Is Spirit Airlines' Refund Policy Heartless?

We recently received two very different stories of people who had booked tickets on discount carrier Spirit Airlines. One involves a terrible family tragedy and the other occurred when a fading formality turned into a red tape nightmare, but in the end they both ended up facing the stone-faced (and possibly stone-hearted) Spirit refund policy.

The first incident comes from reader Mari. Her brother and parents had booked a trip on Spirit to Florida later this year, but then tragedy intervened. Mari’s brother was involved in a horrible car accident that left him in Intensive Care.

Writes Mari:

We tried to cancel the flight but were informed there would be a $330 cancellation charge. Due to the medical bills and this extreme circumstance, we asked them to waive the fees. They told us there was nothing they were willing to do, even with the severity of the situation and the fact that our parents are both Free Spirit Card holders (the rewards card for Spirit Airlines). Various executives were copied on the emails, so I know they are aware of our situation, yet no one at Spirit is willing to help us. They could easily, and should, make an exception to their cancellation fee policy in this extremely tragic situation.

When Consumerist attempted to contact Spirit, we were directed to the terms and conditions posted on its website (FYI, the Spirit rep managed to get that URL wrong in her reply e-mail) and told that Mari’s family should have purchased the optional flight insurance when they booked their tickets.

The second story comes from Suzie, whose 70-year-old grandmother made the mistake of being overly traditional when she booked her ticket.

Seems she booked her ticket to her flight to Chicago as “Mrs. Donald [Redacted]” which is her husband’s name, as is customary for people her age to refer to themselves as. When she arrived at the airport, the airline refused to let her board the plane. This upset my grandmother so much as she’s been looking forward to this trip for sometime, and my cousin had taken time off from work to travel with her.

The airline offered to let her buy a ticket in her own name, at almost three times the cost. This is a huge deal for someone on such a fixed income. They refused to sell her a ticket at the same rate she booked at, and refused to refund the “mistake” ticket.

This is an awful way to treat a long time customer, a senior citizen who was just confused by the ways of the old days versus the modern age. Calls to Spirit offered little sympathy, just a canned script in a barely intelligible accent. I’d like some help in getting my grandmother’s money back- she should only be charged the price of the original ticket.

What — if anything — do you think Spirit should have done differently in either situation?

Comments

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  1. danmac says:

    It’s a business; do you expect them to act any differently? They’re there to make money, not make you happy. If they make an exception for ill or dying family, when will they ever be able to draw the line? Dying friends? Dying pets? It’s a slippery slope, people. Regarding the old bat, being ignorant of the law doesn’t make you immune to it. It’s in the Constitution.

    Or, you know, they could let their employees be a fucking human being every once in a while.

    • ryber says:

      That second paragraph. That right there.

    • Kitten Mittens says:

      You had me for a minute…good one, Sport.

    • TasteyCat says:

      I agreed with you.

      Until the end.

      Businesses can’t make decisions based on sob stories. That said, I would say they should bend for the second story, but they are not a charity to pay your medical bills, although I would argue that they should be willing to give in for someone who flies regularly enough to be cardholders with them, for the sake of the repeat business.

  2. FatLynn says:

    1) This is why travel insurance exists. You don’t get the benefit of travel insurance without buying travel insurance.

    2) It’s not clear here how she booked the ticket. The website should say “name must match government ID” and a phone or ticket agent should say the same.

    Also, was it the airline that wouldn’t let her on, or the TSA that wouldn’t let her through the checkpoint?

    • FatLynn says:

      From the website:

      “Passenger Information

      Important! Enter your first and last name as it appears on your government-issued ID you plan on using at the airport. The federal government requires specific information about each passenger. Learn More.”

      • Rudiger says:

        Agreed, none of us like to buy Traveller’s insurance, but if you are unwilling to deal with situations like this, you should consider it. Clear case of risk vs. reward.

        Also, tickets do not have a static price. Passengers in coach on the same plane likely paid a wide range of prices for their ticket, due to things like Supply & Demand. Minutes before a flight is boarding, prices are usually higher otherwise no one would book ahead of time.

        • vastrightwing says:

          I have purchased travel insurance and then tried to claim benefits. Guess what? The fine print said my situation wasn’t covered, even though the website screamed loudly that my situation was covered. The fine print negates the loud message on the front page. Sorry. Forget trip insurance, it’s like Best Buy. DENIED!

      • Kitten Mittens says:

        Thanks for pointing that out – The Federal Government. It does not say “Spirit Airlines.” I can understand the policy for the sick – even if it is a little harsh and doesn’t give Spirit any positive PR.

        If their system – which is probably archaic from just about every other business – doesn’t allow for reprinting tickets, I’d be surprised. This is, unfortunately, just a case where the consumer traded any semblance of customer service for the lowest cost provider.

        For Spirit – it also means I and a lot of other people will never fly them lest I accidentally invert two letters in my name when typing it in.

      • jesirose says:

        I have to agree here. I know a few older couples who use the traditional “Mrs. Husband’s Name” but if you’re tech-savvy enough to book online, you should be able to read the small print (or enlarge your font size or change the resolution) to read the rules. I don’t think any of my grandparents or great aunts/uncles would have issue.

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          It doesn’t say she booked online, though, so she could have done it over the phone. In which case, unless it was automated, the ticket agent should have told her to give the name as it was on her driver’s license.

    • mac-phisto says:

      that doesn’t explain why the same ticket would have cost 3x as much – they were willing to rectify the issue, just not in a manner that is at all reasonable.

      • stebu says:

        They acted completely within their rules. Mrs Donald [Redacted] did not buy a ticket for herself, she bought a ticket for somebody fictional. If she wanted a ticket for herself, she would have to pay the last minute rate.

        It is all logical and legal, though it is a bit heartless.

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          “Mrs Donald [Redacted] ” is a completely valid name for “Mary [Redacted]” who is or was married to “Donald [Redacted]“.

          The airline should’ve let her fly.

          If it was TSA that didn’t let her fly then the airline should’ve refunded her ticket and let her buy a new ticket at the same price.

          In other words – they should’ve been a fucking human being.

      • FatLynn says:

        It looks like they issued her a new ticket, and it was at same-day ticket prices. Those prices are very high.

        It may be, though, that they have no way of voiding and reselling the old ticket, so selling granny the same-day flight meant they had one fewer seat they could sell to a different passenger. In fact, they shouldn’t void a ticket, because granny can’t prove she was the person to whom the original ticket was issued, unfortunately.

        I also don’t know if there is an expense associated with providing passenger info to the TSA at the very last minute. It would seem there shouldn’t be, in the days of computers, but who knows? Maybe the TSA slaps the airline with a fee.

        • mac-phisto says:

          riiiight, b/c the airlines never overbook a flight.

          listen, i’m not completely unreasonable here – i understand there are costs associated with issuing a new ticket. if they charged her $75-100, i bet they’re still making money. & if you can’t resell the same seat, issue her a standby ticket & explain that the change may result in a delay to her flight. but their solution to her problem is completely unreasonable.

        • nosense22 says:

          You’re missing the point. Spirit has every right to act this way. It’s not their problem. However, with this awesome (/s) publicity, I’m sure we’re all willing to book them next time, correct?

          Alternatively, they missed the opportunity to get a bunch of positive press.

  3. rambo76098 says:

    Well, now I know to never book on Spirit. Sounds like they are a bunch of a-holes.

    • FatLynn says:

      Until, of course, they have the cheapest flight to your destination.

      • longdvsn says:

        not after you factor in a fee just to carry on a bag and the other fees that Spirit has beyond even other US airline fees.

        They are, by far, the most fee-happy airline in the US.

      • Mom says:

        Even if Spirit is the cheapest. It’s not worth the hassle. The sooner people realize that, the better. If Spirit is the only way someone can fly, maybe they’re better off staying home and saving a few more dollars.

        • probablykate says:

          It’s only a hassle if something goes wrong, and none of the airlines are very good at that. I’ve flown Spirit a few times and intend on doing so in the future.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Those policies sound consistent with other airlines.

  4. z4ce says:

    I have made typos before booking tickets with American Airlines. I just called and asked them to correct the mistake. No big deal. I’m not sure why spirit wouldn’t just change the name on the ticket. They must be a special kind of heartless.

    • Murph1908 says:

      Changing “Pual Smith” to “Paul Smith” is very different from changing “Steve Jones” to “Mary Jones.”

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I’m guessing it gets more difficult making database changes the day of the flight, once the manifest is passed over to the TSA.

      • Kitten Mittens says:

        And yet, TSA or otherwise, they could easily enough issue her a ticket at 3X the cost…

        • bwcbwc says:

          Issuing a new ticket doesn’t modify the original ticket.

          “Policy” sucks, but if you buy a non-refundable ticket it’s pretty hard to get a refund under any circumstances. And the Spirit reservation website does state that the name on the ticket must match the ID.

          It’s Vimes’ theory of boots. Buying the “cheap” ticket can be very expensive.

  5. Gulliver says:

    “This is an awful way to treat a long time customer”- really? How long time? When was her last flight with them? The name must match the person traveling. If Mrs Donald Smith were her name, it would say it on something like say her SS card, her ID, her license. How hard is it to make them match? The fact she is old is irrelevant to the issue.

    As for the car accident victim, Spirit did absolutely nothing wrong. The rep is exactly correct in saying, thats what the insurance is for. This is the same as the person who doesn’t buy car insurance, but wants it AFTER the accident happens. It is a risk you were not willing to spend extra on at first, but now you think Spirit should eat the cost of something they have NOTHING to do with.

    • mac-phisto says:

      actually, the fact that she is old is relevant to the issue b/c it sets the context for understanding the error. today, women don’t refer to themselves as “mrs. donald so-&-so”, but this was quite common among married women from the greatest generation.

      if the error could be rectified by issuing a new ticket (which it sounds like the agent was willing to do), it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to charge a small fee for making the adjustment or waive additional costs altogether. asking someone to pay 3x as much for a ticket b/c their generational customs are different than yours or mine is just ludicrous. people make mistakes. that shouldn’t be cause to take advantage of them.

      • Gulliver says:

        So you are saying as an older person she is unable to read when she books a flight? Every flight booked online says you must give the name on a state issued ID. Is that too hard to understand? Does her SS card say Mrs. Donald Smith. How about her drivers license? Her check from SS has HER name, not her husbands. If she is unable to figure this stuff out, then she should not have control of heer money and put somebody else in charge of handling her affairs

        • mac-phisto says:

          …or there could be a sane policy for rectifying mistakes like this.

          perhaps in your world, that’s too much to ask.

        • runswithscissors says:

          You sound like a perfect candidate to join Spirit Airlines’ Customer “Service” Center…

      • bigTrue says:

        I really hate the “Oh, I’m old and mentally feeble when it comes to all this darngall new fangled technology you youngin’ have!” argument. I really do.

        We bought my grandmother, who is in her 80’s, a mac which she uses to video chat and email with my nephews. It took her all of 2 or 3 tries until she got it on her own.

        Old people are perfectly capable of learning/using/following current trends and tech, most just are stubborn and scared of looking foolish, so they don’t. It’s a choice, nothing more.

        It’s honestly offensive to say older folks can’t use technology. They can, some just choose not to for the above reasons. That’s a problem with the individual, not the age segment. Things change, and if you can’t evolve with them, you go byebye like the dinosaurs.

        That said, Spirit are still a bunch of heartless bastards and the employees should be able to BAFH.

    • Mom says:

      Apparently it isn’t awful if it happens to someone else, but if it happens to you, watch out…

  6. damageddude says:

    I can understand the insurance/car accident claim, but the Mrs. Donald [Redacted] seems quite silly, especially as it seems to be the airline’s fault for creating the claim. I can understand the airline not wanting to let her board without ID saying she was Mrs. Donald [Redacted], but I think a quick change of name in the ticket could have been accomplished for minimal cost. Also, whoever took her reservation (unless she did it online) should have pointed out to her that Mrs. Donald [Redacted] wasn’t going to fly at the gate.

    Many women of a certain age preferred to be identified as Mrs. John X. My mother is a senior and I recall older news events in fliers or local papers where she is identified as Mrs. John X. She went bonkers when my brother put her name on the invite as Mrs. Jane X in lieu of Mrs. John X, even though our father had been dead for almost a decade by then. On the other hand, all her current identification has her actual name on it.

    As for the car accident, there is no law that says a business must be decent. Vacation insurance has been around for a long time and does not cost all that much. But again, the airline’s cancellation fee does seem excessive.

    • FatLynn says:

      Um, you don’t need to pay the cancellation fee. You can just not take the flight.

    • wetrat says:

      No. Airlines have rules against changing names for a reason. Let’s say you are business and you know you need to send an executive to a business meeting in 2 weeks, but you don’t know who is going to go. So, to get the 2-week advance purchase discount, you decide to book a ticket for John Smith. Then 10 days later it turns out that actually John Smith has a conflict and so you call the airline to get the ticket name changed to Jane Doe. The airline refuses to change the name because they lose a lot of revenue: to see why, realize that you are trying to purchase a ticket just 3 days before departure but get the discount for buying 2 weeks ahead! Instead, the airline will cancel the first ticket (possibly incurring cancellation fee) and re-issue a new ticket (at the current price) for the new person.

      Many airlines make an exception if there is a typo (as a previous commenter mentioned), AND the person calls them right away; that is, tickets are still available at the same price. It is NOT the same to request a name change (due to any reason) days or weeks later, when ticket prices have changed.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        My office does that, and they pay change fees. It reserves a seat that DOES get used, and is cheaper than last minute tickets.

      • damageddude says:

        You are mixing apples and oranges by comparing a business to an elderly woman. In an obvious case of mistake such as this, such an exorbitant fee could have been waived, especially as the woman was indeed Mrs. Donald X and the name was an error. I stand by my assertion that the airline, or whoever took the reservation, is partially at fault for allowing the reservation to be made in such a manner.

        And the name thing is relatively new, IDs were not required all that long ago — at least to the extent that they are today.I once took a cruise, including flying round trip, with my mother under my brother’s name when we were both in our 20s because she forgot which of us would be stuck .. er.. would be accompanying her (she is disabled and needed a companion). I worked for TWA over 20 years ago and making changes in the ancient computers back then wasn’t that hard and didn’t cost the airline that much. This is just another way to gouge money.

  7. tedyc03 says:

    Personally, to me the entire concept of “non-refundable” is stupid.

    • nbs2 says:

      Except it lets the airline record the income without any potential liabilities. With a refundable ticket, there is always the risk that the passenger could seek a refund, resulting in a responsible business making sure that enough funds remain available in that case.

    • fs2k2isfun says:

      It’s stupid until you realize how much money you save buy buying non-refundable tickets. If all tickets were refundable, airfares would be considerably higher.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I travel a lot for work and my company buys the full fare, completely refundable & transferable tickets. I can cancel at the last minute, give them to a coworker, bump the return time back a couple of days and it doesn’t cost my company anything.

      On a downside, these tickets cost 2x – 3x the cost of a non-refundable ticket.

    • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

      This. x 10,000. It’s not like someone reserves a cooked steak, and now it’s going to waste. With overbooking, the airline WILL recoup it’s costs. Damned greedy bastards.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        They can’t overbook THAT much. And an airline seat is very perishable. They can’t sell it after the plane has left the gate.

        • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

          Um…you did catch the part where they tried to cancel their tickets WELL BEFORE departure, right?

    • Gulliver says:

      If you do not like non-refundable fares there is a simple solution. Only buy refundable fares. They are readily available. What you are saying, is you don’t like the price of them. That is a different argument.

    • gparlett says:

      Cool. buy refundable tickets then, the airlines still sell ‘em. You’ll be paying $600 to fly to Chicago while I pay $200.

  8. Abradax says:

    In the first case, there is a reason there is trip insurance. No one wants to buy it, but everyone wants an exception when something happens. I side with Spirit.

    The second case, I’m not so sure on. She registered the ticket as Mrs…blah blah blah. That is who she is. If their TOS state that you must use your legal name though, then again, there are rules.

    • danmac says:

      Yes, there are rules, but what happens when the person purchasing the ticket is so technologically ass-backward (and old) that they make an innocent mistake? It’s not going to cost the airline money to tell her, “Well, Mrs. [Redacted], I know that you like to use your husband’s name, but we actually need to reissue a ticket for you under your legal name. Next time, you’re going to have to pay a fee to get the ticket reissued.”

      • FatLynn says:

        You are incorrect. It is going to cost them money (or lost revenue, anyway).

        She can not prove she is Mrs. Donald whomever. Therefore, they can not void the old ticket. She is effectively taking up two seats on the plane, and is asking to do so for the price of one.

        • Dover says:

          Shenanigans, the credit card used to pay for the ticket is proof enough.

          • Dover says:

            To clarify: She’s not taking up two seats because she can prove that she bought the ticket and thus has the right to cancel it. It doesn’t prove that she meant for it to be her ticket, but I think the explanation supported by the honorific (Mrs.) is reasonable. This was her mistake and Spirit doesn’t have to help her, but I don’t think there’s anything preventing them from doing so.

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          Wow – you are one harsh person.

          There’s a reason the phrase “be a fucking person” was coined. Look in mirror to see.

      • Qantaqa says:

        I’m curious. How much of this sympathy is coming out because it’s a little old lady? Let’s say I book a flight under my maiden name, assuming I had changed it when I got married. I arrived at the kiosk and my name doesn’t match my ID. I haven’t used my maiden name in years, but it is still technically my name. Would the comments be more in my favor than Mrs. Donald Whatever? Assume I am equally technologically inept (it is possible at middle age).

        I’m not trying to flame, I just like to play devil’s advocate. The cliche, not the pinball game.

  9. Dover says:

    Without commenting on Spirit’s actions, I think it’s cute that Mari thinks they should get special treatment for being members of a free rewards program.

    • Thyme for an edit button says:

      I thought the same thing.

      • gparlett says:

        I used to run around O’Hare loudly saying ‘I don’t have to put up with this crap, I’m an AA Advantage member!’ because I thought it was funny. Of course AA Advantage is a free program, I’ve put about two flights a year on there and will never earn enough miles for a free flight.

  10. almightytora says:

    I avoid booking these “no-name” airline companies at all costs. I always try to use Southwest (no flaming, please) whenever I can, but if SWA doesn’t fly to where I go, just look for the cheapest flight with a major brand name and take the baggage fees into effect.

  11. pjsilver says:

    I own a service company, and my job is to not unnecessarily lose customers, They are so expensive to attract in the first place. Once we can determine that the complaint is not a scam, we will eat most costs to make it right.

  12. TheGreySpectre says:

    Yeah and if they waived fees for this person they would have to deal with “well my grandma died so please waive my fees” from people who have had their grandma die 10 times. Yes it sucks having to pay cancelation fees, I have had to pay them, suck it up and deal with it.

  13. garykung says:

    I don’t think Spirit has done anything wrong.

    1. As other suggested, there is a product called travel insurance. Also, you bought a non-refundable ticket. What most airlines are doing are in fact courtesy. They are not obligated to let you make the change or accommodate your situation (Who accommodates the situation when the airlines is losing businesses?).

    2. Matching names with the tickets is a post 9/11 requirement that is not negotiable. If you have doubt before booking, call the airlines or ask someone before you book the ticket.

  14. NeverLetMeDown says:

    Spirit is the RyanAir of the US – yeah, it’s cheap, but customer service is way down the priority list.

    That being said, in the first case, I don’t see why it’s Spirit’s problem. The customer didn’t buy travel insurance, and the customer certainly _could_ fly, but is choosing not to (for perfectly valid reasons for the customer, but not anything that Spirit is in any way responsible for).

    In the second case, this wasn’t a typo, the ticket was booked for a different person. First of all, TSA wouldn’t let her through the checkpoint (ID doesn’t match ticket). I could understand Spirit being rigid if they thought she was trying to use a ticket originally bought for her husband. In addition, not clear if the folks at the counter in the airport actually have the authority to make a full name change like that. System may well not allow it. Still, certainly more grounds for flexibility here than in the first case.

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      “System may well not allow it.”

      You know, if the almighty system is set up so that front-line customer service is unable to resolve a common sense customer service issue I think that’s the business’s problem and not the customer’s.

      Even if Jane Doe bought her ticket as Mrs. John Doe, obviously Jane and Mrs. John are the same damned person. So why not figure out a way to straighten out the ticket and get the lady on the plane. The ‘solution’ of paying full fare for a walk-up ticket is ridiculous.

      • myCatCracksMeUp says:

        Exactly! The airline isn’t going to lose a cent if they cancel the woman’s ticket and let her buy a new one at the same cost that the first one was bought at.

        Spirit Airlines, like most corporations, and many commenters here, should learn to be a fucking person.

        (I like that phrase more and more every time I use it).

  15. nbs2 says:

    How did Mari or her folks book the ticket? Some CCs (including the one I use to book my travel) come with a travel insurance program that will refund my costs in the event that a member of the party is unable to travel.

    Suzie, on the other hand, is a bit out of luck. If she would like, however, she should send DHS/TSA a thank you card for doing their part to create another Income Protection Program for the airlines. Without the nonsensical and useless ID check at the checkpoint, name changes in a case like this wouldn’t fly.

    • squirrel says:

      While I also have problems with how the DHS/TSA run things, but I have come to realize that being in the terminals at LAX is a lot more pleasant than it used to be. No more solicitors, bible-thumpers, or baggage-stealing miscreants. Just the riff-raff who cannot or will not spring for a Red Carpet Club who are waiting for a flight.

      Terminal 7 represent!

  16. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    The first one: sure, Spirit should be a little more sympathetic. Let the employees act like humans instead of automatons and have some heart. If the family has proof, then there should be some leniency. Of course, in this era, you can’t just take someone’s word for things. It sucks, but it’s true.

    The second one: come on. I have never booked on a website, over the phone, or in person where it wasn’t explicitly stated that the name on the ticket must match the name on the ID. Unless this woman hasn’t flown in the last 20 years, she should know this. It’s a bummer what happened, but in no way is it the airline’s fault.

    That being said, Spirit has shown that their only concern is money, and that they don’t care if they retain customers (because they haven’t drawn the parallel between money and customers), so just stop flying them.

  17. Mom says:

    I am totally impressed with people’s willingness to blame the OP here. Yes, we, being good consumerists, know that Spirit is a bunch of heartless bastards, and that the OP’s should have known that before they booked their tickets. I suppose it makes us all feel so good to be superior to these poor schlubs. But geez, Mrs Redacted just needs a name change on an existing ticket. Charge her a fee for the name change, but don’t make her buy a new, full price ticket. That goes beyond poor customer service, down to a whole new level.

  18. Thyme for an edit button says:

    I am with Spirit on the first one. I don’t see why they should be stuck with the risk of passenger emergencies. Your brother or the parents (not sure how old bro is or who paid) chose to take a risk by not buying a refundable ticket or travel insurance. It is tragic, but a risk the brother and parents chose to take. If the tix were purchased with a credit card, the cardholder might want to check if the card company automatically provides some travel coverage. I think some cards have that as a benefit.

  19. HanIre2 says:

    I purchase airline tickets for groups on a regular basis and have had to deal with a myriad of situations that keep people from going on trips and the refund issues that ensue. The majority of airlines will allow the ticket holder to reuse the fare on a different booking, as long as it is rebooked within a year of the original travel date. There may be a fee for rebooking and also a difference in price between the old fare and the new ticket that must be paid. For full refunds, the purchaser should provide documentation detailing exhaustively why the original trip could not be made (doctor’s notes, medical records, contact information for the hospital or medical office, legal documentation that the parents had some sort of power of attorney over the brother’s affairs). These methods have worked in the past with large carriers.

    Regarding the name change, I’ve had the misfortune of getting names incorrectly spelled on tickets, and then attempting to get those spellings rectified. For a refund, perhaps sending a marriage certificate would loosen Spirit’s purse strings? Ultimately, how was the original ticket purchased – online or through an agent? If it was online, which has ample instruction about which name to use for ticketing, I believe she’s out of luck. But if an agent, a person, made a mistake, there may be some recourse.

  20. wetrat says:

    A lot of people have mentioned that TSA/DHS will not let you fly if the names do not match. Beyond that, as I noted in an earlier reply, airlines have rules against changing names for a reason. This is not something where the airlines want to be flexible, regardless of TSA regulation. To see why, consider the following scenario:

    Let’s say you are a business and you know you need to send an executive to a business meeting in 2 weeks, but you don’t know who is going to go. So, to get the 2-week advance purchase discount, you decide to book a ticket for John Smith. Then 10 days later it turns out that actually John Smith has a conflict and so you call the airline to get the ticket name changed to Jane Doe. The airline refuses to change the name because they lose a lot of revenue: you are trying to purchase a ticket just 3 days before departure but get the discount for buying 2 weeks ahead! Instead, the airline will cancel the first ticket (possibly incurring cancellation fee) and re-issue a new ticket (at the current price) for the new person.

  21. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    1) There is a reason why airline tickets are so cheap today and part of it is because there are all kinds of fees and stipulations if you want to make changes. When I fly for business, my company pays for full fair tickets with no discounts. These tickets are completely refundable and transferable. They also cost about 3x what I could get if I booked through their website or on Orbitz.

    This is also the reason why bereavement fare tickets are often more expensive than what you could get off of Orbitz or Travelocity. They may cost more but they’re way more flexible for rescheduling and canceling flights.

    For non-business traveling, I just get the cheapest ticket as possible, with the understanding that any changes, no matter how minor will result in a severe reaming. If I’m hopping on a $200 flight to visit family, then I understand that if there’s an emergency, I can afford to give up the ticket and it’s still cheaper than buying a full fare ticket.

    2) I’m not surprised we don’t see these kind of name errors more often. I’m actually surprised that my mother hasn’t accidentally done this. I suspect it’s a very big deal for the TSA manifest to not match the airlines. Whenever I book tickets online, there are typically several warnings about this. I guess it all comes down to… if you aren’t comfortable with a new technology, then ask for help or go to someone who specializes in doing what you want to do. The travel agents at AAA can book flights and there fee is very reasonable.

    But both of the problems in the article are good examples for why it’s important to read all of the terms and conditions when you make a purchase.

  22. chgoeditor says:

    I’m amused that people think 70 is “old.” Seriously? Throw the word “grandma” into their descriptor & all of a sudden we should assume that a woman is half-senile, fragile and must be treated with kid-gloves. I need to remember to tell my Mom — a 70-year-old Grandma — that she must stop golfing 5x a week, doing her own home repairs, teaching English as a second language and doing income taxes for the “elderly.” Of course, as a 70-year-old grandma she’s probably losing her memory, so what good would it do to tell her?!

    • Gulliver says:

      It depends. Is your mom unable to properly book a plane trip using her GIVEN name, rather than the name used wen women were considered property? Can your mom actually read the GOVERNMENT ISSUED ID NAME, not the name you wish you had.

  23. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I hate to say it, but the first one is a clear case of what optional travel insurance covers. If the airlines refund it it devalues their insurance partnership.

    The 2nd is a clerical error and they were complete asses for failing to correct it.

  24. PicklePants says:

    Maybe I’m just inviting trouble, but I go by my middle name and that’s how I *always* book my tickets. I’ve never had a problem. I don’t even use my first initial. Sometimes the TSA agent squints at my ID, but I’ve never been questioned about it.

  25. xamarshahx says:

    this is why spirit airlines has fares from 9 dollars each way and YES you can get those rates. of course with tax, etc… it adds up to more, but don’t expect world class service at low rates (I flew twice on 35 dollar roundtrip tickets on Spirit). Recently I screwed up booking a flight and wanted to change it, the change fee is more then the price of the ticket, but guess what, it was MY fault, not Spirit Airlines.

  26. nodaybuttoday says:

    It’s pretty standard these days for airlines to be heartless, which is a shame. Typically a business will be customer friendly because they want your repeat business, but in the case of airlines, many travelers probably don’t use the same airline/fly multiple times a week, so they care more about the money they can get from you now vs. you traveling with them again.

  27. gparlett says:

    Airlines sell refundable tickets. They are called, oddly enough ‘refundable tickets’. This is not what you bought, you bought non-refundable tickets.

  28. LucasM says:

    I won’t be flying on that airline ever…

  29. ClaudeKabobbing says:

    If you dont like how airlines treat you then don’t fly . Its that simple. Unless you are travelling overseas, this is not reason you have to fly. You choose to fly for the convienence, but you dont have to fly.

  30. qwerty017 says:

    Why does everyone seem to think that “Mrs. Donald [Redacted]” is obviously the wrong name? There is no law anywhere that states that Donald can only be used by a man. For all Spirit knew, some random woman was trying to take the place of another woman named Donald. I know it’s hard to believe but I have a girls name and am a guy so why is it so hard to believe it could go in the other direction as well?