JetBlue Can't Decide If They Charged An Unaccompanied Minor Fee

JetBlue promised Catie’s husband in March that the $798 fare charged to fly his children from Austin to Boston included the unaccompanied minor fee. But when Catie recently called to verify the reservation, she was told that her children wouldn’t be allowed to board unless she paid an extra $200.

She writes:

I don’t know if this is something you can help me with over the holiday weekend, but my husband and I are currently experiencing an issue with Jet Blue. In March, my mother in law paid for and I booked two tickets through the JetBlue website (at the total price of 798.00) to fly our two older children ( we have 4, two of whom are old enough to fly alone) to Boston direct from Austin for a two week vacation. The day we booked the tickets, my husband called to verify that A) the unaccompanied minor fee was included in the fare just paid (798.00) and B) the information needed for the drop off and pick up people.

He spoke with a woman named Jackie, who told him the fee WAS included, took the names of the adults and we thought all was well.

I called 20 minutes ago to verify that Jet Blue had all the adults information correct and make sure all was a go for the flight, and Jet Blue proceeded to tell us that the fee WAS not included and still needed to be paid. I handed the phone to my husband, who had verified it was included in the fare months ago, and at this point he escalated the call to the agents supervisor Laura, who completely stonewalled my husband, even after admitting that Jackie had made a mistake in informing us that the fee was included. Since we had been told that the fee was paid, we were not prepared to tell our kids grandmother that she is going to have to shell out another 200.00 for the kids to even get on the plane. (50 per kid, per way) Laura would only give us a first name for her supervisor ( Janet) and would not give us a number to reach her directly, at which point my husband asked how he was supposed to call a company as large as jetblue, as for Janet and get the RIGHT person. Laura simply said, she wasn’t authorized to give out any info, so we got nowhere. We weren’t even asking for the fee to be waived at that point, just what could be done to rectify the mistake, but Laura told him that only SHE could waive the fee and she wouldn’t and she was not going to do anything else to help us. I REALLY hope JetBlue recorded that call. It’s not like we can cancel the kids vacation, but he did manage to ask them if this is how they treat all their customers. and that he was sorely disappointed in thier customer service, and he would be sending all his business to another airline. Not that they care.

I just feel entirely swindled and almost like Jet blue pulled some kind of new bait and switch routine on us.

Is there anything we can do at this point, we really don’t want to have to pay for Jetblues customer service mistake, especially since we were told the fee was paid in full when the tickets were booked (the site even asked if they would be flying alone when it was booked). I know in the short term we will have to pay it since they leave on saturday, but I will never hear the end of it from my Mother in Law ( :) ) if we don’t fight what they did to us.

Catie

Considering that the website asked if the children were traveling alone, and your husband verified that the charge was included, it’s not unreasonable for JetBlue to waive the fee.

Don’t waste time fighting with frontline customer service representatives. Instead, call JetBlue’s headquarters at (718) 709-3026 and ask someone in the CEO’s office to help solve your problem.

(Photo: mil8)

Comments

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  1. facted says:

    If someone in the CEO’s office found out about this story, they’d waive the fee in a hearbeat. It’s really unfortunate JetBlue’s customer service has deteriorated to this point, especially when the company was really founded on it. Alas.

  2. shepd says:

    Okay, call me crazy, but it’s about time we started recording all our calls to businesses. If you’re not in a one-party state, let the CSR know you’re doing it.

    Considering you virtually never win when the company screws up over the phone, and considering they record all the calls themselves, it seems only fair.

    Imagine just HOW much easier this would be if you could send the company a CD with the recording on it explaining how it was included.

  3. ThePantsParty says:

    I’m at work so I can’t try it myself, but is it possible to go through the order process again on the website? (obviously without actually submitting it) You could try it once saying they will be travelling alone, and once saying they won’t be, and see if it affects the price. That seems like the simplest way to tell if the fee was automatically included in the first place.

  4. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    It’s just because JetBlue wasn’t hurting for money quite as bad in March. Now that they’re even more broke, they are trying to charge as much as possible. When they fly back, I bet the UM fee will be $400 on top of the ticket price.

    Ugh, I just hate flying. It’s bad enough that the airlines try to rape your wallet, then when you get to the airport, the TSA tries to literally rape you!

  5. marsneedsrabbits says:

    @shepd:

    It might help in other cases, but in this case, the person on the phone with the OP has already admitted that “Jackie had made a mistake in informing us that the fee was included”.

    Jet Blue seems ok about admitting that they are wrong.

    They just don’t seem to care enough about their customers to do anything about it.

    To the OP:

    I would call their corporate office first thing Monday morning, but be prepared to pay it the fee anyway as airlines don’t seem to work quickly on this sort of issue.

  6. MercuryPDX says:

    @shepd: Which is fine until they hang up on you the second they hear you’re recording the call… as most CSR’s have been trained to do.

    Pen and paper documentation of names and call time should be enough. You can always cite that the CSR refused to give out any additional identifying information (which in this case is true).

    OP: When you call corporate put on your best “There’s been a misunderstanding that I’m sure we can resolve.” voice and stay cool. More flies with honey, ya know… and let us know how it all works out.

  7. ibored says:

    even in a two party state, there giving you their approval to have the call recorded when the ‘this call may be recorded…’ statement plays over the phone. The permission is for recording, not you recording. Just record it theres no need to tell them they are already aware that the call is being recorded and give their approval.

  8. mikells43 says:

    what the hell ever happened to the customer is always right? sounds like that theroy is out the window these days.

  9. opsomath says:

    @shepd: I think that’s a good idea.

    Perhaps the Consumerist could do a how-do piece on recording phone conversations, particulary with CSRs? Not trivial now that we all have cell phones.

  10. Kajj says:

    They did that once and it started a shitstorm in the comment section. Many, many lawyers appeared out of nowhere to advise against it.

  11. MrGutts says:

    I don’t see why you shouldn’t record “your” own calls. Hell most of all of the airlines do it as well and don’t tell you.

    They use the security line as a excuse to do it. Well not really a excuse but they have to just in case some nut job calls up and starts to threaten them or a employee and then they have the conversation on file for Law enforcement.

  12. kepler11 says:

    look, I agree it’s bad that you either got wrong information or that they’re making you pay the fee now, or someone is mistaken. But the reality is that no company is going to be “held” to the wrong information given by a phone agent, whether you have a recording or not. What is possible is that they take pity on you based on your information and give you a break. What are you going to do with a recording? Play it to them and demand that they fulfill the mistake? That won’t go over well I’m sure. Take a more friendly-toned route.

    Secondly, for future reference, I don’t know any airline that automatically includes an unaccompanied minor fee in the ticket purchase. There is nowhere for this fee to be placed on the ticket charge. This is always something that is separate — billed, arranged, and paid afterwards, because it is a “voluntary” service. And you should be more careful about looking at your ticket receipt — if it didn’t say fee included, etc. it’s not.

  13. Fly Girl says:

    As a future reference to anyone paying for something extra– checked animals, extra luggage, unaccompanied minors– those fees (on all airlines) are ALWAYS paid day-of-departure at the airport, and they are ALWAYS paid each way. (So you can’t pay the round-trip cost of the UM fee when you drop them off for the departure, you have to pay the fee at departure and then again for the return portion.) So, if an agent ever tells you it was included in your cost, I’d take that with a grain of salt– unless it’s in writing on your receipt, I wouldn’t believe it!

  14. mike says:

    Can someone explain what the unaccompanying minor fee is really for? What does the cost cover? And why is it so expensive?

  15. @MrGutts: Well, because you can be charged with a crime if you live in a two-party consent state. Remember Linda Tripp? She was the one that taped Monica Lewinsky. But she made the mistake of doing it from her MD home, which is a two party consent state. And she got charged. Later dropped, but that’s another story.

    If the CSR voice menu doesn’t say “This call my be recorded for ….(insert BS reason here)” then YOU must state you are recording it if you live in a two-party consent state.

  16. @kepler11: So, basically, companies are to be expected to lie at will to their customers and we are being naive if we expect any sort of restitution? An agent of a company can lie to me about the terms, conditions, and price of a service, and after I buy that service based on that information, if it turns out to be false or fraudulent, I should expect nothing from the company? Is this was capitalism has devolved to?

  17. Murph1908 says:

    FYI, if EITHER party is in a two-party state, both parties need to be notified.

    Even if you yourself are calling from a one-party state, you would need to inform the other person if they are in a two-party state.

    I usually will ask the CSR, “Is this call being recorded?” Often I can get them to admit that they are not sure, but it’s possible. Bingo, we both know it might be recorded. This avoids the hangup you might get by stating you are recording it yourself.

  18. Murph1908 says:

    BTW, IANAL

    But I did research on this for my job a while back.

  19. BlackestRose says:

    I had the same issue. I bought a ticket online for an “unaccompanied minor” but was an unexpected charged $75 at the gate.

    Since you purchase the ticket online, AND you have to click the little button that states the child is an unaccompanied minor, seems like they should be able to figure out how to add it or not.

    As for what the service entails,
    - the ticketing agent fills out special paperwork with all the emergency info
    - the child gets on the plane either first or last accompanied by a special flight agent
    - is taken by a flight agent to baggage where the previously filled out paperwork is checked against the identification of the person picking the child up and the exchange is made.

  20. kepler11 says:

    @BaysideWrestling:
    No one is talking about Jetblue lying to the customers with intent to defraud or deceive. It is just that phone representatives are sometimes mistaken, and a company is not going to allow a basic phone rep’s simple mistake to waive, add, or change the terms of a contract, and you would be wrong to think that you could insist on it.

    Airline ticket contracts contain nothing about unaccompanied minor fees being paid in the cost of the ticket. And you can be pretty sure that their ticket receipt does not mention anything about that being paid in the ticket cost either.

    I’m not saying that you’re expected to read the fine print and be a legal expert when you buy an airline ticket. But if it was a mistake over the phone, it doesn’t appear in the ticket receipt, and the passengers didn’t verify it further or were going on that information alone, then it is just an unfortunate mistake. But they probably will have to pay the fee — otherwise anyone could just claim that they were told that whatever fee was included in the ticket price.

    As a side point, what grounds do they have to, say, sue over anyway, if they wanted? Not much harm has been done, except an unexpected fee that needs to be paid. They would have to pay the UM fee with any airline. Their only point of contention would be that if they had known the full/real price, they might have chosen a different airline or not bought the ticket. So they can at best get a refund, or explain what other airline choice they would have chosen. I doubt it would be much cheaper.

  21. ThePantsParty says:

    I went to the website and went through the steps to try to order an “unaccompanied minor” ticket, and on the very front page, as soon as you choose ’0 adults’ and ’1 child’ and try to move forward, an alert pops up that says the unaccompanied minor fee is a separate charge that will not be processed with this transaction. You have to click this box acknowledging you understand this before it will even show you the prices. Also, the payment screen clearly itemizes all the charges included in the total and the fee is quite clearly not one of them.

    It does suck that the rep gave them incorrect information, but their receipt should be their primary reference point. If the charge is not itemized as having been paid, I don’t really see how much recourse they could possibly have here…

  22. Difdi says:

    @shepd:

    I agree. I live in a two party state unfortunately, but while I’m not a lawyer, I think I’ve got a workable way around that.

    It would only work if there is some sort of notice from the company you’re calling (or being called by) that the call may be recorded. But if that’s in there (either automated or when the CSR says it), the first thing I say to a live person is “I live in a two party notification state, and I’d like you to know in response to your notification that the call may be recorded, I grant you my permission to do so. Wouldn’t want you to be guilty of a felony, after all.”

    This neatly sidesteps the training of most CSRs to hang up if the customer wants to record the call, while simultaneously giving the CSR two-party notification. You don’t ask for their permission to record the call, you simply give your own for them to record it. And you come across as sympathetic to the CSR, which never hurts.

    There’s a rather good test of whether or not a given CSR is an agent of the company or not if you live in a two party state. When first signing up for service, simply deny permission for them to record, then verbally accept the contracted service. If the CSR is not an agent of the company, then they cannot legally sign you up for a contract without a record of your assent (and the record cannot legally happen). If the contract happens, then you have evidence that they are in fact an agent. That opens up some possibilities for negotiating a verbal contract with the CSR either then or at a future date. As long as you have two-party notification, feel free to record. That recording of a verbal contract with an agent would tend to be legally binding…

  23. justcatie says:

    I am the Catie in the above article. It turns out that both the agents in the second phone call were wrong as well. When My MIL called to pay the fee, she was told it was 75.00 each child each way. At least the agent she talked to apologized for the all the misinformation.

    all in all, 1100.00 to fly two little people across the country. SIGH…. my husband will be calling jetblue in the morning.

  24. pfeng says:

    @justcatie: Noooooo, that’s not bait and switch at all… [/sarcasm] Hope they don’t suddenly tack on another $50 per child before physically handing them off to Grandma. (It’s not bribery, it’s security!)

    Best of luck with getting it sorted out — and at least your MIL was on the phone that last time, so hopefully she’ll expend her wrath on JetBlue instead of you :)

  25. FLConsumer says:

    From the picture, it appears the child doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment nor underneath the seat, therefore they should be paying full-price tickets, possibly additional penalties for annoying the rest of the plane’s occupants.

  26. MissGayle says:

    If you live in a “one party consent state,” you don’t have to tell anyone you’re recording the call. Obviously, you consent.

  27. Anonymous says:

    JetBlue has screwed me over in a similar way in September 2008 I was flying back from Seattle to NYC.

    With me I had my small folding bicycle that fits in a bag which is not oversized luggage. In fact, it’s smaller and lighter than most large suitcases that are not charged for when you check them in. I always bring it with me when I travel—on JetBlue or any other airline—and was never charged extra for it, even going abroad.

    Furthermore, before my first trip with JB in the end of 2007, I called and asked them if there’s an extra charge for such items. Of course, the answer was no. I was told that if the bag wasn’t oversized, it would be treated like a normal bag and I had nothing to worry about.

    Since then, I’ve flown with JB about 10 times, with my bike, without being charged.

    In Seattle, I was charged $50 for what they called “sporting equipment”. I argued to no avail, paid and decided to call customer service later. Of course, they couldn’t help and didn’t even really wanna deal with it.

    I’ve now stopped using JetBlue, and will never use or recommend them again until I get a $50 refund/credit. Unless they’re able to explain a logical reason for this charge, such as special handling, insurance, security threat or whatever—but I doubt they can.

    I understand they have something written someplace that talks about sporting equipment and $50 bucks, but if I’m told that there will be no charge, that’s what I expect. And honestly, I’ve had enough with being told one thing and having a different result when dealing with large corporations.

    So, I’ll try their corporate headquarters. Meanwhile, Delta, Continental and others are getting all of my business. And I’m telling everyone “Don’t fly JetBlue till they get their #%*@ together.

    Edie

  28. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Carey, I was about to raise my heart rate and waste my time getting up set with a Jet Blue CS Agent and Then I found your site. Called the # at the bottom for the Headquarters and Viola’ issue was handled. So thank you for looking out for your fellows. FYI # has changed to 646-920-7464 for Nicole. JH