US Airways Isn't Flexible About Their $100 Flight Change Fee

Reader Sara writes to U.S. Airways:

Dear Doug Parker,

Due to the snowstorm in the Northeast, I have decided to cancel my overnight trip from New York City to Boston, which I booked on US Airways. USAir posted a travel alert for both of these cities this weekend, and the dates that I had planned to fly–leaving Saturday Dec. 15 and returning Sunday Dec. 16–are within the travel range that USAir posted on its web site.

The USAir site said that it had relaxed certain guidelines due to the snowstorm. However the perimeters are so narrow–I must reschedule my trip within seven days of the original flight–that it is useless to me. Next week is Christmas and, like most people in this country, I have other commitments.

That leaves me paying a $100 penalty on a ticket that cost $251, and of course I don’t get any sort of refund, just $151 credit toward another flight.

Considering that I am canceling my trip due to the weather, this transfer fee is outrageous. JetBlue charges only $25 for a transfer fee–for any reason. That is why I have decided to stop traveling USAir for my regular trips to Boston. From now on, I will fly JetBlue.

Also, I haven’t officially canceled my flight on USAir yet. USAir has provided me with absolutely no incentive to give them early warning of my plans. There is no reason for me to provide USAir with the courtesy of an early decision to cancel my flight (and give USAir the opportunity to sell the seat) so I’m planning to hold the ticket until the last possible minute.

I am writing this letter in the hopes that you will reconsider this extremely punitive policy. None of us can control the weather, and if it was even a $50 fee I would not be so put off. I have flown the USAir shuttle to Boston many times and have always had a good experience. But this entire incident leaves me feeling very cheated, and feeling very badly about USAir.

Sincerely,

Sara

U.S. Airways reply:

Dear Ms. [Redacted],

Thank you for contacting US Airways. We appreciate and welcome all inquiries, concerns, and compliments, as your feedback is important to us.

I regret you are not happy with our relaxed weather ticket policy. If you do decide to travel and check-in for your flight, if the flight cancels your ticket can be refunded.

If you decide to cancel before that time, the $100 reissue fee will apply.

Thank you for allowing us to explain our position. We hope to see you on a future US Airways flight.

Sincerely,
Customer Relations
Corporate Office

We think that reply was code for “Go fly another airline, see if we care,” so that’s what we recommend in this case. We’re sure JetBlue will be happy to have you.

(Photo:randomduck)

Comments

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  1. dualityshift says:

    wow. heartless bastards.

  2. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    Try Southwest, who has no change fees, you just pay the difference in ticket cost if there is one. Sometimes it can be more expensive, some times you can actually get money back.

  3. cindel says:

    Duh! Even I could have told you that…

  4. humphrmi says:

    US Airways will be the first airline with their proverbial backs against the wall when Congress finally decide to crack down on ridiculous airline fees.

  5. starrion says:

    I don’t understand why anyone flies them. They are the worst airline to deal with.

  6. croeso says:

    In all my dealings with US Airways I’ve always felt they were a very cold corporate type group. Rule of thumb when dealing with most businesses, the smaller they are the more likely they’ll go out of their way to be helpful and keep your business. The bigger they are, the more you’re just a number. JetBlue is the relatively new kid on the block… each customer means more to them than one does to US Airways.

  7. Benny Gesserit says:

    Actually, I believe the last sentence is code for

    “We glanced at you letter long enough to see you name and you were complaining about the $100 fee and the weather. We really don’t care what you actually said so this canned response should do it.”

    Schmucks. I hope JetBlue treats her like a GODDESS!

  8. veraikon says:

    Yup, that’s USeless Air. My last US Air experience involved literally running through their Philly terminal desperately trying to locate my gate was. Turned out they’d changed it 3 times that morning, but neither my boarding passes nor their monitors showed the proper gate. I did eventually find the gate and make it on the flight, but my baggage didn’t show up on the other end (BIG surprise). At least it showed up the next morning…dirty, roughed up and a little broken – kinda like a sorority girl after her first big party. :-)

  9. lightaugust says:

    I’m having a hard time getting how anything in their response qualifies as “explaining their position.”

  10. AT203 says:

    Wow, what a condescending dick reply US Airways.

  11. JustAGuy2 says:

    Several things:

    1. The change fee on JetBlue is $40 through the website or $50 by phone, not $25, per the JetBlue website.

    2. The OP bought a non-refundable ticket with restrictions. If the flight actually gets cancelled (which may well happen), she gets her entire ticket price back.

    US is giving her an additional benefit, letting her rejigger her travel days a bit, for free (the idea being letting people move trips to Monday, for example, to avoid the weekend storm). If she doesn’t want to do that, original rules apply. Sounds pretty fair to me. She knew the drill, and chose to buy a cheaper ticket. I can’t blame US Airways for following the policies they made clear at the time of purchase.

    3. JetBlue is only allowing travelers to change flights that are scheduled for the 16th (not the 15th and 16th), and they’re only allowing changes through 12/19, not for a full week.

    4. Also, I’d advise checking the on-time records for those JetBlue flights to Boston. They’re coming out of JFK, and they can be horrendously late. The 5:20 flight, for example, is late 28% of the time, and, when it’s late, it’s over an hour late on average. Also, the schedule has more padding than the shuttle flights, so the overall expected time (scheduled time * ontime % + (scheduled time+average delay) * late percentage) is about 112 minutes, while the comparable figure for the US 5pm shuttle is 83 minutes, or about 1/2 hour faster.

  12. Michael Belisle says:

    I booked a flight online on US Airways, then called them to make changes minutes after I booked it because I stupidly booked it for the wrong day. They made the change without charging the $100 fee with little hassle, reminding me that “this is an exception we do not normally make”. So they’re not inflexible in all situations.

    Southwest and Jetblue sure sound great. What was I thinking being born in Minnesota, which is only served by evil airlines?

  13. headon says:

    @justaguy2: This is USAir corporate calling. Your paycheck is ready for pickup.

  14. domestic_goddess says:

    haven’t they actually been rated the worst airline to deal with?

  15. Aphex242 says:

    @lightaugust: Yeah that’s precisely what I was going to say. Apparently their position is “get bent”.

    But to be fair, Justaguy2 makes good points. She could move her travel time by a few days in either direction for free? Honestly makes this policy quite a bit more fair.

    Their reply still blows goats though.

  16. Howie411 says:

    Sometimes you need to call and complain directly, last year I was flying to Florida and I needed to bring my dog, well the way this works is you have to book the flight, then call and find out if theres available space for your pet. Well needless to say I called and they told me there wasn’t and they wanted to charge me $100 (not 5 minutes) after I booked my flight to change it so I could bring my dog, after I flipped out on 3 reps, they finally waived the fee and all I had to pay was the difference in the flights which was $10.

  17. youbastid says:

    I want to make sure I’m following this right.
    USAirways waives the change fee during storms if you want to change your flight. That way, if you want to get out of a storm, you can fly on another day, within a reasonable window of time. Right? JetBlue does the same thing – they’ll waive the $25 fee. But they won’t refund your ticket. Forget that.
    While the situation sucks, it seems pretty standard fare for all airlines (except Southwest).

  18. youbastid says:

    @Howie411: This is not true. You don’t need to book the flight first. You call and ask if there is available space for pets, then book it.

  19. JustAGuy2 says:

    @headon:

    I’m not a fan of US Airways by any means (their Philly operation is a nightmare, for example), but I fail to see how they’re being unfair _in this case_. Consumers have a right to expect companies to live up to their promises, and we should hold their feet to the fire when they don’t. In this case, I think they are living up to their promises.

    My comparison in this case is really based on the worst of JetBlue (short-haul flight out of JFK) and the best out of US Airways (the shuttle routes, which are frequent and convenient as hell).

  20. bilge says:

    If you want more flexibility in your ticket, get a higher fare class. And have fun with your first JetBlue flight when you get delayed en route to the airport and miss your flight. As JetBlue says, “If a reservation is not changed or cancelled prior to scheduled departure, all money associated with the reservation is forfeited.”

  21. typetive says:

    @Franklin Comes Alive!: nice idea Franklin, however, Southwest doesn’t fly Boston to NYC.

  22. BrianH says:

    @JustAGuy2: I agree. We all know the airline sucks, but unless they’re “changing the rules” (maybe they are — I read this very quickly), they’re just saying, “Go fly another airline. We don’t want your business.” So headon, just punish their indifference with your wallet.

    With so many companies outright giving the figurative middle finger to customers, I don’t think a case of “they’re not changing the rules for poor me” is exactly newsworthy on the site. We have bigger fish to fry here.

  23. youbastid says:

    @BrianH: Yup, that’ll show USAirways! One customer never using them again! Until, you know, they need a flight and USAirways is $200 cheaper than anything else. Do you know how many times a day those CSR’s hear “I will never fly this airline again if you don’t fix this right now?” Many, many, many times. Know how many times a day people say that in a TGI Fridays? Or Best Buy? Think it matters?

    “Vote with your wallet people!” = Really not a token of advice that will ever work on giant companies like these.

  24. GenXCub says:

    I hate narrow perimeters.

  25. theblackdog says:

    @youbastid: 75% of the people who say they’re not coming back into a store or using a certain business tend to be seen back there the very next week. I used to witness that when I did restaurant work.

    If you’re going to say it, then stick to it and don’t go in there.

  26. akalish says:

    Best airline ever: Midwest Express. The _entire_ _plane_ is first class and they bake you fresh chocolate chip cookies on the flight. They don’t do NYC-Boston, but maybe if we all beg them enough, they’ll add the route! Mmmmm…chocolate…

  27. youbastid says:

    @akalish: I’ve heard good things about them – but then I booked flight for my girlfriend on them out of LAX – they had two reps at the desk – NO KIOSKS! Huuuuuuge line – took an hour to check in.
    I had booked a flight from LA to Boston on them for $330, not bad, but I had to cancel it, so now I have a $230 credit. Obviously they’re the first site I go to when I need to book a flight, but now all of the flights from LA to Boston are like $1200!

  28. humphrmi says:

    @youbastid: That CSRs are hearing this many, many, many times a day and think it doesn’t matter is a sad commentary on the state of consumer affairs in the world today.

  29. algormortis says:

    Ah, yes, but with JetBlue, i’ve had “Pleeease?” waive the fee on the phone twice. I think anyone who’s ever interacted with a JetBlue phone rep knows that they’re worth it, especially as in one case I was changing the ticket due to stranding by another airline.

    The third time i was doing it online, it was my own stupidity, and i deserved to pay the $40; as i saved $100 by changing days, it was theoretical money anyhow. $40 is still a damn sight less than $100.

  30. JustAGuy2 says:

    @algormortis:

    Agree to that. The JetBlue reps (mainly Utah housewives, actually, they work at home rather than in physical call centers) are really good folk.

  31. connerleslie says:

    I am sooooo not surprised by this posting. When my grandfather died and I had to change a flight, US Airways fought and fought with me about that damn $100 change fee. It was the last thing I needed during that difficult time.
    The best part? When I called a week later to complain about the customer service I was given a “complaint” phone number that didn’t even work! If you have a complaint you can’t speak to someone directly — you are forced to write an email.
    I will never fly with them again.

  32. modena says:

    These days, all airlines are unpleasant — a bit like visiting the dentist. But U.S. Airways is, by far, the worst carrier in the United States. (It’s not just a visit to the dentist; it’s a triple root canal with no anesthesia.)

  33. coren says:

    Sure one person not coming back isn’t a huge dent all things considered. Unless they tell their friends, or get it published on a site that might influence people’s decisions….

  34. barryg9999 says:

    This is not about US Airways being a bad company. This is about you being a bad customer.

    I feel bad for you but you bought a non-refundable ticket. If you wanted flexibility, you should have paid more for a more flexible ticket.

    And before you flame me, no I do not work for US Airways.

  35. FatLynn says:

    @coren: Yeah, but really, people will fly the cheapest airline, regardless of how crappy the service is.

  36. chargernj says:

    It would be nice if these airlines would remember who bailed them out, us. Sure it was Congress who decided to pay for the bailout after 9/11, but they did it with our tax dollars. I thought it was a bad idea then and this just proves it. Personally I think the should have let the market decide it the airlines failed. Typical though that the party who is the biggest promoter of the free market is quick to rescue the fortunes of their wealthy friends.

  37. humphrmi says:

    @chargernj: Um, I agree with you that it sucks to bail out companies with tax dollars, but just an FYI the post-9/11 airline bail out was a loan program with interest, and the U.S. Government actually got more money back on that program than they paid out. It’s rare, but it does happen.

  38. kepler11 says:

    Not to sound unsympathetic, but the passenger here is *choosing* to cancel her trip. She says so herself: “..Considering that I am canceling my trip due to the weather…” The reason for her doing so is neither here nor there. The airline cannot know why she’s canceling, why she booked the trip in the first place, or give special treatment to people who say that their trip is now shot because of the weather versus some other reason. So if the flight takes off as normal (i.e. the airline held up its end of the bargain), regardless of her reasons, she is subject to the same requirements as a normal passenger when he/she cancels. Now, we can debate the amount of the change fee as being excessive, but that’s what they set it at, and she accepted it by buying the advance discount ticket.

    Not only that, USAir is giving her the option/benefit of being able to reschedule her trip within 7 days. They don’t have to do that. How can they know that that isn’t enough time for her to make a replacement trip? They have to choose some cutoff date — what would you suggest? 1 month? Then, would this story be about the woman who is complaining that she couldn’t use the ticket within a month, rather than a week? When does it stop?

    I would suggest she be ready to fly on her scheduled flight, and if the flight gets canceled, then she has her ticket refund. If the flight flies, then she goes to Boston as she planned to. Otherwise, she’s looking at $100 to exercise her *choice*.

  39. Buran says:

    @humphrmi: And the government gets money to loan where? From our taxes!

  40. Buran says:

    @belisle: Midwest goes to MSP and I hear good things about them.

  41. hypebreaker says:

    @barryg9999: I’m a little late jumping on this train but are you kidding? We get backed into tight corners all the time by airline policy and trying to navigate all the restrictions/limitations makes US “bad” customers?

    I, personally, don’t buy discounted fares anymore because I always end up having to change my itineraries but there’s usually a 400 to 600 hundred difference in cost there.

    Airlines can afford to be more flexible than they are but few passengerts can afford to pay the premium on flexibility.

    And changing a flight because of concerns over the weather/conditions should be permitted with no questions asked – that Singapore airlines crash in 2000 is a good example of how the airlines will gamble with your safety to save a few bucks.

    Allowing such a short window of time for her to use the ticket is unfair – they should simply give her the credit for the full amount she paid for the original ticket,and let her take the risk of rebooking at a higher fare later in the year. Chances are, she’ll be paying for a higher fare anyway.

  42. JustAGuy2 says:

    Just so everyone knows:

    I don’t know which flight the OP was scheduled to be on, but all six of the US Airways LGA-BOS flights on 12/15 were not only on time, but 15-30 minutes EARLY.

  43. Linkletter says:

    US Airways are a bunch of crooks.

    This past August I found myself unable to take the first part of a roundtrip flight I’d purchased. This was not a last-minute change, so I called US Airways about changing the date for flying to my destination. No dice, they wanted 100 dollars to change the ticket in addition to the difference in fare. This was hundreds.

    I asked them if I could just buy a separate one-way ticket on a later date to my destination and just use the return portion of my ticket. They told me if I didn’t cough up their exorbitant fees my return flight would be void.

    Even putting their terrible customer service and anti-consumer policies aside, US Airways is the worst airline I have ever flown in my life.

  44. mcalliso says:

    Below you find a text copy Of A Letter To USAir for an online booking problem I had 12/21/25007 I will keep this blog updated. Thanks for reading and please share similar experiences

    December 21, 2007

    Mr. Parker et al.
    As the leader of US Airways Group I am sure you appreciate the need for fair and ethical practices for consumers so that any business can be viable long term.
    I want to share with you what I perceive to be unfair, unethical treatment as a result of your call center policy for a known technical issue with usair.com online booking.
    Last night, I was booking a flight considering multiple travel dates, as is often the case. My browser (Internet Explorer 7 .0) had 2 windows open with 2 potential travel dates both in the checkout process on the payment address entry page.
    • The first browser / itinerary was a May date 4 tickets for $1143.20
    • The second browser / itinerary was a February date 4 tickets for $851.20.

    With both browsers opened, I completed, verified and confirmed the February Itinerary. I was very surprised after reviewing the screen and confirming the February ticket that after selecting the “purchase” The May date and price was on my final order confirmation. XXXXX. The May confirmation obviously did not match the February review screen.(I can provide a screen print of the confirmation page with a February date on request)

    Surprised, I called the 800 number on the screen and was told since I had purchased the ticket only minutes before the purchase could be voided and I could rebook BUT I would need to call the internet customer service at 800.327.7810.
    I immediately contacted the internet customer service to be told that usair.com had a warning about having multiple browsers open and there was nothing they could do despite the fact I had purchased the tickets only minutes ago. I was unable to locate this warning message anywhere including the confirmation screen regarding the use of multiple browser windows. Furthermore, (only minutes after the ticket purchase) I was told a $100 change fee per passenger applied for any change. This takes no waivers no favors to an all time low.
    As a small business owner, it seemed like a very strange, short sighted way to run a business. Is it a coincidence the only US domestic carrier to achieve consistent profitability is the most flexible in policy with ticket changes and offers superior customer service and attitude?
    I again explained to usair.com customer service that this was a technical issue and the information I validated on the review screen did NOT match my confirmation. I was told in a condescending manner it was my fault since usair.com has warning about using 2 browser screens as in “Big bold print”. This warning is clearly not on my printed confirmation screen or anywhere I could find at usair.com.

    After speaking with 2 more “supervisors” for ½ hour 2 points were clear.
    1. This is a known issue at USAIR.com and it has been seen many times before. i.e. booking with multiple browser windows open and customers getting and incorrect ticket confirmation.
    2. That my ticket could not be voided or changed without significant cost only minutes after booking.

    While I am not an “Elite” flyer with US Air I have been a 9 year Gold / Platinum flyer with Delta. And often purchase First Class tickets for business travel. I have never been treated like this by any company.

    In summary, this is an unfair, deplorable way to treat a consumer for an apparently known technical issue at USair.com. This could have been easily avoided with a little flexibility on your end. Now both of our resources will be wasted and my family vacation is in limbo, as this will not likely be resolved before our intended travel date. Needless to say, my children are very disappointed.

    I hope that you can research internally and avoid this for other consumers in the future. As a matter of principle, I intend to pursue this to until a fair resolution is reached. There is significant criticism of USair.com functionality on blogs. That over time, my complaint unresolved will also propagate on travel blogs, articles and eventually small claims court requiring the presence of your counsel.

    My expectation:
    1. A full refund for confirmation A1EQHP. (A dispute is in process with American Express)
    2. Rebooking for my intended date and rate.
    3. I want nothing for free but only want to be treated fairness and respect.
    I look forward to your assistance and immediate resolution.

    CC: American Express Cardholder Services
    Federal Aviation Administration / US Department of Transportation
    Joe Beery
    Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer
    Kerry Hester
    Vice President, Customer Service Planning
    Caroline Ray
    Corporate Secretary

  45. mcalliso says:

    Per my 1/1 Post. I wanted to follow up with my booking problem at usair.com on 12/21.

    I was surprised that only a few days after my letter I received a response from US Air Corporate
    1. They admitted they were able to duplicate the problem with Windows explorer 7.0 at USair.com
    2. They will apparently fix IE 7.0 and Firefox browser issues and it is a high priority item for their IT
    3. US airways will retrain agents on how to respond to consumers with this booking problem.
    4. They rebooked my ticket and refunded the difference in airfare within 2 hours of contacting me. I insisted I did not want anything for free just to be treated fairly. (though the refund will take 2-3 credit card billing cycles)
    In conclusion, I hope USAIR follows through on these commitments; it’s just good business sense. All companies especially airlines have problems it’s how a company responds that can make a difference.

  46. Hot55Dog says:

    In June 2007 I was scheduled for a flight on U. S. Airways from DFW to Philly. I was to change planes in Philly for my final destination of Richmond, VA. My flight was scheduled to leave at 6:30 AM. I arrived at the airport at 4:30 AM. There were only 2 U. S. Airways employees working, and there were 2 extremely long lines of travelers. I stood in 1 of the lines for an hour. When I reached the front of that line I was informed I had been in the “re-ticketing” line and that I could not be checked in for my flight. I was redirected to the other line. I finally reached the front of that line at 6:00 AM. By that point, there was an additional airline employee manning the front of the line. Despite the fact that I was not checking any luggage, the employee would not let me check in for my flight. She said I had missed the flight, even though it was not scheduled to depart for another 30 minutes. I was once again sent to the other line.

    I stood in the “re-ticketing” line for another 2 hours. I was then told that U. S. Airways could not get me to Richmond until early the next week. Because I was meeting an unaccompanied minor at the Richmond Airport, I could not wait until the next week. I had to purchase a ticket from another airline. You can just imagine the price of that ticket.

    When I attempted to get some relief from U. S. Airlines I was told in two form letters that they “regret the circumstances that necessitated the change in my travel plans” and that for a reissue fee of $100.00 I could use my ticket for something else. Trying to explain that they should not be able to profit from their own mistake fell on deaf ears.

    I tried to send my second letter directly to Doug Parker, but it was intercepted by his “agent” and I was never able to reach him. I thought maybe direct contact with the airline’s president might do some good, but it seems that such contact is impossible. I would rather lose the money from the ticket than pay this worthless airline one more cent of my money (i.e. the “re-issue” fee).

    Does anyone have a phone number or e-mail address for Mr. Parker?

  47. mcalliso says:

    federal express the letter directly to Mr Parkers office