Help, my AirTran tickets expired — is my money gone forever?

Talk about adding insult to injury.

Before Donna Adams was scheduled to fly from Orlando to Indianapolis on AirTran back in 2010, she hurt her back and had to cancel her trip. When she discovered her condition was a lot worse than she thought, she had to postpone the new flight she’d booked with her ticket credit.

“An MRI confirmed that I had herniated a disc in my back,” she says. “After several courses of physical therapy, chiropractic care, therapeutic massage, oral steroids and anti-inflammatory steroid injections I elected to have surgery.”
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Buh-bye, bag fees? What the Southwest-AirTran merger really means for passengers

This morning’s big news — some observers have even called it “shocking” — is that discount carriers Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways are headed to the altar in a $1.4 billion merger.

I’ve already received numerous questions about what this will mean for passengers. The answer? It’s a good news/bad news situation, probably.

But let’s begin with a short video (above) from earlier this year, when Southwest took aim at AirTran for its baggage fees. This was part of a series of commercials in which Southwest tweaked its bride-to-be. Funny, how things change. They must have known back then that a merger was a possibility. And yet …
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Two airline sites hit “reboot” — but is it for the better?

I usually leave the stories about site redesigns to my capable friends over at Tnooz, but during the last 24 hours I’ve caught wind of two airline site upgrades (at least that’s what they’re calling it) that could affect your next trip.

If you fly on Spirit Airlines or AirTran Airways, that is.

But before I get to that, I wanted to also mention that the airline fee site I wrote about a few weeks ago, TruPrice, is launching today.
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The ticket refund that took forever and a day

Nine months isn’t the longest someone has had to wait for an airline ticket refund, but for Chris Dich, it was long enough, thanks very much. (I’ve had cases that took two years.)

His online travel agency promised it would take “two to three billing cycles” at best. Didn’t happen.

Dich’s story is a reminder that you can do everything right and still get stuck in a holding pattern. Getting un-stuck isn’t easy.
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Here’s a receipt for your airline ticket (PS, you don’t have a ticket)

tranDoris Weller booked a set of roundtrip tickets from Wichita, Kan., to Houston on AirTran recently. Her husband, Lawrence, needed to be in Houston for an important medical treatment. The airline sent her a confirmation.

But it wasn’t the kind of confirmation she expected. On closer examination — which, unfortunately, didn’t happen until the couple arrived at the airport — it became clear that AirTran had sent her a notice that her credit card had been declined.

Result: the Wellers had to buy another set of tickets for $1,588.

Should AirTran refund the difference between the original tickets and the higher, walk-up fare?
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AirTran Airways
9955 AirTran Boulevard
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 318-5600
(800) 247-8726

How to get through to an operator
dial 0 and wait.


AirTran has a fairly decent reputation for customer service, even for a discount airline that charges for almost everything (including seat reservations). Complaints tend to get resolved quickly, and to the customer’s satisfaction. And when it doesn’t? Here are a few helpful resources.

If you have a customer complaint, please read this before contacting the company.

Customer service resources

Contract of carriage (PDF)
Customer service

Primary e-mail

Primary contact

Deena Houghton
Manager, DOT and consumer affairs
9955 AirTran Boulevard
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 318-5600

Secondary contact (*):

Alfred J. Smith
Senior vice president – customer service
9955 AirTran Boulevard
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 318-5600

Chief executive (*):

Robert L. Fornaro
Chief executive officer
9955 AirTran Boulevard
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 318-5600

What others have to say about AirTran

Aviation Consumer Protection Division Air Travel Consumer Report

This information has been collected from publicly-available resources and is believed to be accurate at the time of the last update. If any of this information is inaccurate, please e-mail me.

* Executives should only be contacted when your letter or email has not been acknowledged within six to eight weeks.

Spirit is gone – and so is my money

Question: After much work and desperation and reading your column faithfully, I have come to the conclusion that you are my only hope.

A few months ago, just before my wedding, my fiance and his best man went to Las Vegas for his bachelor party. He had purchased a package deal through Yahoo Travel that included a stay at the MGM Grand hotel and round-trip airfare on Spirit Airlines for both of them.

But when they got to the airport, there was no one at the ticket counter. After a little bit of research, they learned that there were no flights to Vegas on Spirit Airlines that night. When my fiance contacted Yahoo from the airport, they informed him that Spirit Airlines had stopped flying from Atlanta to Las Vegas. He was never told that or sent an e-mail regarding that fact.

He was told to pay for a flight on AirTran Airways to Las Vegas and they would secure his return flight. They told him that he would need to contact Yahoo Travel when he returned to get reimbursement for the plane ticket. They paid $539 for two one-way tickets.

Once he returned, he contacted Yahoo by phone and was given a case ID number. They told him to e-mail the information to them and they would get back in touch with him. He did just that. No one got back in touch with him, so he called again. Yahoo told him that they had to wait for Spirit Airlines to return the money to them so that they can return the money to us.

It’s been four months, and there’s no sign of the money. We could use whatever help and advice you can give to us. — Christina Stansbury, Columbus, Ga.

Answer: Yahoo Travel should have told your fiance about the flight changes.

When he made his reservation, he gave the site his email address and phone number. If he received an email confirmation from the online agency the first time, then it’s reasonable to assume the second email — the one saying his flight to Las Vegas had been canceled — made it as well.

Unless it was never sent.

I’m willing to bet it wasn’t. That’s because the domestic airlines, which are expected to cut their routes by an unprecedented 15 percent in the coming months, have been less than forthcoming about their flight changes. I can’t really blame them; it’s easy to forget something when you’re slashing your schedules every day.

All of which doesn’t absolve Yahoo of its failure to notify your fiance of his flight changes. Yahoo, whose reservations are handled by Travelocity, has the means to track schedule changes. Why are you working with an online travel agent in the first place? One reason is that you’ll be taken care of when something goes wrong.

Of course that doesn’t absolve your fiance of not checking with Spirit or Yahoo to confirm his flight. If he had bothered to call a day before he was scheduled to leave, Yahoo could have found another flight and prevented him from having to buy a new ticket.

At a time like this, when airline schedules are in a constant state of change, my advice is not just to call 24 hours before departure, but also two weeks before you’re scheduled to leave. Why? Because if your flight is rescheduled and you don’t like it, you can ask for a refund and still qualify for a reasonably-priced advance purchase fare. Try doing that a day before you leave, and you’re talking big bucks.

Yahoo was wrong to make you wait until it received its money back from Spirit. I’ve heard of airlines taking two to three months, and in extreme cases, up to a year, to issue a refund. Yahoo and Travelocity don’t want to give an airline an interest-free loan, but why should their customers?

You might have appealed directly to Travelocity when your first complaint got you nowhere. I contacted Yahoo Travel, which got in touch with Travelocity, which in turn offered your fiance an immediate refund of the AirTran ticket.