His friend is gone and so is his ticket refund

Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.com

When Bob Gyurci’s friend dies, he expects the airfare refund to be fast and problem-free. But it isn’t. The money is lost between his airline and online travel agency.

Question: I booked tickets for my friend Ron and myself to fly from Minneapolis to Las Vegas on Spirit Airlines last year. But before we could fly, Ron died of a heart attack.

I faxed a copy of his death certificate to Spirit to get a refund.

But after several months, I haven’t received the money. Spirit says it already credited One Travel, the online travel agency through which I booked the tickets, and that it may take time to see the credit. But it’s been almost six months.

Spirit says as far as it’s concerned, the matter is closed. Could you help? — Bob Gyurci, Bloomington, Minn.

Answer: My condolences on your loss. At a time like this, you shouldn’t have to worry about a refund. Spirit’s apparent intransigence isn’t making things any easier.

The matter isn’t closed, as far as I’m concerned. You bought your tickets through an online travel agency, which then passed it along to Spirit. After your friend passed away, the airline claims it issued a refund. Most airlines offer refunds when a passenger dies, even when the ticket is non-refundable, so Spirit was just following the standard industry practice.

But here’s where things went a little sideways: When a refund doesn’t show up, an airline can help you track down the missing money by sending a query to a travel agency. Why would it do that? Because it cares that you have a good service experience and wants your repeat business. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.

In your case, the email correspondence between you and a Spirit representative suggested either your agency or airline had an incorrect credit card number. Maybe that’s something One Travel could have helped you with, maybe not. But for you, it was like hitting your head against a brick wall. Spirit kept sending you the same response: “Not our problem.”

A Spirit supervisor would have spotted the problem immediately and fixed it. For that reason, sending a brief, polite appeal to someone at a higher level might have been your next move. I list them on my website.

If that didn’t work, you could have contacted One Travel and applied some pressure on that end of the transaction.

I don’t want to be overly critical of Spirit. I’ve been in similar situations with much bigger airlines, where it simply washes its hands of the problem. “Call the agency,” they say. “We’ve done our part.”

But is that good customer service? Of course not.

I contacted Spirit on your behalf. It tracked down your refund and credited the correct account.

Who was responsible for Bob Gyurci’s refund?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • $16635417

    Why not just buy direct from Spirit if you aren’t going to use the travel agent to request the refund from the beginning?

  • sirwired

    The poll question cannot be answered… What did his credit card statement say? If it said “One Travel”, then it wasn’t Sprit’s job to track down what happened to the money after they sent it back to where it came from. If his statement said “Spirit” then it is Spirit’s problem.

    All that said, this, in theory, is exactly what a good travel agent is supposed to do; go to bat with you when dealing with travel providers.

    Why DIDN’T he at least try talking to his agency before escalating to you?

  • Raven_Altosk

    Spirit Airlines. The cesspool of the industry.
    And in an industry that’s already a sewage treatment plant…well, there ya go.

  • EvilEmpryss

    I can’t tell from the letter: did the OP even try contacting One Travel? It sounds like all he did was contact Spirit and be done with it. While it’s good customer service for the airline to check with the travel agency, it’s better consumer smarts to do it yourself so you know they’ve been contacted and get the answer straight from them.

  • ShrimpBoy

    Why is this Spirit’s problem?? They didn’t sell the ticket to the OP, the online agency did.

  • SnowWheet

    I echo most of the other folks here… The TA seems to be MIA. I wouldn’t expect them to cough up a refund that they have not received from Spirit, but I would expect them to mediate the issue until the money is secured. Otherwise, why use an agent these days?

  • Lindabator

    Why blame Spirit here? They refunded it to the agency – why didn’t the client approach THEM about the refund????

  • Lindabator

    Not in this case, though. Why on earth order a ticket thru a 3rd party, then not go to THEM about the refund????

  • Lindabator

    BUT if he did not approach them in the first place, they may not be aware of the refund, and have just assumed it was part of their commissions – they have to KNOW a refund is requested to track it down, as all monies just come in on one report

  • emanon256

    Why didn’t the OP contact the travel agency? He bought from them, not from Spirit. I am glad Spirit finally resolved it, but for once I actually agree with Spirit. The agency is the one who represents the OP in this transaction, talk to them. And when will people finally learn to stop using the fly by night, over saturated on-line travel agencies and just book with the airlines, or a real agent?

    I can’t answer my own question. I have many relatives, who despite my telling them 20 or more times, still always book with these on-line agencies. They give excuses like, well they are cheaper, or they are easier. Well, they are not, and they leave you hanging when there is a problem. Ugh, when will it stop.

    I have one such relative who will only use cheapoair, despite my constant warning. She insists it’s cheaper to use it, and when I say check the airline first, she says its too much work. Well I just did it and look at the results? Top is Frontiers website, and there are plenty of tickets left. Cheapoair is substantially more expensive and states that there is only 1 ticket at that price. Okay, rant over.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Not only would hell have to freeze over, it would have to freeze all the way to the bottom before I fly Spirit.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    In a few cases, it was amazingly cheaper to book with orbitz rather than direct. I think it had something to do with how the code shares were done.

  • DavidYoung2

    If you choose to fly dis-Spirit-ed, you give up all hope of customer care. I flew them once and it was horrible. Fool me once, sham on Spirit. They will never have a chance to fool me twice…..

  • emanon256

    You know, I have seen that a few times, but it was always equally cheap on the code share airline. Like once I was looking at DEN-BOS R/T and the on-lien agencies were saying $350 or so on United, and United was saying $480, but US Air was selling the same flight for $350 as code share on United. So I was still able to find it for the same price, by using the airline directly.

    I did find cheaper fares on some of these sites a few times, but they had additional restrictions such as it was a space available flight with no future value. So basically I would wait at the gate and only fly if there was space.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    That’s a good idea. I’ve seen this suggestion a few times in different blogs (to try something such as book on some other airline that does the codeshare).

    I saw hints of this recently when looking at a tripadvisor result and it showed a united flight (yech!) but as a Lufthansa flight (on codeshare, but really United.) I know some poor folks don’t read the fine print and are disappointed when they think they are buying a Lufthansa flight but go on United.

    But yeah, fascinating that it’s cheaper to book the ticket with Lufthansa than with United even though it’s a United flight. There were some other fares out there like that as well which are bizarre such as going to Iceland Air to buy a Lufthansa ticket or something like that. I guess it’s almost always possible to buy with an airline directly. You still wind up with a codeshare mess (so the airlines fight each other) but you don’t get stuck with an agent.

  • TonyA_says

    I wrote an app that launches Kayak, Hipmunk, Cheaptickets and Expedia at the same time for the same itinerary. Saves me a lot of time for comparison shopping.

  • larry bradley

    I booked at trip to Guatemala on Spirit with my best friend. He was killed in a car accident before the flight. Spirit gave a prompt refund after I sent a copy of the death certificate. I had absolutely no problems with Spirit. They were very nice about it in their emails to me. It seems like One Travel is the problem here. Years ago, I booked 3 different hotels with them. They managed to mess up all three reservations including cancelling one that I had already prepaid, not having a reservation when I showed up at another hotel, and the wrong rate at a third hotel. I never booked with them again.

  • TonyA_says

    This problem is a little bit more complex than it sounds.
    We all love technology and gadgets, but do not realize that we give up some important stuff with it.
    I am in Cambridge, MA as I write this. I am traveling (driving) with my 87 year old Dad, visiting MIT and Harvard. He is an alumni. Yesterday, I parked right in the same building where ITA Software is. Also called google office in Cambridge.
    This company essentially created the software which allowed airlines and OTAs to present people with flights they can easily buy online. In other words, ITA software eliminated the human and replaced them with vending machines. If problems do not occur then fine. But you cannot completely automate customer service. A human still has to examine a death certificate and process a refund. But if you have removed too many intelligent workers from the process to cheapen it, then what are you left with? That’s what happened in airline distribution. Chances are your kids don’t know anyone going to school to be a travel agent or worker. So who will continue to do the work?