Her doctor grounded her, but why can the airline keep her money?

By | March 18th, 2016

Cynthia Lane is grounded, but British Airways is flying away with her money.

It can keep the $1,013 she spent on her nonrefundable airline tickets. But should it?

Lane and her daughter were scheduled to fly from Cleveland to Milan on British Airways last July.

“On May 1, I was rushed to the hospital with a broken hip,” she says. “I underwent hip replacement surgery on May 3, followed by inpatient, and then outpatient physical therapy.”

Lane hoped she could still make the Milan trip. But then blood clots started forming in her legs, requiring surgery. A rod was inserted in her leg. (Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.)

“After everything was completed, my doctor advised me that I would not be able to get on a plane or do any traveling,” says Lane.

It’s bad enough that Lane suffered a series of health setbacks. But British Airways was about to make it worse.

“This was a major disappointment,” she says. “However, it has been an even greater disappointment to find out that British Airways has no compassion for its customers. After all that I have been through, and still going through, I am being forced to forfeit my ticket. I am still not in healthy enough condition to travel, but was told I have to use my ticket by April 24, 2016, or I lose it completely. I have submitted letters from my doctor and pleaded with British Airways to work with me, but have been unsuccessful.”

The published British Airways refund policy is silent on the issue of refunds on nonrefundable tickets for health reasons. I’ve seen the airline offer refunds; I’ve also seen it deny refunds.

And as a consumer advocate, I have just one question: What’s wrong with these people?

I mean, Lane had every intention of making this flight. Could she have purchased a more expensive refundable ticket? Yes, if she’d shelled out double or triple the original fare. How about travel insurance? Maybe, but what if this had been diagnosed as a pre-existing medical condition? She wouldn’t have been covered.

British Airways, like every other airline, expects passengers like Lane to be understanding if for some reason it can’t operate a flight. If the weather is bad or the plane breaks, the airline just lets itself off the hook.

But if the roles are reversed? Not so much.

I’ve heard from the hard-hearted people who say she should have known better, should have bought a more expensive ticket, should have taken out a travel insurance policy and should therefore give in and let the airline keep her money. They think showing a little compassion will raise your ticket prices, a belief that has no basis in reality and suggests they have no grasp of basic economics.

To those who believe Lane deserves this, I say: What the hell?

Who are you people?

Should British Airways refund Cynthia Lane's tickets?

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Posted March 18, 2016
  • jmj

    Should they? Probably.

    But there are rules for a reason. If you’ve ever worked customer service you’ll know people bring all kinds of sob stories to try to get something. It’s hard, then, for a hardened customer service rep to know which is legit and which isn’t. even with escalation, it’s hard for a supervisor to know.

    that being said, this person should pursue options such as using elliott’s published list of executives or writing polite letters or some such. Best of luck to her.

  • Leslie

    Really a hard push by the writer to have folks vote yes-referring to the No folks as “hard-hearted” and “who are these people”? Just lay out the facts and let people vote accordingly.

  • taxed2themax

    I agree.. that last part was, for me, a little off-putting.. as if to say those with dissenting opinions are somehow ‘bad’, ‘wrong’ or ‘mean’..

  • mbods2002

    Well, with legitimate documentation from a person’s doctor, why not? The travel industry is so caught up in fees and penalties etc. that it forgot about just plain ole good customer service. The industry will STILL make oodles of money. I know, I know, I’m such an idealist.

  • taxed2themax

    I agree with Chris in that I think the notion that doing so will somehow lead to a proven rise in prices, is a tenuous position at best.. I am however, in the “no” camp. I am there because I do think that as the consumer you have some rights, and some responsibilities.. and one of those responsibilities is to be properly insured. Now, of course, no one knows when they’ll need insurance.. If you did you’d buy it the day before and never at other times.. but in the end, I think as an adult, it’s your job to properly assess what your risks are (not just in travel, but health, personal liability, etc), how large they are, what you’re willing and able to effectively self-insure… then go out and see what actually can be insured (I cede Chris’ point that in some cases the issue of pre-exsiting may preclude getting a policy).. Failing to do so, even if it’s because you flat out just didn’t know or realize there were risks (in other-words not due to overt disregard), does not rise in my book to a level that now puts the onus on the other party to refund what otherwise would be a non-refundable case.

    I am all for ‘compassion’.. but I tend to reserve that for truly extraordinary case where I can see that the person or party did in fact take all reasonable and possible actions to avoid the matter in the first place.. Given what’s presented, this case does reach that level for me.

    The part that I think is just a touch…. misleading if you will, is the part that says “.. If the weather is bad or the plane breaks, the airline just lets itself off the hook.” because as a carrier subject to EU rules, BA cannot in fact let themselves off the hook totally for weather issues — think Duty of Care… or plane breaks (maintenance) as that is (now after several EU court rulings) a pretty high bar for the airline to cross.. thus making them liable in many, if not most, “plane breaks” cases…

  • Bill

    “who are you people” … well one of them is me. There are non-refundable tickets for a reason. Were do you draw the line? What excuse is acceptable and what is no with regards to a “Non-refundable” ticket. Who decides what is a go excuse and what isn’t. If I buy a non refundable ticket to Milan and then I get laid off from my place of work should I then get a refund from the airlines because I cannot afford to go? If I buy a ticket to Milan and then get the sniffles and decide I do not want to go, again should the airline give me a refund?
    People complain that the airlines are not consistent with their own policies yet when they try to be they are being heartless. If you do not like an airlines policy then do not fly on that airline it is pretty simple.
    When you buy a non-refundable ticket you personally are taking on the inherent risk that something untoward may happen. Its a gamble that you take and you cannot complain when you lose that gamble.
    It amazes me that people believe that the airlines are out to get them with their policies.

  • MarkKelling

    No, the airlines are not “out to get them” — they are just out to get their money. Every possible penny. The airlines don’t care at all about the people.

    A situation where you are told you cannot fly because you are too ill is not equivalent to you deciding not to fly because you lost your job or have the sniffles.

  • MarkKelling

    Unfortunately you can find doctors willing to write a letter that appears legitimate. That is why airlines are not willing to accept them for situations like this.

  • Jeff W.

    Because doctor’s notes can be easily faked. An airline cannot tell a legitimate one from a fake one and would rather not bother.

    It easier to say no to all rather than make exceptions. Because if you make an exception for one, you have to for all. And that just opens up more issues.

  • MarkKelling

    There are other options for airlines to handle situations like this that shouldn’t cost them that much and would result in much happier customers.

    Extending the expiration of the travel credit. Southwest is good at this. For $50 you can extend your ticket credit for another year giving you up to two years to rebook and fly. While this doesn’t work for everyone (people who are told they can never fly again by their doctor), it would help eliminate most of these complaints.

    Allowing the credit to be used by another person. Airlines used to allow this. So why not now? (Don’t give me the lame excuse it is for “security” when we all know it is just about the money.) Charge $50 and allow the credit to be used to book a ticket for anyone you choose at current ticket prices.

    Allow for a refund minus a refund fee. BA did that for me. I had a ticket and could not go due to an illness in the family. They kept 10% of the fare and refunded the rest after I provided a doctor’s note and other supporting documents. This would discourage people from just randomly deciding not to go on their trips because they would lose some of the money they spent and would have take the time to provide necessary documents.

  • Jeff W.

    Of course, she does not deserve this. No one does. But what part of non-refundable is confusing? She bought a non-refundable ticket and it seems like BA allowed her to use the value of the ticket up to a year beyond the purchase date. Whether it should be a year beyond the purchase or travel date is another discussion.

    But too many people have gamed the system and the airlines have responded in kind. Fake doctor notes. Supposed flat tires. Business travelers booking tickets in advance and cancelling last minute. The schemes are endless and the airlines just stopped making exceptions. As mentioned prior, customer service reps can’t tell the real from the fake.

    Chris lives in Orlando and knows full well the lengths people will go to take advantage. When Disney found out people were hiring disabled people so they can get to the front of the lines, they curtailed the advantages.

    Also, note: She cannot travel but her daughter can. So maybe one person can enjoy a trip.

    Hope she can fully recover.

  • mbods2002

    Wow, I didn’t realize that! What a lot of time and trouble for someone to go through to find a dishonest doctor to write a fake letter. I can’t imagine it’s that easy. Of course, then the airline would have to check it out etc. I don’t know. I guess buying insurance that covers all conditions, old and new is the answer?

  • RichardII

    Wait a minute… The LW excepts BA to go out of their way due to her misfortune. But, she did nothing to protect herself? Trip cancellation insurance (for medical reasons) costs between 5% and 15% of the covered costs. That means that for around $50 this whole issue could have been avoided. If you can’t afford $50 to insure a $1,000 expense then you probably shouldn’t be spending the money in the first place. Sorry, no sympathy here.

    As to those who suggest tickets should be transferable, extendable, etc. Fine. But, in the end, that will reduce income, disappoint financial analysts and the shareholders – and, like it or not, that is who these businesses are run for. So, liberalize policies all you want, but, as Chris loves to point out, nothing is free — you will just pay for the “benefit” somewhere else.

  • flutiefan

    exactly. apparently i’m now a horrible person because i think BA is well within their rights to follow their own rules. rules which she agreed to. why should she get the benefit of what travel insurance offers, without paying for travel insurance??

  • flutiefan

    it’s incredibly easy. look at all the fake “emotional support animal” letters people get. a quick Google search and you’re halfway there.

  • Regina Litman

    My Yes vote is a Yes, Of Course vote.

  • Jeff W.

    Or do you have a family member who is a doctor? Or a neighbor? A dentist is a doctor (DDS instead of MD) and a well crafted note from him/her could look just as real. Many easy examples.

  • Annie M

    What’s wrong with these people/ How about what’s wrong with the consumer? This is exactly what travel insurance is for – unexpected emergencies. When will people learn to spend a few more dollars for insurance so they never have to worry about this?

    Sick of these stories that are so preventable if people weren’t so cheap they didn’t buy insurance.


    According to the information the OP included, she bought her ticket on April 24 and went to the hospital on May 1 with the broken hip. Many travel insurance policies will cover pre-existing if purchased within 14 days of initial trip deposit. (My travel agent sells Travelex which is 21 days). The OP should have purchased insurance–not only for cancellation but also for medical coverage abroad where it is likely that her own insurance would not cover her. BA could do something for her, but is under no obligation. ( I would make a comment about the demeaning statement by Mr. Elliott but have already had my hand slapped when I pointed out the wide gulf between what those of us commenting are allowed to say and what Mr. Elliott is permitted. )

  • Michael__K

    Except many airlines INCLUDING BRITISH AIRWAYS do accept them in very similar situations if not exactly in this precise situation. In the case of BA they accept medical certificates after the ticketed journey has begun [it’s now rule 3b3 instead of 3b2].

    United’s policy (among other airlines) would allow for at least a waiver of the change fee in the OP’s situation, and would allow for a full refund if the illness precluded travel for a year or longer.

    For some carriers, the right to medical cancellations hinges on the fare rules for the purchased ticket.

  • Michael__K

    Funny, British Airways, in its contract, does offer accomodations for illness in certain scenarios, and does ask for a “medical certificate” (i.e. doctor’s note) in those scenarios.

    And aside from that, they can (and they DO!) make exceptions for one.

  • sirwired

    ” They think showing a little compassion will raise your ticket prices, a belief that has no basis in reality and suggests they have no grasp of basic economics.”

    Giving something away for free (refunds) that you used to charge for (via insurance) reduces profit. While certainly we would not expect a 1-for-1 increase, most business DO respond to increased cost by increasing price.

    And there are plenty of insurance companies that would NOT have called this a pre-existing condition; most 3rd-party insurance offers a pre-ex waiver if you purchase promptly and are fit to travel as of the purchase date.

  • Rebecca

    For me, this is very simple. It is patently unfair to the people that DO purchase travel insurance to make a policy exception for someone that doesn’t. It negates the purpose of insurance and makes those who purchase it suckers.

    Are there extreme cases where people should get refunds? Of course. This is not one of them. To expect BA to sort through requests like these and make exceptions requires a significant amount of overhead. Let alone liability. As others have pointed out, they get fake stories and fake notes all the time. I can vouch for this, I supervised a call center. And where do you draw the line? What if her husband broke his hip or her beloved dog got sick or her “niece” that isn’t really related died or etc etc etc? The list is endless and could never be a comprehensive policy the airline could enact without incurring liability. That’s what insurance is. It spells those things out to the letter.

  • Michael__K

    Celebrating the travel industry for making it’s policies increasingly restrictive makes us ALL suckers.

    This race to the bottom means that passenger pay more, and travel providers and insurers reap the profits.

    BTW, BA still sorts through requests like these anyway. It’s part of their contract. Rule 3b3. The OP doesn’t qualify only because her ticketed journey hadn’t begun.

    The OP would qualify for either a change fee waiver or possibly a refund under United’s policy, among other airlines.

    But you would prefer for these airlines to make their policies harsher and more unfriendly in a race to the bottom for the benefit of insurance companies? And for the psychological benefit of those who buy insurance, who might ‘feel’ better if they know that others can’t get from any airline what their insurance product promises?

  • Michael__K

    You assume there is no differentiation between airlines.

    Increased costs — especially of this type — could translate to increased loyalty and increased sales volume surpassing the impact on margins per passenger.

  • Annie M

    She has the choice of buying non-refundable or refundable or buying insurance. She chose the cheap option. So she gets what she paid for.

  • Nathan Witt

    Or, you know, the airlines could agree that in documented instances where a doctor forbids a patient to travel, they refund the price paid for the ticket, and no one has to have insurance for that. Accidents happen. That’s what *compassion* is for.

  • Michael__K

    Actually lots of “non-refundable” international airfares have exceptions for medical reasons.

    The comment I was responding to suggested that it was “unfair” for airlines to offer such fares, or for airlines to make policy exceptions. I disagree.

    By the way, why is it okay for insurance companies (but not airlines) to make policy exceptions?

  • Mel65

    Airlines are in business. Their sole purpose is to make a profit, so yes I guess they are “out to get their money,” but, that is what businesses are in business for. The money. It isn’t evil; it isn’t a conspiracy; it’s BUSINESS. If you choose to live your life spreading your wealth around and raining unicorns and fairy dust on everyone, hey that’s great. But, we need to hold people accountable. When I travel, I decide if I can afford to let this money walk away or not, and I buy insurance accordingly. The OP may have had all the good intentions in the world with regard to her expectation to travel, but for the millionth time $hit happens and travel insurance isn’t some deep dark hidden secret. It’s offered throughout the booking process. I *do* think that extending her credit is a good compromise, but they do not *owe* her her money back. And they definitely don’t owe her daughter’s ticket refund.

  • MarkKelling

    I think I completely agree with you on this.

    My original comment was toward the statement that seemed to say not flying because you have the sniffles is equivalent to not flying because of having hip replacement surgery with complications. Those are definitely not even in the same ballpark. No one is “owed’ anything if they do not make their fight beyond what the conditions attached to that ticket provide. It is just nice when an airline allows for unusual circumstances in those conditions. It wold be even nicer if more did.

  • MarkKelling

    OK, I should have stated “many” or “some” airlines do not accept medical documentation. And as I posted elsewhere, BA did allow me a refund of a non-refundable ticket (minus a fee) because of family medical issues, so I am aware that it happens. That ticket was not the most restrictive (i.e. not the cheapest), and could be why they allowed for it.

  • And if, as in the olden days when I started traveling by air, you could change plans freely, how much wild tickets rise in today’s competitive environment? Six or seven percent, maybe?

  • 42NYC

    I can appreciate their situation and think it would be ‘nice’ of BA to refund the ticket (I’ve had Delta refund tickets for me for less than this – i’ve also had them deny requests as well).

    But compassion is a slippery slope. If this person gets their money back, what about those in their traveling party? What about someone with a broken foot who can fly but would rather not be touring Italy on crutches? What about someone who is having a flare-up of anxiety and is going to have a tough time on a long plane ride? What about someone who lost their job 2 weeks before their trip and would rather get their money back than go on vacation? What about someone who’s 3rd cousin passed away? Or their close friend or co-worker? What about someone who booked a trip with their partner but has since broken up prior to the trip? What about someone who booked a trip before requesting the time off of work and was subsequntly denied the request?

    What about the person where none of the above happened to them but they’d just ‘rather not go’ on their trip to makes up one of the above stories to get a refund?

    Do all of these situations warrant ‘compassion’? Probably not. Depending on who is reading this, you might say some do, and some dont. My point is that they have to have strict rules in place or else run the risk of refunding the ticket for everyone with a ‘headache.’ It’s up to their discretion if they wish to refund a ticket but their rules/policies clearly say ‘no refunds.’

    I’m sure BA is also more generous towards an elite passengers spending tens of thousands of dollars a year vs someone who is flying them for the first time and only chose BA because they were $40 cheaper than KLM. But thats for another time.

  • 42NYC

    agreed. If you choose not to buy appropriate auto insurance, crash your car but dont have the coverage to get it fixed, you wouldn’t call Toyota to make an exception for you.

    I’d rather not have to buy auto/homeowners/life/health insurance and save the $$ each and every year. But I know the risks associated with not having it so choose to make the purchase. Same with travel insurance. We bought it for our 3 week honeymoon to Argentina. We don’t buy it for a weekend trip to Florida (but understand we aren’t owed anything if we get sick before the trip and have to cancel)

  • 42NYC

    The (for-profit, publicly traded company) doesn’t care at all about the people.

    Fixed it for you. Last I checked, BA wasn’t a non-profit.

  • Fishplate

    “Who are you people?”

    We’re your faithful readers, Chris. We click on the ads that pay your salary.

    And, in some cases, we respectfully disagree, pointing out that a contract willingly entered into by both parties that describes the outcome of a transaction should be expected to be adhered to by both parties. No surprise that the refund request was denied…that was the deal Ms. Lane made with the airline.

    Bear in mind that she still has options to contact executives of the airlines, if she hasn’t threatened a lawsuit, or barraged them with email containing phrases like “What the hell?” and “Who are you people?”

    As I’ve read in this column many times, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar…

  • Retired

    Extending the credit, perhaps for 6 months, is reasonable.
    I buy non-refundable tickets and I make a conscious decision to not buy insurance – it is also a conscious decision to, if necessary, eat the loss. No, it’s not so much that I can afford to absorb the loss; rather, it’s because the price I’m paying is the lowest and, if for any reason I need to forfeit it, the reason would far outweigh the monetary loss.
    This is my personal experience – my husband and I had return tickets on award miles. He became ill on the morning of departure and, because the trip had not yet started, I was able to re-deposit the miles. We subsequently re-booked flights, paying the difference in taxes. Unfortunately, my husband died before we were able to take the trip. The flight was already ticketed so I couldn’t transfer it to his daughter who has the same last name – a loss of several hundred dollars. I was able to reschedule another flight for myself, again paying the difference in taxes. All of this to say – I very carefully read the rules and know and abide by the consequences.

  • Jeff W.

    It could certainly translate. The odds are slim that someone flying from Cleveland, Ohio to Milan, Italy on British Airways — no less — is a repeat customer.

    If she was, there would be a mention of being a member of the loyalty program. And if a member of the loyalty program, BA could possibly be more willing to bend the rules as they would be able to see a history and determine the amount of future business. Not saying they would, but it is one variable in the decision making process.

  • cscasi

    Sometimes that works and sometimes, not.

  • cscasi

    Of course, if the doctor wrote it, it was presented to the airline, the airline might call the doctor and what do you think he or she would say? Of course I wrote it and it bears my signature. That’s that.

  • cscasi

    No, it wouldn’t be fair. However, that is what those are, exceptions. It is up to the company whether or not to grant the exception and one should not feel bad, ripped off, or whatever, if they are not granted the exception. Too many people expect to be granted an exception for whatever their problem(s) may be. Don’t get travel insurance and you take a chance if you buy Non-Refundable tickets.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    The problem with your position is the asymetry. When an airline, for reasons within their control, much less reasons beyond their control, breaks the contract with the passenger, they get a free pass. If there is a mechanical problem, a crew times out, an equipment change, or other issue that diminishes the passenger experience or prevents timely or necessary transport, there is no consequence to the airline. If a passenger, on the other hand, experiences a problem beyond their control, whether illness, flat tire, or other concerns, they will be held, by the airline (and their apologists) to the letter of the contract. This is not equitable.

  • Leslie

    I made the same comments as you and the moderator deleted them as I was offensive to the writer-Chris in pointing them out. GO figure!

  • Gary K

    “Who are you people?” Well, how about some of us like to check on accuracy of what is written. The link in the article to the “British Airways Refund Policy” is, IMHO, incorrect. It links to a page which explains how to request a refund, which is a process. There is nothing on that page about how BA determines if a refund is possible or would be granted.

    In their General Conditions of Carriage, OTOH, there is discussion of what should be considered policy. In addition to the sections cited by others, there’s also section 3e) “Your rights if you are prevented from travelling by events beyond your control” — that’s a policy. It specifically references non-refundable tickets, and would be worth a shot. After all, Ms. Lane (I’m sure) didn’t plan, or cause the broken hip after she purchased the ticket.


    I do agree that purchasing insurance, where worth the premium vs. potential loss, is sound practice.

  • judyserienagy

    Chris, you are SO RIGHT: And as a consumer advocate, I have just one question: What’s wrong with these people?

    The airline doesn’t have to lose the revenue, it just needs to reschedule the trip … and if the passenger can’t travel for 2 years, so be it. You can’t fake major surgery, proving it is easy. The airlines just chose not to bother.

    Their passengers are so unimportant to them, they don’t even have staff to deal with the occasional legitimate reason to take proper care of their customers. They hide behind “well, everyone is a cheat, so we’ll just deny all claims”. Travellers should not be required to purchase travel insurance to cover the cost of a tix. The airline isn’t losing a dime.

  • LFH0

    I might investigate an involuntary refund by having the carrier affirmatively refuse transportation. (One possibility: show up for the flight, but refuse to sit in a seat because of “doctor’s orders”; the carrier will refuse to provide transportation to a passenger who refuses to sit. Depending on the carrier’s conditions of carriage, other options might exist.)

  • taxed2themax

    To me that seems to be a no-go.. As the carrier I’d take the position that the passenger failed to/refused to comply with (external) safety regulations as stipulated – therefore, was denied boarding.. In most cases a denial of boarding based on a non-compliance matter does not then open up a fee-free refund situation.

    True, in many parts of the world there is a notion of “accommodation” for those with disabilities (usually one that is defined or covered under the scope of law, and not one that is user-created); however, it is also my opinion that any such accommodations that a carrier must make, must also comply fully with existing safety and security rules.. In other-words, while the carrier may have to waive some of their internal rules to make the accommodation, I don’t think an accommodation can be used as a go-around for a safety rule imposed by statue.

    In this case, I don’t think the OP, by forcing the matter to a point of ‘I can’t sit per my doctors orders’ will work under the notion of involuntary boarding.. I suspect BA would invoke language contained in 7a6 and/or 7a8 which I would think covers this kind of case.

    BA: http://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/legal/british-airways/general-conditions-of-carriage

    Therefore, a denial under these conditions would not then make the OP entitled under either 10b or 10c language.

  • taxed2themax

    “When an airline, for reasons within their control, much less reasons
    beyond their control, breaks the contract with the passenger, they get a
    free pass. If there is a mechanical problem, a crew times out, an
    equipment change, or other issue that diminishes the passenger
    experience or prevents timely or necessary transport, there is no
    consequence to the airline.”

    I don’t know if I’d agree with that. In the case of BA, I’d say it is in fact not true.. think of duty of care — even for cases (like weather delays) which are not something the airline can control.. there is also the EU rules for compensation for mechanical issues and a litany of other cases, which due to later court rulings is better defined, are now mandated compensation events.

    None of this sounds to me like a free pass at all, and in term of both the EU mandated compensation as well as a large part of the Duty of Care obligation, those would be paid with hard currency and not via the use of miles/points or other non-legal tender options.

  • LFH0

    The result should depend on the specifics of the carrier’s contract. Typically, a carrier will include certain refusals (such as, e.g., refusal to allow inspection of person or baggage) as a basis for refusing transportation, in which case the passenger is entitled to an involuntary refund. I looked only briefly for the applicable BA contract (many times contracts vary depending on whether domestic or international travel is involved, etc.) but I did not spend that long doing so. But if the terms in what you cited do apply, then paragraph 7 does list the various things for which BA is permitted to refuse transportation, and which an involuntary refund might be available. Thus, I characterized my comment more as investigating the possibilities, rather than concluding that any one particular strategy achieve the desired outcome. (Carriers use their contracts to achieve their desired outcomes, and if contracts are indeed bilateral, then there’s nothing wrong with passengers doing the same thing.)

    I thought briefly about the disability route. But what I read here was a doctor’s advice, and the condition that might not be considered to be a disability.

  • taxed2themax

    “By the way, why is it okay for insurance companies (but not airlines) to make policy exceptions?”

    I am totally in favor of leaving open the door to a company making or allowing itself the option to exercise exceptions.. ad I decry any actions to other limit or reduce this…

    That said, I also think of exceptions within the context of “exceptionAL” or simply put, did the person who seeks an exception to the policy, first take >all< available and reasonable actions to avert or limit the issue to begin with? If so, then I'm more than willing to talk about making an exception as I can make a case that says "this person did ALL they could to avoid or limit this case, but it still turned out bad".. However, if I can't say yes, then I am far less open to talking about an exception as I can't make out that they first covered all their own bases.
    In this case, I agree that buying a less restrictive ticket would have worked, and yes, I would most likwly would have costed materially more.. so, for me, I'm willing to 'pass' on the higher fare basis ticket notion.. but where I can't get past is the no-insurance issue.. That to me is where, in my mind, I can't make a case for did you take all reasonable steps.. As I said earlier and Chris notes, there can be cases that are simply uninsurable for a variety of reasons.. IF that was the case here, then I'd say differently, but as this does not appear to be the case (granted, this pint was not 100% clearly defined in the narrative) I then stop there.

  • Fishplate

    I believe that all the exceptions for the airline that you cite are detailed in the contract. Yes, it’s asymmetrical, and yes, it could even be said to be unfair. But does the airline act outside the conditions as stated when you buiy the ticket?

  • Michael__K

    “I can’t make a case for did you take all reasonable steps”

    I understand why you are attracted towards seeing it that way, but in practice, that’s just a shell game.

    A holier and purer second guesser than thou will always find some “reasonable” steps not taken. If the customer bought the airline’s insurance (with no pre-existing condition coverage), then why did they do that? They should have bought a third party policy. If they bought a third party policy and still aren’t covered, then why did they buy THAT policy. They should have bought THIS policy instead. If you can’t name a ‘better’ policy, then they should have used a travel agent. If they used a travel agent then they should have either bought refundable tickets or not planned the trip at all.

    If you want to defend airlines when they refuse requests from passengers for compassion, there’s always going to be an excuse to do so.

  • Michael__K

    I agree that buying a less restrictive ticket would have worked, and yes, I would most likwly would have costed materially more.

    Actually, United’s fares on this route for future dates that I checked were LOWER than BA’s and yet come with United’s more lenient policy on medical cancellations.

    I want more airlines to have policies like United’s rather than like BA’s. It’s sad that many of the commenters here — often the same one’s who oppose any industry regulations because they believe they will result in higher fares — are happy to advocate for the travel industry to move in the direction of harsher policies that won’t even yield any savings to passengers — it just means paying more (including higher insurance premiums) for less.

  • Maxwell Smart

    “I’m pretending to be dead. Give me my money”.
    Getting really sick of these feeble attempts to get money back, when it was clearly a non-refundable ticket.
    Make all tickets non-refundable & costs will be lowered for the airlines.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Perhaps, in certain circumstances BA (and other European airlines are different) for this particular passenger, but the problem that occurred here, and the asymetry, is not limited to BA.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Your reliance on a contract that is essential a contract of adhesion is precisely the point. If a person intends to travel any distance beyond reasonable driving distance, all of the air carriers impose conditions that are not equitable. The solution is legislation.