If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes when a case comes in, let me offer a little glimpse. The email goes to a group of trusted advisors and … we argue.
Is it a valid claim? Are the rules being followed? Do we have a paper trail?
And when we can’t agree on something, then it becomes a Tuesday post: Can this trip be saved?
All of which brings us to Ruth Ann Wulff’s case. The situation, she explains, has been dragging on for six months, and it involves her husband. Just before a recent family vacation from Sacramento, Calif., to Cancun, Mexico, to celebrate her 70th birthday, her husband had to have an emergency appendectomy.
Obviously, he couldn’t take the flight on US Airways. “I sent all of the medical information to verify his operation including a no-fly letter from the doctor,” she says.
An airline representative agreed to US Airways’ standard terms: a ticket credit which could be used up to a year from the date of a booking, minus a $200 change fee and any fare differential. The representative assured her US Airways was sympathetic to the family’s health woes.
But then things took a turn for the worse. Wulff herself began experiencing health problems, and her husband’s condition didn’t improve. Soon, it became clear that they’d never be able to take advantage of the US Airways ticket credit.
Wulff asked US Airways for a full refund, considering her circumstances. The response? Well, I’m sure you can guess.
“I’m sorry you were unable to travel with US as planned to Cancun,” a representative wrote. “I realize that a sudden illness might cause an unforeseen change. I understand your frustration; however, I’m unable to honor your request to refund your husband’s non-refundable ticket.”
Wulff’s husband would have to die before US Airways would part with its money, and even then, there’s no guarantee it would.
Case closed? Well, I was initially inclined to say so. Half of our mediation team says Wulff deserved to lose the credit. After all, if she’d wanted to hedge her bets, she could have purchased a refundable fare (alas, those cost about four times more than a regular non-refundable ticket) or at least taken out a travel insurance policy, which would have covered an emergency appendectomy.
But some team members disagreed with that assessment. US Airways, they argued, should show some compassion for a family that will probably never be able to fly again. Some of them have relatives to whom similar things have happened, and wish an advocate had been able to step in and recover a much-needed refund.
I feel as if I’m being pulled in two directions on this one. I want to help, but I also know what US Airways’ likely response will be: “Wulff knew the rules, or should have known the rules, and we’re very sorry, but so should you. Why ask us to waive our own rules? It wouldn’t be fair to the thousands of other passengers with sob stories who don’t contact you.”