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:
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.
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.
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