If an airline tells you it offers a more humane way to travel, should you hold it to that promise?
That’s the question raised by David Seltzer’s case on JetBlue Airways, a case that comes to us at an appropriate time of year.
Seltzer’s grandfather died unexpectedly a few months ago, and he immediately paid JetBlue a walk-up fare of $1,258 to fly from Long Beach, Calif., to New York, so he could be with his family. JetBlue then piled on the fees, charging him $20 for a phone booking and then hitting him with a $104 fare differential when he had to change his return flight again.
Seltzer then did what many distraught passengers do after the funeral. He politely asked the airline to adjust the price to a so-called “bereavement” fare. After all, Seltzer wasn’t just a random passenger requesting a fare adjustment, but a loyal, card-carrying JetBlue frequent flier, according to his mother, who contacted me for help.
Her son had two other JetBlue flight itineraries in the future, including one to return to New York again during the holidays. Why not help out a good customer in the spirit of the season?
“We recognize this has been a difficult time for all of you and we offer condolences,” a JetBlue representative wrote in response to her request for a fare reduction. “A crewmember can only sell a fare that is listed on the website when a customer books a flight. We regret the cost was high but when a family member passes, we all are anxious to get out as soon as possible and the fare will typically be higher when you book the same day of travel.”
JetBlue agreed to refund the $20 booking fee and the $104 fare differential. It also offered him a $100 credit toward a future flight. But it refused to refund any part of the original $1,258 fare.
“We know you would like a refund however; in order to maintain the integrity of the JetBlue guidelines we can hot process a refund for this fare,” a representative wrote.
(Yeah, they probably meant to say “not.”)
That didn’t sit well with Seltzer. Here’s her response to JetBlue:
Your bereavement policy states that there basically is none because ‘JetBlue fares are already discounted.’
In this instance that is an untrue statement.
In the JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights it is stated that, “Above all else, JetBlue Airways is dedicated to bringing humanity back to air travel.”
We beg to differ.
Our son was not treated humanely, we feel that he was treated very unfairly. We find it difficult to believe that this was JetBlue’s ‘best fare’ in any way either.
We believe that you took advantage of a young man who was in shock and grieving his grandfather, who he was extremely close to his entire life.
As proof, the Seltzers attached a screenshot of the advance-purchase fares between Long Beach and New York, showing that significantly cheaper fares were available.