EECB Pressures US Airways To Reissue Unused Ticket, Waive Reissue Fee

Reader Matt screwed up. He forgot to cancel his reservation with US Airways when his friend’s delayed passport application forced them to change their travel plans. The situation was entirely Matt’s fault, and US Airways justifiably refused to reissue the ticket. Matt, however, swayed the airline by wrapping an excellent mea culpa cum plea into the feared Executive Email Carpet Bomb.

Dear US Airways,

I confess – I messed up. I made the number one “do not make it” mistake that a traveller can make. I forgot to cancel my flight reservation after my travel plans changed. I’m writing to ask – nay, to plead – for mercy. I hope you’ll bear with me for just a few minutes while I tell my story.

The first thing you need to know is that I’m not nearly as much of a neophyte with flying as my situation would suggest. I’ve been flying all over the country and world since I was an infant – in fact, I’m a private pilot myself. Making such frequent use of aviation as a means of travel and being a member of the aviation community myself I understand as well as any novice could the pressures and demands that running an airline brings with it.

The second thing you need to know is that I’m a college sophomore, and that this spring was to be my great tour of Europe – you know, the one that all college students are supposed to go on at least once, where you backpack through all the great cities and stay in hostels and sometimes starve and shower infrequently and do not care a bit about it because you’re having the time of your life. That was supposed to be my trip. I gleefully bought an open-jaw ticket with your company – flying from my home in Maine to Philadelphia, and then on to London, travelling through Europe on my own, and then flying back with you from Rome.

Unfortunately, the US Department of State had other plans for me. The person who was to be my travelling companion on this trip had his passport application waylaid in the bowels of the State Department and by the time it was extracted and processed our date of departure had come…and gone.

Not comfortable with travelling alone through Europe, I had no choice but to stay at home and resolve to plan an even better trip for the future.

I guess I just wasn’t thinking – or else I was thinking about planning this other trip – but either way, I simply forgot to cancel my reservation with you. According to your policies, the $664 ticket I purchased now has absolutely no value.

And I understand this – believe me, I do. You had my place reserved, and you could have sold it and made money. So I cost you some money. But here’s the thing – I actually didn’t cost you as much money as it would seem. There are two reasons for this:

1. Airlines plan on no-shows. Airlines routinely overbook their flights by a few percent or so because they know that there will a few people like me. So, in a sense, even though I didn’t tell you I wasn’t coming, you planned for it. And in any case, this is only an issue if the flight is full to begin with – which it may not have been.

2. You didn’t have to carry me or my baggage to Europe. Fuel is expensive these days – it’s probably the single biggest operating expense of airlines. And as I pilot I know that to carry more weight it takes more fuel. The absence of myself and my baggage saved US Airways money in fuel.

What I would like is for some value to be accorded to my ticket. I feel this is warranted because I cost US Airways very little, if anything, in lost revenue by failing to cancel, and I still paid $664.10, and have nothing to show for it.

I’m very aware of the policy you have, however in this case I believe it is unfair and should be waived.

If this reasoning isn’t sufficient to persuade you to give me some compensation, then consider this: I fly a lot every year. I live in Maine and go to college in Washington, DC. I fly back and forth from school to home at least 5 times every year, right along a route you fly – PWM to DCA. My business, in short, is very valuable to you. But that’s not the biggest reason you should be on my side here. You have an opportunity to make a lifetime customer – even an evangelist – of me. I’m a part of a demographic that travels a lot, and the state of the market is that we have a lot of choice in our travel. It’s also the state of the market that airlines have precious little goodwill among the traveling public. If you met me in the middle here and gave my ticket some value, I would not only become a lifetime customer myself, but I would also bring you significant business from my friends and acquaintances. You stand to make ten – or a hundred – times the money you would be giving up if you offer me some compensation for my ticket. I plan to live for a long time, and I would be a lifelong crusader for your company if you helped me out here.

I’m not threatening to write nasty things about you. I’m not threatening to try to make life difficult for your company. I’m instead offering you a form of positive compensation: a promise to be loyal to your company and to convince as many of the people I interact with to do the same – if you’ll just help me out of this one tight spot.

I’m hoping to study abroad in Scotland next spring, and I’m going to need a way to get over there. Money is tight. Any help you can offer would be put to immediate use.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this.

My ticket number for this spring was REDACTED. My confirmation number was REDACTED.

Sincerely yours, Matt

The letter is perfect: straightforward, well-reasoned, with just one simple request. US Airways quickly responded:

Dear Matt,

Thank you for contacting Customer Relations at US Airways. We appreciate hearing from our customers and having an opportunity to address their concerns.

We have reinstated your ticket REDACTED (REDACTED) as a gesture of goodwill. This ticket was issued on April 10,2007 and is good for one year from date of issue. Please note that all travel must be completed by April 10, 2008. In addition, I have waived our customary $100 re-issue fee as a one time courtesy. Please call our reservation department at 800 428-4322 when you are ready to book your ticket.

We appreciate and value your business. We’re working hard to earn your continued patronage. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to do so.

Sincerely,

Customer Relations US Airways

Matt’s letter reminds us that it never, ever hurts to ask – even if you think the answer will be no.

Follow our handy guide to learn how to craft your own Executive Email Carpet Bomb.

(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Comments

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  1. RottNDude says:

    “Reader Matt screwed up.”

    And yet he still felt entitled to abuse the EECB for his own selfish gains, thereby reducing its future effectiveness for those of us who have a REAL problem.

    This is a crap story that should not have made the front page. Let’s hear about some real problems, not about how some jackasses own mistakes coupled with incessant whining resulted in a refund he was technically not eligible for in the first place. Sheesh.

  2. louisb3 says:

    @RottNDude: Do EECBs really decline in effectiveness when more people use them? Even so, do we refuse to give antibiotics to people who are sick because of their own negligence?

  3. Bourque77 says:

    @RottNDude: I would agree with you but when it comes to airlines hell no. They constantly overbook flights and have delays that last several hours and expect us to just go with it quietly? Damn that its a two way street.

  4. etherdog says:

    This isn’t an EECB. It is just a letter to customer service. It was the right thing to write it and also to tell us about it and the resolution. An EECB is when you send your letter to every eddress you can at the company and get all of your friends to do the same.
    Kudos to Matt.

  5. Boberto says:

    A little wordy, but a great letter and model of which I will utilize.

    Perfect front page material.

  6. crnk says:

    I think this shouldn’t get the “resolutions” tag but the “above and beyond” tag. He clearly messed up, admitted it, and USAir not only gave him the value back but decided to withhold the change fee, too.

  7. Amy Alkon says:

    Great guy, accepts responsibility for his mistake, doesn’t demand anything, but uses rational arguments to point out why it’s likely he didn’t actually cost them the price of the ticket.

  8. saltmine says:

    I love it when people have no idea what they’re talking about and try to tell a gigantic corporation how they run their business.

    “Airlines overbook flights…”

    “Fuel is expensive…”

    Uh-huh. My $700 flight to Boston over thanksgiving was because I weigh that much in fuel.

  9. Sam2k says:

    To a certain extent, companies should be willing to work with customers who make mistakes. Matt took a chance and it paid off. Matt’s letter mentioned a couple of reasons why and that is likely why it was effective. Never underestimate the power of a satisfied consumer. Even if Matt only told his friends and acquaintances about his positive experience with US Airways, they would have gained revenue over time that they may not have had. Additionally, in the day of digg, consumerist, ect., there is the possibility that a good (or bad) outcome for a customer will reach many other potential customers who have been burned by competitors. I think companies would be foolish not to consider the possibility of this type of public relations/marketing.

  10. XTC46 says:

    @Sam2k: Its true. previously people would tell 5 or 6 people, now if you get your complaint on consumerist its 5 or 6 thousand people… get it front paged on Digg and you are talking 15-20 thousand people. its crazy.

  11. dcaslin says:

    I’d be more impressed by this whole thing if I didn’t know that Southwest already does this automatically as part of its policy. If you miss a SW flight, they simply credit you the travel funds for future use.

  12. Antediluvian says:

    Still not gonna make ME fly USAir. :-)
    It was stupid of him, it was nice of them, it’s a reasonable post for this site, and it’s an interesting example.

    What I would like is for some value to be accorded to my ticket.

    This is a great way to phrase the request, I want money. I mean it — it’s polite, clear, ACCURATE, and does NOT come across directly as, “I want money.”

    I’m very aware of the policy you have, however in this case I believe it is unfair and should be waived.

    I disagree with this bit, and it actually turned me off. I don’t think the policy is unfair in this case; it’s unfair in all cases, and I personally would have made a REQUEST that it be waived in this case. Really, how is his case different than anyone else who forgot to cancel their ticket? It’s not. The policy is unfair in all cases (I’d think middle ground could be reached, maybe 50% towards a new ticket or just the $100 rebook fee, maybe doubled since they couldn’t sell the space since they didn’t know it was available). This bit is whiny and annoying.

    But the moral of the story — it doesn’t hurt to ask nicely for what you want — still comes through loud and clear.

  13. _Puck says:

    @Amy Alkon: Great points. Granted, he screwed up and didn’t cancel the trip and lost out. The biggest thing that struck me, and something that you rarely ever see now, is that he took personal responsibility of the situation and asked for assistance. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Had he made up lame excuses why he should get the ticket reissued (delays, money spent on the airlines before) as justification, he should get nothing.

  14. moorie679 says:

    This is horse shit, how is this unfair to him? and he took responsibility? if he really did take responsibility he would not write this dumb e-mail, like many other users said, this reduces the effectiveness of the ECCB for whom that really have a problem due to the airlines fault.

    This is like OJ saying, “Ahh, I am sorry, I killed a couple people which I take full responsibility but come on officers, the taxes I pay end up in your pocket as your salary thus you should let me go”

    He worked the system, lucked out……he is an idiot and a wise ass. This is why companies are so friggin hard to deal with because they expect half of the claims to be originated in this manner, hoping for a hand out.

  15. AndrewJC says:

    @moorie679: Are you really comparing forgetting to cancel an airline ticket with murder? Isn’t that a bit of an overreaction?

    Yes, he took responsibility for it. That doesn’t mean he can’t ask for help. Frankly, everybody makes mistakes and I think that we all understand that sometimes, things just slip our minds and everybody would like to be forgiven for a mistake every now and then.

    The part that Antediluvian pointed out is correct: his stating that it “should” be waived came across a bit whiny. Apart from that, though, the entire post sounded clear and contrite enough to make any company who wants to foster goodwill willing to help him out.

  16. RagingBoehner says:

    A little off topic, but USAir cancelled my non-stop flight home from
    Florida on the Sunday after Thanksgiving — putting me on an earlier
    flight that doesn’t fit my schedule. I rebooked on a later connnection
    but I find it a little unsettling that they can charge me $100 if my
    plans change and I need to book a different flight but if they need to
    adjust their schedules they can just send me an e-mail and I’m out of
    luck.

  17. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    US Air is free to tell this Matt to go fuck himself. They didn’t. I don’t understand what the problem is. But it still won’t convince me to fly with US Air.