Did KLM lie about her ticket refund?

If you’re an airline apologist, you’ll probably answer Angelina Bellamy’s question reflexively, if not dismissively.

I almost did (and I’m no airline apologist). But this one’s interesting, and not as easy to fix as it looks.

Bellamy purchased four Economy Extra Flexible tickets on KLM from San Francisco to Stockholm recently. She decided to cancel her return ticket and ask for a refund.

Normally, when you cancel the return on a discounted fare, you don’t get a refund. In some cases, you should be grateful the airline doesn’t try to charge you for the more expensive one-way fare for violating its ticket contract — but that’s another story.

When Bellamy called KLM to inquire about the terms of her ticket, a representative told her that she could cancel the return for a full refund on the unused portion.

“That was the point for me purchasing the much more expensive tickets,” she said. “Otherwise I would have purchased the cheap tickets, canceled the return ticket and lost the money, which would have been much much less than I am now losing because I bought the expensive tickets.”

But KLM refused to refund a penny of her fare. The reason? Although her fare was “flexible,” it repriced her ticket as a one-way fare, ensuring it would keep all of her money. (I’ll let the airline explain in a minute.)

Bellamy understands the rules. She’s upset about the way in which the rules were communicated.

I was told several times by their staff that I would receive a refund.

KLM’s website, while being misleading about actually receiving the full refund, certainly does not state their policy about one-way ticket charges. If their customer service staff is misleading the consumer, they should honor those promises.

I have three different tape recordings of their customer service staff reassuring me I would get my money back upon cancellation.

I am furious about this deceptive tactic. Is there something that you might be able to do to help in this situation?

Let’s let KLM explain itself. Here are the relevant portions of her final rejection letter from the airline:

[Your] refund is calculated based on the journey you have flown (one way from Stockholm to San Francisco) and this is deducted from the refundable value of the unused portion of your ticket.

According to Article X (3) of our General Conditions of Carriage (b) the difference between the fare paid and the fare applicable to the scheduled route for which the Ticket was used, if a portion of the Ticket was used, less applicable administrative or cancellation charges.

Since you only flew one-way from Sweden to San Francisco, our Refunds Department calculates the one-way journey and deducts this from the value of the tickets paid.

In certain cases, as here, the one-way fare may be greater than the return fare purchased and there is no refund due; however, any unused airport taxes will be refunded.

Although I do not doubt the veracity of your comments and I am not in a position to confirm or deny that you were informed the refund due would be SEK32650, however can confirm that the amount refunded is correct.

In other words, it doesn’t matter what our representatives told you on the phone, or what our website suggests. It’s the fare rules and the conditions of carriage that matter here.

I agree with KLM on one level, and I disagree on another. Rules are rules. But if your own employees misrepresent the rules, then we have a problem.

And that’s not to say I agree with these rules. Recalculating the fare from a flexible economy class ticket to what appears to be a walk-up fare is unsporting.

Should I go to bat for Bellamy? I suspect I’ll strike out, but when has that stopped me from trying?

Should I mediate Angelina Bellamy's case with KLM?

View Results

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  • Sammy

    Ummm, the poll is not the one for the article.

  • It’s fixed. Sorry.

  • Petteri Räty

    I would argue that the phone calls created a new contract between her and KLM. If you struck out the European Consumer Center or her local equivalent should be able to help out.

  • Before you decide to take it or not, can you confirm that you’ve listened to her recordings and that in fact the KLM agents did tell her that she’d get a refund? Obviously, companies can’t be held to ridiculous offers made by employees, but this one isn’t that ridiculous…

  • EdB

    Thought about this one for a bit and I’m thinking the airline could weasel it’s way out of what the agents promised by playing the word game. They said she would get a “full” refund on the return trip. Did anyone define what the full refund was? I’m guess the airline is doing something like this. “You get a full refund of the unused part of the trip. We calculate the unused part by converting your ticket to a one way ticket and you get the difference between what you paid and what the ticket was. In this case, there is no difference. However, if there was, you would have gotten that difference without having a change fee charged.” The agents weren’t really misleading her, just not explaining what the process was.

  • sirwired

    This is a toughie; if you end up with a one-way ticket, you end up with one-way prices, which in this case appears to be unrestricted, full-fare coach prices. Since the information provided over the phone was incorrect and the website unclear, I think an airfare credit (maybe 50%) would be the appropriate remedy. As a side note, the domestic airlines seem to be slowly moving over to match Southwest’s model of pricing all tickets one-way.

    Not that it matters, but did she love Sweden so much she decided to not come home?

  • TonyA_says

    Note: The article said she bought [roundtrip] tickets from San Francisco to Stockholm.
    But the letter from KLM says she flew [used the coupons] from Sweden to SFO.
    So I will assume that Chris is the one who made a mistake about the direction of travel. That is also the reason why the fare was not computed primarily in US dollars but in the local currency…

    (Sarcasm) She did get a FULL refund. A full refund of ZERO!
    Unfortunately and especially from Europe to the USA, the ONEWAY fare is not half the ROUNDTRIP fare. It usually costs MORE THAN the roundtrip fare. That is because Europe to USA roundtrip fares are so cheap and cheaper than the reverse direction. So, the airlines put a ton of restrictions on the roundtrip fare.
    She misunderstood the meaning of a FLEXIBLE fare. Usually, a flex fare allows one to change the RETURN flight without paying the change penalty fee. It does not make the oneway fare cheaper.
    What I find troubling here is the apparent miscommunication between KLM and the passenger.
    What they should have done on the first call was pull out her fare, get the historical price of the used one way segment, and compute the difference. Then immediately tell her how much the refund will be exactly. Unfortunately, she might have talked to a pure reservationist who did not know how to compute a refund manually. Add potential language issues [English might not be their main language] and you will get confusion.
    For PR purposes, maybe KLM can give her a certificate and send her some tulips.

  • TonyA_says

    Not if the current contract says it cannot be (changed by) agents orally.

  • john4868

    This is one of those cases where the OP assumed what the refund would be instead of asking what it would be. She states that she asked multiple times if she would receive a refund and was told yes which is completely correct. They just didn’t calculate the refund as she would have expected. It isn’t half of the ticket value. It’s the value of the ticket minus the one way fare. This keeps someone from booking the cheaper round trip ticket and then converting it to a one-way.

    This is all fixed if she asks the obvious follow up question on any of her 3 phone calls… “Can you confirm the amount of my refund?”

  • BillCCC

    I don’t think that there are many airline apologists here but it looks like KLM followed their rules. Since I am not sure of the timeline of calls and ticket purchases it looks like the OP wanted to travel one-way on a return fare. I think that she tried to cover her bases by calling but misunderstood what she was told on the phone.

  • JenniferFinger

    I was thinking the same thing-that if Bellamy did in fact rely on promises of refunds by KLM agents, she does have a valid case whether or not those agents were authorized to promise the refund.

  • technomage1

    Verbal agreements are legally binding contracts in the EU. If her phone recordings verify her claim, you should mediate.

  • Can someone confirm: If someone buys a cheaper r/t and only uses o/w and ditches the return leg, there’s no harm in that, right? I seem to remember a thread about it on another post. Was the conclusion that it’s not kosher, but the airlines are never going to follow up? What if you just say, you changed your mind and decided to stay?

  • Michael__K

    What part of “full refund” requires the follow-up question “how much?”

    Ask that follow-up question to any other business and they’ll wonder what’s wrong with you.

    And if you claim they’re being hyper-technical/literal, they can’t really answer that follow-up question anyway — the price isn’t final until a ticket issue, right? So there’s no “amount” that they can “confirm” at that point.

  • Michael__K

    To the extent that argument could even hold up in court, is this one-way pricing policy even mentioned in the customer contract? The OP says there’s no mention of that policy on the KLM website.

  • TonyA_says

    The rules are indicated in the tariff (fare rules).

    If you change a ticket it will simply be repriced to the applicable fare. In her case, her roundtrip fare will be repriced as a oneway fare.

  • Mel65

    I suspect that the OP was told “If there is an overage of the unused portion, you’ll get a refund” or something to that effect. To the OP that meant “half my ticket,” but the way that KLM “redid the math” definitely screwed her, while adhering to their contract. I agree with those who say “listen to the recording” before you mediate, because if she is overlaying their words with her own interpretation, you may find her case isn’t as strong as it appears at first glance. I’ve always been told that a written contract can ONLY be modified by a written addendum or change and cannot be modified by oral agreements, so if that’s true, she is still hosed :(

  • Michael__K

    In her case, her roundtrip fare will be repriced as a oneway fare.

    Where is that detail disclosed (and visible to the customer)?

  • john4868

    Re-read the story. She never claims they offered a “full refund” only a refund of the unused portion. In that case, how much is the next logical question.

  • TonyA_says

    Before you buy an airline ticket, there is usually a link that when clicked with display the FARE RULES.
    Added: You can start here …

    If you use a TA or consultant like me :-) I will explain the Fare Rules to you in plain English.

  • emanon256

    I voted no, I disagree that they changed an advanced fare to a flexible fare. Its well known that for international travel a one-way ticket is far more expensive that a return ticket, I’ve never understood why, so if someone could explain I would appreciate it. But if they didn’t re-calculate in this manner, then wouldn’t every one just buy a one-way flexible and cancel it for a refund? I also voted no because I tried to book a flight on KLM, and when I chose flexible economy, it states:

    No minimum stay is necessary for European travel. For intercontinental travel, a minimum stay is required. Changing a ticket is possible but will require paying an additional fee, and canceling a ticket is possible against a fee. An exception applies to T- and L-classes for European travel: canceling a ticket is not possible. You will be seated in Economy Class.

    It look to me like there are charges involved in a flexible ticket, it lists it as flexible, not refundable. There is a big difference there, I think if she had changed the date the fees woudl be minimal in comparison.

    Before saying the agents lied to her, it woudl be nice to hear what was asked, and how it was answered. If they said we calculated your fare, and you will get $X back, then I think they should honor that. if they simply told her she can get a refund after its re-calculated but didn’t know what it would be, then I don’t think they were lying. Did the customer service staff know she had already flown an international one-way? They could just be telling her that what she bough is refundable. It all depends on what was asked and how it was asked.

  • William_Leeper

    Under US contract laws, you are technically right that a written contract requires a written change, unless the contract specifies otherwise (which none ever do that.). However this contract originated in Europe, and European contract laws allow for oral changes to be made to written contracts. Those changes must however be made by an “authorized company representative!” This is where the glitch to the contract argument would be if this ever went to court. The airline would simply say that the agent was “not authorized” to make changes in regards to the contract!

  • emanon256

    I called an airline to cancel the return trip once, and the agent told me I would end up owing money and that its better to just not show up as long as I don’t make a habit of it. I asked if he could explain that and he said people will often play the system and buy cheaper fares and not fly the remaining segments. He mentioned the R/T but only flying O/W as an example, he said there is also a trick called Hidden City where they will buy a cheap NYC-LAX ticket because there is a lot of competition, but intentionally change planes in their intended destination where there is no competition, and simply not fly the final segment. He said that they have a system that audits passengers records for these tricks, and an algorithm that determines if its a one-time deal or an accident such as my case, or if its someone who does it habitually. He said if its someone who does it habitually they calculate the fare differences and go after them with full collection efforts.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    You’re right. However, it’s also logical to tell a person how much their refund would be when they’re asking about one. If they’re telling somebody they’ll get a refund when they know (or could easily determine) there will be none it is deceptive. It sounds like a game they play on the customer to keep them from getting mad on the phone.

  • emanon256

    I had a similar situation with roof shingles. That’s another business and the how much refund question makes total sense there too.

    The price was $36 per case, but they had tiers where the price went down if the total quantity was over a certain number of cases. They were 100% refundable, so I could return any unused cases for a refund.

    The price I ended up paying was $30 a case because of the quantity. But after the job was done, I returned the unused cases and didn’t get much of a refund because I dropped below the quality needed to get the $30 a case price.

    I actually think its a very similar situation to buying a cheaper round rip fare, not using half of it, and getting a refund based on the more expensive one way fare.

  • Adam1222

    I wonder where she recorded this conversation. If in California, she actually violated the law by recording the call if she didn’t get consent to do so.
    The fact she recorded the calls makes me skeptical as to her intentions. It would obviously be crazy for airlines to allow roundtrips to be canceled halfway through and give 50% back, meaning everyone could get around the fact that one-way TATL trips are usually more than roundtrips.

  • TonyA_says

    Looks like it is the reverse. She flew STO-SFO only according to KLM.
    She left her heart in SFO.

  • TonyA_says

    According to the article: a representative told her that she could cancel the return for a full refund on the unused portion.

    It does not look like anyone offered to tell her HOW MUCH MONEY she would get back. Because the correct answer was ZERO for the fare portion. Unused Taxes maybe.

  • bodega3

    I am wondering about why the oneway fare. Is she a US citizen? If not, she may have an immigration issue here and trying to beat the system!

  • emanon256

    I bet the phone agents simply don’t know, and probably have no way of knowing. I actually canceled half of a domestic R/T recently and asked the agent for the amount, she she said she couldn’t tell me, that it has to go to the refunds department to calculate it, but she could tell me that it will probably be less than half, as the O/W ticket typically cost more, but not always. It really depends on the agent you get, as 2 years ago I got an agent who told me the fare difference. But he was a ticketing agent back then, now I seem to only get customer service agents, they can’t do as much.

  • emanon256

    Good point, depending on her citizenship, she can’t enter without proof of a return ticket.

  • Joe Farrell

    If its not written down, it did not happen. When you speak with any employee of an organization who promises you a refund you need to:

    1. Last name and employee number or some other means of identifying them
    2. A note in the customer remarks section of the reservation
    3. A record yourself of the date and time you called, what number and what call center picked up [you need to ask] and;
    4. Ask the employee to tel you what field that put the note in and exactly what it says.

    I had that happen once years ago – the airline employee gave that information – and then airline refused to refund. I send management the PNR, the date and time of the call, the call center, employee number, and the field in the reservation record where it could be located.

    The response was: “Dear Sir, we are pleased to confirm your refund in the amount of . . . . .. etc etc etc.”

    If a travel provider or any other provider refuses to give you this information then you are getting shined on and there will be no refund processed. No one likes to be called on incorrect information they give out to customers and if they not give you that information you then need to go to a supervisor and see if they will confirm what you were told . . . . 99 times of 100 the supervisor will ‘correct your misconception’ of what the other employee told you.

  • bodega3

    Welcome to my world! Phone agents don’t know the product they sell. Most are just order takers, often in another country. It use to be that the best airline res agents were put on the agency desk but that is a joke these days. Airline rules are very complicated, especially when you are looking at international fares. It isn’t an easy accessment and yes, the rate desk has to calculate everything and you don’t get to speak with them.
    Also, the OP may have been told she would get a full refund, but full refund off of what? The OP was probably assuming something that she didn’t understand about.

  • TonyA_says

    Did She lie about her ticket refund?

    According to KLM’s letter I am not in a position to confirm or deny that you were informed the refund due would be SEK32650, however can confirm that the amount refunded is correct.

    SEK32650 is USD $4832.00

    Did anyone here bother to check how much the most expensive RoundTrip STO-SFO would cost?

    A Y-class R/T ticket from KLM will cost about US$ 4003.50 to 4047.40 depending on the route taken. How can the REFUND of one direction be more than the cost of the whole ticket for most expensive econ class?

    And by the way, there is no such thing as KLM EXTRA FLEXIBLE ECONOMY. The OP should get her story right.

    Booking classes on KLM flights:

    Lowest Available Fare

    Minimum stay is required, changing or cancelling a ticket is not possible. You will be seated in Economy Class.


    Minimum stay is required and changing the ticket is
    possible by paying a surcharge. Cancelling a ticket is not possible. You
    will be seated in Economy Class.

    Economy Flexible

    No minimum stay is necessary for European travel. For intercontinental
    travel, a minimum stay is required. Changing a ticket is possible but
    will require paying an additional fee, and cancelling a ticket is
    possible against a fee. An exception applies to T- and L-classes for
    European travel: cancelling a ticket is not possible. You will be seated
    in Economy Class.

    Economy Fully Flexible

    No minimum stay is required, changing and cancelling your ticket is free of charge. You will be seated in Economy Class.

    Premium Economy Fully Flexible

    No minimum stay is required, changing and cancelling a ticket is free of
    charge. Please note that Premium Economy Fully Flexible is only
    available on flights:

    From Amsterdam to Paris. You will be seated in Business Class.

    From Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Eindhoven to London City (LCY)

    Business Class Flexible

    Available on intercontinental travel only. A minimum stay is required,
    changing a ticket involves a surcharge and cancelling a ticket is
    possible at an additional fee. You will be seated in Business Class.

    Business Class Fully Flexible

    No minimum stay is required, changing and cancelling a ticket is free of charge. You will be seated in Business Class.

  • EdB

    If the party being called answers with, “this call may be recorded…”, you have permission. They have acknowldged that they know the call could be recorded. and as to recording being an indicator of alteritve motives, I don’t see any other than having a record of what was said. same reason the other party said they were going to record the call

  • Meghan Guilford

    I was out of town (on a business trip) and had to fly home suddenly due to the death of my mother-in-law. I tried to change my return home ticket (same day I might add) and they wanted $1,000 for the new ticket. It was cheaper ($250) to book a one-way home ticket on another airline carrier. When I called later to cancel my return flight, I was told I would owe $75 since I only flew one way. I cried (I was crying anyway) and they “waived” it. How nice of them.

  • bodega3

    Yes, it was nice of them. You broke the rules of the fare but under the circumstances, they took that into consideration.

  • I checked. She flew out of SFO. KLM got the response wrong.

  • TonyA_says

    Save the gory details :-) As you know – Most people hear what they want to hear.

    People do not understand what this means (from the KLM website) – If you change your ticket, the price of the ticket may change due to tax recalculation and fare availability.

    They think they will get back half of that R/T fare is they decide not to come back. Hahaha. Airline Algebra is not taught in school.

  • TonyA_says

    Was she talking to Delta (aka KLM USA) or KLM in Holland?
    Why are they talking about Swedisk Krona (SEK) if the ticket was bought in the USA and not in Europe?

  • bodega3

    Airline tickets are not a simple product. We rented a desk to a man who worked for a company that agencies paid a yearly fee to if they did lots of international travel for clients. The amount of books on his desk was surprising and all had to do with various governmental regulations that had to be taken into consideration. So while you might qualify for a refund, only the rate desk can tell you how much and that will take some time.

  • bodega3

    It sounds like she is trying to get around the immigration requirements, too. If she had only purchased a oneway ticket, then she would have been questioned. Oneways are legal, but they do raise a red flag.

  • Adam1222

    Well, that would create implied consent by the OP, actually, not by KLM. They have not indicated they think you are recording them. And we don’t know for sure that that message was given here. The statute does not contain such an implied consent requirement. If it wasn’t, her dissemination of the “eavesdropped” recording (the words of the California Penal Code, not mine) to this blog is in and of itself illegal! (Note, I’m in no way defending this law, and California is one of the minority of states that has an “all-party consent” requirement. Just pointing it out as something people might not realize.)

  • Michael__K

    Quoting the story:

    When Bellamy called KLM to inquire about the terms of her ticket, a representative told her that she could cancel the return for a full refund on the unused portion.

  • TonyA_says

    I sell almost exclusively (100%) international air and mostly to Asia, where there is still commission and decent bulk fares from consolidators :-)

    Here is another problem folks do not realize. When you call a local airline office (in a foreign country), many reps there have NO CLUE about US Tariffs (or fare rules). That is the reason why you will get vague answers. What they usually do is ask their USA office (or counterparts) what to do. Unfortunately, the USA office is not operating in the same hours (as Europe’s or Asia’s). So you will need to call again if you want to have your ticket repriced over there locally.

    In Asia, most US and other foreign airlines local offices are manned by their local reps (a general sales agent for that country). So be prepared for the confusion. One good reason you use an American Travel Agency is so they can REISSUE you a ticket to come home even if you are at a foreign country. The TA will usually charge a change fee on top of the airline penalties but at least you can understand what is going on.

  • Michael__K

    I’ve yet to see anything in a FARE RULE (including the one you linked) that explains how this type of fare change is calculated.

    Fare rules (much less the airline’s undisclosed interpretations of those fare rules) are not in the contract (of carriage). So any CoC provision that says an agent can’t orally change “the contract” wouldn’t be germane.

    If the phone recordings corroborate what the OP says, then the OP’s problem wasn’t that someone didn’t explain the Fare Rules in plain English; it’s that they didn’t explain them accurately/completely.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Divide by 4 for the 4 tickets purchased? $1208 USD per ticket. Seems to fit, if R/T is $4K or so per ticket, per information you provided.

  • TonyA_says

    I thought they were only repricing HER ticket and not all THEIR tickets (4 of them). You mean all 4 of them decided to stay and not return ???
    Are the immigrating or something?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Ms. Bellamy bought 4 more expensive tickets, but you’re right, the article focuses on her ticket. Still, that’s the only thing I could think of to explain the very large amount of money, SEK or USD.

    Maybe the four of them are an ABBA tribute band. Her name *does* start with “A”. :)

  • john4868

    and the value of the “unused portion” is what? It isn’t half of the round trip airfare. Its the value of the round trip minus the cost of the one way she took.

    The multiple phone calls that she taped leads me to believe that she was trying to be cute with the airlines and thought she’d figured out a way to get a one way ticket cheaper. Notice how there’s no talk about getting home.

  • TonyA_says

    The strangest part of this story is why KLM is computing the refund in Swedish Kronas (SEK). That can only mean the ticket was priced in SEK. US Tariffs (i.e. SFO to STO) would be normally priced in US Dollars.

    It seems like we are reading 2 different stories. The OP’s version and KLM’s version. They do not seem to match.

  • Then she should know that it’s all about money, money, money… in a rich man’s world…

  • bodega3

    Here is a link to KLM’s economy fares:


    As you can see, there is no, Economy Extra Flexible fare, so her wording or Chris’ in incorrect. Secondly, when I go into KLM’s rules, all economy fares are based on roundtrip travel, not oneway. So right off the bat, she can’t get a refund for an unused return segment as the ticket was priced on a roundtrip fare, not two oneways. Now did she have the agent pull up her PNR and review the rules of the fare or did she just call and ask a question that many have been generalized? What is the fare basis and the class of service she was booked in? Why isn’t this provided as these will tell us exactly where to look for the rules….which would have been online at the time of booking. Too much not being told or provided which always makes an OP look sneaky.

  • bodega3

    Why are the classes of service and fare basis’ never provided in these articles? Those are what are needed, not he said, they said!

  • bodega3

    In the rules of the fare which can be found online and are provided to the booker at the time of reservation.

  • anonymousegirl

    I might be misunderstanding but from the quote “That was the point for me purchasing the much more expensive tickets,” she said. “Otherwise I would have purchased the cheap tickets, canceled the return ticket and lost the money, which would have been much much less than I am now losing because I bought the expensive tickets.”

    it seems like she never intended to take the return flight.

  • john4868

    @b5e389fdd67873b747175276b0b9b9ba:disqus I completely missed that. I guess that reinforces what I thought from the start that she was trying to pull a fast one on the airline and got caught.

  • Michael__K

    “and the value of the “unused portion” is what? “

    Common sense says that it has some non-zero positive value. KLM is saying that the “unused portion” has negative value.

    “she was trying to be cute with the airlines and thought she’d figured out a way to get a one way ticket cheaper”

    If she was trying to do that then she wouldn’t have paid EXTRA for more flexible tickets

  • Michael__K

    Show us. A link or a direct quotation please.

  • TonyA_says

    Of course they would never provide those. Otherwise this case would be simple for you and me :-)

    But digging deeper … Assume this is a R/T SFO-STO flex fare.

    The Economy Fully Flexible R/T fare of KLM is BFFUS $3276.00 before tax and surcharge. The cheapest O/W fare (SFO-STO) for KLM is YFFWUS $3280.00 before tax and surcharge.

    The R/T ticket would have cost total $3913.60 (Tax $637.60)
    The O/W ticket would have cost total $3581.80 (Tax $301.80)

    If she really had a fully flex fare ticket to begin with and did not use the return portion, the refund will be about $331.80 using today’s prices.

    The more I think about this, the more I find this story incredible.
    Why buy a flex ticket in the first place? I need to know the “logic” behind that.

  • TonyA_says

    Michael, I am sorry but your simply do not understand airline talk.

    If you read my research somewhere here, I state that the one-way FARE BASIS ($3280) is actually $4 MORE than the round-trip fare basis ($3276). So there is less than ZERO refund for the Fare Basis only.

    However, the taxes and surcharge for one-way fare is LESS than that for the round trip fare. Hence, net-net she will be getting a REFUND of the TAXES portion (less the difference in Fare Basis).

    In my office, I am one of the few (if not the only one) who can compute these things. So do not expect a call center reservationist to give you EXACT answers.

  • TonyA_says





    NOTE –

  • bodega3

    Show you what? Her reservation? As you know, or should know, when you book online, the rules of the fare you booked comes up, usually through a link which you should alway read and print out. I pulled up all KL’s fares from SFO to STO fo 23JAN13 and the advance purchase economy fares are all based on roundtrip, even the economy flexible fares. So what Tony just provided shows you the rules of all of them.

  • john4868

    Michael__K from the story

    “That was the point for me purchasing the much more expensive tickets,” she said. “Otherwise I would have purchased the cheap tickets, canceled the return ticket and lost the money, which would have been much much less than I am now losing because I bought the expensive tickets.”

    To me that sounds like she never intended to fly the round trip fare

  • Michael__K

    That doesn’t answer the question: WHAT is the “applicable fare for the journey flown?” How is that determined?

    Not in the way most lay people with no subject matter expertise would interpret it…

  • Michael__K

    your simply do not understand airline talk.

    I’m being purposely (slightly) dense because that’s *exactly* my point: this stuff is not in the contract or even clear spelled out in the cited “fare rules.”

    It requires “understanding airline talk” and all kinds of unwritten (for the passenger) rules which means it’s completely disingenuous to claim that the passenger should have read the contract more carefully.

  • TonyA_says

    This really sounds fishy. But it could be she really was expecting too much from a lowly paid call center rep.

    Here is the Standard Procedure for estimating the difference in fares.

    First check the coupon status to make sure what segments are UNUSED. Then do the ff:

    (1) Read the linear or cost of the existing ticket.

    (2) Look up the fare rules for the existing ticket and see the Penalties (Category 16)

    (3) If the fare rules allow the changes or cancellations you want to do then continue. Otherwise END OF STORY.

    (4) Find the penalty if change or cancellation is allowed.

    (5) Make a HISTORICAL quote (re-price) the flown segments. In other words, you will lookup what the flown segment’s ticket price WOULD HAVE BEEN at the time the original ticket was purchased. Good luck for amateurs on this one.

    (6) Compare the difference and apply the penalty. You now have a decent estimate.

    Now you know why the telephone agent will only tell you what they told her. The computation is usually done OFFLINE by experts in the backoffice. That’s why.

  • bodega3

    That isn’t true, but if it is for you, then use a professional so you get the rules and understand what you can or can not do with the ticket you are purchaing.

  • Guest


  • TonyA_says

    The point is many airline RESERVATION agents DO NOT KNOW or HAVE THE TIME to do these calculations. That’s why they have REVENUE ACCOUNTANTS locked up in another office :)

  • Michael__K

    Show me a rule that is visible to the passenger that includes enough precision and detail so that someone with no special expertise can calculate on their own what the refund amount would be.

  • TonyA_says

    You can read the rule(s), but normally you don’t know how to compute historical and applicable fares. So you need an “expert” to help you.

  • TonyA_says

    That is TECHNICALLY CORRECT if she held a full flex fare ticket. Nothing wrong about that.

  • y_p_w

    There was a time when trying to game the strange rules (Saturday stay) that were designed to make money from business travelers was an art form. I remember hearing about people who would buy round trip tickets for two separate trips but space them in such a way to use them avoid the premium for booking without a Saturday stay.

    I’ve even heard that sometimes the fares were so much more without a Saturday stay that it made sense simply to eat a return fare and use a separate RT ticket booked separately. At least until the airlines caught on to it. Typically the passenger might just use different airlines.

  • TonyA_says

    That and she probably made a tactical error.

    If all she wanted was a cheap one-way ticket to Sweden, then she could have bought the cheapest roundtrip (R/T) ticket and throwaway the return portion.
    Reason being that oneway (O/W) tickets are extremely expensive to and from Europe from the classic airlines.

    If she was iffy about her return date to SFO, she still could have bought the cheapest R/T ticket and pay the $250 change penalty plus fare difference while in Europe. I think this will be cheaper than buying a FLEX R/T fare but I can’t be 100% sure depending on the travel dates.

    That said, I can’t figure out what else she may have been thinking.

  • emanon256

    I think her logic, using your prices, was: spend $3,581 on a one-way ticket, or spend $3,913.60 on a flexible R/T thinking she would get $1,956.80 back. She thought she could game the system and get a O/W for $1,956.80 by buying a flexible fare. That’s exactly why she recorded her phone calls, because she knew she was gaming the system and wanted support.

  • TonyA_says

    Wow, if that is true then this case really stinks. Stay away !!!

  • emanon256

    And a non-flexible economy R/T looks like it runs $2,286 on the dates I looked. That supports her statement:

    “That was the point for me purchasing the much more expensive tickets,” she said. “Otherwise I would have purchased the cheap tickets, canceled the return ticket and lost the money, which would have been much much less than I am now losing because I bought the expensive tickets.”

    She is right, she would have spend $2,286 if she did that, but she saw the flexible fare as an opportunity to save $330 extra dollars over buying a non-flexible R/T and not flying back. per her words, she knew in advance of booking she was not flying back.

    So her choices were:
    A. O/W: $3,582
    B. R/T: $2,286
    C. R/T Flex: $3,914

    She with with option C, figuring if she bought the flexible fare she would get half of it back. But she was wary, so she recorded her calls. It didn’t work the way she wanted, so she has involved Chris and per her own words regrets not going with option B. Though if she went with B. and made a habit of this, they would probably go after her for the difference anyway.

    Well, at least that my opinion based on the info we have. Not sure if that was what really happened, but it sure sounds like it to me.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Excellent post. Sometimes I’m amazed how hard these forums are on the OP. If she hadn’t taped the conversations, somebody would be all over her for not getting any proof. But she does tape them and now it’s because she was “trying to be cute”?

    Who knows, maybe the tapes would show she misunderstood the reps, but assuming things went the way she claims, that’s inexcusable on KLM’s end. If the reps can’t look things up and determine if she’d get a refund, then there should be clear, canned response where they note the policy and make it clear that in some (many?) cases there’s no refund because of how their policies compute things.

  • TonyA_says

    Oh dear. I searched. She is a scientist and does doctoral work in Stanford and Stockholm University. That’s probably why she needs a lot of flexibility in flight schedules. Maybe she really needed one-way tickets but they were too expensive as you said.

  • TonyA_says

    Joe, note how the KLM letter says ” Our REFUND DEPARTMENT …”
    As you can see it takes another group of people to compute the refund.

    A lot of people simply do not understand that INTERNATIONAL fares are a lot more complex than domestic fares.

    Inside the USA, most of our fares are oneway to begin with. So when we buy a roundtrip ticket, they simply sell 2 oneways.

    Sometimes you will see domestic R/T specials but these are not the many compared to the usual oneway fares.

    For international, the standard is roundtrip and the exception is oneway. Airlines will usually discount roundtrip like crazy but will leave oneway fares only to the most expensive booking classes. Europe (and open sky areas) is notorious for this. The exception to this is ASIA where oneway fare is usually 65% of roundtrip. I think this has to do with ASIAN airlines still being government regulated.

    Bottom line, international fares are just more complex and do not expect simple answers to simple questions immediately.

  • TonyA_says

    Michael, not sure I answered you (because I got lost with the number of open threads). But here is the way I compute it.


    True, Lay people will be lost in space. Sorry but that is the “system”. It is complex.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s not correct. An oral modification is binding in the US unless the contract specifies a writing is required (all do) or proscribed as a matter of law

  • EdB

    Hmmm… Well by you staying on the line and not verbally agreeing to the recording, that is implied consent and by your logic, not allowed. Personally, I don’t see anything implied about it. They state the call may be recorded. They don’t say you *CAN’T* record it. Just that it may be recorded. So they can’t argue, if you recorded it, that they didn’t think it was being recorded.

    And could you provide the reference to the penal code you are referring to? If we assume the call originated in California but terminated outside the state, I believe the Federal Laws would apply because of it crossing state lines.

  • sunshipballoons

    It’s Penal Code sec. 630 et seq.

  • Adam1222

    Noah’s cite is correct.
    Actually, we are talking about two different things.
    (1) A says to B, “I may be recording this call.” B stays on the line. B has given implied consent to his call being recorded by A. This is well-established by case law.
    You are saying, though:
    (2) A says to B, “I may be recording this call.” You are saying then A has given consent for B to record the call. That is different.
    Unfortunately, the statute doesn’t require someone to say “You CAN’T record the call.” The default is a prohibition on recording.
    An implied consent is any consent that’s not explicit. A has never explicitly consented to B recording the call, so any consent would have to be implied.

    Next, there’s no sort of estoppel argument here. It would not be KLM that is “arguing” there was no consent, it would be the District Attorney, as we are talking about criminal law.

    Finally, the courts are all over the place in what law would apply. Check out http://www.rcfp.org/reporters-recording-guide/interstate-phone-calls But just because parties are in two different states doesn’t mean that state law is preempted by federal law — particularly here, where there is no conflict with federal law.

  • EdB

    ‘A’ has consented to the call being recorded. Doesn’t matter who records it. You have any case law that says differently?

  • dourdan

    I voted this post up, because you said it clearer then i ever could.

    “ONEWAY fare is not half the ROUNDTRIP fare”

    I had to reread the article several times, because it is just too unbelievable; the OP is essentially buying a whole candy bar, only eating half and asking for some money back—That is NOT how the world works.

    And yes i have been in that situation before (with a round trip fare, that i needed to cancel/only use half of.)

  • dourdan

    as a former call center employee who did not know the answers to half of what i was asked, i was always told “stick to the script”. I have a feeling the person did a quick search of their script database under “what to say to someone complaining about an unused ticket” and read off a canned response, meant to calm down the OP.

  • TonyA_says

    Even if I am well skilled in using my GDS, I do not talk on the phone and do analysis or fare quotes at the same time. I tell the client I will call them back or email them. This travel stuff is NOT easy especially when you need to compute $$$$. I believe what you said is what happened to her.

  • commentfromme

    atrocious atrocious atrocious. a broken industry. no wonder I approach every interaction with the airlines as though I am a caged animal.

  • Michael__K

    Lay people will be lost in space

    As you wrote yourself in another comment, even the airline employees who answer the phones will generally be lost in space.

    And a nitpick: aren’t there different valid ways to perform step 6 (“Make a HISTORICAL quote (re-price) the flown segments”“) with very different results? Does it depend on the reason for the cancellation (where is that explained)? When my return segment was cancelled and I opted for a refund (and to complete my journey on my own), the reprice was definitely NOT based on the one-way fare.

  • TonyA_says


    Hey Michael, if you are interested to read the RULES of the ROUNDTRIP FLEX Fare Basis Code BFFUS, then read this link (open to consumers):


    Category 16: Penalties
    Unless otherwise specified
    Note – Rule 16NP in iprg applies -and- Unless otherwise specified Note –
    Changes and cancellations permitted. -For cancellation after departure-
    the refund given will be the difference between the fare paid and the
    applicable fare for the journey flown

    Here is a link to KLM’s Tariff (filing):

    Read the Voluntary Refunds section:


    Welcome to my World :-)

  • William_Leeper

    Thank you for setting the record straight! I appreciate your input!

  • TonyA_says

    Yes they will be lost in space. Sorry but this is REALITY.

    About the nitpick, airlines and GDS companies keep at least a year of historical fares in their online database PRECISELY FOR THIS PURPOSE.

    Let us say the OP bought her tickets last 01SEP for departure 01OCT. I can easily lookup the fares for SFO-STO for departure 01OCT 2012 that would be effective if the ticket was issued 01SEP 2012. Once I get the base fare, I can easily add back the applicable taxes and surcharges that were charged for the ticket at that time (this info appears on the fare construction or linear of the existing ticket).

    Therefore, I can accurately tell you what the ONE WAY FARE would have been for SFO-STO if I know the date she bought the ticket and the departure date. But, don’t try this at home folks :-)

    If I can compute the oneway fare (the segments she actually had flown), then I can also compute the difference between that and the ticket she is holding. The refund is the difference (less any penalty or admin fee). Done.

    Added: I can’t believe her statement – “… the reprice was definitely NOT based on the one-way fare” unless she shows why. I already showed you that the oneway fare is more expensive than the FLEX roundtrip fare. So her refund really consists of the tax (and surcharge) portion of the ticket. As I mentioned earlier, maybe even she is lost in space.

  • Michael__K

    Reality should have consequences for the carrier too. They created the convoluted and undocumented rules and they didn’t hire customer facing personnel who understand them well enough to explain to customers.

    I don’t think you understood my nitpick: my first-hand experience (not with KLM) is that they DO NOT necessarily use the one way fare when you cancel and seek a refund for a half-completed journey.

  • TonyA_says

    Re: my first-hand experience (not with KLM) is that they DO NOT necessarily
    use the one way fare when you cancel and seek a refund for a
    half-completed journey.

    Answer: If your ticket is based on 2 oneway fares combined then there is no need to reprice a oneway fare since they already know the cost of the flown leg (i.e. the oneway fare of the outbound segments). You see this normally for US domestic tickets.

    Regarding consequences – get real. There is no app for that. :-)

  • Michael__K

    I still have the same observation as before: it doesn’t explain what “FARE APPLICABLE TO THE SCHEDULED ROUTE FOR WHICH THE TICKET WAS USED” means.

    For example, this “rule” doesn’t state that the one-way fare must be used rather than the component fares (or whatever they are called — the ones that add up to the actual fare paid). I’ve observed where the latter method was used.

  • bodega3

    Those call center employees are not trained on fares. They are order takers, plain and simple. For international fares, the carriers have rate desks that are there for just this purpose. Even if the res agent at the call center makes a mistake, the rate desk can and does over rule them if certain rules, set by various governments are not followed. International fares can be complicated. A purchaser doesn’t have to buy the ticket, but if they do, the carrier has the final say on the cost of any change. Any time you buy a ticket online, you should ALWAY print out the rules of your fare. We don’t have to do that in the GDS, as Tony explained, we have access to historical rules.

  • TonyA_says

    It simply means they will find a fare that applies to the FLOWN segments. In her case, she supposedly flew SFO-STO only. So that means they will look for a oneway fare SFO-STO on the departure date (the date she flew) and for ticket date (the date she bought the original ticket). Man this is so simple.

  • Michael__K

    It would be (somewhat) simple if the rule was precisely defined. It isn’t.

    Does the rule read any differently when they **DON’T** use the one-way fare and use the component fares instead?

  • bodega3

    What is a component fare Michael? Never heard of that.

  • Michael__K

    If your ticket is based on 2 oneway fares combined

    Fairly certain it wasn’t…. (if I could have gotten those one-way fares I would have…)

  • TonyA_says

    Sorry but without seeing your ticket then I am lost in space.

  • TonyA_says

    fare component
    A portion of a journey or itinerary between two consecutive fare break points.

  • jim6555

    The “lowly paid call center rep” IS THE AIRLINE to the customer with whom he or she comes into contact with. I’ve called airlines many times and never heard a recording that says “the employee who will be answering your call has no authority to provide information about ticketing changes or refunds on behalf of our airline. Answers to these questions must be approved by senior management. For more information, please call our corporate office during business hours”. It is my opinion that the call center rep. speaks for the airline unless the customer is told otherwise.

  • TonyA_says

    Sure you dialed the correct number and got an agent. That is not in dispute. But you likely will be talking to a person who CANNOT do the steps listed above. If you are trying to do what if pricing analysis with them over the phone, then good luck getting exact numbers. I am simply telling you REALITY. I challenge posters here to spend a day doing fare desk support and see how difficult it is.

  • jim6555

    Tony, my point is that once the agent makes a statement, he or she is doing so on behalf of the airline and I’m certain that a court would rule that the airline is responsible for honoring any promises made. The proper things for the agent to have done was either to transfer the customer to someone higher up the ladder or to have taken a phone number and promised that a fare specialist would get back to the customer. I’m in sales and am never afraid to tell a customer that I don’t know the answer to a question. I explain that I need to do some research and will get back to them soon with an answer. Essentially, that is what a “lowly paid call center rep” should be doing.

  • Mel65

    Well, darn. That’s what I get for obtaining my legal information from reruns of Judge Judy!

  • JenniferFinger

    That “canned response” from “sticking to the script” didn’t do a good job of calming down the OP, did it? Looks like the script needs to be rewritten and that person needs some major retraining in how to do his/her job-including not giving out incorrect answers meant to “calm down” anyone. That’s patronizing and bad business, because once that customer finds out the answer is incorrect, how likely is it that they’ll do business with them again?

  • TonyA_says

    I understand your point and the customer’s expectation to get immediate answers. What I am saying is that airline ticket accounting is a complicated matter and not something that can easily be calculated while a customer waits on the line. I am simply explaining REALITY and those who are not happy with reality should make adjustments if they don’t want to get mad.

    If you notice in KLM’s letter, they did not provide the numbers used to compute the refund. This is common even when airlines talk to travel agents. Very difficult to pin them down on accounting details.

  • Joost

    It’s always the same with refunds of one-way tickets. The airlines just keep the money!

    Many people don’t know it, but even if your ticket is non-refundable you are entitled to get a refund for the airport taxes if you didn’t use your ticket.

    It might take you some time to get this refund from the airline, but you can do it yourself. You can also outsource it to companies like http://www.re-fund.com for example.

  • Jessica Smith

    I said yes….but that is only if she can actually produce the recordings she states that she has. If there are actually recorded conversations with the airline, that can be verified to be with the airline, where the airlines employee states she will get a full refund without repricing the part of the ticket she was using, then she should be assisted…..it is all a big bunch of ifs though….