Should airlines waive their change fees for military families?

By | November 16th, 2013

Joyce Marrero /
Joyce Marrero /
Pam Brys’ son, Thomas, is an Aviation Maintenance
Administrationman 2nd Class, stationed on the USS Nimitz. After being deployed to Syria for more than a year, Thomas’ ship received orders to return to the States on a different date than expected.

When the ship stops in San Diego, the families of the sailors will get to join their loved ones until it docks in Everett, Washington. Come January, Petty Officer Brys will be heading to Japan to serve three years of land duty.

Pam Brys and her family had already purchased their airline tickets to San Diego, but now they needed to change the dates. No problem, right? After all, Brys is serving his country, and airlines are pretty lenient about waiving their rules for military.

Just to be sure, Thomas’ Commanding Officer, Captain J.E. Green of the USS Nimitz, composed a letter on United States Navy letterhead asking for a fee waiver and explaining the change in travel arrangements.

Greetings from the mighty warship Nimitz.

Due to recent international events and national level tasking, the Nimitz Strike Group has been extended on its current deployment.

I am requesting you consider providing a full refund or allow the service member [to] modify their previous travel arrangements to meet our new scheduled timeline.

Brys wasn’t asking for a refund. She just wanted to change the ticket dates without penalty. After all, Frontier, United, and Alaska Airlines had all waived fees for their customers who faced the exact same problem.

Except for one thing. Brys had booked her tickets on Spirit Airlines.

Her efforts to persuade the airline to bend its rules were met with a form rejection:

We sincerely appreciate the service that your son, as with the entire military, provides to our country. However, regretfully, we are unable to waive our modification fees.

Please understand, this decision is not based on lack of compassion, but rather that consistency in the enforcement of our policies is the only way to be fair to all of our customers.

That means some of the Brys family, possibly even Pam, will be unable to make the trip to see Thomas between his deployments. With a change fee plus the difference in ticket, the ticket change will be impractical.

This is hardly the first time Spirit Airlines has failed to help members of the military. But somehow, the rejections don’t get any easier to take.

Should Spirit Airlines waive these modification fees? Or are they within their right to pursue every penny they can get?

Would you consider it unfair if these charges were waived in this situation?

Should airlines waive their change fees for military families?

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Joshua Floyd is the managing editor for advocacy for this site. You can reach him at

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