JetBlue Takes Forever To Give Me Near-Useless Travel Voucher

Several months ago, Matthew booked a flight to take his family and in-laws from Rochester to Disney World. Then he discovered JetBlue was canceling the flight he had planned. The airline offered him a voucher but made him drive 75 miles to another airport to get a direct flight. It took too much back-and-forth to actually claim that voucher, and Matthew feels mistreated.

He writes:

A few months back, our local news station broke the story that JetBlue was discontinuing the direct flight service, but would include a voucher for a future flight. When we contacted JetBlue, they informed us that they had not intended to officially announce this for 3 more weeks. We took no chances due to our party size and re-booked to the “closest” airport offering a direct flight… Buffalo, NY.

So, our efforts to avoid having to travel to another city to fly direct went up in smoke and we would now have to be traveling 75 miles with 2 cars (gas, tools, mileage) to Buffalo and then pay a week’s worth of parking for 2 cars to catch a flight first thing in the morning. At the time, my sister-in-law spoke with a rep from JetBlue (I could provide his contact info, if that means anything) who verbally promised her a voucher per person (we also have this information via email) due to the inconvenience of the cancellation.

As time progressed, no sign of the compensation appeared. My sister-in-law was forced to make several phone calls after waiting the appropriate amount of time following her submission using the official JetBlue complaint form online (she did not receive a response to the online submission). The phone calls always had my sister-in-law having to recount the entire story each time she spoke to someone, including the contact information of each of the JetBlue representatives she had previously communicated with. Responses varied from “No one is getting any compensation from JetBlue’s decision to pull the direct service from Rochester to Orlando” and “Just because so-and-so offered you verbal compensation doesn’t mean we have to honor it.” My sister-in-law fought the good fight and did so with a lot of patience and professionalism in her phone calls. No cursing, no threats, no grandiose expectations of compensation, no comments on how JetBlue had lost us as customers… she was simply asking for compensation for the inconvenience of taking 2 vehicles 75 miles on a toll road and having to pay for week-long airport parking for both. She asked for this only because the “voucher for a future flight” was previously promised.

Remember, if the direct flight from JetBlue had not been in existence, we would have just chosen a different airline. We only went with JetBlue because they offered the direct option from our home city at convenient flight times.

On 12/7, JetBlue extended a $50 credit for each person in our party due to my sister-in-law’s efforts. Of course, JetBlue made a point to my sister-in-law that “no one else was getting this sort of deal.” To quote the email, “This credit, which expires 365 days from the date it is issued, is available for use on future travel with JetBlue and is non-transferable.” So, now we have a $50 credit to use in the next 365 days for an airline that serves no convenience to us.

I write you folks at the Consumerist just to see what the general consensus is about how this situation was handled. Is JetBlue (or any other airline) obligated to compensate customers who have been booked on flight services that the airline chooses to cancel and more importantly, commits to providing something and then retracts? Should have we expected more? What else could we have done realistically?

If you’ve been offered a travel voucher, how long did it take you to get it?

Comments

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  1. Tim says:

    Why is a non-stop flight so important?

    It sounds like driving to Buffalo and back is a huge, huge inconvenience for the OP. 75 miles and all. But it looks like JetBlue still flies from Rochester to JFK, and from JFK to Orlando.

    I mean, I know connecting flights are a bit of a hassle. But the OP is making the Buffalo trip sound like a HUUUGE hassle. So which hassle is worse?

    • Rachacha says:

      I was wondering the same thing. It is rare to find a flight out of Rochester, NY that is direct, unless you are flying to a major hub airport. Flying from Rochester to Orlando brings you close to several major hubs, and adds another 1.0 – 1.5 hours to your travel time, comperable to the amount of time that it took the OP to drive from Rochester to Buffalo.

      The only airline today that is showing direct flights from Rochester to Orlando is Airtran for $423 on the randon dates that I selected. They offer only 1 direct flight per day. Contrast that with Jet Blue and they offer several flight options ranging in price from $140-$340 for 1 stop in JFK on the same random dates.

      It is not like Jet Blue stopped serving your airport completely, they simply redid their flight plans, and as a result, they should have offered to accomodate you on a different flight that would get you to your destination at the desired time at no additional cost.

      While having layovers is a pain in the @$$, when you fly out of a small airport like Rochester, it is to be expected. What is unclear from the OPs story was whether they would have automatically received a voucher if they had been rebooked on a flight out of Rochester, and actually taken that flight. The OP in being proactive may have shot themselves in the foot.

    • Pax says:

      Well, I don’t know the OP’s situation, but at least for my family? One of us is deathly, horribly, uncontrollably terrified of flying. ONE tke-off-and-landing cycle in a single day is her absolute limit, and even then, she won’t fly for a trip of less than a thousand miles.

      Thus, for us, it’s Direct or nothing.

      (Or rather, the above was our situation … until we all decided we would not be flying again, anywhere or anytime, so long as the TSA’s grope-downs and nude-o-scopes are part of the experience.)

      • Rob says:

        It would depend upon where you fly. I traveled from the east coast to Las Vegas and back two weeks ago. I was never once subjected to a grope or nude scope by the TSA (darn).

        • Pax says:

          I fly out of Logan. They have the scanners there.

          And it’s random, who gets the AIT/grope, and who doesn’t.

          Since the only reason I (infrequently) fly, is for multi-thousand-dollar vacations … and I flat out REFUSE to allow my civil liberties to be infringed upon by the TSA (especially for nothing more than “Security Theater”) … I am unwilling to gamble my expensive trip by risking a TSA checkpoint.

    • 44 in a Row says:

      I’m not entirely sure when they’re traveling, but a big factor can be where you’re coming from and what time of year it is, because weather can play a pretty big part. If it’s the middle of winter, having connecting flights can be quite risky, especially if both your originating city and your connecting city are both places that get snow, like Rochester and New York City.

      • Rachacha says:

        Based on the OPs E-mail, I guess that the travel took place sometime in November. While significant snow in Upstate NY is not unheard of in November it is quite uncommon, howt choice of airports to fly in/out ofever if weather was a concern, Buffalo would not be my first choice of airports to fly in/out of, as they typically will get more snow than Rochester. The NYS Thruway was closed for a couple of days earlier this month in Buffalo because of snow and snow related accidents stranding several hundred people.

        • kc2idf says:

          JetBlue got their business because they offered a direct flight. Had they not offered a direct flight, the OP would have chosen a different airline. The value proposition of JetBlue was the direct flight. To make that unavailable after planning and booking the trip removes that value proposition, without which they would not have given their business to JetBlue.

          Yes, it’s about convenience. JetBlue was chosen because they offered it and nobody else did. When JetBlue withdrew it in mid-course, they had removed the reason they’d earned the business in the first place. That’s why it’s important to this case.

          • Tim says:

            That may be true. But the post isn’t about that. The post is about the OP’s flight being canceled, and how he dealt with that.

            So the question I pose is this: is it better to keep your non-stop flight and drive 75 miles to another airport, or to fly out of your own airport and have a layover at JFK?

  2. simonster says:

    My only experience with a situation like this was when I had a flight from White Plains to Seattle with a connection in Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to me, U.S. Airways had apparently cancelled the White Plains to Philadelphia part of this flight. When I showed up at the airport, they hired a heroic driver who somehow managed to navigate through rush hour traffic to get me to JFK in time to take the last direct flight to Seattle of the day, on Delta, which is not a U.S. Airways partner airline. I didn’t receive any compensation, but I didn’t really mind. They handled the situation well, the hassle and travel time were probably comparable to taking the connecting flight, and it probably cost them plenty.

    Your situation is somewhat different, since you were informed about the cancelled flight in advance of your departure date, but I feel like JetBlue should have either offered to get you to Buffalo for free, or purchased you a ticket on another airline out of Rochester. Then again, they probably don’t particularly care whether you would fly JetBlue again, since they no longer offer flights from your airport.

  3. Skellbasher says:

    Let’s see…

    NYS Thruway from Leroy to Williamsville is $4 a car round trip.

    Long term parking at Buffalo in Long Term B is $50 max per car for 1 week.

    Assuming 20 MPG per car, at $3.10 a gallon, the price around here, that’s a little under $24 per car in fuel costs round trip.

    So, each car costs around $80 to travel and park in Buffalo, $160 for two.

    You would have to assume that because of two cars, they have at least 6 people traveling, 3 per car. Anything less, a single car would work just fine. So, they got (at least) $300 in travel vouchers that covers $160 in added costs.

    Seems like they made out to me.

    • unchainedmuse says:

      What about the time it took them to drive from Rochester to Buffalo and back? That’s about 2 1/2 hours roundtrip. Although people aren’t compensated for vacations, it’s still time they could have spent doing something that is seemingly less stressful to them. That’s got to have some value.

      I can see the OP’s point. If he was looking for a stress-free vacation, having to choose between driving 75 miles or dealing with a connecting flight probably didn’t fit the bill. For most of us, neither of these activities seem to be a big deal, but who knows what issues the OP and his party were dealing with.

      • Skellbasher says:

        That’s a fair point, but I guess it depends on perspective.

        I live in Buffalo, and have had to drive to Toronto for flights because of cancelations on very short notice. The OP had plenty of advance notice it seems, so I don’t honestly see it as that much of a hassle given the circumstances.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      It’s $50 per person in vouchers, not $300 total. There’s a difference, as he cannot combine the vouchers for a single person.

    • outoftheblew says:

      That’s IF they’re going to be flying again in the next year, all six people, to a city JetBlue serves.

    • Pax says:

      You would have to assume that because of two cars, they have at least 6 people traveling, 3 per car. Anything less, a single car would work just fine. So, they got (at least) $300 in travel vouchers that covers $160 in added costs.

      Even just 5 adults might necessitate a second car, especially when you factor in their luggage. Somewhat fewer, if either vehicle is especially small, or lacks a rear seat (small pickup truck, Mini-Cooper, etc).

  4. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I find it interesting that the OP fought so hard for a voucher and then complained that it wasn’t useful. What did the OP think a voucher was?

    And was driving and parking at the airport really the best option? What about airport shuttle services? For this part I am just brainstorming, I don’t know much.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Maybe he wants it to not expire in a year? Lots of people don’t fly every year and if that’s the case for him and his family, it really is useless.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        Honestly, if you fly less than once a YEAR, then I can’t imagine any airline caring about your business one way or the other.

  5. sportsguy26 says:

    I had a technical delay earlier this summer on JetBlue and got a $50 voucher almost immmediately (only a day or two after the flight). My experiences with JetBlue have been nothing short of outstanding.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Then the OP MUST be wrong or lying. At worst this cancels your and his experience, right?

      • coren says:

        People can’t post contrasting experiences without it being OP blaming now?

      • rmorin says:

        For someone that is seemingly on this site all the time, and at one point had “RTFA” in your name you are really bad at commenting.

        Look at the question posed by Phil: “If you’ve been offered a travel voucher, how long did it take you to get it?”

        The person simply answered the question posed to the commenters. I urge you to please stop being so aggressive.

    • BocaMan says:

      Same experience with me: may flight was delayed for about 6 hours, and a few days later, I received a $50 voucher. I didn’t ask for it, didn’t expect it, but it was very nice.

  6. sonneillon says:

    I don’t know if I should blame the op or not. I’m going to say no, and I also won’t blame Jetblue either. The op got his travel voucher, but Jetblue was kind of ornery about it. Still he rebooked the flight instead of letting Jetblue handle it.

    I suppose I’ll op blame for not asking for a refund or getting a flight at the same airport, and I’ll Jetblue blame for fighting a travel voucher. Even Delta gave me a travel voucher for 50 bucks and it was my own damn fault.

  7. sirwired says:

    Why didn’t you just take a different airline and go with a connecting flight? You get a full refund when an airline cancels your flight, no matter the reason.

    I will say that although JetBlue didn’t have to offer the voucher (the only thing really owed was a refund), once they promised it, they should have come through MUCH sooner.

    And the OP complaining that the voucher only works on JetBlue is silly… if the OP didn’t want a JetBlue voucher, he should have requested that refund instead.

  8. Gulliver says:

    Read your contract of carriage, The rules are spelled out. You COULD have recieved a full refund, or been given a connecting flight. YOU decided to drive to Buffalo. I also want to know how you can honestly say you KNOW the following:
    “My sister-in-law fought the good fight and did so with a lot of patience and professionalism in her phone calls. No cursing, no threats, no grandiose expectations of compensation, no comments on how JetBlue had lost us as customers… she was simply asking for compensation for the inconvenience of taking 2 vehicles 75 miles on a toll road and having to pay for week-long airport parking for both”

    She was asking for something that WAS NOT AVAILABLE TO HER. Get over yourself you self entitled ass

    • coren says:

      If it wasn’t available then it shouldn’t have been promised.

      • rmorin says:

        You are right, that is the real issue. JetBlue employees told her she could have something as compensation, but there was a disconnect between what they were promised and what they were later offered. Had the employee said you can either drive to Buffalo, take a connecting flight, or cancel for a full refund, but we will not be compensating you, it would have been a different story. The heart of the issue is that an employee apparently promised them something they shouldn’t have. I believe it then comes down to what level of practicality the promise was whether the company should honor it or not.

  9. abz_zeus says:

    Say what you like for socialist ways here in Europe but we do have regs for this – EU passenger rules you’d get at least 250 euros or $300 each

    • clickable says:

      No, he wouldn’t. From the EU:
      “This compensation shall not be payable where the passenger has been notified of the cancellation more than seven days before the date of departure or where the notification is less than seven days, where the passenger departs no earlier than one hour before the scheduled time and arrives no later than two hours after the scheduled time at the final destination.”

      OP was notified of the cancellation more than seven days in advance.There may be regulations pertaining to that situation, but not this one.

      Here in the US, there are also different regs regarding compensation when the flight is cancelled at the time of the flight, vs. when the flight is cancelled far in advance. In any case, IIRC, it’s still not as generous as in the EU. We still have a ways to go to catch up with you.

  10. ma1234 says:

    The OP is a moron. You made something a big deal when it never had to be – either ask for a refund or JetBlue would have reaccomodated the OP via New York/JFK. Instead he makes things complicated for himself.

  11. ttw1 says:

    Seems like a big waste of “gas, tools, mileage” just to avoid a connecting flight. And then to fly back and still have to drive an hour and half to get home would really bite. Not to mention going on vacation with your in-laws.

  12. ttw1 says:

    Seems like a big waste of “gas, tools, mileage” just to avoid a connecting flight. And then to fly back and still have to drive an hour and half to get home would really bite. Not to mention going on vacation with your in-laws.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Well, speaking as someone who lives between a major city (Chicago) and one with a smaller airport (South Bend) sometimes those connecting flights out of a smaller airport are crazy expensive. When I’ve had to book flights for people at work the flight from South Bend, which is closest to work, can be $800 and will fly to Chicago, layover, and continue on while the direct portion of the same flight from Chicago is around $300. So, in spite of his complaining, it may have been cheaper to book a flight from a nearby airport rather than take a connecting flight from Rochester.

      • Tim says:

        I’m willing to bet JetBlue would have given him the Rochester flight via JFK without charging anything additional. He bought a ticket for Rochester to Orlando, so it would make sense that JetBlue could book him on Jetblue-JFK-Orlando if they cancel is original flight.

  13. coren says:

    I don’t know, I think they should have just no longer offered it for sale and continued out their contracts with those who had bought it before hand…

  14. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I can see the OP’s point. A direct fight from Rochester would have been a 3 hour trip vs 6-8 with a connection in NYC. But there were no direct flights with other carriers – so direct was a bonus. That being said there are no guarantees with airlines re routes, equipment, or arrival times – except that they will get you there as soon as possible.

  15. Extractor says:

    About to test this out with spirit airlines. I got bumped an Jan 3 for 2 free rt anywhere on their route. Didnt realize that they were non transferable and took a single trip to florida to see one of the last nascar races. I had already been given a 2 month extension due to lack of availability. 3 weeks after returning from florida, I required emergency spinal surgery. I have called and they refuse to give me another extension. I try explaining that I would require several seats just for myself now being considered as handicapped. No Dice. Any suggestions on whether I should book a bs trip in jan or feb or any suggestion on how to get another extension.
    Temporary Cripple (I got the Hang Tag)

  16. LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

    OP, contact Chris Elliott at the Elliot.org site. Now. Ask him to mediate for you; you’ll likely see Jet Blue respond quickly if Chris gives them a holler.

  17. Etoiles says:

    The times I’ve gotten jetBlue vouchers (when something went wrong with the flight — a delay, a cancellation, a broken TV), they were usually in my e-mail inbox waiting for me by the time I got home from the airport.

  18. SpamFighterLoy says:

    I live halfway between Buffalo and Rochester. They are no F’n way 75 miles apart. The airports are 60 miles apart and it’s a quick shot down the thruway (and wth 2 cars?). Not to mention there is still a connecting flight through Rochester. Get over yourself.