Here’s a pick-me-up story for a Monday morning: Penny Parrish’s niece bought a roundtrip ticket to Florida to visit her ailing father late last year, but when he died and she asked to return home early, JetBlue Airways charged her a ticket change fee.
Parrish’s niece is deaf, so she suspects there may have been a communication problem at the airport. That’s when she discovered a rarely-used list of JetBlue contacts on my site.
I emailed JetBlue, based on names and addresses I found on your Web site. I focused on a customer support person and ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act].
In the end, they said that although they did not have any obligation to do so, they would credit the $169 back to the charge card. They also passed along sympathy to my niece.
It was classy and professional.
Given that discrimination is rampant in the travel industry — as I discussed in yesterday’s Navigator column — I agree that JetBlue’s actions are both classy and professional. I wish the ticket agents had taken the time to understand Parrish’s niece before asking her to pay a change fee, but in the end, the airline did the right thing.
This does, however, raise an interesting question: When should an airline waive its fees? Is a death in the family a good enough reason? How about financial hardship? Difficult personal circumstances?
I remember a time not so long ago when change fees were routinely waived, often just for the asking. Today, they’re a major revenue source for airlines. If the current trend holds for 2009, airlines will have made well over $2 billion from reservation and cancellation fees, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (here are the numbers through the early fall).
Shouldn’t airlines be making their money the honest way — through ticket sales — as opposed to from “gotcha” ancillary fees, like those required when you change your ticket? I believe carriers like Southwest (and to an extent, JetBlue) have already answered that question.
What do you think?
(Photo: Drewski2112/Flickr Creative Commons)