Miss Your Plane And US Airways Cancels Your Return Flight, Offers No Compensation

Reader Chad is at the airport right now and boy is he angry at US Airways.

I have a lovely story that I hope you’ll run about our favorite industry… Airlines :)

I’m on a blackberry so forgive my typing.

On December 10th I booked a flight with “US airways” to Ohio from Fort Lauderdale, FL all went well and I actually landed a decent price ($300) for my round trip ticket. I was supposed to fly in the 23rd and fly out the 27th. On the 12th my friend let me know he was moving north and would be driving up. Being the buddy I am I agreed to accompany him on his trek and help with driving (19.5 hours on the road). This meant I would leave town on the 20th… 3 days before my scheduled flight.

The drive was long and tiring but we made it in 1 shot and I was in Ohio before my flight ever departed. The 23rd came and went no phone calls, no emails, no nadda from any of the parties involved. Today is the 27th and as I stand in Dayton OH and my flight leaves without me I have decided to write you my story.

See apparently if you book a round trip ticket and miss part of the flight “US airways” cancels all other flights related to said flight without notification. As if this isn’t a bit of a shock, they also refuse to issue a refund or credit towards other flights… They did say the would roll the cost into another ticket, it would only cost me another $300 after fines and differences in price! What a deal…

I passed on such a wonderful offer after pleading with them they informed me that my scheduled flight was full, so even though my ticket was cancelled… even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t get on the plane anyway. So they had sold the same seat to 2 people… How is this industry is so broke with business tactics like this I will never know.

I ended up booking another flight at another airport with another airline (US airways will never get another dollar from me). In my 2 hours of down time I decided to give them a call and see if I couldn’t at least get credit towards a future flight… Or maybe my money back.

I went through 4 supervisors and at least 2 call centers, once I was threatened with a hang up for losing my cool. Long story short I’m out $300. The last lady who helped me was by far the nicest however she wouldn’t cop a deal either. I tried various routes… I just wanted “something” for my $300… And I don’t mean a headache or phone thuggery. I tried getting 150 packets of $2 peanuts, maybe 300 pairs of disposable ear phones… Or maybe a credit voucher for a flight… Or maybe some money back. All without result.

In closing to our conversation I told her “I hope you enjoy your $300 because I will never fly your airline again, and I’ll make sure to let everyone know of my joyous experience… I hope this costs you thousands, happy holidays.”

Thanks a lot and keep up the good work guys!

-Chad Seaman

We’ve heard of airlines canceling return flights if the customer misses the plane, but it seems really harsh to try to charge the poor guy another $300! Any seasoned travelers have advice for Chad?

(Photo:zonaphoto)

Comments

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  1. jamesdenver says:

    Uh – yeah. Unless you booked two completely separate one way fares that’s the way it works, and has worked for years. There’s nothing shocking or surprising about this. Is this his first time flying? Only a newbie would ever think he can miss their outbound and the rest of the trip would stand waiting. Sucks there’s not more info on that rule (I guess this story helps) but it’s nothing new.

    I love the last paragraph insisting he’ll never fly them again. (For the second time in his e-mail) That’s been the joke here and everywhere for the past year. Of course he’ll fly them again with the schedule and price match his needs.

  2. outofoffice says:

    I read and re-read this and still don’t know what USAirways has done wrong. I dislike airlines and their archaic policies as much as everyone else. But as far as I know, all legacy and most discount carriers will cancel your return if you never show up, it’s part of the contract of carriage.

    Did Chad notify USAirways prior to the outbound? If he had, he would of faced the standard change fee plus any price difference for the new ticket. Otherwise, USAirways is behaving correctly and the same as most other carriers would.

  3. TomK says:

    Do a chargeback on your card.

  4. jamesdenver says:

    Also I’ve flown enough times to consider myself “seasoned” – and my advice (for the future) is confirm confirm confirm.

    He should have confirmed he could(n’t) use his return. He should have confirmed the basic ticket rules. He also should have called the airline BEFORE his departure to work something out.

    Maybe his credit card will help him out – but I unfortunately only see it as an expensive lesson. Or at least a lesson to others that if you plan on MISSING your outbound you better be on the phone changing plans.

  5. soup123 says:

    Its standard industry practice. They charge high one-way fares, and if everyone bought a cheap roundtrip and only used half of it, they couldnt charge high one way fares.

    Your best bet is to fly on a low cost carrier like Southwest or Jetblue where they charge most fares as one-way and won’t penalize you as much if you miss one of the flights.

  6. headhot says:

    Call you credit card company and cancel the charges.

    Same thing happened to me, but with Continental. Called Amex, and then charged Continental back.

    Boy was Continental pissed. They called me up and threatened all kind of stuff. I told them their beef was with Amex, and to not contact me again.

    It all went away after that.

  7. jamesdenver says:

    What does this mean “The 23rd came and went and no phone calls or e-mails from any parties”

    Is he referring to the AIRLINE? Am I understanding this right – that he expected US AIR to call HIM, asking “Hey Chad what’s up dude, didn’t see you on the outbound – where you at?”

    Is that right or did I miss something?

  8. just_paranoid says:

    u.s. airways never ceases to amaze me.

  9. endersshadow says:

    I’ve had this happen to me with AA. I called and tried to reschedule my flight 3 days in advance. I was told it would be $1,000 (no joke) to change my flight. I said, “Okay, well, I don’t want to do that, but can I keep my return flight?” I was told that I could, even though I told her I was going to look into alternative travel arrangements (read: JetBlue). So I go to the AA ticket window in Florida and find myself stranded because I didn’t get on the original flight.

    And I haven’t flown AA since, nor will I ever.

  10. design_chick says:

    He’s the reason that they sell the same ticket to 2 people. No-show factor for people that choose to drive with their friends.

  11. jkaufman101 says:

    Wow. This guy is a total moron. Of *course* his return flight is going to be canceled if he missed the 1st segment. This airline practice has been going on for *years*.

    Why is even posted on this site? It’s not news.

  12. DrGirlfriend says:

    Agreeing with @jamesdenver. It’s always been that way – the airlines will indeed cancel your entire itinerary of you do not show up for any leg of your flight. If there are any exceptions I don’t know of any.

  13. DrGirlfriend says:

    @jkaufman101: I don’t know that this is common knowledge, so it’s a good thing that it’s posted here. To disseminate the information.

  14. legotech says:

    I’ve known since I was 12 and flying to grammas that if you miss a leg of your planned ticket they cancel the rest…if you don’t show up to LEAVE the city, why would they assume you made it to your destination and you want to go back?

  15. evslin says:

    @DrGirlfriend: Indeed, I didn’t know that, but then again I rarely fly. Now I know in case something comes up when I go on vacation in a few months.

  16. ColoradoShark says:

    I’ve got to jump on the blame the victim bandwagon.
    Seriously, has the OP flown before?

    If I were an airline I would act the same way. Assume someone who didn’t show up for a flight or call about it won’t be at the far end of the flight to take the return trip. I’d cancel the whole ticket and resell the seat. Non-refundable tickets work this way. A round trip ticket for $300 is a pretty good deal. Think what it would cost in gas and wear and tear on your car. If you were driving alone you’d stay in a hotel overnight both ways.

  17. ClayS says:

    People don’t seem to realize that if you purchase the most restricted, non-refundable ticket, you must fly the route exactly as scheduled. You cannot make any changes whatsoever without incurring extremely high penalties.

    If there is a decent chance your plans may change, it may be worthwile purchasing a less restrictive class of ticket or travel insurance.

  18. SJActress says:

    Um…it’s called a ROUND-TRIP TICKET. Singular. Meaning ONE ticket for the WHOLE trip. If you’re not there to get ON the plane to depart, your WHOLE ticket is cancelled.

    Do you think they just assumed you would drive 1000 miles to get on the return flight? How many people miss planes that go that far and still get on the return flight?

    I don’t think U.S. Airways did anything wrong in this case.

  19. PaperBoy says:

    C’mon, on know the favorite game here is Blame The Victim, but many travelers don’t know that if you miss one leg they cancel then entire itinerary.

    But, yeah, dude, it’s called a nonrefundable ticket for a reason.

  20. jamesdenver says:

    Also if he demonstrated the same smarmy ‘tude with the CSRs as he does in his letter I’m not surprised he wasn’t offered any breaks.

    I agree it’s good to post an extremely stupid mistake so others won’t make it. Anyone crawling out of a cave and making a rez should at LEAST read the bullet points on the contract, fine print as they are. And call ONCE the day of flight to confirm.

    But sorry – I’m driving the blame/victim bandwagon. Chad shows NO sign of being proactive, and reading between the lines: “they didn’t call me” and “I finally decided to call them” makes it seem as though he thinks he booked a private charter or something.

    “Goysh darn it they sold TWO seats to the SAME person.” Christ my retired mom even knows this – and uses it to attempt getting bumped.

    Chad yeah it’s your fault but you are sharing a story for others. But for some perspective I’m curious

    1 How old are you?
    2 Have you booked a ticket and flown before?
    3 When was the FIRST time you call USAIR?

  21. maximeyocks says:

    This is strange becaus everyone says it’s been this way for years…nu uh. My friend just did something similar and she flew with Alaska Airlines, she has a one-way waiting for her to use with no hassle, no fees no nada. Not all airlines are the same people…However…he still should have checked with the airline.

  22. newspapersaredead says:

    I think the airline was in the right to assume that he wasn’t going to be on the return flight. They need to maximize the seating and can’t leave empty seats when other people want to purchase the seats. However I cannot understand why the airline wouldn’t put him on the next available flight. I can’t imagine this situation comes up very often. It wouldn’t cost them any more money and it would keep an angry customer from complaining to a consumer driven website.

  23. jkaufman101 says:

    @maximeyocks: This would be the *extreme* exception then. Alaska’s rules are the same as all the other airlines when it comes to honoring the remainder of a partially abandoned r/t ticket without an additional charge.

    The OP is a retard, plain and simple.

  24. DrGirlfriend says:

    @maximeyocks: That is an exception, really. The norm is for airlines to cancel your itinerary.

  25. jamesdenver says:

    @jkaufman101:

    The friend, or friend of a friend, probably called Alaska PRIOR to departure and made arrangements to use keep (rebook) the return portion.

    Maybe she got fees waived depending on flyer status or by not being a complete dick to the CSR.

  26. 7j6cei says:

    God bless Southwest. Better routes, better prices, AND YOUR TRIP IS ALWAYS SOLD AS 2 PARTS (out and back). I fly from Chicago to Portland Oregon 2 times a month. I could Drive to Portland, miss my flight, check in and fly back to Chicago and no one cares. Oh, and I can get my money for the ticket from Chicago to Portland applied to another flight.

    I flew US Air once. NEVER AGAIN. Flew from Chicago to Phoenix, was forced to get my bags and ride to another terminal, check in again, go thru security again, and on to Portland. Oh, and the same on the way back. Did I mention that I bought the ticket from AMERICAN WEST!!!!

    US Air is all about bait and switch! If anyone from US Air is reading this, please fix your crap or roll over and DIE!!!

  27. n301dp says:

    Another lesson here folks: read the fare rules when you buy a ticket. This would have happened on US Airways, United, Frontier, Singapore Airlines, etc.

  28. typetive says:

    I do have to say that the airlines don’t make it clear that you can’t just pick and chose which legs of your flight you’d like to show up for. I’m guessing if he just called and said he missed the flight at or around the departure time but intended to use the return leg they probably would have honored the ticket.

    Here’s the USAirways policy:

    “If any part of the ticket is unused after the ticketed departure date and the reservation has not been canceled, the ticket has no value.”

    [www.usairways.com]

  29. AbsoluteIrrelevance says:

    This is not the way it is for all airlines. Pre-9/11 I had a roundtrip flight out of CVG I missed, but caught my scheduled flight back. It was Delta, and I’m not even a Gold Member, or whatever it is, with the company. No big deal at the time. Things may have changed since airlines really need the money now, even if it is at the expense of a customer hating them.

  30. Bos'un's Mate says:

    “Non-refundable Tickets: If any part of the ticket is unused after the ticketed departure date and the reservation has not been canceled, the ticket has no value. “
    US Airways General Policies

    Incidentally, the best advice I received in college was from a sign taped above the computer lab help desk: R.T.F.M.

  31. pestie says:

    I don’t get why so many people here are being total dicks about this – I’ve been flying for years, but I had no idea it would work this way. I’ve never had reason to even consider the possibility. Even if there’s technically nothing wrong with what US Airways did, at least this post on Consumerist lets people like me know this is a possibility. Jesus. Lighten up, people.

  32. Alex Morse says:

    Agree with @pestie.

    Hang on everyone. Is this a consumer blog, or an airline apologist blog?

    Yes this is the policy with many airlines, but it’s not brought to people’s attention, it’s not common knowledge, and it’s definitely not in the interest of the consumers. More, when people run into it, it’s EXACTLY like above. The level of resentment and inconvenience is really hard to match.

    I flew for years before I ran into it, found the documentation buried in the fine print about 3 paragraphs in. I didn’t even know I was buying non-refundable tickets at the time!

    The bottom line is, this is not acceptable behavior from a business. If they’re going to have such a policy, they damn well better make sure it’s really really obvious. They shouldn’t have the policy to begin with. Heck, I even agree they should have called. Even an automated system saying “you missed your flight, your return trip has been canned,” would have been quite an improvement.

    It’s no wonder the majority of the american airtravel industry is barely surviving when they have such complicated, inconvenient, and non-customer oriented processes.

  33. latemodel says:

    If thats their policy then so be it, but my seat that I paid for had better be empty when the plane takes off cause I paid for it and the airline should not be able to sell it again and keep my money since my lack of performance did not cost them anything. I used to fly 36 weeks a year and have avoided USAir since they stranded me in Ithaca NY many years ago.

  34. Eric1285 says:

    So it’s perfectly fine for us to break their rules, but when they break their rules, we go into an uproar?

    Please, if you expect them to play by the rules, you should too.

  35. bver100 says:

    it’s always been like this though. A lot of times airlines have promotions where flying A to B costs 1000, while flying A to C through B costs only 300. If you get the one stop ticket and skip the second half of the journey, they’ll go back and retroactively charge you the difference. I guess it’s basically saying you reneged on a contract

  36. weg1978 says:

    @Alex Morse: “Is this a consumer blog, or an airline apologist blog?” Last time I checked, it’s not a dumb@$$ customer apologist blog either. Read the terms of service when you buy the ticket and if you don’t like them, travel by other means. That little box you check when buying the ticket actually means something, and it’s not a license to be a moron.

  37. Teapotfox says:

    My parents, sister and I flew to Vegas from Philadelphia this summer and used US Airways. We bought round trip tickets and paid for non-stop flights both ways. When we showed up at McCarran to board our return flight, we found out it had been cancelled, and the next flight was in twelve hours… oh, and it wasn’t a non-stop. It was a red-eye to Columbus, OH, another three hours of waiting there and then a quick jump back to Philadelphia. We’d already checked out of our hotel, so we hung around the airport.

    We were frustrated, but polite. The people at the US Airways desk in McCarran gave us each meal vouchers valid anywhere in the airport and were very nice and apologetic. It was an annoying experience, but when I made a polite and reasonable complaint to US Airways customer service later that week–I missed a day of work because of the whole thing–I received $1000 in airfare vouchers that I can use anytime over the next year. Originally it was four vouchers of $250 each, in each of our four names, but when my family told me they don’t intend to fly again anytime soon, the customer service folks at US Airways agreed to waive the $100 name-change fee (?!) on all the vouchers… so I can use them all (I am the big traveler of the family).

    I know lots of people have US Airways horror stories, and what we went through wasn’t exactly fun, but I feel they did a great job of responding to my personal complaint.

  38. jamesdenver says:

    TEAPOT that’s a great story but it has nothing to do with the context of this issue. Every company has wonderful stories and horror stories.

    @weg1978: Good point. EVERY website has an agreement box stating “I have read blah blah blah” I don’t read them either, but you’re right it DOES state you agree to READ the terms.

    Or if he had purchase by phone they rattle off the restrictions before confirming the flight.

    So the rules AREN’T hidden away in a dusty book somewhere.

    p.s. I’m sure this is stretching it – but if I make reservations at my favorite restaurant on a busy night and don’t show up – why would I think they could or would accomodate me later in the evening?

  39. P41 says:

    So enough of the “it’s in the terms of service numbskull”. That explains why they wouldn’t refund the ticket or let him change the date or something. Still doesn’t justify not honoring the return flight. The way I see it, he paid for the outbound seat and if was empty so what, it’s paid for. But the RETURN flight is also paid for, and he didn’t miss it, and as long as he shows up on time, they’re the ones that should be responsible for putting him in the seat or compensating him.

    If I showed up late to a movie, and they wouldn’t let me in to see what was left because I have to start from the beginning commercials and all, yeah I’d think I was being ripped off. I’d say try a chargeback, when that fails take them to small claims court. Ask for the selling price of the replacement ticket, not the $150 of the return ticket. It won’t be worth their time to even send someone, worst that will happen is you’ll be there alone, the judge still rules against you, you’ve lost a couple of hours and the filing fee, but keep your pride.

    I still regret not being in a position to sue Bank of America for the five dollars unlawfully removed from my account without notice. Do it, it’ll be therapeutic. Oh and for the airline shills, I have 50k miles in the air in 2007 and I wouldn’t expect or accept this crap either.

  40. RISwampyankee says:

    Ok, this might be Dumb Question of the Day, but if the airline cancels the flight or if you miss an out bound connection because your flight was late does the airline then turn around and cancel your return?

  41. Teapotfox says:

    @jamesdenver: My mistake, I thought this story involved a personal experience with US Airways and its customer service department, just as mine did. Previous commenters pointed out that a person often gets a better end result by being polite with customer service, and speculated that the OP might not have been… I thought my story was an example of that, as well.

  42. hydrargyrum says:

    sidenote: you should actually be requesting 10,000 packets, seeing as they cost $0.03 cents per package
    [[consumerist.com]]

  43. sleze69 says:

    @pestie: I have flown for years (over 50,000 miles last year alone) and I have never, EVER heard of this rule. Sorry that this guy had to learn the hard way so if I have to do the same thing in the future, I will definately call ahead.

  44. yg17 says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is…..If I paid for a round trip ticket from point A to B and back, what does the airline lose if I don’t show up on the A-B trip but do show up on the B-A trip? If anything, they’re saving 3 cents since they don’t need to give me any pretzels. I’m the only one losing out, as I’m paying for a service and not using it.

  45. Skeptic says:

    BY WEG1978 AT 07:54 PM
    “@Alex Morse: “Is this a consumer blog, or an airline apologist blog?” Last time I checked, it’s not a dumb@$$ customer apologist blog either. Read the terms of service when you buy the ticket and if you don’t like them, travel by other means. That little box you check when buying the ticket actually means something, and it’s not a license to be a moron.”

    Being unaware of a ridiculous policy that you have never run into is not being a moron but calling someone a moron on that basis is moronic. I’ve never run into this egregious policy and I most definitely am not a moron. Of course, I also mostly fly Southwest who, IIRC, does not have this policy that you seem to consider reasonable by dint of being “traditional.” Please, don’t blame the victim for unconscionable airline policies forced on consumers.

  46. Ecoaster says:

    It’s called throw-away ticketing and it’s against airline rules. Try booking a one-way for the second segment you actually wanted to take— it will be more expensive than the RT… that’s why they don’t allow this throw-away.

    As already mentioned, if you do not contact the airline PRIOR to departure, your ticket technically turns into a pumpkin and all subsequent segments are cancelled.

    If you DO contact them, they might just be nice and rebook you on a later flight– or they could charge you change fees and any fare differences to rebook. This is the risk you take flying on a cheapo non-refundable ticket.

    I don’t know about other airlines, but Continental makes it pretty clear that you need to let them know BEFORE departure if you ain’t gonna make it.

  47. weg1978 says:

    @Skeptic: I can’t say this enough: When you check the little box that says you have read and agree with the terms and conditions of service, you are acquiescing to the policy, whether you read it or not. Just because people skip it because they think it’s as bad as a software EULA does not excuse their ignorance. Maybe we should get the gov’t to mandate a quiz on the terms and conditions before you can buy the ticket. That way, everyone will be forced to be aware of the policy. And I suppose you’ll want that quiz at no additional cost, right? Yeah, the gov’t is the answer…

  48. Ecoaster says:

    @RISwampyankee: “if the airline cancels the flight or if you miss an out bound connection because your flight was late does the airline then turn around and cancel your return?”

    No- because they airline knows what’s going on with you, and you also haven’t broken any of their rules when this happens…. so they’ll work with you to accomodate / rebook according to whatever their policy is.

  49. RISwampyankee says:

    Thanks EC. Good to know.

  50. MeOhMy says:

    I was not previously aware of this policy either! My logic tells me that since I PAID for both legs, the airline should not care less if I actually show up on both of them – they get to keep the unused part of the fare and maybe even sell my no-show seat to someone on standby. But I still PAID for the return trip and should damn well be able to use it if I want to!

    But of course since it’s an airline, all logic goes out the window.

    Good to know, though.

  51. littlejohnny says:

    @ RISWAMPYANKEE
    Yes. I was on a US airs flight and missed my connection. They could not get me on a flight until the next morning, but I was only going for the weekend, so that didn’t help. I was only a 2 hour drive away so I rented a car. (one way rental) Fortunately, for me, I told the lady at the desk that I was contemplating this as an option and she told me that if I did, to call customer service and tell them so that my return flight wouldn’t be canceled. I was very close to being stranded without a return flight. I’ve been flying regularly for work for the last 6 years now, and this is the first time I’ve encountered this rule.

  52. Nighthawke says:

    Chargeback, BBB, local chambers of commerce, ad agencies, TV stations where they run their ads. Deceptive marketing practices like this need to be stop-punched HARD. It needs to knock them off their feet and make them rethink their practices.

  53. smarty says:

    The Consumerist repeatedly posted about reading the FINE PRINT with cell phone contracts in order to get out early without a fee when the cell phone company BREAKS THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT, (which is perfectly great advice BTW).
    Yet here are probably the same readers and Meg with her “it seems really harsh” line trying to make excuses for Chad not reading the FINE PRINT which explicitly explains what will happen if he BREAKS THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT. Holding the cell phone company to the terms of the contract and it’s ok, but an airline holding a consumer to the terms of the contract is not ok.
    What hypocrisy.

  54. weg1978 says:

    @smarty: Amen

  55. humphrmi says:

    @TomK, @Nighthawke and others suggesting a charge-back: Unfortunately when you’re in the wrong, you won’t get a chargeback. This is standard practice by all airlines, not just US Airways. It sucks, but it has been upheld repeatedly.

    If he had called and explained what he wanted to do (cancel the outbound and retain the return trip) before the flight, they probably would have still charged him a change fee (I’m assuming, since $300 for that trip has got to be a non-ref) but he would have at least had something. But he violated the contract of carriage, so he’s out. Sorry, it sucks, but them’s the breaks.

  56. squikysquiken says:

    The OP broke the first rule of being a good consumer. Don’t assume things work the way you want them to work. Call and make sure. Even if he didn’t know it is common practice for airlines to cancel return tickets when the first leg is a no-show, he should have called to confirm this was the case.

    Maybe he also expects restaurants to rebook reservations the next day when he decides not to show up ?

  57. erratapage says:

    See… a long time ago, throw away ticketing was a big deal, because airlines priced one-way trips so much higher than round trips. Then, the travel writers told everyone to buy round trips and throw away the leg they didn’t need. So, the airlines invented the rule that you had to use all legs of your ticket.

    Ultimately, these days, one-ways are much more competitively priced (thanks to Southwest and other discount airlines). Rarely is it cheaper to buy a roundtrip ticket than a one way ticket these days.

    However, the old throw away ticketing rules still apply when the airlines want them to. It’s a great way to steal a customer’s money.

    For the record, United once refuse me compensation when I was stranded in Chicago due to their negligence. I haven’t flown them since. Price is not the only factor I use to purchase flights. I find it extremely easy to avoid using companies that piss me off. Heck… I can even avoid Northwest most of the time, and there are few Minnesotans who haven’t been pissed off with Northwest (they’ve never pissed me off, but I do my best to minimize my risk).

  58. uricmu says:

    I don’t understand something.

    I just booked flights on USAir a couple of days ago and all the options I looked at cost the same as two one-ways or as one round-trip. Is this just my experience or do airlines now use the Southwest model (price each leg independently?)

  59. Unnamed Source says:

    The reality is that you practically need a lawyer to translate the fare rules and terms and conditions. Since all airlines have only their best interests in mind, we really need Congress to pass a passengers bill of rights and put passengers on equal footing with the airlines.

  60. smbfl says:

    Airlines sometimes have specials where you get a hugely discounted fare if you stay over a weekend. People were buying two of those tickets and just throwing away half of each ticket to get the lower fare so the airlines came up with this rule. There are a couple of class action suits out there right now over this. Interesting article in the New York Times today about Justice Scalia perhaps having just done a little throw away ticketing.

  61. dantsea says:

    @maximeyocks: I can tell you as a matter of fact that such an event is the exception, not the rule. Your friend might have purchased a full fare ticket, have elite status in their mileage program (amazing how that can make so many rules flexible), or simply run into an agent having a very good day.

    @pestie, et al: Part of being a good consumer is being an informed consumer. Don’t expect much pity here or elsewhere if you rant on about an event not going your way, when all the circumstances were entirely within your control all by virtue of reading the rules or calling and asking questions.

  62. kepler11 says:

    Consumerist needs to be more objective and reasonable, and not use misleading headlines that suggest there is an innocent customer being screwed over.

    The story is a little bit hard to understand, but it seems that this guy did not “miss” his flight. He *decided* not to take it without telling the airline or anything. Of course his ticket was going to be canceled.

  63. madanthony says:

    @smbfl – the reason for those sharply discounted fares if you stay over the weekend is because airlines want to segment their customers into two groups and charge them as much as possible – economists call it price discrimination. The idea is that business travelers are willing to pay for the convenience of not staying over (since they aren’t paying for the ticket anyway) but leisure travelers don’t mind doing it to save money.

    The rules that tripped up our hapless OP were meant to prevent people from buying two sets of tickets that require weekends and tossing half. Convoluted, sure, but them the rules.

  64. goodkitty says:

    I didn’t know about this policy either, and I think having something you paid for being denied to you just because of fine print should be seriously illegal. You can either be “read the fine print, moran” and accept all fine print, including the consumerist favorite–mandatory binding arbitration–or you can grow up a little and realize that you know what, none of us has billions of dollars and a huge business and WE are the little guys who need to be protected from companies and organizations that set rules and policies in a hostile way geared solely towards fleecing us as much as possible. One of the last times that happened in America, I think there was a little revolution or something. But then we could have moved to France, I suppose?

    I know… if you don’t like it, don’t fly, don’t travel, don’t leave home, because since we can all read the fine print, we should be accepting of everything.

    Bonus… why do airlines still do stupid things like charging an equivalent or greater fee than the whole ticket cost just to change one aspect of it? Well… none of this will matter in 10 years when all the airlines are bankrupt, and then we won’t have stories like this to worry about!

  65. sam_sheezy says:

    *sigh* As a travel agent, a VERY frequent flier, and a former airline employee, it drives me crazy when people don’t read the rules before they buy. Would you spend $300.00 at a store an piece of equipment and then not bother to familiarize yourself with the store’s return policy and the warranty? When you buy a plane ticket, you are making a contract with the airline. If you don’t bother to read the rules, that’s your problem, not theirs. Don’t you expect them to live up to their end of the bargain? Then live up to yours.

    There are a few rules that you should always assume apply:

    1.) If your ticket was even remotely reasonably priced, you’re flying on a non-refundable ticket. The only tickets that are refundable are Y and F class tickets, and trust me– you’re not flying on those.

    2.) If your ticket was a great deal, it’s probably non-refundable AND non-changeable. There’s a reason that they sold you that super cheap ticket on the 4:30 am Wednesday flight from Eugene to Fresno– it’s ’cause no one else wants to be on it! They’re trying to fill the seats, so, no, you CAN’T use that ticket for the 7:00 pm Friday flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles. And if you miss your flight? Sorry Charlie, you’re screwed.

    3.) Expect even more rules if you bought your ticket through a second party website, like Travelocity or Orbitz. Sure, you might get a great deal on a ticket. But when there’s a problem or you need to make a change, good luck getting Mr. Website on the phone, and the airline? Ya, they don’t want to help you either. If you want customer service and some flexibility, you better book directly with the airline or with a travel agent.

    4.) You have to pay the change fee. Don’t try to haggle it, don’t complain about it. Change fees are fair– if you want the ability to change your ticket, you have to pay for it. First, it takes a lot of work to make a date change. Reissuing tickets is NOT as easy as just clicking a button. Plus, you bought a seat on a specific flight. Because of that, the airline has marked that seat as sold and NOT sold it to other people who might also want to be on your flight. When you change to another flight, the airline (potentially) loses money– the passenger that wanted your seat just bought it from another airline. Imagine if the airlines booked each flight to capacity and then five people one each flight failed to show up? Each empty seat on a plane costs a ton of money. When you change your date, you potentially cost them a seat. And you have to pay for that.

    5.) …And any difference in fare. Familiarize yourself with fare structures, it’ll save you a world of heartache. As a plane fills up/sells out, the cost of tickets on that plane increase. It’s basic supply and demand. If you bought a T-class ticket for $325.00 but want to change to a flight that only has V-class available (and V-class costs $525.00), you have to pay that difference in fare. Why should they let you use your cheaper ticket on the more expensive flight?

    In addition: Yes, yes. Southwest doesn’t charge change fees. But you DO have to pay the fare difference and sometimes it’s a LOT. They also don’t allow standby, and if one of their flights gets cancelled or takes a huge delay or misconnects, you’re screwed because your Southwest ticket is NOT valid on any other airline. They won’t FIM you to anyone else and you can’t Rule 240 your Southwest ticket– no one will take it. You couldn’t PAY me to take Southwest. It’s just not worth it.

  66. RamonaLittle says:

    I’m rather horrified by all the people blaming Chad for not being familiar with this rule. It doesn’t matter whether this is in the fine print he “agreed to” while buying a ticket — if even 1% of flyers read all the fine print they’re supposedly “agreeing to,” I’ll eat my hat.

    Personally I haven’t done much flying before this year, and I had never heard of this rule. And for the record I actually *did* read, or at least skim, most of the fine print, partly because I’m an attorney and actually like that kind of thing, and partly because being a new flyer I knew there might be rules I didn’t know about. And I don’t remember seeing anything about this. Some of my flights were on USAirways.

    For an airline to cancel one leg of a flight without any notice to the flyer seems like a pretty major issue, and if that’s the rule, they should be doing a much better job of making this clear to people.

    So I’m glad I’ve learned about this now, but all you people blaming Chad are being real jerks. And that includes USAirways.

  67. Landru says:

    I’m with Chad on this one. And with Ramona, too, you jerks.

  68. JustIcedCoffee says:

    I was lucky enough to learn this lesson in college, and luckily it was not me flying, and even more lucky my friend essentially threw the ticket (pre 9/11) at the agent, and said “don’t be silly, how do you think I got to colorado?”
    That being said, it’s a tough lesson, but one that always gets taught. So the Airline law goes, always call the airline if you are going to miss a flight, with a call they might be able to credit you, or voucher, or keep your return flight. If you No Show/No Call, not only do you lose your following legs, you also usually lose total value or rebooking abilities.

  69. n301dp says:

    @goodkitty: When you book a ticket with an airline you enter into a contract that is subject to the terms and conditions as laid out according to the rules for the fare you are purchasing and the airline’s contract of carriage. If one party does not follow through with what was agreed upon in the contract, you are subject to the terms laid out in said contract. Chad’s argument wouldn’t hold up in court–he consented to the contract and suffered the consequences for not following through with his end of the contract.

    @RamonaLittle: If I don’t read the terms and conditions of a new credit card does that make me exempt from paying interest on it?

  70. clinky says:

    Chad doesn’t need to know every rule in the contract, he just needs to know enough to call if he’s doing something out of the ordinary.

  71. MotownMan says:

    For any of you people who think the airlines are wrong about this, and not just USAirways, you are all a bunch of morons.

    This has been a very common practice for many years. Those of you who have “just learned about it,” or “never heard this before” are simply ignorant to basic consumer rules of the airline industry throughout the entire world. I have been flying for more than 50 years and this has always been a common rule.

    I’m no big fan of airline regulations. But when such rules are clearly spelled out, and carried out in equal measure by all the airlines, then it is fair.

    If you want to change the rules, start a campaign against the airlines. Otherwise stop your whining!

  72. spoork says:

    It’s standard policy, but one you wouldn’t know about unless you happen to come across it like this guy did. Unfortunate he had to learn the hard way, but such is life.

    Airlines operate on a very strict budget. So much so that they have to intentionally overbook flights to compensate for those passengers that don’t show up.

    If you do something that’s not standard traveling procedure you should always call and ask questions. We can play the blame game all day, but regardless of fault, it’s a good lesson to learn.

    It’s the nature of the beast. Live with it, or learn to really like driving.

  73. tasselhoff76 says:

    Yeah, I knew about this too, but only because I found out from one of my friends who flies more frequently. It is not widely known, and I almost fell into this very trap, myself. However, this is an industry standard.

  74. mir777 says:

    In short….

    1. US Air isn’t the greatest.
    2. Airline policies prevent you from doing what you would like to do.
    3. Now, those who fly infrequently are 100% smarter than they were before!
    4. Peanuts are no longer allowed on board airlines.

    Hooray!

  75. sleze69 says:

    @sam_sheezy: While you bring up a great many points, you still failed to explain why it is fair that airlines cancel entire trips if you miss one segment (which is the point of this article).

  76. KogeLiz says:

    He “missed” his flight?
    Sounds like he just decided not to go and didn’t contact the airlines about his plans.

  77. FatLynn says:

    There is a similar rule if you try to take only certain segments of a flight. For example, a ticket from Milwaukee to Vegas with a plane change in Chicago may be cheaper than a flight from Chicago to Vegas, because XYZ airline is running some type of promotion. If you show up in Chicago without flying there from Milwaukee, don’t expect them to let you get on that plane.

  78. KogeLiz says:

    Also, seems to me, the reason why airlines cancel the rest of the flight, might be because they don’t want to lose money. If someone is a no-show and never called, how can they assume that this person made it to their destination without actually getting on the plane to get there?
    How could the airlines assume that the customer would be present on the return trip?

    I cant believe this guy didn’t call the airlines.

  79. BlondeGrlz says:

    @AbsoluteIrrelevance: You were super lucky. On my honeymoon, the Delta flight we were scheduled to fly to Florida on was overbooked, so they asked us if we would mind flying US Air. They gave us first class seats, the flight actually left twenty minutes earlier than the original one, and we were thrilled. After our vacation we went back to the airport to check in at the Delta counter…and were told our seats had been cancelled. The original agent had never checked us into the Delta flight so we were considered no-shows. I have never been so angry, especially since the CSR kept insisting we were lying and we must have missed our original flight. I can’t even think about it without getting ridiculously pissed off.

  80. LadyCarolineLamb says:

    I agree with others that when you purchase a ROUND TRIP ticket and skip the initial part of the trip (and don’t call the airline prior) it stands to reason that they wouldn’t expect you to have magically appeared at the destination to return. I was a Flight Attendant back in the 90s (until 2001) and I know that the “scam” they were looking out for was people who bought connecting flight tickets (say CLT to PIT to CLE) then would show up only for the PIT to CLE leg (apparently the ticket was cheaper that way then say just PIT to CLE). I think they ended up putting the smack down on that practice by canceling if they didn’t show up for the first leg. Perhaps this is what this guy was doing (buying a cheaper round trip when he only wanted one way) — I don’t know…but that may be what is going on. Regardless, as for the not showing up for the initial trip of a round trip ticket (and not bother to call ahead of time) that’s just common sense that the return would be canceled. Another possible scenario is perhaps he DID call and the airline offered one of their exhorbinant change fees, so he thought he’d just get around it by just showing up. Who knows there are equal numbers of dumb flyers as there are dumb airlines, so you never know what is going on from one case to the next.

  81. theysaidwhat says:

    This is standard industry practice. If you miss a leg of your itinerary, the rest of your itinerary is cancelled.

    Doofus should have called the airline to alert them that he would miss his flight. He’s lucky that they offered to give him anything in return for his breaking all the rules.

    And why on earth would he think that he could buy a roundtrip ticket and miss the first leg, but use the return? That’s called fraud.

    Maybe I am jaded as a former 100,000 mile per year flyer, but this idiot created his own mess and is just now peeved that he has to clean it up.

  82. ladycrumpet says:

    I’ve flown, but not too extensively. When I do, it’s usually round-trip, nonrefundable type fares.

    I’m one of those who didn’t know that if you miss your outbound flight on a round-trip ticket, then your whole ticket is canceled. So I’m glad to find out about this, and at least I’m not out $300 like the OP. I don’t think this is the kind of thing an average consumer will just instinctively know, because not everyone obsessively reads the fine print. Good for you if you do though.

  83. muckpond says:

    @jamesdenver: p.s. I’m sure this is stretching it – but if I make reservations at my favorite restaurant on a busy night and don’t show up – why would I think they could or would accomodate me later in the evening?

    that IS stretching it. in your example the restaurant doesn’t charge you for a meal that you didn’t eat. they instead seated someone else at your reserved yet unclaimed table and recouped their “investment” that way.

    i agree that the OP didn’t really understand the rules, but i also agree with whoever said that the seat on the return flight better have been empty. why should the airline get to charge two people for the same seat? that’s insane.

  84. darkened says:

    @sam_sheezy: If re-issuing tickets takes any more effort than clicking a button its because the system was designed to purposely act like an idiot. There is no call for it not doing it in 1 click.

    God you can buy a car or a mortgage with 1 click.

  85. cyclade says:

    @Alex Morse: It’s not about being an “apologist” for the airlines to say that this guy shouldn’t just expect to be able to do whatever the heck he wants without thinking about the actual economic cost of their choice to the other party in the transaction (any more than saying that someone who expects to return a product to a store without a receipt should be excused from a “no returns without a receipt and/or after 90 days” policy).

    I personally learned about these odd airline rules years ago when I was in college and wanted to do more or less the same thing as this guy — riding with a friend to the city where I’d be connecting through on my trip home, and skipping the fist leg of the flight. I actually called the airline to see if I could get a credit to use on a later flight for the portion I skipped (it was a non-refundable ticket), and the CSR told me that if I missed that first leg, the ticket would be void. Needless to say, I took the flight and my friend drove alone. A sixty-second phone call would have saved this guy all the aggravation.

    I agree with the posters that have praised Southwest’s policy that each leg stands on its own (no pun intended). What’s also better about Southwest(which I don’t really like for its seating policies and the fact that the airports they serve aren’t convenient to where I tend to travel) is that the full slate of their fares are posted right there for you to see online. You know exactly what the cheapest internet special fares are — and you see the highest full price fare. In the event that you need to make a change, you know that the maximum fare always will be $x in the event that you need to “rebook” your flight. This is contrast to the “traditional” carriers, whose fare structures are bizarre secrets. Need to shift your departure by a day, and you wind up having to pay the “difference” of the current fare. The $240 ticket you bought might suddenly cost $1,500 at the last minute. I might understand I need to pay more for the convenience – but I hate being shocked.

    Tip: If you know you need to shift or cancel part of a reserved non-refundable ticket – cancel the reservation and keep the “credit” with the airline (I’ve done this with Delta and US Airways). You get a “voucher” for the amount of the ticket. As long as you travel again within a year, all you wind up paying “extra” is the amount of the change fee — the value of the ticket can be applied to another flight. You can often find cheaper flight options for the “new” flight (particularly if it’s a one-way flight like the original poster), so what you’ve done to get out of your jam is to essentially pre-pay your next flight.

  86. Alex Morse says:

    Wow, wow, wow.

    How obvious is it that the airline industry is COMPLETELY BROKEN when we have all these people not only expecting horrible treatment, but defending it?

    Yeah, I do agree, the guy didn’t read the fine print, he should have.

    But the fact that these rules exist in the first place is nothing but pure exploitation. I don’t expect them to refund his money, but with this policy airlines are effectively stealing what he purchased.

    They’re going to turn around and fill the seat. If he wants the exact same seat that he’s already paid for, he has to pay more.

    It’s really not any more complicated than that. Yes it’s an existing policy, yes he should have educated himself about it beforehand… but that doesn’t make it ethical. It’s fraud. It’s selling two of one thing.

  87. EricaKane says:

    They aren’t stealing anything.

    This guy bought a nonrefundable ROUND-TRIP TICKET. Let me repeat that a “TICKET” not tickets. So when he didn’t show up to use his ticket, it was cancelled and his money wasn’t refunded. Then they have every right to sell that seat again.

  88. consumingall says:

    Swear off US Airways if you want but, like it or not, this would have happened with any airline.

  89. JerseyJarhead says:

    Someone suggested here that it’s unfair for a passenger to break the rules and complain, given that we all complain when the airlines do it.

    Are you living in a cave?

    The airlines NEVER adhere to their own policies, much less so-called “rules” that the FAA never enforces, in any event. For example, most flights are cancelled not by weather-related problems but 1)because crews don’t show up, or 2) they’ve exceeded required crew rest times and the airlines are not fully staffed to handle their own schedules, 3) mechanicals.

    Yet they routinely and brazenly lie to passengers, telling them that it’s “ATC” or “a weather problem over the midwest affecting all inbounds.”

    When it’s the airline’s fault (all three reasons above) they are required to compensate passengers in most cases, but of course after telling their brazen lies, they never do.

    As for flight delays, especially in major metro areas like NYC and Chicago, most are due to the fact that the airlines – individually and collectively – simply schedule more aircraft operations (facny way of saying takeoffs and landings) than the airports can legally handle. So even in perfect weather conditions with no mechanicals, there is no way 100% of ACOs will be on time. It’s just not possible. But again they love to blame “ATC”. It’s just a lie.

    If you want to be an apologist for the airlines, I suggest you join one as an employee. But take a look at Untied.com and you’ll see how employees are treated at one major carrier.

    Grow up.

  90. dregina says:

    This happened to me a few Christmases ago. I had a ticket home with American Airlines for Dec 19 – Dec 25, but my father, who had terminal cancer at the time, landed in the hospital at the beginning of Dec with pneumonia. I ended up flying home at the beginning of Dec via a same-day purchased one way ticket with Southwest. Dad was quite ill for the first three weeks of December, and didn’t come home from the hospital until the 20th. During this period I called American Airlines three times trying to confirm that I might still need the second ticket and that I didn’t want to cancel. I was put on hold each time I called, and I ended up hanging up after 15 – 20 minutes each call. On the 21st, two days after I was scheduled to fly out, I checked my status online and it showed as “confirmed”. The next three days were spent helping Dad readjust to being back at home, setting up home health and oxygen deliveries and everything else that comes with a major illness, along with getting ready for Christmas. I was scheduled to fly out late Christmas night, and when I showed up to the airport they wouldn’t let me on the plane because I hadn’t used the first half of my ticket. I had been out of work on unpaid FMLA for three weeks taking care of my father, who had cancer, and had to buy a $500 one-way ticket home on CHRISTMAS because I had broken a technical rule. I know it is the individual’s responsibility to stay in touch with the airlines in theses cases, but I had TRIED – if their customer service was better and/or their website had shown the correct status of my ticket, I would have been able to comply with their rule. I will never, ever, ever fly American Airlines again. I wrote and emailed their customer service after the whole debacle offering to send them documentation of his illness, but they wouldn’t budge.

  91. theora55 says:

    It’s not uncommon for someone to miss one leg of a roundtrip ticket. It didn’t cost the airline anything. Flying has become so unpleasant that I try to avoid it if at all possible.

    I recently bought tickets on skybus, and had to change my departure. I simply bought new 1-way departure tickets and used my original return tickets. No problem at all.

  92. Alex Morse says:

    @ERICAKANE

    I agree that it would be fine that he didn’t get his money back, but only if they didn’t use the seat.

    I understand the policy, and agree that according to the policy, everything was carried out as intended. However, the policy obviously exists to exploit situations like these. How great for airlines that they have chances to sell seats more than once and feel no repercussions!

  93. spoork says:

    @muckpond: It’s not quite an even comparison. You can’t pay in advance for a non-refundable meal.

    @Alex Morse: While this practice doesn’t seem particularly fair to the consumers, I don’t think it’s fraud.

    Airlines intentionally overbook flights to compensate for the percentage of people that miss flights. If a seat is empty when the plane leaves, it is a wasted seat that they earn nothing on. They would rather take the chance of having to compensate a bumped passenger than have an empty seat. It happens so much that they have it down to a science.

    We can argue business ethics and industry practices all we want. Everyone is entitled to their belief and opinion on the matter. The bottom line is that airlines provide a service that you pay for, a contract of sorts. If you don’t agree to the terms of the contract, don’t buy the ticket. Simple as that.

  94. JerseyJarhead says:

    “Only if they didn’t use the seat”?

    He had already PAID for the seat, whether he showed or not. And if he didn’t show when the flight was called at boarding time, they could have sold the seat a second time, keeping the original ticket-holder’s money. It’s the AIRLINE that benefits when people don’t show up at flight time on non-refundable tickets; these days, they can almost always fill the seat and get 2+X revenue. In fact, they can often sell the seat at full fare last minute for travelers who are desperate to get to a destination.

    Again, this is the “consumerist” website not the “airlines are fair and decent” website. Because airline employees are thieves and pathological liars.

  95. design_chick says:

    @spoork: That’s exactly what I said earlier! Why don’t people understand why flights are overbooked? Because you get jerks that decide not to show up without telling the airline.

  96. Shadowman615 says:

    OK, I understand that this is par for the course when flying, as is overbooking, poor service, arbitrary rules, canceled flights, etc.

    The question is, as consumers, why do we put up with this kind of crap in the first place? It seems as if the airlines will go to any lengths to weasel out of honoring your ticket and keeping your money.

  97. airline_observer says:

    Are all the commentors for this post paid by US Airways? I don’t get it. I agree that Chad should’ve have called the airline and confirmed his status and all that. But why are you all defending US Scareways? I used to work for the airline (finance division, Corp HQ just in case someone wants to know details) and I have seen it from the inside what you are probably guessing from outside. The company has ZERO concern for customers. And no they don’t have it to a science of how much to overbook. US Scare doesn’t care much about science or logic. It’s a legacy airline and they do things as they’ve always been done since the great deluge.

    About overbooking, hmmm.. lets see… isn’t that part of the risk of doing business? Let’s see, do car companies make more cars than are eventually bought? Do computer companies sometimes make more computers than they can sell? Doesn’t every industry have the same problem? Do we ever think why airlines should have a special privilege of penalizing a customer for not using their service? Walmart takes back merchandise. Why shouldn’t US Airways take back a ticket? Southwest refunds money. Oh wait Southwest has been profitable for 30+ yrs.. figures.

    But I agree, the best way to ruin a business is by supporting their competitors.

  98. mmejanvier says:

    All I can really ad to this discussion is a comment on: “…once I was threatened with a hang up for losing my cool.”

    Most CSR’s won’t threaten to end a call when customers are being belligerent, swearing, making personal attacks/threats.

    Even if you’re filled with righteous indignation, that old adage about flies/honey/vinegar still applies.

  99. sleze69 says:

    I can’t understand people believing a person’s absence is a BAD thing for the airlines when we are talking about NON-refundable, NON-changeable tickets.

    If a whole plane-load of people were no-shows, that means the airlines can books EXTRA fares on that plane and/or just fly the plane empty to the destination and saving fuel because of the major lack of cargo (empty planes are lighter than full planes). Either way they either save money or make MORE money.

  100. dantsea says:

    I don’t think that this post is or should be a referendum on whether or not the airline’s policy is “fair'; obviously, anything that benefits a consumer more than a company is going to be considered as such.

    Alas, life ain’t fair and the airline’s rules are what they are, and have been for 20+ years. What most are reacting to in this story is the fact that ten minutes of pre-emptive inquisition on the part of Reader Chad could have saved him hours of aggravation and at least $300.

  101. sam_sheezy says:

    @ everyone who asked for further clarification:

    The OP was given the right to change his ticket (after he paid a change fee + add collect). He no-showed a flight. That means that technically his ticket had NO VALUE and US Airways was doing him a FAVOR by allowing him to rebook his flight for the fare difference and change fee.

    Of COURSE there was a massive fare difference– his original space was no longer available, so he was booking a MUCH higher fare class. (He was only traveling on, oh, the busiest travel day of the entire year.)

    The OP can’t have his cake and eat it, too. The airline sold him a non-refundable round-trip ticket. A one-way ticket on that particular routing may have been MORE expensive than a round-trip. So why should they allow him to use it as a one-way? Plus, why would they assume that he would be there to use the return when he wasn’t there for the outbound?

    Cancelling the remaining segments after a no-showed segment is standard industry policy. EVERY airline does it. Had he taken five minutes to call US Air before just assuming he could do whatever he wanted, he would have found that out.

    The OP expects them to save him a seat on the return, PLUS let him use his ticket for a later date if he doesn’t show up? That’s freakin’ ridiculous. So, he gets TWO flights for the price of one?

    If they’re holding that original reservation for him, it doesn’t get dropped until 30 minutes prior to depature, at which point it is too late to sell it to anyone else and will go out empty, costing the airline money.

    I know there are a lot of things wrong with the airline industry, but this isn’t one of them. This is just common sense.

    We wouldn’t expect this kind of treatment anywhere else– if we bought tickets for a play on a specific day at a specific time and then just didn’t show up, would we be able to show up the next night and expect that they accomodate us? (Especially if we bought tickets for a half-empty Sunday matinee and showed up for a sold-out Saturday evening show.) No way in hell. It’s just not the way the world works.

    The OP needs to get over it and, in the future, should read the fine print… “Not knowing” isn’t a valid excuse, especially when it’s something as basic as this.

  102. sam_sheezy says:

    @sleze69: Well, that would be true if all of those tickets were non-changeable and non-refundable. But that’s not how it works. 99.9% of tickets are non-refundable but ARE changeable, with a change fee. (Which varies from $50 to $200 depending on the airline.)

    So, if everyone no-showed a flight, the airline would end up having to cancel an entire flight or fly an empty plane, both of which cost a TON of money, and still reaccomodate everyone on a flight at a later date for only their change fee. (Which, domestically, is usually about $50.00.) So, in essence, they would have sold each and every seat on that empty plane for $50.00, which doesn’t even begin to pay for what it costs to fly that plane, especially if it was a trans-continental flight.

  103. sam_sheezy says:

    @Alex Morse: If he no showed his flight, then that original seat DID go out empty, because reservations only get canceled 30 minutes prior to departure. So, because he ended up costing them a ton of money (empty seat = huge loss), they cancelled the rest of his flight segments– after all, why should they assume he would be on the return when he didn’t take the outbound? And why would they risk ANOTHER empty seat.

    How did it cost the airline money, if that seat went out empty instead of with him in it? Because, after he pays his change fee, he’s going to have a ticket on another flight. That means that they sold that empty seat for whatever the change fee was (usually $50.00) instead of what it should have cost (in his case ~$150.00).

    This policy is actually one that is in the favor of the consumer, not the airline. If it was a “FAIR” (meaning fair for everyone, both consumer and company) policy, you would have to change your ticket upwards of two weeks prior to departure (so that they would have the opportunity to resell your seat) or lose the ticket value all together.

  104. sam_sheezy says:

    @darkened: Fare structures are complex beasts, and the taxes that apply to plane tickets are even moreso. Here is what an eticket looks like in Sabre:

    ELECTRONIC TICKET RECORD
    INV: CUST: PNR:******
    TKT:001********** ISSUED:27DEC07 PCC:65IB IATA:03509951
    NAME:****/****MR
    FOP: CHECK
    CPN A/L FLT CLS DATE BRDOFF TIME ST F/B STAT
    1 AA 520 Q 21JAN SFODFW 600A OK Q00RL4A OPEN
    2 AA 2193 Q 21JAN DFWBZE 1220P OK Q00RL4A OPEN
    3 AA 2194 Q 28JAN BZEDFW 425P OK Q00RL4A OPEN
    4 AA 1269 Q 28JAN DFWSFO 1010P OK Q00RL4A OPEN

    NO REFUND/FEE ON CHANGE/REF ISSUE OFFICE ONLY NO RE
    FARE USD257.00 TAX 30.20US TAX 5.50YC TAX 7.00XY
    TAX 5.00XA TAX 7.50AY TAX 3.75FU
    TAX 13.50XF
    TOTAL USD329.45

    SFO AA X/DFW AA BZE M128.50Q00RL4A AA X/DFW AA SFO M128.50Q00R
    L4A NUC257.00END ROE1.00 XT7.00XY5.00 XA7.50AY3.75FU 13.50XFSF‡

    While that probably looks like a bunch of gibberish to you, it’s a series of taxes and fuel surcharges and individual fare bases… And to change the ticket means that you have to recalculate a new ticket and figure out where each difference came from– perhaps $.07 extra goes to fuel, $5.73 goes to the new fare, etc… And if the fare has expired, you have to create a Phase IV. It’s NOT a click of a button, and because it’s more than just a simple tax or fare, it’s a whole bunch of stuff, it’s impossible for it to be a one-click process…

  105. sam_sheezy says:

    One last comment before I quit this thread:

    Despite all of the rules and regulations and policies, the people working at the airport can do whatever they want. Waive fees, upgrade, change flights, put you on another airline or a more direct flight. They can do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want. (They can also tag your bags to Hong Kong or seat you in-between the convict and the unaccompanied minor near the broken lav if you piss them off… So don’t.)

    Now, they’ll get in trouble if they waive EVERYONE’S change fees, but a couple a day? Sure. No problem.

    My suggestion? Be nice. Friendly. Patient. Calm. COP UP TO YOUR MISTAKES! And maybe you’ll be one of that agents “freebies.”

  106. Alex Morse says:

    @Sam_sheezy,

    His seat went out empty, and paid for. Did you miss the part where the change fee was equal to his full round trip ticket price. $300 for the original ticket. $300 to apply it to another flight. A change fee of $50 like you mention is completely reasonable and fair, I’ve paid it myself ($100 actually with american airlines.) He obviously wouldn’t be refunded for the leg of his trip that he missed ($150 for simplicity sake.) The problem comes in that there’s a $150 which he could have used, which was cancelled (fine according to policy,) which he has no way to take advantage of… and they DID sell that again.

    Like I said previously, I think it’d be completely fair and ethical with no refund to the customer in this case as it was stated in his agreement. However, the fact that they did sell his return leg means they sold the same thing twice.

    I don’t see how you can put it in any simpler terms. Selling the same thing to two different people and only giving it to one is fraud, however you look at it. I’m not a lawyer, but I think that would be an easy class action suit to file and win on, because we all know that all the airlines do it.

    The arguments here against me seem to imply that the price he already paid, and will not be refunded or credited in any way was not enough to cover the cost of transporting him had he arrived and taken the flight. That may very well be the case, but that’s on the airline for having a stupid business model.

    I actually know why that rule came to be. It’s from when the airlines were competing on round trip tickets more, charging less for the round trips than the one ways. Another stupid business model. They put the rule in place to keep people that actually wanted one ways from taking advantage of the cheaper round trip tickets — so they COULD sell all the seats. That makes sense to a degree, but it’s a matter of punishing people for the exceptions instead of the rule. I understand trying to cover your rear, but this is a step beyond that.

  107. sam_sheezy says:

    @Alex Morse: You’re right, they did resell his flight– his return flight. That outbound flight went out empty because he failed to cancel it, and if all was fair, he would lose that portion of the ticket.

    You’re mistaken on the $300.00– that was for his add-collect AND change fee, not the change fee alone. I just pulled up his fare (I’m on a Sabre set, so I can see the detailed fare rules, etc..) and his change fee was $100.00. Hefty fee on a $300.00 ticket? Yes. But standard and understandable.

    And no, he shouldn’t get a refund for that return flight, primarily because there’s not two seperate fare bases– it was ONE ticket for ONE round trip flight. The return portion alone technically has no value.

    No, he wasn’t going to be able to fly on the flight that he booked and paid for because it was cancelled by them, but that is because he no-showed on his outbound.

    According to the fare rules, as soon as he no-showed, he lost the entire value of his entire round-trip ticket. But US Airways was willing to allow him to change the ticket, to keep the value of the ticket. The change fee was $100.00. The rest of that was an add-collect.

    However, the OP has an entire year to use his ticket. Yes, he’ll have to pay the $100.00 change fee, so in essence he’ll only have a $200.00 credit on US Air. (But better than the $150 that was half of his ticket, so, again, he’s getting a pretty decent deal.) Since he no-showed his outbound, and they ate that cost, that hundred bucks is a fair price to pay.

    That is a completely fair policy, and in no way does that screw over the consumer. They resold his return seat because they didn’t think he’d be on it. They’re not keeping the money for his return– he can use that money at a later date on another flight. He just couldn’t get back on THAT flight.

  108. Bos'un's Mate says:

    @sam_sheezy: You are so correct about being courteous and humble.

    A couple of years ago, I booked on Travelocity a round trip American Airlines ticket from Minneapolis to New York using the codes MSP to NYC. I didn’t care whether I flew into Newark, JFK, or LaGuardia, so I used the generic code for NYC.

    I flew into LaGuardia, spent a wonderful week with my cousins and friends, then caught a cap to LGA for my return flight home. The check-in kiosk had no record of my departure. I looked at my itinerary, and sure enough, I was scheduled to depart from JFK: no way was I going to get across Queens in time for my flight.

    I took a deep breath, got ready to part with a big chunk of change, pulled out my credit card and ID, and flagged down a passing ticket agent. “Hey, I really screwed up,” I said. Was there anything she could do to get me back to Minneapolis that night? I needed to be back at work the next day.

    “Stay right here. I’ll see what I can do”. Within two minutes, she was back with an LGA-MSP ticket for a flight boarding in 15 minutes. No charge.

    I thanked her profusely and said I’d wish I could give her a big kiss (she was kinda cute). I ended up getting back to Minneapolis a half hour earlier than my original itinerary called for. I’m still grateful to this woman for the help she provided..

    I am annoyed that the Travelocity computer used two airports for the NYC designation, but it did do what I had asked it to do. I hadn’t read my itinerary carefully, so it was my fault. American Airlines has my gratitude for empowering its employees to bend the rules.

  109. hollerhither says:

    @Teapotfox:
    I agree, your story seemed fine to me. So WTF?

    I didn’t realize there was a new “moderator” on the site. If so, there’s work to be done elsewhere…

  110. sleze69 says:

    @sam_sheezy: So if those seats go out empty, how do all those stand-bye passengers get seated every time I fly? And I mean EVERY time I fly.

  111. sam_sheezy says:

    @sleze69:

    You can’t buy a stand-by ticket.

    There are only two ways to fly stand-by: buy a ticket for a specific flight and then do a SAME DAY stand-by for an earlier or later flight, or work for the airlines (or be the spouse, dependant, or parent of someone who does) and fly for free on a space-available status…

    So, if the people flying stand-by on your flights are taking an earlier or later flight than the one that they were originally ticketed for, there is STILL an open, empty seat somewhere out there. (i.e. If the OP booked a flight that departed at 3:00 pm, didn’t show up for it and, because of that, someone booked on a 7:00 pm flight was placed on it, now there’s an empty seat on the 7:00 pm flight. That can end up being a trickle down effect until the end of the night, when the last flight of the day will have barely anyone on it, when it was originally ticketed for upwards of 50% capacity…) So, even in that instance, the OP still cost the airline an empty seat.

    The rest of the people flying stand-by, well, they’re called “NON-REVS” for a reason. The airline doesn’t make a penny off of them. If you work for an airline, you, your spouse/partner, your dependants, and your parents can fly (unlimited, completely for free) on a space available status. The airline isn’t making any money what-so-ever off of those passengers. So, if the OP no-showed a flight and a non-rev got his seat, the airline still lost money.

    You absolutely, positively, 100% cannot BUY a stand-by ticket, so the airline is absolutely, positively, 100% losing money on any stand-by passengers that get seated.

  112. RamonaLittle says:

    Skimming through these comments again, I find it interesting that of all the people saying they already knew about this rule, none of them seem to have learned it directly from an airline. They learned it because they made this mistake themselves, or heard about it from a friend or another frequent flyer. Well, not everyone is a frequent flyer or has friends who are.

    I understand why the airlines have this policy, but my point is that because this policy has such potentially devastating effects on the traveler, they shouldn’t assume that “everyone knows” about this rule. When booking tickets, this information should be in plain English, bold type, on its own screen or something, so that the airline itself is clearly informing the passengers. If a passenger wasn’t informed when buying a ticket, then he or she should get a call or an email or something to let them know they need to make other arrangements for the return trip.

    N301DP: >@RamonaLittle: If I don’t read the terms and conditions of a new credit card does that make me exempt from paying interest on it?<

    Maybe, if someone brings a class action over it and the court finds that the terms in question would not have been clear or apparent to an average credit card applicant.

  113. sam_sheezy says:

    @RamonaLittle:

    The airline serves thousands of people each day. Claiming that they should personally call him because he missed his outbound flight is ridiculous.

    Perhaps they could have their computers set up to auto-email people when their flights have been cancelled but, again, had the OP reconfirmed his flight 24 hours prior to departure (like it clearly states to do when you buy a ticket and again when the confirmation is emailed to you), he would have known about the return being canceled long before he was standing at the ticket counter waiting to get checked in.

    At the end of the day it’s his bad, his bad, and his bad. I am all for protecting consumers, but I also believe that consumers should accept accountability.

    It was his job to read the terms and conditions before buying, his job to call and cancel the outbound, and his job to reconfirm his flight before departure… And he didn’t do any of that. Because of that, I have absolutely no sympathy for him.

  114. Anonymous says:

    I’m quite surpirsed with the amount of ‘attacks’ on the man who lost his ticket. I think that ‘policy’ is simply absurd. Just because airlines have done it and continue to do so, doesn’t mean people should condone it by saying the guy was a moron. I mean, I think it’s common sense to think your flight will still be ready for you. Plans change all the time. You paid for it. It’s yours… if you use it or not. Why wouldn’t it be?

  115. JerseyJarhead says:

    Hey, Sam Sleazy…are you the CEO of AA? ‘Cause the guy clearly didn’t know the policy, and I’ll bet you the vast majority of Americans don’t either. Don’t babble on about the fine print…next you’ll tell me that everyone who lost their house in the credit crunch should have read the 34 pages of fine print. The point is, the people who WRITE the fine print don’t intend and don’t want people to read it.

    And your logic is as flawed as your shilling for the airlines. The guy had already PAID for his seat, and by not showing up, the airline was able to re-sell it. But even if they weren’t – now follow me here since you’re a bit dense – HE’D ALREADY PAID FOR IT.

    What’s more, the airline may have had his money for weeks or months, long before any service was provided. How many other industries get that? Even banks can’t really float your checks any more.

    Please switch to the “greedy corporation advocate” site, Sleazy. It’s where you belong.

  116. irishfly says:

    I am no defender of US Airways, in fact, I am a VERY disgruntled employee. However, this is standard industry practice. Very standard, I don’t know of any airline that doesn’t do this.
    This was Chad’s own fault. He needs to take the responsibility.