Hawaiian Air Charges $75 "Death Fee"

Hawaiian Air charged a $75 fee, per ticket, for processing the refunds after Jane Wilkens’ mom died of a blood clot and wasn’t able to take a planned vacation with her daughter and her friend, in essence, charging the late Mrs. Wilkens a fee for dying.

A Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson said the charge was, “a refund fee for processing the refund…There’s administration involved — paperwork, computer entries… The processing of the refund takes staff time that costs the company money.”

In contrast, the Hilton canceled their reservation without blinking, as did Delta for a separate trip to Maine. Hawaiian Air should be ashamed of itself for trying to profit off dead people. Since Jane charged it on her American Express, she was able to do a chargeback for the $225.

Airline descends to a new low: a death fee [LAT] (Thanks to Paul!)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    Its another case of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”

  2. Bos'un's Mate says:

    Didn’t we essentially cover this topic yesterday?

  3. ancientsociety says:

    “a refund fee for processing the refund”

    Best use of doublespeak in 2007

  4. Geekybiker says:

    Annoying, but does the essence of a contract change because of death? Seems anything they do is a goodwill gesture. Sure its probably not worth the bad PR for how often it happens.

  5. homerjay says:

    @Geekybiker: Exactly my point.

  6. darkened says:

    I’m pretty sure death nullifies most contracts…

  7. Murph1908 says:

    Ok, to all of you who want all these businesses to disregard the policies set forth in the terms of the sale because it’s “the right thing to do”, how do you propose they handle the countless requests to cancel ‘because she died’ or ‘because he has cancer’?

    If they do no verification on these claims, people will use them when they are not true. Even here on Consumerist we see, “get out of so-and-so’s contract by telling them this lie” type of articles.

    If they do honor these claims with verification, they are going to have to hire people to do this, costing everyone else more money.

    If you buy a reduced fare ticket that’s non-refundable, then quit bitching that you can’t get a refund.

    BTW, I couldn’t read this particular article, as it required logging into NYT. So my argument may be off base for this particular incident, but as a whole still stands.

  8. InThrees says:

    I really don’t see this as Hawaiian Air charging a death fee, but as Hawaiian Air not having a corporate culture or policy that promotes actions like waiving refund fees in case of death of ticket holder.

    It’s really only maddening / saddening if you work at making it so. If my mother had just died (happened years ago) a $75 fee would not even faze me, compared to the LOSS OF MY MOTHER.

  9. Crymson_77 says:

    @DARKENED: Correct, hence the other entities cancelling with no fees and no problems.

  10. ptkdude says:

    Does it cost money to process a refund? Yes. Does it cost $75 to process a refund? No. Not a chance.

  11. Stan LS says:

    @ptkdude: How much does it cost?

  12. warf0x0r says:

    “a refund fee for processing the refund…There’s administration involved — paperwork, computer entries… The processing of the refund takes staff time that costs the company money.”

    It doesn’t cost that much. If it does their system for doing it is bad or designed to prohibit refunds.

  13. Buran says:

    @Landor: Yep. Does the airline say in its contract that if you need to cancel for any reason there will be a fee charged? If so, you KNEW when you bought the ticket that if anything unexpected happened, there would be a fee.

    IF that is the case, this is another example of “the rules don’t apply to me and are for other people!” entitlement bitches whining when they don’t get what they want. I am appalled that, if there were such a clause in the ticket agreement, that this woman filed what would then be a fraudulent chargeback.

    The story only says “first-class ticket”. It doesn’t say what the circumstances are for refunds.

  14. Buran says:

    @ptkdude: Perhaps. But if that is what their policy is, that’s what they charge. Not everyone is a non-profit that charges at cost.

  15. MelL says:

    @warf0x0r: I look at it more like ‘are they hiring new people to do the refund?’ No, of course not. They act as if they have to jump through hoops to deal with the matter. Believe it or not, I’m pretty sure that’s a normal customer service matter and that they have a customer service rep there somewhere getting paid whether they process a claim or not.

  16. TMurphy says:

    Well, it costs that much because they first have to process the refund, which incurs a fee. That fee needs processing, which incurs another fee. The cycle keeps going until the company decides it is time to cash in on those fees instead of building them up a bit more.

  17. Buran says:

    @Murph1908: I used bugmenot.com to get in. Useful extension to have if you use Firefox; if you don’t, you can still get info off their website.

    Funny thing is, I used to be logged in via a bugmenot login, but this article demanded I log in again.

  18. Peeved Guy says:

    @Murph1908: No one would lie to avoid paying fees, would they?

    I’m with you. This time it was, unfortunately, true, but I’ll bet for this one story there are 12 more where Aunt Gertie made a miraculous recovery from her cancer or death.

  19. MonsieurBon says:

    I really don’t think this should be newsworthy. It’s expensive to die! It’s a fact of life (death?). Expect to get stuck with fees and hard times getting bills paid or things refunded. Or I suppose getting outraged over $75 is easier than dealing with the death of a loved one.

  20. swalve says:

    @ptkdude: It probably costs them more. Have you ever run a business? “Exceptions” are very expensive. The time spent booking, the time spent unbooking, the fact that the seat might not get filled when it would have had this person not bought the ticket in the first place and other transaction costs.

  21. swalve says:

    @mell: Of course they DO. The time they spend doing the refund costs time and salary, and that adds to the demand for CS agents. It’s shocking how little some people know of how the world works.

  22. ancientsociety says:

    @swalve: It probably takes about 5 minutes to enter the information into a database and issue a refund. Does that mean they pay their CSRs $825/hr?

  23. EricaKane says:

    If Hawaii Air, just looked at the death certificate and pushed the refund button, it wouldn’t have taken much time at all. Instead charging the fee is going to take more time then cancelling a reservation.

    Also, if you read the article, it states it was a first class ticket cancelled 7 months ahead of time. Plenty of time to get another butt in the seat.

  24. num1skeptic says:

    btw,
    i’ve had to file a claim (because of vacation insurance) to get a refund on a plane ticket, and absolutely yuo have to provide documents to support your storie ex: death certificate, doctors note, etc.

    that way, you can’t just lie to get a refund.

  25. inkhead says:

    The correct response to the ticket agent on the phone is. Thank you for your time, please hurry up and charge the $75 so I can call my credit card company and do a chargeback.

    Works everytime, and it feels great, because chargebacks actually HURT very much large corporations. Because the percentage they pay on CC processing fees is in part based on chargebacks…. Hell even Walmart the #1 company in the US had it’s payment processor TURN off their ability to process credit payments for a whole day, because they weren’t happy with the amount of chargebacks.

    Nobody is above chargebacks. Just tell the ticket agent. That you are going to charge it back, because nearly every corporation trains employees that chargebacks are the DEVIL and evil.

  26. drrictus says:

    @swalve: It’s shocking you don’t see how the world works. Oh well, it’s Christmas, I’ll help:

    Hawaiian Air should refuse most of these refund requests or charge for them, as they are probably frauds and cost the airline money. They have a CS department to handle the details and deal with the Customers on the phone.

    On the off chance such a death turns out to be true, the denied Customers should go to the media and tell their story. It will get picked up and published all over, making the airline look bad.

    At this point, the airline’s Marketing department takes over for CS, looking to mitigate the negative PR done by the news story. In addition to dealing with the press, Marketing usually has enough pull to “magically” get the refund processed without a fee.

    End result: Customer is happy. Airline is happy. Media is happy. Life goes on.

  27. hollerhither says:

    @ptkdude:
    I don’t work for a non-profit, and it costs us about $3 to process each individual “sign-up” of sorts. That includes all costs. With the volume Hawaiian Air likely does, I can’t imagine it costs them more than $10 even if you add in non-refundable fees.

    Re “getting outraged over $75,” this is after making the call, relaying bad news to an unsympathetic stranger…how can this person be blamed for being upset about an inappropriate fee?

    And since when are airline seats NOT filled these days? If this were really an issue, I supposed we’d have seen $75 charges from the other airlines mentioned.

    In this case (death, which I would say is the WORST and rarest case) it’s going to cost the company more in bad PR than it would have to just say they are sorry for the loss, give the refund, and move on.

    In business, making those judgment calls is also “how the world works.” (Condescend much?)

  28. num1skeptic says:

    even if it does cost money to process a refund, its called the cost of doing business. are they suggesting that the airline would not profit at all if they processed refunds for free? and if it costs $75 to process, sounds like its their problem for not finding a cheaper way to do it. i would put all the money i have (which i’ll admit isn’t much) on a bet that says they actually profited still. that after the $15 it probably actually costed them to process the refund, the still pocketed the other $60 as profit.

  29. Amelie says:

    This is so much b.s. It cost most business money to process things in regards to death, but only those that can charge – do. For example, if a relative leaves you a CD, you are not charged a fee for taking the money before the term is up because death over rides the “rules.”

    What’s even sadder are the people who buy into this mentality, that a corporation can do whatever it wants (within legal limits) as long as it’s part of their rules.

  30. m4ximusprim3 says:

    you would think that, with 7 months before the flight, there would be time to verify that she’s actually dead and not charge the fee as a goodwill gesture.

    If they cancelled day-of and the seat is empty, I’d side with the airline.

  31. Peeved Guy says:

    @num1skeptic:
    Maybe they charge $75 per cancellation so people stop and think twice before canceling? If they make it too cheap, I suspect more people would cancel their tickets for a wide variety or reasons, leaving the airline with unfilled seats (even in todays market). But $75 or $100 seems to be the “sweet spot” that most airlines charge for a canceled ticket. Just speculating…

    Clearly, in this case, and as noted above, with proper documentation, no fee should be levied.

  32. Buran says:

    @hollerhither: How is it inappropriate if it was in the contract that you agreed to? You have a chance to review the terms before you buy the ticket.

    She (probably; we don’t have enough info yet) wants to change the terms after the fact, which requires both parties to agree, and the airline did not agree — which is its legal right. She committed fraud by filing the chargeback, and I hope the airline wins the dispute.

  33. Buran says:

    @m4ximusprim3: I’ve never seen a ticket that was refundable up to X days before the flight. Either it’s refundable or it isn’t.

  34. Buran says:

    @zouxou: Except, under contract law, they can.

  35. sven.kirk says:

    Yet another person trying to weasel out of a contract/agreement.

    But I do agree that $75 is a bit too much.

  36. num1skeptic says:

    @Peeved Guy: i bet you just nailed it head on. if more people cancelled, they have to give more last minute discounts to fill seats, and they don’t want to discount.

    and yeah buy buying the ticket you agree to the bs terms but this is no different than trying to buy a car without agreeing to arbitration. if every single car place forces you to arbitraion (and they do) what is your choice? walking?

    every airline has close to the same policy. if you need to fly, its their way or no way, which is not a very friendly way to conduct business.

  37. Stan LS says:

    @ancientsociety: There’s a big, gaping hole in your logic. People don’t get paid per minute that they do actual work (ie, enter info). They need to hire a guy who will handle these type of cases. He might be doing only 2 cases per day, but they gotta pay him a full salary.

  38. hollerhither says:

    @Buran:
    Oh, please. At the very least, it should be possible to present a death certificate and the fee should be waived. But to take things even this far is bad PR and bad business, whether or not you happen to possess an actual ounce of compassion for any individual.

  39. Murph1908 says:

    @num1skeptic:
    This is nowhere NEAR the same as binding arbitration. You, when buying a ticket, have the option to take the cheapest, non-refundable fare, or choose a higher, unrestricted fare.

    Buy the non-refundable ticket, don’t expect a refund.

  40. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    Y’all tickle me: “He bought a non-refundable ticket: Who cares if he died, no refunds means no refunds, dammit!”

    Hi.Larious.

  41. Buran says:

    @hollerhither: Oh please, yourself. It’s ridiculous these days to ask that someone stand up to what they agreed to do? How would YOU feel if someone tried to weasel out of paying money owed? You’d be mad, right? And they tried to say “but but but but my life sucks!” … and that is your problem how? yes, I’m sorry that this woman’s mom died, but she’s not that special.

    I’ve had bad things happen to me before, but I wasn’t such a selfish asshole that I felt I had to weasel my way out of my obligations.

    You can ASK if you can get a break due to problems you’re having with your life, hence it’s OK to try to work out a repayment plan with a creditor if you lose your job or something like that, but they DO NOT have to let you have it.

    She should have bought a refundable ticket or taken out travel insurance if she wanted flexibility if something happened.

    She didn’t.

    Next thing you know she’ll go to China, rack up a $2,100 cell phone bill, and whine that that’s not her problem too.

    Oh, please.

  42. EricaKane says:

    Actually the person@Buran: Its not fraud. Where is the intentional misrepresentation of a material fact?

    The lesson to be learned in this is that American Express comes off looking like a hero in this case and gets a lot of good publicity, while Hawaii Airlines looks like a zero. I doubt American Express is going after Hawaii, they probably ate the $225 and got a loot of good will.

    Also, Given the amount of money this woman was spending on vacations, I bet she is a pretty high roller too…so that encourages use of their card.

  43. EricaKane says:

    @Buran: Furthermore, unlike the Chinese Iphone story, this woman has not used any of Hawaii’s service (i.e. travel)

    You could make the argument that Hawaii could have sold the seat, but given the large lead time (7 months notice), I don’t think its a problem selling that seat.

  44. JohnMc says:

    Darkened, sorry but death does not necessarily terminate a contract. That is why you, I and everyone else have what is called an estate. Prime example. You sell some property under what is called a contract for deed. Now do you think that the buyer just lost the property or is out of the contract? Nope. The buyer keeps paying to the Estate. The Heirs work out whatever they wish with the income stream.

    As to the woman’s death. Sorry but as the airline stated, it has nothing to do with a death. If she was alive and wanted the money back there would still be a charge. This is a but a tempest in a teapot. Sorry.

  45. scoosdad says:

    The thing that bugs me more than the fee is the fact that all three tickets were probably bought on the same itinerary and credit card. When three family members or close friends travel together, that’s usually the way it goes down, so that one person does the booking for the group and they get to pick their seats together, and in some cases, won’t get individually targeted for bumping and get left behind while the rest of the group travels on as it might be if they were just three unrelated tickets in the airline’s system. Not always the case, but just saying.

    I don’t know for sure if this was the case here, but if it was, Hawaiian Air’s got a lot of nerve charging the $75 fee THREE times to process this.

  46. num1skeptic says:

    i hope hawaiian air starts to call it the “death fee”. that would be great to see on their terms.

  47. They charged a fee for processing the refund not because the woman died. It isn’t as if they wouldn’t have charged the fee if they had to cancel for some other reason.

    I think airlines in general should waive fees like this for extenuating circumstances but I don’t see how, legally speaking, they were able to do a chargeback. I thought a business had to break the agreement (like sending the wrong color shirt or a TV that doesn’t work) in order for a chargeback to work.

  48. num1skeptic says:

    personally, it warms my heart anytime a consumer “weasles their way out of a contract”, as most of the time, the contracts are rediculous. this isn’t someone trying to weasle out of a car payment, or someone who’s trying to not pay for their house. to use the words some of you are using is calling the grieving op a weasle. what wonderful people we all are.

    this site has more heartless a-holes than nazi germany did.

  49. I don’t know for sure if this was the case here, but if it was, Hawaiian Air’s got a lot of nerve charging the $75 fee THREE times to process this.

    @scoosdad: It was the case. The chargeback was for $225.

  50. Unnamed Source says:

    I’m surprised airlines haven’t started charging fees for recycling cabin/providing fresh air or perhaps a fee for air conditioning…

  51. burgundyyears says:

    We all just had this conversation yesterday. Nonrefundable means just that. This is not difficult people.

    @num1skeptic: This thread is officially Godwinized.

  52. Bos'un's Mate says:

    If you spend your life counting on the kindness and compassion of large corporations, it’s not going to be very happy one. Take your lumps, shut-up, smile, and move on.

    But whatever you do, don’t whine.

  53. swalve says:

    @num1skeptic: You lose.

    If someone is looking for a refund, they AREN’T a customer, they’re just someone abusing the system.

    Look, it sucks that a first-class ticket has a $75 refund fee, but it does. The consumer bought the product knowing the terms of the sale.

  54. num1skeptic says:

    @swalve: how did i lose. the chargeback was a success. apparently more people feel the same as i do.

  55. EricaKane says:

    @burgundyyears:

    Not difficult? Hawaii Air agreed to refund her money but then decided to add a “fee for refund” So the point about nonrefundable/refundable is moot, because they (the airline) decided to refund the ticket. So actually it is pretty complicated.

  56. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: That is true. I’m not saying it’s not. What I’m saying is unacceptable is this woman’s attitude that the rules don’t apply to her, that she should be allowed to weasel out of the agreement she entered when she bought the ticket, and that when she is rightfully told that “that’s the breaks, you aren’t special” she goes and commits fraud by yanking the money away by force, nevermind the aforementioned contract.

    Yes, they will probably put someone else’s butt in that seat. But the airline gets to impose a cancellation fee because you agreed to pay it if you cancelled.

    The hypocrisy on this forum sometimes amazes me. If a company doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain and breaks the contract we scream at the company that went against its word and yell and shout and demand that they do what they agreed to do and threaten to badmouth them to family and friends.

    An individual tries to weasel out of a contract and we scream and yell at the company that held up to its end of the bargain and shout and demand that they do what they agreed to do and threaten to badmouth them to family and friends.

    Geez, people, WHICH IS IT?

  57. CaliforniaCajun says:

    When my father had a massive, unexpected aneurysm one week after our wedding in 2006, Hawaiian Airlines refunded our honeymoon tickets, reserving a $50.00 fee from each as a cancellation fee.

    I still think it was OK for them to do so, but in the case of death, it seems as though they should have been a little more generous.

    I have had unhappy experiences with Hawaiian Airlines as well – their ticket agent ‘misplaced’ my return ticket when I checked in at SFO in 2000; I discovered the missing ticket after I boarded, and informed the flight attendant, who called the ticket desk, but was still held responsible for the missing ticket “replacement fee” of $75.00 – even though there was no chance anyone could have used my return ticket and the fact that Hawaiian Airlines “lost” it in the first place.

  58. Buran says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: You get the money back provisionally pending an investigation. When the bank finds she is trying to avoid her contract obligations, they will revoke the refund and she will find the refunded money removed from her account.

  59. Buran says:

    @num1skeptic: If we’re heartless Nazis (nice godwin BS by the way) for calling people weasels when that’s all they are, then heil!

  60. Bos'un's Mate says:

    @burgundyyears: Ha! Good catch.

  61. EricaKane says:

    @Buran: How is she committing fraud again? I’m sure she told the truth of the situation to American Express, American Express has the power to investigate the claim and make a decision. I’m betting that American Express doesn’t try to hit up Hawaii for these charges, AmEx is probably eating it for a loyal customer and it got the bonus of good publicity.

    Exactly how is it fraud again? Please answer the question. Unless this woman lied to AmEx, she did not commit fraud.

  62. Buran says:

    @num1skeptic: see above re: why she got it back … for now.

  63. humperdinck says:

    To everyone saying “Those are the rules. Tough luck,” it’s like you’ve got battered wife/Stockholm Syndrome. I mean, my God. I realize “The Customer is Always Right” went out the window years ago, but it should not always about contracts and policies and bottom lines.

    This blog exists as an outlet for the people who refuse to roll over and be taken advantage of. I don’t get why some of you are even here, when clearly you’ve given up expecting better of businesses and corporations.

  64. EricaKane says:

    AmEx knows the value of good customer relations, obviously Hawaii Airlines does not.

  65. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: Because, when you file for a chargeback, you are claiming that the fee was fraudulently/wrongly charged. Such as, goods charged for and not delivered, goods not as advertised, double charging, etc. etc. When you are charged pursuant to the terms of the agreement you signed (or entered into), the charge is not incorrect.

  66. MelL says:

    @swalve: That’s exactly what the CS Rep gets paid to do anyway! It’s not some unusual expense as a result of an Act Of God. As for taking time to enter information, that boils down to efficiency on the part of the department.

  67. EricaKane says:

    @Buran: Now you have seen the woman’s chargeback claim to AmEx? You know what she said it was fraudently charged? or that she did not receive the goods?

    Before accusing people of fraud, maybe you should consider that the woman probably just wrote a letter to amex, disputing the charge and laying out the reasons.

  68. Buran says:

    @humperdinck: No, we are saying that when you agree to do something, YOU GO THROUGH WITH IT, apparently that is too much to ask for some people. If you read other stories here you’ll see that common theme. Sears hasn’t removed a fridge after many months? Read the thread and you’ll see that the ire is because they said they’d do it — and didn’t.

    Read this thread and the ire is because someone was obligated to do something, thought she was special, and is now getting skewered as deserved.

    It’s only difficult to wrap your brain around if you can’t see the value in holding people to their word.

  69. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: What can be said other than “Waaaah I don’t think I should have to pay this fee I agreed to” or “Waaaah this fee is bogus!”?

  70. ancientsociety says:

    @humperdinck: Precisely

  71. EricaKane says:

    @Buran: Actually, a carefully crafted letter is usually the most effective tool in having a corporation do something for you.

    Obviously, her letter to AmEx convinced somebody to just refund her money…which is what most normal people would do with when confronted with this situations.

  72. Buran says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: She didn’t. The daughter did. The daughter is still alive, thus the debt is still alive right along with her.

    Otherwise, the charge would have been on the dead mother’s card, and the bank would have to write it off as a loss (see the thread re: the racist collectors).

  73. EricaKane says:

    Besides “I don’t think I should have to pay this fee” or “Waah this fee is bogus” is NOT Fraud. If she stated I did not purchase these tickets, thats fraud.

  74. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: As explained elsewhere, the money goes back into your account when you file a chargeback — pending an investigation. If the chargeback is bogus, it comes right back out and she’ll find it added to her next statement.

  75. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: But it’s not valid grounds for a chargeback either and won’t stand up to the investigation that takes place once a chargeback claim is filed.

  76. burgundyyears says:

    @EricaKane: I doubt that fee was arbitrarily put on out of nowhere. If it was, Hawaii Airlines should be skewered. But if this is a standard fee for canceling a reservation that they fully disclose, well, that’s a business decision. A sucky one maybe, but a business decision, not a moral outrage.

  77. kepler11 says:

    I don’t really like how this headline tries to manipulate what is just a fee that applies to everyone, into some kind of evil “death fee” just because it also applies to tickets people who have died. It’s like the word-play that Republican pollsters attached to the “death tax”, which is a legitimate tax on all inheritances.

    When passengers cancel their itineraries and get charged fees like this, they usually forget the number of times that they have benefited from the hidden savings created by non-refundable tickets. Maybe if the airlines manipulated the phrasing (like Consumerist is doing) to show passengers the amount of discount/savings they’ve gotten by buying non-refundable tickets each time, people would see this as a good thing, and not forget how much normal refundable tickets cost otherwise.

    If you buy non-refundable tickets, you’re relying on nothing bad or unexpected happening to you up to the time you fly. And most of the time it works, but sometimes you lose, and one has to accept those one or two times as the cost of getting a relatively better price on the ticket every other time. You played and won most of the time.

    That said, I think that *death* is one circumstance that an airline can pretty safely make an exception for. Provided that it’s verified and not allowed to be abused, that is one person who is *never* going to use that reason ever again. It is a rare enough problem, and as an image-improving gesture, I think they could devote the staff and resources to make that exception, as part of doing business. I think part of the reason that they have to have such strict requirements is that if they relaxed it to anything less *final*, there would be a flood of people using every reason under the sun to get refunds from their tickets.

    And unlike what some others have said here, the cost is not just processing the refund for those people who have died. It is the cost of evaluating all the *claims* for refunds, which is those people who didn’t really die, and are making it up, and all the people who want refunds for non-allowed reasons.

    A final point — if an airline says that its fee is $75, I don’t think it’s very legit to question how much it “really” costs them (although very tempting to try to estimate, and most people severely underestimate the real cost of things when it comes to others, not themselves). That’s because the passenger is asking for a service (namely processing a credit/refund), and the airline has stated the price of giving that service. You can accept the service for that price, or refuse it — it’s a voluntary transaction. It would be like if someone buying a car from you, asked you, “no, I’m going to offer 1/2 your stated price, because how much does it really cost you?”

    In summary, I feel that the airline should give the person a full refund in this case, merely as a policy of good business and because it’s a rare enough thing to happen, and not for some of the reasons others above have stated (which are for example, that “it doesn’t really cost them that much”).

  78. EricaKane says:

    @Buran: And as I said, AmEx’s statements indicate it was not a valid chargeback reason, but they decided to refund the money anyway, so its AmEx’s business decision to refund her money see the quote: “

    “We look at everything on a case-by-case basis,” said Desiree Fish, an AmEx spokeswoman. “It comes down to customer service. Sometimes we do things as a goodwill gesture.”

    So it seems to indicate that Hawaii Air won’t be dinged for it, for American Express it was a “goodwill gestuire”

  79. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: Guess you still haven’t figured out the “I’m trying to get out of a legit charge because I don’t think this rule should apply to me” part being wrong.

  80. kepler11 says:

    I would also note that all the chargebacks, etc, mentioned above — they are also one reason refunds are so expensive. All the people *trying* to get out of tickets for non-death reasons by refusing the charges with their CC company are part of the cost of refunding the money of those who do have legit reasons, unfortunately.

  81. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: Well goody for you, then, go get an Amex, decide that “bullshit” fees aren’t good enough for you, and raise fees for everyone else when merchants have to get the money back that crybabies decided to take by force.

  82. humperdinck says:

    @Buran: Shame on that awful woman for dying and not fulfilling her end of the contract. What a cunt.

    And you are illustrating my point. It’s not about THE RULES; it’s about having and maintaining a personal relationship with your customers – or at least the veneer of a personal relationship, when you are a large faceless corporation.

    We have to actively fight the numbness and apathy whenever things like this happen. When people resign themselves to “those are the rules and that’s just the way it is”, that’s how they win.

  83. EricaKane says:

    @burgundyyears: Yes you are right, the fee is on their Web site see here:
    [www.hawaiianair.com]

    So this woman had a choice of a refund in the form of a travel voucher. I’m not sure that a travel voucher issued in the name of a dead woman would work though (although the voucher I could conceivably be in the name of the woman who purchased the ticket).

  84. EricaKane says:

    @Buran: LOL. Now you are blaming this woman for raising everybody else’s fees. At least you seem to concede it wasn’t fraud by the woman.

  85. mistaketv says:

    A lot of you can save a lot of money on color printing costs, since you see in 100% black-and-white anyway.

  86. EricaKane says:

    @Buran: And secondly, you don’t seem to understand that it seems that the merchant (Hawaii) did not have to eat the $225. They have their pound of flesh, I’m glad. I think you should look over “Merchant of Venice” to see the absurdity of literally enforcing a contract. Very interesting piece of work.

  87. num1skeptic says:

    @humperdinck: these people are clearly fanboys of large corporations and greed and money. your right, why are they even on the consumerist when clearly they are not advocates of the consumer. they are supporters of bs policies and big money.

  88. num1skeptic says:

    and i stand by my previous a-hole comment

  89. num1skeptic says:

    before anyone starts to argue with me i must inform you that i’m right and your wrong, and there is no amount of insults you could type to change that.

  90. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: You do realize that yes, wrongful chargebacks DO raise prices for everyone else because it’s the merchant that eats it — right?

  91. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: And no, I’m not conceding that it’s not fraud, apparently you think I have posted “I take back this comment” to everything I have said when I have not in fact done so. Way to put words in my mouth. Go read up on what’s valid grounds for a chargeback sometime. It might be a good lesson for you.

  92. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: Yes, they will, when they get their credit card acceptance fees raised. They WILL lose the money. If you cost a credit card issuer more money, they jack your rates, and sometimes even cut you off entirely. Rate jacks get passed along to us, the customer.

  93. EricaKane says:

    @Buran: LOL! Keep blaming her for the continued rise in merchant costs. Why not blame her for the rising cost of fuel for taking all these trips while you are it.

  94. bonzombiekitty says:

    I’m sorry, but I’m generally with Buran on this one. Just like in the thread about basically the same subject – if you buy a non-refundable ticket you assume the risk of something unexpected happening (death, sickness, etc) and having to pay an agreed upon fee to cancel the ticket. You pay less for the ticket because it is non-refundable. As buran said, you agreed to pay the cancellation fee in exchange for a lower ticket price. To be upset at a company for failing to uphold an agreement and not doing so for a consumer that fails to uphold an agreement is hypocritical.

    Would it be nice if the airline would refund the ticket? Yes. Is this person entitled to a full refund? No.

  95. Buran says:

    @EricaKane: Blame goes where blame deserved. Do you work for Hawaiian Air or Amex or something? You’re sure a good apologist.

  96. Jasmo says:

    You know what is even more humiliating than having to pay a cancellation fee for your dead mother’s unused ticket?

    Having the entire situation dissected and argued over on a consumer complaints blog.

  97. coan_net says:

    Wow – I can’t believe that the Consumerist would stoop to the level to say they charge a “death fee”

    There is no “death fee” – it was a fee for the refund. If you slipped on a banana, and smashed your head on a picnic table and then unable to take a flight… I can see the Consumerist headline now:

    “Company has a slipped on a banana & smashed head on picnic table fee!”

    Bottom line (as said from someone above) – It would be nice if they gave a full refund, but they are not entitled to it unless it was part of the terms when the tickets were bought.

    …. and I’m ashamed that The Consumerist would use such a misleading headline.

  98. hollerhither says:

    @Buran:
    Someone died. Did you die?

    You’re just arguing to be a contrarian, and it’s getting a little old.

  99. Buran says:

    @hollerhither: No, I’m standing up for my principles and for the value of keeping one’s word. The fact that the woman died doesn’t matter, as there’s no exception for the fee for that reason.

    Whatever happened to your worth being judged by your word?

  100. Buran says:

    @coan_net: The LA Times did; this site is reprinting (in slightly modified form) the headline.

  101. num1skeptic says:

    @hollerhither: aren’t you one of buran’s followers?

  102. Buran says:

    @num1skeptic: I’m a fanGIRL of being honest and keeping your word and not being a whiny crybaby.

    What’s really sad is that people think that is offensive and unacceptable and that it’s OK to bitch and moan and whine til you get what you want.

  103. Buran says:

    @humperdinck: Um… it’s the DAUGHTER that signed the contract. Not the mother. As I’ve already pointed out, if the mother had purchased the tickets, the debt would be written off by the bank as a loss as debt is discharged when you die.

    Good heavens, expecting people to live up to the obligations they enter into!?!? The sky is falling! OMG! The world is coming to an end!

  104. num1skeptic says:

    must be easy to be a girl of your word when your on the consumerist 24/7

  105. theycallmetak says:

    Wow, I almost don’t have anything to say. Almost.

    HAL (Hawaiian Airlines) had a contract, sure. Terms of said contract involved processing fee for any changes. They were within their rights to charge the $75.

    They were NOT within their rights charging it 3 times.

    With all the facts (7 months notice, the cancellation is due to death, etc.) they should have been able to waive the fee as a courtesy.

    To all those saying there’s too much potential abuse, there’s a really simple fix. Instead of verifying every single death (waaaaaaaaaaaay too much effort involved right) waive the fee and put the name into a database for the future. Anytime that name pops up on subsequent itineraries, it is red flagged and the customer is contacted to provide information.

    As for what it costs Hawaiian (not Hawaii) Airlines to process the refund, chalk up the CSR’s comments to stupidity.

    I do know this: Hawaiian Airlines has outsourced all of their reservations to the Philippines. Hawaiian Airlines has also just put in a $4.4 billion order for 24 Airbus aircraft. Not Boeing. Airbus.

  106. swalve says:

    @humperdinck: Why should we require that of companies when we don’t require it of consumers? Do you think the consumers are going to be loyal if and when it doesn’t suit their needs?

    What about the rights of the owners of the companies to not lose money on people trying to take advantage of them?

  107. Buran says:

    @num1skeptic: OMG! I dare to voice my opinions! Therefore I apparently suck!

  108. EricaKane says:

    Excuse me, but everyone has the right to write in letters and ask for certain types of relief. It is entirely up to the businesses to decide how they react to those letters.

    Companies that understand the value of long-term goodwill and public relations will see a situation involving a dead passenger as an isolated incidence and take care of their customer in order to get further business. Amex understood that, Hawaiian air decided that a $225 fee was worth offending a customer and potentially enormous amounts of potential bad publicity

    I’m sure this lady will travel to Hawaii in the future, maybe not in a year (and therefore a credit voucher on their airline is worthless) but she will probably go, and I bet Hawaii air has no chance of getting her business.

    This wasn’t a super-bargain shopper, this was a lady who bought 3 First Class tickets. Obviously a woman with the economic means to drop some cash.

  109. erratapage says:

    @Murph1908: How may people die before using their plane tickets and seek refunds? I’m fine with your verification rule, but I doubt it would be much more of an administrative burden to ask the decedent’s estate to fax (or snail mail) a death certificate than it is to deny the claim. I mean… I can keep those people on the phone for a long time while I argue my case. Then, I can escalate the matter and take more of their time.

    Or you can give me my $75 back because it’s the “right thing” to do (after you’ve viewed the death certificate, of course).

  110. erratapage says:

    One last point…

    I do understand that these companies are well within their rights to charge fees, deny refunds, and generally act like pricks.

    What I don’t understand is why people wouldn’t rather do business with a company that makes an effort to maintain a positive relationship with its customers.

  111. Buran says:

    @erratapage: Now that is a good question. I think it’s a case of “they all suck equally so where are you going to go?”

  112. crypticgeek says:

    @hollerhither: Whatever happened to practicing good business? I understand your position totally, and living up to one’s word is a good ideal to hold. I just don’t quite understand why you seem to have argued so fervently for your opinion.

    Can’t you atleast admit that the other’s opinion that the fee should be waived because of this special circumstance is as valid as yours? You act as if it’s so onerous a request that one shouldn’t even consider it!

    Haven’t you ever had a close family member die? As a customer service issue, and the morally right thing to do in my mind, is to ask for proof of death and waive the fee if it’s provided.

    Yes, they are completely within their right to charge the fee. That doesn’t make them any less of a GIANT DICK for doing so though. Jesus, don’t you people have ANY empathy at all?

  113. bonzombiekitty says:

    @crypticgeek: I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with asking for a full refund due to a death. Some companies might be nice and give that full refund. Others won’t. I don’t even have much of a problem with telling other people “hey, this company doesn’t have any empathy because they won’t give full refunds when a trip has to be canceled due to death.” That might be information other people would like to know.

    The problem with the situation here is that she ultimately went to Amex to get the refund. It just seems underhanded to me. Amex should not have been involved at all as there were nothing fraudulent about the charges. Once Amex was called to dispute a charge that is known to be valid, then I start to lose sympathy.

  114. Buran says:

    @crypticgeek: So we’re dicks for asking others to hold up to their promises? Wow. So we’re dicks if we do and dicks if we don’t.

    I think there’s nothing wrong at all with ASKING, but it’s being an entitlement whore/bitch/insert-your-favorite-insult-here when you get told “no” that’s not acceptable.

  115. ninjatales says:

    Doesn’t make much sense to charge a refund fee since refunding would lower the gross profits of a business allowing for lower taxation.

    Unless of course Hawaiian Air has a robot designing these fees because common sense tells you that causing additional grief on someone who’s already going through a tough period ain’t exactly good for customer retention.