1990, and was a high mileage frequent flyer with Delta Airlines. I was able to get a half-priced fare with documentation of the bereavement. However, the airline industry has changed dramatically since then. More recently, my mother was gravely ill in Texas, and the quickest way to get to Texas was via Delta. I desperately wanted to get home as quickly as possible from upstate New York. No more bereavement fares. However, I got a free upgrade to first class with my change fee and fare differential because coach was full. And I’m… Read more »
Oliver
Guest

It’s quite funny to see how some people think they are *entitled* to something based on their “unique” problem or situation.

Sometimes sh*t happens and unless one is prepared for it (e.g., via insurance or a “rainy day fund”), it will cost a bit of money to deal with it. That’s life.

Garry Margolis
Guest
I got off a late-evening United flight from LAX to JFK a couple of years ago, and when I turned on my phone, the voicemail erupted with messages that my father had died. I had to return to LAX on the next available flight. The phone agent was extremely helpful. The redeye to LAX had already left, so she changed my return flight to the next morning without a fare penalty, advised me to stand by for the earlier full flight in case a seat became available, charged me the change fee, and told me how to get it waived… Read more »
Tim Swearingen
Guest
Customer Service cuts both ways…the customer has to be willing to be reasonably served. In the last few months of her life, my wife and I made the decision to move her to be closer to family in central Indiana. I’d fly in from our home in Phoenix whenever I could but, as fate would have it, the call that she had a few hours of life remaining came the day before the super bowl. A quick Internet search showed that American had seats and a call to their reservation center got results. I didn’t beg or plead rather, just… Read more »
Nick
Guest

Tom — Many dead-on comments have been made in this debate, but yours is one of the best: “Customer Service cuts both ways…the customer has to be willing to be reasonably served.” Granted, having been in similar situations as others here, being reasonable is difficult.

A rhetorical question: given that it is 34 years after deregulation, when will nostalgia for service from the propeller era completely go away? Like bereavement fares?

Nick
Guest

Tim, I mean, excuse the mistake…

umbelifer
Member
I have had a couple of family medical emergencies that required my prompt attention: the sudden, unexpected death of a niece and a dying younger brother. Because the only quick way out of Alaska is to fly, we are somewhat captive. I asked about bereavement fare, thihnking that I might get a fare break, and was advised it was 15% off full fare. Well, there were less expensive fares than that, so it didn’t matter. On the other, I was already booked, but on a later flight. I paid a nominal difference and Alaska Airlines waived the change fee. The… Read more »
drybean
Member
I look at this somewhat differently. If in a time of personal tragedy if an airline does anything to help a victim, they will earn that customer’s loyalty and future business. Traveling to my brother’s funeral in June, AA gave me a bereavement fare, but there was no discount, however if I needed to make changes there would be no change fees, it was the same as a full fare ticket. Some may think passenger loyalty is dead, but I think some kindness and any special fare or service at all will earn loyalty and future business not to mention… Read more »
Anonymous
Member
Brett, Going back to a previous life – I handled airlines in the days of the old 22/45 day excursion fares, when exceptions for medical reasons were permitted. At one point virtually every passenger had a doctors note attached to their ticket explaining why the extension / exception should be permitted. Clearly, 95% of them (at least) were fraudulent, and eventually these fares went the way of the do-do bird. There is no doubt that if there is a defined “policy” that it will be abused. But, there should always be exceptions, and we should always take care of people… Read more »
Jim
Guest
Airlines provide bereavement fares not out of sympathy, but because it is good business practice. In this day and age, news travels fast, and no airline wants to see “ABC airline charges family $5000 to see dying grandma” on the front page of the newspaper. Road warriors may understand that this is the going rate, but normal people would be very highly offended by this and avoid that airline in the future. On the flip side, if an airline is reasonable and accommodates someone in their time of need, they are likely to come back to that airline and tell… Read more »
robert_239
Member
“Airport agents are more willing to help than someone on the phone and typically have more ?power?. I worked for an airline and I know that statement to be true. I remember we had a supervisor who customers and employees sometimes feared but I have seen her involved in so many acts of kindness with passengers. But with passengers who were respectful to her and didnt make threats or demands. Make a threat or demand to her and you might be fortunate to get on the plane even if you had a ticket! And I pretty much agree. At times… Read more »
jboekhoud
Member
I’ve got to agree with FT_Roy. Your post and email messages come across as demanding and confrontational and they reek of DYKWIA-ism. You said it yourself: “I’m asking this get presidential, preferential, outside-the-box treatment”. I’ve never run an airline, but I have to imagine that Richard Branson and David Cush have better things to do than deal with trivial (sorry, but that’s what it is) customer service issues. Like most of us, you had the option of buying a flexible ticket at the time of purchase but chose to go with a discount fare that has heavy restrictions. That’s a… Read more »
jboekhoud
Member

Also, isn’t this the reason people have travel insurance?

Jim
Guest

No, travel insurance doesn’t pay for a ticket in an emergency.

noahkimmel
Member

I think the question relates to if the entire trip was covered, then Trip Interruption / Medical would kick in and allow them to resechedule, not some new insurance product that buys tickets. However, I believe you are correct, that since the travellers are not the injured parties, they are not covered for this

jboekhoud
Member

Isn’t that what Trip Interruption covers?

George
Member

Brett, I agree with eolesen above (as I have since the days of PB moderation) but I particularly agree with the other prior comments about JY staying at the Peninsula, yet flying el cheapo. I’d bet he was using some sort of comp rate there also

Jeff Yablon
Guest
I’ve been mostly quiet as I’ve been considering my response to all of this stuff, but I thought this comment screamed out for a serious and direct response rather than be lumped in with my next salvo. There are a couple of things I’d like to clarify for you and the person who asked why a guy who stays at such a high end hotel has an issue with the money this thing cost. First, let me be clear about something that I suspect most of the participants here will howl about: I see a seat on an airplane as… Read more »
eleanor.c.moore
Member

I know how upsetting it can be to have an emergency and feel ripped off by the airlines. When it happens to you, you feel like you’re being betrayed. However, from a logical standpoint, it would be a tremendous drain on the airline to have to accommodate every emergency flight. As has been mentioned there are many low cost airlines that make the trip a little more bearable on the pocket book.
Great article on a touchy subject, Brett!

MeanMeosh
Guest
My issue with the whole idea of “compassion” is that 1) “compassion” too frequently gets misused by people looking for a free ride, and 2) the “compassion” crowd can’t seem to find a situation that doesn’t fit the definition of needing an exception. Just go take a look at some of the stories and comments on Chris Elliott’s blog to see what I mean. Would a death or serious illness in the family like cancer deserve some consideration from an airline? Sure. But how far do you take it? Does a broken leg warrant an exception to the rules? Your… Read more »
Jami
Guest

I don’t think airlines should be expected to give someone a break on a airline ticket even if it was for such a time pressing issue. I’m thinking that at a time like that you hand them the plastic and don’t even worry about the price. The airline waived the part of the ticket fee they could. The cost was different for a different flight why should they have to waive that also?

aussiefa
Member

Someone said it was another reason to have travel insurance. “Jim” replied that travel insurance didn’t cover this situation. Why not?? Shouldn’t insurance companies cover this type of “emergency” just as some people think the airlines should???????

Nick Barnard
Member
Yikes, lots of comments and I haven’t gotten in on the fun yet! I’m going to avoid Jeff’s interactions and address the issue generally. I think airlines should sell a bereavement fare that is priced the same as a two week advanced purchase. However, there should be clear rules on what qualifies and ideally this should be monitored and/or implemented by a third party. Why should airlines do this when the Florist, Funeral Home, and Hotels shouldn’t? Because their revenue management model causes last minute flights to be multiple times more expensive than one purchased in advance. I ran some… Read more »
FT_Roy
Guest

So what happens when the process is clear, transparent, and (to people with clear eyes) fair, a la B6, WN, and VX (there is no process, for there is no special fare)?

People can’t like or dislike the current process because there simply isn’t one. Which is a good thing. Where there is a process, it will be gamed.

Jon
Guest
I’m curious why Jeff didn’t simply walk to competitor? If he was flying Virgin, it must have been to an airport with lots of competitors, all within walking distance. If Virgin’s business practices are so out of line, surely somebody else can make right for him. (That said I don’t think Virgin is out-of-line, so I don’t think he’ll find happiness elsewhere). Infrequent fliers have this distorted view of how airlines work that for some takes a long time to change. There’s the guy that thinks he can get an upgrade by sweet talking the gate agent. There’s the guy… Read more »
Jeff Yablon
Guest
Jon, that’s a great question. And my answer, great or not, is that it didn’t occur to me. I presumed that dealing with the company I was already doing business with was as good as it was gonna get. In retrospect, could I have done better for two one-way tix than $1,100 by flying Jet Blue one way on short notice? Dunno; if I want them for tonight the price is … surprise! . . . about $1,100. This makes me think of the word “collusion”. Let’s be nicer and call it competition instead. But if it’s representative, then the… Read more »
tommy777
Guest
Yablon, you got 200 bucks more than you should have, I\’d be happy with that if I were you. I know it hurts to shell out this kind of money to an airline following the rules that you agreed to when you bought a ticket for 200 something to fly for 12 hours and it hurts your massive ego even more that when you try to bully Branson and other senior executives threatening to go public if they don\’t give you something you\’re not entitled to. (does not make this guy want to follow you as a blogger for sure…)… Read more »
Michael Rowan
Member
I am a frequent traveler and have found myself with emergencies that require last minute travel home. In just the past six years, I have had a co-worker who’s home caught fire, I’ve had relatives placed in hospice, and my pregnant wife set to deliver 5 weeks early. These last minute distances have varied from simple flights that I could drive in a pinch to international emergencies. Flexibility from airline personnel who have to look you in the eye has been wonderful, from jumping the standby list to not charging the change fee, these are best done at the airport… Read more »
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[…] of the most vocal comments on the way Virgin America and I interacted were at a blog called Cranky Flier. I responded to a few […]

Jeff Yablon
Guest
Here’s an interesting addendum to the firestorm I created over my issues with Virgin America Customer Service (http://answerguy.com/2012/10/17/virgin-america-customer-service/). I’m in Miami for a few days. I happened to fly JetBlue this time around. I’ll be returning to New York on Monday, and as seems to be the standard in my life lately found myself earlier today needing to tweak my travel plans. I called JetBlue and asked what was involved in moving my flight up by a few hours. The choices were either pay $100 per person plus difference in fare, similar to the story I got from Virgin America,… Read more »
Cathy
Guest

I think the price of tickets these days are high enough that you should not get stuck with extra charges when you have an emergency situation. Most people in an emergency situation are stressed enough without having to worry about shelling out more money for a plane ticket.

I think the airlines should take a course in “Customer First”. That has been forgotten.

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