AirTran: Here's Your Pretend Voucher, Have Fun Redeeming It

It certainly looks real, but according to AirTran this voucher may not be valid. Why? Because it doesn’t specifically say you get a flight. Why would AirTran issue vouchers that don’t vouch for anything? We just don’t know.

Last January Brett’s flight from Chicago to Boston was canceled. In the course of getting back to Boston, Brett had to fly to Georgia, then New York, then take a bus to Boston that he had to pay for himself. Rather than a quick 2-ish hour flight, Brett’s trip took 12 hours and cost him an extra $60. But he didn’t mind. He was getting a free round-trip flight. It was as simple as calling the number on his voucher.

When Brett called a customer service representative to redeem the voucher, the story changed. He was told there was no free flight on file for him. Brett writes:

I told him I had a voucher, and he said, “but does it actually say you get a flight on it.” I read it carefully and it didn’t. It was deceptively nice and apologetic, and generous-sounding.

airtran2.jpgBrett was told to call Customer Service, where he was then told that since he’d received an apology letter, and the letter told him there would be no compensation, he wasn’t entitled to any. Too bad Brett never got a letter.

I am appalled that I would be given a voucher, only to be told it never happened. Clearly something fishy is going on. I was told I cannot call this woman at customer relations back, and that I will receive no notice when my voucher is either approved or denied. I will have to call back every day, she told me.

What gets me is the fact that this voucher was given to me for my inconvenience, and yet I almost feel that the inconvenience here deserves some sort of compensation.

So, the way we see it, there are three possibilities here.

1) AirTran’s suspicions are correct and Brett made a fake voucher in a crazy scheme to achieve compensation for his troubles, and when caught, he decided to out himself to the whole internet as a liar who makes fake travel vouchers.

2) The AirTran employee who wrote the voucher made a mistake and never entered it into the computer, or the voucher was misfiled due to an error with the date. The date on the voucher does not match the date in Brett’s email.

3) AirTran gives people worthless vouchers that don’t explicitly state what they are for.

We would lean towards option 2, but find it very strange that the CSR would admonish Brett to read his voucher carefully to see if it really vouched for anything. That sounds shady. We guess that’d be option 4) That CSR was shady. —MEGHANN MARCO

Brett writes:

I just called Airtran to make use of a free voucher they gave me on January 7, 2007. On that date, my flight from Midway, Chicago to Boston was canceled. I was forced to fly first to Georgia, then New York City, then take a bus to Boston, which cost me over $60 extra and 12 more hours at least (the bus to exactly where I was going was a few hours off from my arrival in NYC). I only did so knowing I was happy because airtran gave me a voucher for a free round trip. Eh, I was working for that free trip.

The woman behind the counter had written a code and date on a voucher and told me it was for a free flight, and to just call the number when I wanted to schedule, good for one year from the date.

I never thought twice about it.

I call to get my flight today, and the guy says, “there is no flight on file; you do not get one.” I was appalled. I told him I had a voucher, and he said, “but does it actually say you get a flight on it.” I read it carefully and it didn’t. It was deceptively nice and apologetic, and generous-sounding. I will send you a copy since I am also forced to fax it to airtran.

I was told to call customer relations, who said that since a letter was sent to my home with an apology, which said there would be no compensation, I do not get any. I never received such a letter

I am appalled that I would be given a voucher, only to be told it never happened. Clearly something fishy is going on. I was told I cannot call this woman at customer relations back, and that I will receive no notice when my voucher is either approved or denied. I will have to call back every day, she told me.

What gets me is the fact that this voucher was given to me for my inconvenience, and yet I almost feel that the inconvenience here deserves some sort of compensation.

Brett

Comments

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  1. Sandtiger says:

    So much for the “Passenger Bill of Rights” they flaunted so much.

  2. HaxRomana says:

    …but why?

    This is not only of no benefit to the wronged customer, but it’s of no benefit to AirTran. Recovery vouchers are meant to solve a customer service problem – or at least apologize for a crappy customer experience. All this “voucher” does is amplify the customer’s rage, and then shift it from a gate clerk to a call center CSR.

    …so, what’s the point? It’s like a kid hiding a failed test grade from his parents, knowing that it’s going to show up on his report card in a month anyway.

  3. rekoil says:

    That was JetBlue with the Passenger Bill Of Rights, not AirTran. AirTran never acknowledged that their customers HAVE any rights.

  4. citking says:

    Right now AirTran is attempting to make a hostile takeover of Midwest Express. So far the board AND the shareholders have been against this plan. If you’ve never heard of or flown Midwest they treat their customers like royalty but don’t charge much (they were a lot cheaper than Northwest last time I looked). All of the seats on their flights are first class, 2 across seats and you get a free warm chocolate chip cookie. I am afraid if AirTran gets its way we’ll have no easy sitting and no cookies. And that would make us all sad.

  5. gorckat says:

    So the card says:

    Dear customer,

    We don’t want to lose your business today. Please call us within one year so we can lose your business on that day.

    airTran

  6. Terminixsux says:

    I was just about to book a flight with this airline. My wife was concerned as they are a “value” airline, and she thinks this means they’re more likely to fall out of the sky. Now I am glad I waited, as if this is how they operate, I’ll pay a little more for the usual crappy service you get from US scare.

  7. TPK says:

    Good grief… AirTran is ValuJet… Don’t people know that? I didn’t think anybody flew them any more. I certainly don’t! Not even a second glance.

  8. StreetSamurai says:

    Why couldn’t they have put him on another flight from Chicago to Boston? I’ve been through O’Hare a few times and even had a cancellation, but I just sat around for a couple hours and took the next one to the same destination.

    Or maybe they could have connected him to a flight leaving Georgia directly to Boston, unless they always reroute through New York. I would think with Boston being an international airport they would have fairly regular flights from Atlanta to Logan. But, I guess Air Tran likes to sling people all over the country and deny them compensation.

    By the way, is that thing about the cookies true? I might start flying Midwest…

  9. pestie says:

    @TPK: I was just going to say the same thing. I’d gladly pay more to fly another airline – any other airline.

  10. jmuskratt says:

    Um, did anyone else notice the terms on the *back* of the card? Why have reference to “blackout dates” and “travel must be completed within a year of original date of FLIGHT” if not a voucher for free travel? I mean, what is it that AirTran sells? A gordita at the airport Taco Bell? That language means nothing but for the specific circumstance of compensitory air travel. When was the last time a major corporation gave you something *in writing* just for the hell of it?

    Moreover, did the agent just randomly scribble numbers and/or letters that “looked like” an authorization? AirTran is playing this poor guy for a chump.

  11. tomok97 says:

    There is a fourth possibility. A crafty (evil but crafty) Air Tran employee got tired of listening to people complain and decided to create these vouchers as a way to shut them up and make them someone else’s problem. If you think about it, it’s the only logical conclusion. The company has no motivation to make a bad situation worse. They only problem that this solves is when the company will not allow you to give out a voucher but you have someone screaming at you. Hand them a worthless but authentic looking voucher and make it somebody else’s problem.

  12. Techguy1138 says:

    I received a voucher for my troubles that that was also confusing and required close reading for a restraunt.

    I went to a macaroni grill and got extremely slow service. On the order of hours to get a simple pasta dinner. The manager gave us all vouchers and we went on our way.

    Looking quickly it was a buy one get one free voucher. I had no intention of going back there so I threw it in the wheel well of my car.

    Reading it carfully one day I saw that it said
    “Buy NONE get one free.”

    I still did’t go back even for the free item. The voucher needed to be less clever.

    Vouchers should be straight forward and to the point.

  13. notebook says:

    This is pretty much waving a 2-for-1 coupon in someone’s face and gluing a blank card to the back to hide the expiration date. :/

    Shame, AirTran, SHAME!

  14. MeOhMy says:

    @TPK: No airline safer than one that recently suffered from a high-profile crash, although it’s been long enough since that incident that they are probably complacent again.

  15. Little Miss Moneybags says:

    I hate AirTran. I’ve flown with them before and had lots of problems, though they’re still second to Northwest as the worst airline in my book. Escalate, escalate, escalate!!!!

  16. dragonflight says:

    @citking: agreed. Here’s to hoping for an independent Midwest Air

  17. Buran says:

    @Terminixsux: Southwest. Young fleet, they don’t cancel flights if someone sneezes, and they’re pretty straightforward.

  18. Buran says:

    @TPK: Why do you think they bought AirTran? The VJ name went into the swamp along with that plane they put explosive oxygen canisters on, so they bought AirTran so they could disappear and still get business.

    I laughed my head off when I saw a CSI Miami episode based around the story. People remember the crash, but they never wonder why VJ disappeared …

  19. arcticJKL says:

    Where is the word ‘voucher’ commning from? I dont see it anywhere on the card.

    I read it as;
    “sorry we screwed up. Next time you want to fly with us give us a call first and well see what we can do for you.”

    The back just gives some legal disclaimers.

  20. mantari says:

    Olive Garden: Oh? It’s your birthday! That’s wonderful. Say, would you like a piece of cake? Yes? Okay, let me go back and get it.

    [brings out cake] [adds cost of cake to bill]

  21. KopyKat says:

    @citking: I’m really worried that Midwest will buckle, the takeover attempts are getting more aggressive. I’ve always had great service from them, great prices, etc. Plus, I’m a Milwaukee girl and would hate to see all those jobs go away.

    The cookies are delicious, but beware: they don’t serve them on early morning flights. Very disappointing when the thing that gets you out of bed for your 6:30 AM flight is the prospect of cookies, and you get jack..

  22. Ah'm Tha Sharaff says:

    On balance, I’m probably more pro-business than most of the people who post on this board. That said, I’m convinced option (3) is the case. I can’t help but feel that Airtran associates are trained to be very careful about what they say, e.g. to never actually give out a free flight in a situation like this. The strategy of apologies, etc. is designed to quell immediate on-site hostilities, and Airtran has no problem letting these customers develop the erroneous belief they’re getting a free flight when, in fact, they aren’t.

    As a worthy poster above me pointed out, the stuff on the back of the “voucher” perpetuates this very same myth.

    Pure evil, imho.

  23. This is strongly reminiscent, from the other side of the fence, of that ancient story about depositing a junk mail $95093.35 cheque.

  24. snidelywhiplash says:

    People drooling over Midwest’s cookies obviously don’t remember back during the Stone Age of 1996, when their gimmick was champagne on every flight.

    Jason

  25. humphrmi says:

    @arcticJKL: Sorry, it still doesn’t make sense. Why do you need “legal disclaimers” on a card that just asks for your business again? What, “Please fly with us again. Certain restrictions apply”???

    You only need legal disclaimers if you’re offering someone something that needs to be controlled, such as a comp. Or, the legal disclaimer should say “This is not a free travel voucher.”

  26. nequam says:

    @jmuskratt: I agree (with everything you said).

  27. delphi_ote says:

    I think tomok97 has this all figured out. Someone at AirTran came up with a way to passify customers upset about flight cancelations without actually giving them anything. They were counting on customers forgetting about the voucher.

    But I suspect the decision was made a little higher up the chain of command. This must be a company policy. How else would the CSR know to ask if the voucher specifically mentioned a free flight?

    It’s basically the classic rebate scam:
    1. Take the customer’s money.
    2. Give the customer a piece of paper that seems to promise a reward, so they leave happy.
    3. When the customer tries to claim the promised reward, deny deny deny.

  28. basket548 says:

    Reading that card, I see nothing that says free flight. I’ve been compensated by various airlines to the tune of free dinner, $25 off certificates, and free flights (never AirTran though). All these things were CLEARLY designated on the certificate.

    I think that either: (a) it’s a fancy card saying next to nothing or (b) that AirTran uses these cards for damn near any compensation, and that the ‘confirmation number’ is the code for the actual compensation to the passenger. In the latter case, it would seem that somewhere along the way the customer service rep messed up.

  29. sirreal2001 says:

    The language on the back of the certificate clearly establishes that this is, in fact, a voucher. It makes reference to black out dates and the need to complete travel within a one year period. These legal restriction would make absolutely no sense unless the card, itself, entitles the recipient to travel within this one year period with the exception of certain unspecified blackout dates.

    I would ask the customer service people how the black out dates would be applicable unless this card was a voucher. I would also ask them why the card would require a person to complete his or her travel within one year unless the card was a voucher.

  30. dwarf74 says:

    I certainly would have read that card as “call us for a free flight”.

    The front is pretty vague, but the disclaimers on back don’t make sense otherwise. There’s no such thing as a blackout date when you’re trying to book and pay for a flight.

  31. LAGirl says:

    @TPK: my thoughts exactly.

    ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

  32. blithemarie says:

    The voucher displayed is a authentic Airtran voucher. I received one exactly like it but mine wasn’t even filled in with a confirmation number or date. It was just handed to me by the csr at the ticket counter after my flight was canceled because it had the telephone number on that I would need to call to book a flight.

    I was stranded in Atlanta after Airtran decided there was bad weather in Chicago and they couldn’t fly to Midway. There was a convention going on in Atlanta so supposedly there wasn’t any hotels available and I was forced to sleep in the airport as my original flight left at 7pm and the next available after they canceled everything wasn’t until the next morning at 9am.

    I was ok with this as Airtran had given me 2 free round trip flights because they could not get me into a hotel and because they canceled the flight. When I called a month or so later they also told me that I didn’t have a flight registered but to call a secondary number and explain what happened and why the vouchers were given and they would take care of it. I called and explained to this second number. All they needed to know was the itenarary for my original flight and the flight numbers and they were able to “validate” my two free round trip flights. I then called the original number and booked my flights.

    Regardless, I would never fly Airtran again (after I used the free flights that is) In fact, one of those free flights I booked was canceled by airtran again and they had to rebook me for the next day which made me miss a day of work. Instead of taking the free round trip ticket I had them upgrade me to business class and to the city I live in instead of the one I was flying to which is a two hour drive home.

    So I would say that 100% it is just a simple csr error and that if you make a few more phone calls you should be able to get your flight and maybe more for the aggravation.

  33. mlp0229 says:

    My daughter and grand daughter and three other children recently flew Air Trans from Dallas to Atlanta. They had to go through security in Dallas and their flight left early. I realize you get a lot of complaints about flights being late, but what is wrong with leaving on time. They were able to get another flight out but were treated very badly. I have never flew with your organization and frankly I doubt if I have will. I am a retired military spouse and have always been treated courteously and respectfully on Delta, Eastern, Allegeny, American, US Air to name a few never have I ever been treated like my daughter was on her flight. I know service with a smile is a thing of the past, but at least be courteous and respectful.

  34. Anonymous says:

    My wife and I were bumped both going to and departing from our round trip destination for the holidays. The first time we were bumped involuntarily and received one roundtrip voucher each, the second time we volunteered to leave two days later in exchange for two more round trip flights each.

    So today my wife called the number on the back to book a flight and got a CSR who told her she could only find one each under our names (my wife was railing everytime she was on hold what an idiot the CSR sounded like). After dealing with her for a while, she was referred to the customer service line. Within two minutes the other rep found all 6 of our round trips.

    Turns out that the first person my wife called was quite simply WeToddEd.

    So anyone else having this problem, try several times with different people till you get someone who knows what they’re doing.