Virgin American Refunds Non-Refundable Tickets For Expectant Parents

Brian and his wife do know the meaning of the word “non-refundable.” Really, they do. But they booked their trip to Mexico without knowing that his wife, Brooke, would get pregnant. Brian Jr. or Brooke Jr. is due right around the time the trip is scheduled, making it a very poor idea. They figured out that they could return the tickets, minus some fees, for Virgin America credit, but that would have to be used within a year. As considerate Consumerist readers, they don’t want to fly for fun with a [potentially screaming] baby. So they checked with Virgin to see whether an exception could be made.

There are a lot of reasons why my wife and I like Virgin America, but we now have a new reason to be especially fond of the airline.

We found out recently that we are going to have a baby early next year, our first. While we are obviously excited about our new arrival, the timing of our trip to Mexico was right around the time the baby was due. More specifically, we had just booked non-refundable Virgin America tickets the month before.

After reviewing the contract of carriage and Virgin America’s policies, we found out that we could pay a $75 fee per ticket and keep the remainder (about $373) as a credit to be used within 12 months. While this seemed more than fair and standard for airlines, my wife and I knew that we wouldn’t be able to use the credit in time with an infant, so we were essentially forfeiting the full $523. We also knew we could really use the additional money….you know, for diapers and magical genies that eat diapers.

We called Virgin America and were told to get a doctor’s note to possibly have the $75 fee waived for my wife, but that was the best they could do. So, we got the doctor’s note and wrote Virgin America an email explaining the situation and requesting a refund to our credit card instead of a credit on file. To our surprise, we received the response below:

———
Dear Mr. and Mrs. xxxxxxx,

Thank you for contacting us! Per your request, we have cancelled your booking with full refund-$523.06 as a courtesy. We certainly wish to congratulate you on the upcoming new addition to your family! If you have questions or need further assistance, please contact our Call Center at 1-877-FLY-VIRGIN 7 days a week 3:30am – 11:30pm Pacific.

Thank you for choosing Virgin America!

[redacted] | HQ CALL CENTER LEAD

———
Keep in mind, Virgin America was under no obligation to honor our request and to our surprise, refunded the FULL amount. Granted, this wasn’t some last minute cancellation, but I’m not sure we would have gotten the same treatment with other airlines. It was a very generous gesture and one I will not soon forget when it comes time to book our next flight (you know…when babies don’t cry and ruin your flight) Thank you, Virgin America!

An airline going out of its way to do something nice? How lovely!

Comments

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  1. Coffee says:

    This is wonderful…I’ve heard mostly good things about Virgin America, and this is just another example. When I have the option, this will likely be my airline of choice when I fly in the future.

  2. Auron says:

    Virgin America’s CS: You are doing it wrong.

  3. SirWired says:

    Newborns actually travel REALLY well. The screaming starts later.

  4. dush says:

    Dang wife getting pregnant. If only Brian could have done something to prevent it!

  5. elephant says:

    That’s great!
    I’m in a similar situation – booked a trip long, long ago…. getaway to Hawaii. Only difference is that I’m the a**hole who rebooked the trip for when the baby will be 5 months old – and that baby is going 1st class so I really hope everything I hear about traveling with newborns is true (people say the time to go is when they’re tiny & sleeping a lot)….

  6. PragmaticGuy says:

    New slogan, “Virgin, doing something good for those that are not virgins.”

  7. DaveInBillsburg says:

    Good on them, I’m assuming they contact Virgin American early in the pregnancy? Virgin knows they can sell those seats, probably at a higher cost since it seems the OP purchased them well (well at least more than 9 months) ahead of time. Give the airline plenty of time to resell those seats.

    Should be standard practice for airlines, more than 9 months from the scheduled flight date, offer full refunds.

  8. Thyme for an edit button says:

    I flew Virgin America for the first time last month. It was amazing.

  9. sadie kate says:

    This is a great example of a consumer having reasonable expectations and getting a pleasant surprise, and a company bending policy to make someone’s day and unexpectedly curry some good PR favor. If only everyone could be this pleasant on both sides of the consumer experience!

    • jeepguy57 says:

      I agree. I read this expecting to hear some whiny, entitled customer demanding money back using the sympathy card. It was nice to see they had reasonable expectations.

  10. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    Some guys will do ANYTHING to get out of a trip with the wife….

    • Will Print T-shirts For Food says:

      Yeah, the baby probably will cost him less than the trip with the wife will.

  11. eljustino says:

    Had a similar experience with Southwest once. Had non-refundable tickets for a flight to Sacramento at the beginning of November with my wife and daughter for our girl’s doctor appointment. Daughter (about 3 at the time) got sick on the way to the airport. Several times. By the time we got to the gate, we realized it wasn’t a fluke thing and there was no way she was going to be flying that day.

    We called her doctor in California and rescheduled her appointment for the next available opening: during Thanksgiving week. We knew that we’d be on the hook for the non-refundable tickets, but we were more worried about even being able to get seats on such short notice, during the holidays, without getting taken to the cleaners. We went up to the SW gate agent who quickly, courteously, and like it wasn’t any big thing, not only got us seats on the flight we needed by did it at no charge. As in, transferred our non-refundable, non-transferable, non-changeableinanyway tickets to the new flight without charging us a dime.

    Guess which airline we still go to first whenever possible?

  12. Xzigraz says:

    Looks like the OP is a lucky customer. My experience with Virgin Airline is totally different.

    My friends and I wanted to go to Comic Con this year and were looking for cheap ticket at the very last minute (2 weeks before). I saw the round trip is only 198 dollar so we decided to book it. However, we didn’t really like the departure times for the two flights so I quickly checked the one way pricing and it’s the same price. So I found the two flights I liked and booked them. I was so wrong in doing the two transactions at the same time. I ended up booking two tickets at different time flying out of San Diego and didn’t caught it until the day we are flying thanks to the friendly reminder email sent from Virgin Air.

    So basically I had to pay 140 dollar to exchange the flight and then pay the full price for the new ticket. Sigh… I know it was my bad, but I wish Virgin Air can be a little bit flexible on these user errors.