Hey Qantas, the Balls are in your court


Charles Ball and his wife cancel their trip to Fiji after a cancer diagnosis. Are their tickets really nonrefundable?

Question: We purchased tickets for our biannual visit with our missionary son and family in Fiji to leave on Feb. 23. However, similar to the facts in a recent article I read about Richard and Tosya Shore, my wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just a few days after booking our $3,000 worth of tickets.

She has already had an extensive surgery, and is scheduled to start chemotherapy next Monday. All of this happened in the last two weeks. Her doctors have advised us that we should not attempt travel to a third-world country.

We have been able to get Orbitz to waive their rescheduling fee, but Qantas stands firm on their $200 rescheduling fee for each ticket. We’d like to simply get a full refund because it isn’t possible for us to take this trip in the foreseeable future. Is there any hope of getting a refund? A second choice would be a credit to purchase tickets when we know we can travel. We hopefully anticipate travel in six to eight months. In the case of a credit, is there any chance we might get the change fee waived?

I certainly appreciate your help. A quick reply would be appreciated. We’ve been dealing with medical stuff and have not had much time to react. — C.H. Ball, Long Beach, Miss.

Answer: As in the Shores’ case, you purchased non-refundable tickets from Qantas, whose conditions of carriage say a cancellation of a non-refundable ticket by the passenger is just that: non-refundable.

The contract also includes provisions accommodating “events beyond your control,” which allow for refunds or rebooking — to refundable tickets only. So there’s a little wiggle room, which Qantas should have considered when you made your initial request.

By the way, if you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, consider appealing your case to one of the airline’s executives. Here’s a list of the Qantas executives.

If Qantas was willing to consider a refund, it could demand original copies of the doctors’ travel prohibition, which you say you were prepared to send. Our advocates reached out to our contacts at Qantas.

Although under no obligation to do so, the Qantas team agreed to review your case. After careful consideration, and based on the extenuating circumstances, they agreed to refund the ticket price. You received a credit one day prior to the original travel date — and the day your wife began her chemotherapy.

I’m thrilled we were able to help, and wish your wife a speedy recovery.

  • KennyG

    I am somewhat surprised that they brought you into the mix. Wouldn’t it have been much simpler for them to have filed a claim with the company they had purchased travel insurance from to cover such an expensive trip?

  • Reporter1

    Slightly passive-aggressive, don’t you think? Why don’t you just say what you mean? This is for KennyG. I forgot to reply to his post.

  • Flatlander

    I wonder how many of the sob stories we read about on this blog are true, and how many are concocted to garner sympathy by someone who wants to have the rules bent for them and are willing to go to any length or say anything to make that happen. I’m not saying that is the case here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is something that happens on occasion.

  • Éamon deValera

    I’d fly more if only there were some way to insure against unforeseen events such as this. Some way I could pay a small amount to have someone else assume the risk for me.
    It was nice of QF, not compulsory, but nice. I would have assumed the $200 change fee would have allowed them to travel in 6-8 months, but QF earned good will from this and I’m sure the Ball family will certainly consider if not select them when they next fly to Fiji.

  • Tom McShane

    I didn’t see anything passive about Kenny’s post. I will agree with the aggressive part, though

  • Tom McShane

    I suspect the folks would give up the refund in exchange for having a cancer-free family member, but that’s just how I think.

  • John McDonald

    really getting sick of these sob stories as well. BTW Qantas doesn’t fly to Fiji. They haven’t for years.
    Qantas along with American Airlines & Air NZ codeshare on the daily LAX/NAN flights, which incidentally are operated by brand new A330’s (by far the newest fleet across the Pacific(average age around 1 year)-they operate daily LAX/SYD direct)
    Fiji really needs your money. Big cyclone hits 2 weeks ago & media keep talking about it & scaring people away. Fiji is safe right now. Go & visit.
    Qantas low cost, Jetstar(know in OZ as Junkstar) do fly SYD/NAN few days a week.

  • Alan Gore

    I’m hoping that enough “sob stories” like this will cause the militaristic ruler rapping to be replaced with rules that are actually customer-friendly. Most of us would pay a little more for a ticket that would be ‘parkable’ for three or five years if we suddenly needed surgery. This would be a way for airlines to recapture the premiums that people are paying to third-party insurers for the same thing.

  • Mark

    You might want such protection on every airfare you buy – or every type of purchase you make – but don’t assume that “most of us would pay” for that. I prefer to take the risk in some cases myself, and buy travel insurance when the risk is more than I want to bear.

    But the other side of that is that I don’t plan on begging for an exception in case something horrible happens to ruin my uninsured trip.

  • Annie M

    Buy travel insurance – 3 words that could have avoided this whole mess.

  • Annie M

    I am sick of them too. Travel insurance would eliminate 90% of these kind of sob stories. I wish they would stop advocating for people who think that travel insurance is only if they are sick when they buy their tickets.

  • John McDonald

    if they are already sick, insurance won’t cover them in most cases.
    + very easy & cheap to get either a medical certificate saying can’t travel or death certificate. About $20 online.

  • Patrica

    Thanks Eamon. I agree, Quantas did a Mitzvah, a good deed. I don’t view these people in plight as sob stories, particularly in the case of cervical cancer. The odds are not great, you can get it even if you’re 69 years old as my sister was, it doesn’t need to be HPV related, MANY costs of cancer treatment are not covered by insurance, etc. etc. I wouldn’t make such a case of it, but I’m surprised at the labeling of illnesses as “SOB ” stories. And somewhat disgusted/depressed by that.

  • TiaMa

    I’m fence-sitting on this one. One the one hand, I, too, am tired of hearing about people who knowingly purchase non-refundable tickets and then expect a full refund when something happens. I empathize with the LW’s situation. It didn’t state if they had purchased travel insurance and if they did, I wonder if the insurance company would try to prove the wife had a pre-existing condition.
    If they did not purchase travel insurance, then that is a risk they took. They knew enough when things went south to come to this website. I would ask them, “If something unforeseen occurred prior to your trip, could you afford to absorb a $3,000 loss?” If the answer is no, then hedge your bets and go for travel insurance, especially for international travel.

  • Michael__K

    In this case I would expect a claim to be denied. You have to be healthy enough to travel at the time of purchase and the diagnosis was within a few days of booking.

  • My credit card has a $120 annual fee and includes trip delay and cancellation insurance for the entire year, baggage insurance, travel medical insurance, and a handful of Priority Pass lounge visits each year. Plus it offers reward points that I can redeem for travel (and they’re a lot better than my old card, which collected Air Miles). I’ve got a few trips on the horizon, and have recently had a few health scares as well, so it’s nice to feel like my credit card company has my back if something does go wrong. When it’s SO EASY to get good travel insurance, I have sympathy for anyone going through a medical emergency but no sympathy for people who choose not to insure themselves and their trips.

  • cscasi

    Except, I did not see anywhere that they had purchased travel insurance.

  • cscasi

    Well, if they were able to provide documentation from their doctor, I would think that suffices in this case. After all, things like this do happen in life; usually without much warning. Glad they got help and got refund/credit.
    Once again though, if a trip is an expense that you cannot afford to lose and do not want to purchase refundable tickets, trip/travel insurance would most likely be in order.

  • cscasi

    Does it really cover you and reimburse you if you get sick, injured or need an operation and cancel your trip that you purchased with your credit card? Or, are there a lots of caveats that may cause you not to be covered for everything? Just curious.

  • Annie M

    If she had not been treated for this illness before she booked the trip and bought insurance, the insurance would have covered it. There is no indication that the writer’s wife knew she was sick as the time they bought their trip.

  • Annie M

    Where does our writer say she wasn’t? It states they bought the trip and a few days later she was diagnosed. If she hadn’t been treated at any time for what was diagnosed as cancer, she would have been covered.

  • KennyG

    I am not sure what you mean. You can’t actually believe that someone buying tickets that are so expensive, and non-refundable tickets at that, would not also purchase travel insurance to protect themselves. You must believe that these travelers gave no thought at all to the possibility that something unforeseen might happen, and decided to take the risk upon themselves, unless they went into the transaction somehow figuring no matter what happened, they would get a refund anyway.

  • KennyG

    You believe that someone buying tickets that are so expensive, and non-refundable tickets at that, would not also purchase travel insurance to protect themselves? unless they at first decided they would be ok to bear the risk of an unforeseen circumstance and then changed their minds once that unforeseen circumstance occurred.

  • Reporter1

    I still think you are being passive-aggressive – or may as Tom says, just aggressive. It seems that what you are doing is implying that these people didn’t purchase travel insurance and they were foolish not to do so. And as such, Chris’ team shouldn’t have helped them. Why not just come out and say that?

  • KennyG

    You are entitled to think whatever you want of course. As am I. By your comments it would seem you feel that purchasing travel insurance for an expensive trip is foolish because you can always come to an advocacy site and get your money back anyway, or are you implying that these travelers were not smart enough to even have considered purchasing travel insurance? If they did in fact not have travel insurance, it would seem you are saying one or the other. Why not just come out and say which you think it is?

  • Reporter1

    I have no problem with your opinion. And it has nothing to do with my opinion. My point was and still is that it might have been better had you just said what you meant upfront.

  • KennyG

    I did, and each of my replies to you simply further support my original comment. I still wonder though what it is you think of the travelers and whether they had or didnt have insurance and if not, why not?

  • Reporter1

    All I’ve been saying is that initially you assumed that they had insurance, when you didn’t have any evidence of that. So, to me, your comment smacked of oneupmanship. I don’t think they had insurance but I have no clue as to why. And it certainly isn’t my place to put them down if they didn’t, which is what your first comment appeared to do.

    But I’m done with this conversation. Thanks for your responses.

  • Michael__K

    Which insurer predicates this on ‘treatment?’ Show me a Pre-Existing Conditdion Exclusion Waiver from any insurer that doesn’t require the following condition (or equivalent) to be met:

    “Insured’s are medically able to travel when this plan cost is paid”

    If the symptoms that prompted the doctor’s appointment that led to the diagnosis that meant the passenger was unable to travel did not start after the purchase date (which is fairly likely; it usually takes a few days to schedule a doctor’s appointment), then viola, the insurer has grounds to deny any claim.

  • Michael__K

    You believe travel insurance would cover this scenario? Haha.

  • Michael__K

    If she had not been treated for this illness before she booked the trip and bought insurance, the insurance would have covered it

    Please cite any policy which you are convinced would have covered this scenario so I can reference the exact language which the insurer could easily use to deny a claim such as this one (there is usually something along the lines of “symptoms which would have prompted a reasonable person to seek diagnosis”).

  • cscasi

    Actually, yes.

  • Michael__K

    Which policy? I would be glad to point you to the language that would support denying a claim in this scenario.

  • KennyG

    Great rebuttal. Especially the fact pattern you presented. HaHaHaHaHa.. I have a few more HaHa’s than you do. I guess you believe that HaHa proves a point? SMH SMH SMH.

  • Michael__K

    “If something unforeseen occurred prior to your trip, could you afford to absorb a $3,000 loss?” If the answer is no, then hedge your bets and go for travel insurance, especially for international travel.

    If the answer is ‘no’, then unfortunately the answer is becoming that you can’t afford the trip, with or without insurance. Insurance doesn’t cover every unforeseen scenario (and yes, I would expect a denial in this particular scenario).

  • I actually haven’t had to use it before! I also have very comprehensive travel health insurance through my employer, which I also haven’t had to use. However, I certainly don’t think it’s “cancel for any reason”, but more like, “cancel for one of the many common reasons that are clearly stated in the policy book, that you can read online before you decide whether or not this is the card for you”.

  • Annie M

    Where are YOU seeing that she WASN’T medically able to fly on the day they purchased the insurance? You are making an assumption she already knew she was ill and saw a doctor when she bought the policy and booked the trip. I am making the assumption they booked like 98% of passengers and hadn’t been to the doctor or been diagnosed with an illness when she bought the insurance. So pre-ex waiver would have covered her.

    Stop putting words in the letter writers mouth. If she had not seen a doctor when she bought the insurance and wasn’t ill at the time, insurance with pre-ex would have covered her. If she WAS ill when she bought a policy then filing a claim would have been fraud and the paper work would have showed it when she filed a claim which would have been declined.

    Unless the letter says that she knew she was sick when they booked the trip, don’t make assumptions.

  • Michael__K

    WHO is making assumptions here? You flat out asserted insurance would have covered her.

    Either show us a policy which would unequivocally cover her, or stop misleading people as to what insurance covers.

    I stand 100% by my exact words — which is that I would expect a claim to be denied. I doubt she knew she was ill. Speak for yourself and refrain from putting words in my mouth.

    We’ve seen before how a little heartburn can make a stomach cancer diagnosis un-insurable.

    How often does someone go from completely symptom free, to having symptoms, to being able to schedule themselves for a doctor’s appointment, to finding detectable cancer, all within a few days? I don’t think that happens very often.

    When my parents were prepared to book a trip — with insurance — their travel agent strongly advised to wait and get very thorough medical check ups and travel clearances from their doctors immediately BEFORE booking. Because otherwise insurers have loopholes they can use and do use to deny coverage if something crops up soon afterward.

  • Annie M

    ANY policy with pre-ex coverage would cover her providing the illness was not treated and she was able to travel the day she bought her insurance and she was within the time frame for the pre-ex waiver.

  • Michael__K

    Show us ONE policy.

    The language you use does not match the language I quoted (from TravelGuard) nor the language of any other policy I’ve come across. If she had any symptoms at the time of booking that were yet to be thoroughly checked out, that’s all they need to show that she was already sick and not fit to travel and therefore deny the claim.