Topic of the Week: Should Airlines Waive Fees for Travel to Russia

Marina Spor and her family hold tickets to Scandinavia and Russia this summer on Finnair, and the crisis in Ukraine has caused them to want to change their plans. Finnair says that’s fine, but they’ll have to pay the fee and the fare difference like everyone else. This family got angry and took it to the media, trying to get sympathy. Finnair buckled, but should they have?

Gary Leff at View From the Wing brought this up earlier this week and he seems conflicted. Personally, I don’t think they should have waived anything. What do you think?

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22 Comments on "Topic of the Week: Should Airlines Waive Fees for Travel to Russia"

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MathFox
Guest
Waiving fees is the discretion of the airline. Large scale waivers are commonly seen in hurricane areas; I would happily extend that to any area where passenger safety and the flight schedule are under eminent threat. However there can be other, personal reasons to waive fees. (Illness for example.) If Finnair thinks that the change in Russia-EU relations is grounds for a fee waiver, it’s their call to make. I don’t think they have a general obligation. (I would defend a waiver for activists that have spoken themselves out against Putin and Crimea separating from Ukraine in the light of… Read more »
Jim M
Guest

No — although I understand the family’s frustration when all they wanted to do was dump a flight leg.

TimH
Member
This is more or less right on the line between ‘shouldn’t offer’ and ‘should’ in my book. It’s entirely conceivable (conceivable, not really LIKELY, but not out of the question) at this point that by this summer, the situation with Russia could deteriorate to the point where Finnair might be offering refunds to everyone; at the same time, as far as I know no governments have issued travel or safety advisories for travel to Russia BECAUSE OF what happened in Ukraine. At the same time, with tightening sanctions, and the declining ruble and Russian stock market, I’m betting a lot… Read more »
speaketh
Guest

I think the family’s request would be more legitimate if they were flying within the next week. Most other waiver situations are determined just before the dates they cover. The airline shouldn’t have to predict now whether Ukraine will be safe to visit this summer. If the family wants to change now, they should pay the fee, if they want to wait until just before they travel and (still) have a credible reason, they should not pay fee.

David SF eastbay
Member

They did what to many people know to do now a days and that is go viral to turn the public to their side and then a company must ‘look good’ and give in to the persons demands.

It’s one thing if the country was in ruins and airports closed or the United Nations was warning people away, but they just changed their minds which is fine, but they should pay the fees just like anyone else that changes their mind or can’t make a trip for some reason.

Southeasterner
Guest
I would love to know how much bad publicity really costs an airline (and I’m sure many consultants know the answer). How many people looking up flights on Kayak or Tripadvisor are going to skip over the lowest fare or a direct flight because of someone else’s bad experience? Or how many people will skip the lowest far or a direct flight to take Finair because they are aware of someone else’s good experience? It seems like you would have to do a bit of benefit-cost analysis to really understand the impact. Were these customers frequent fliers with Finair? Maybe… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member

Interesting point. Bad PR never hurts the celebs you see on the cover of People magazine, it only gets them on more talk shows and better movie deals. So how bad can not waiving a fee be?

TC99
Guest

There is a saying I hear all the time, “Any PR is good PR because it puts your name out there.”

Ron
Guest
Let me try a more nuanced view. What triggered this whole mess was the exorbitant change fee. Now the change fee itself for a family of 4 is likely no more than $1200, or less than 50% of the total amount requested by the airline; the remainder would be the difference in fare, and this far out it is not likely for the fare itself to have risen that much. So in all likelihood, the bulk of the price change comes from the fact that the family bought 4 tickets at a price intended for connecting flights, and now they… Read more »
Ron
Guest

Off-topic: Driving north through the Sepulveda tunnel this morning, I saw a flashing sign saying that Air France, KLM and Saudia are now at “Term B”. I know the intention is Bradley, but is this a normal way to refer to the terminal? Must be confusing to a lot of people who are not that familiar with LAX.

drybean
Member

Somewhere in the ticket purchase agreement its says the airline is not responsible for acts of God or war, etc… This is war so they do not have to waive fees…unless they value or want to cultivate passenger loyalty.

Big Sally
Guest

Absolutely not. Hysteria based on ignorance of the situation on the ground should not be an airline’s problem. The problems are restricted to pockets of Ukraine and the area of Russia near the Ukraine.

donna_pursell
Member

I am with them. Finnair is really pushing the pencil with that huge amount. Change fees and then “walk up fares” to boot is way too much!! The problem in Ukraine is REAL and I wouldn’t want my kids stuck.
Hopefully Putin will stop at the Crimea—but who knows.

jaybru
Member
This is for travel this summer? Whatever. Sure, you bought it, so you;ll have to live with it. But, why can’t these darn airline tickets be resold? I am convinced there will come a day when airline tickets can be resold by the owner. Time limits, security compliance, of course. But, this isn’t rocket science. If an entrepreneur can make money, there is a way to make this work. A Kayak, or somebody. I doubt that every Tom, Dick, and Harry travel agent, or even every airline would want to handle the resale process itself. My guess is that airlines… Read more »
MeanMeosh
Guest
The question I would ask is this. The facts as stated in Gary Leff’s story indicated that the family was traveling to Russia, not Ukraine. While there is a State Department “Advisory” for the potential for future problems, there is not a “Warning” for imminent threats against U.S. citizens. Are there concerns about harassment of persons of Ukranian descent within Russia? Or is this a case of the family wanting to boycott Russia to protest the invasion of Crimea? If there are issues with Ukranians being harassed/intimidated/discriminated against in Russia because of the current situation, then I can understand wanting… Read more »
Robert
Member

Sure, there are a few corporate-driven decisions that would justify not providing financial compensation for these folks. But in the best of worlds, which I would like to think we all strive for, they did the right thing.

When will our capitalistic-nationalistic mind set allow for some human compassion? And don’t gimme this bottom-line investors/stockholders are god blah blah blah.

Jason Steele
Guest
Forget Russia for a moment. Maybe its just me, but isn’t there something quite a bit unfair about airlines charging you NOT to fly? I’ve had this before where a friend purchased a round trip ticket, but wished to depart earlier. The change fee alone was greater than the cost of re-purchasing the outbound leg of the flight on another carrier, but being a no-show on the outbound leg would have cancelled the return. Perhaps someone can explain this to me: Why can’t passengers inform airlines in advance that they will not be flying one leg of an itinerary without… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member

Well, its an inverse of hidden city ticketing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airline_booking_ploys#Hidden_city_ticketing

Nick Barnard
Member
What makes my eyes pop is the $2,818.24 change fee. I’d like to see how thats broken down, I’m sure its partially a change fee and partially a change in fare. I think Finnair was stupid to completely cave on the $2,818.24. They should’ve met the traveler halfway with a change fee, but no change in fare. This also would’ve kept it quiet… Or the other thing would’ve been to charge the change in fare but place an equal amount of flight credits in the traveler’s account. Sort of a hook… Do airlines have a “supervisor” level review where these… Read more »
Sean S.
Guest

While I think I understood that the family at some point wanted to actually visit Russia, why would anyone transit THROUGH Russia? Russia has some of the most onerous restrictions on American passport holders, making it silly if not downright stupid to try and transit through Russia.

Cedarglen
Member

No. Even before the current troubles in Ukraine, the Russians and *some* of their former associates continue to abuse Western visitors. There is rarely a good reason to visit and the best way to deal with those thugs is to freeze them out of the hard currency market. Finnair should have stood their policy ground. Even smarter, the family could have bought tickets on a U.S. carrier, but chose the cheap route. They are far more fortunate then they should be. Have they visited Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon? No empathy from here.

Diana Melnichenko
Guest
Our family of four is faced with more than $2,000 in change/fare different fees as we try to avoid our leg trip to Ukraine on British Airways. Essentially, we are trying not to board a flight to Kiev on May 23 with a return flight on May 29, given that election in Ukraine is scheduled for May 25 and the situation, unstable now, will only get worse. So we are trying to keep four our of six original flights on our itinerary. The response we got from British Airways customer service is: “Dear Mrs Melnichenko Thank you for coming back… Read more »
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