Rules are meant to be broken, right? Well, you might be forgiven for thinking so if you’re a regular reader of my work.
As a consumer advocate, I routinely help people bend rules when circumstances warrant it. Of course, that brings out the usual chorus of rule-lovers, trolls and haters, who accuse me of threatening the foundations of Western civilization by convincing a company to waive its often ridiculous policies.
But rules are important. Just ask Congress, which is on the verge of shutting down half of the U.S. government because of disagreements over the budget and healthcare reform. As I write this, I’m in Washington sitting next to a government executive who is worried sick that her office will be shuttered tomorrow. It probably will be.
The law-and-order folks have a valid point, once you get past their often angry personal attacks. Some rules are not meant to be broken.
For example, here’s a request I received from Mary Anne Fontaine on behalf of a friend who flies once a year and had found an inexpensive ticket on Allegiant Air.
“Since she purchased the ticket, that airline has had three emergency incidents that I feel should be reason enough for her to be able to cancel her ticket with a refund,” she says. “How can she go about doing this?”
Allegiant may be in love with fees (that’s another story) and it may not operate the most customer-friendly airline (another story, too) but even with this string of unfortunate incidents, I can’t find it in me to call the airline unsafe, or to even suggest Fontaine’s friend might have a reason to worry.
When I get a case like this, my first instinct isn’t to jump into action. But before I do, I look at the facts and I apply the skeptical filter my journalism instructors helped me develop years ago. And that filter showed me I was probably looking at someone who wanted to get around Allegiant’s nonrefundability rule, and might be using the news to justify it.
Can you tell which way I’m leaning on this case? Keep reading and I’ll tell you how I responded.
Yes, rules are meant to be broken
Once you understand the reasons behind some of the airline ticket restrictions, you’ll quickly conclude that rules are meant to be broken, if not by passengers then by the airlines themselves.
The “no refunds” policy is meant to protect a carrier’s revenues — which is to say, if you cancel a ticket, and the airline can’t resell it, then the company shouldn’t have to eat the loss. Most passengers understand that and respect it. (Actually, Allegiant used to be a little more flexible, allowing a name change for a $50 fee. That policy ends Oct. 30. Oh well.)