Abbreviated study in Australia due to COVID pandemic

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May 29, 2020
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Our daughter (Mary Grosskopf) required a flight change to leave Sydney Australia at the end of March 2020 vs. original planned departure of 06/13/2020. This was due to the COVID outbreak. We (her parents) made the change to her ticket on 03/21/2020 to ensure that she would have a seat on 03/28/20. United charged us $590 plus a $300 change fee. Mary's original air travel was paid for ($1750) in November 2019. Now, United will only give her a $300 voucher, good for one year! Would you please assist? Mary will be attending college in the fall and in all likelihood would not be able to use the voucher inside of a year or even two.

We feel that we/Mary should get an actual refund of the additional $595 and the change fee of $300.

Our decision had to made quickly because there were published (on-line) reports on 03/20/2020 that United Airlines would be stopping long-haul flights from Australia after 3/28. If Mary was not able to get a flight, there was a possibility that she would not get home for an indeterminate amount of time. Here is a link of one of the reports: https://onemileatatime.com/united-airlines-cancels-international-flights/
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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Did you change the return flight of her original flight or did you buy her a new ticket?

She won’t receive the full value of the ticket back since she seemingly flew the outbound flight.

If you rebooked her flight home with a change fee, they would have applied the cost of the return on the ticket she had towards the changed flight so there wouldn’t be any money owed and you would have paid the difference in the cost of the flight.

If United wasn’t issuing travel waivers for her flight at the time you rebooked, there doesn’t seem to be anything that could be done except to use our Company Contacts for the airline and asking for an exception to the rules.

This article might help- please see #5:

 
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jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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Very glad your daughter got home safe and sound. That's the most important thing, isn't it? My niece got out of Melbourne and back to Seattle at the last minute as well. I'm reading that the new departure flight was $590 more than the original fare and UA charged their normal cancel/change fee of $300. This is how a change of flight is handled. Did UA give the voucher as a courtesy? Or was it to cover something else? I don't understand why you're looking for a refund. Perhaps I'm missing something.
 
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May 29, 2020
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Thank you, Neil & jsn55, for the replies.

We changed the ticket to get a new return to USA date. Our request for the $590 refund stems from the fact that the original flight was already paid for. Why does United tack on another $590 plus the $300 change fee? Almost feels like extortion just to get a family member home in the midst of a global crisis.

We are indeed appreciative of the $300 voucher that United has extended to her. We are just concerned that, as a college student paying her way through college, the money could be better used vs. having a voucher. The other $590 would certainly help as well.

Thanks for the link to the article. I read through #5. Our view is that, based on our knowledge of the travel situation at the time, i.e. United cancelling long haul flights (article link that we posted) and the Level 4 travel advisory issued by the US State department - our only option was to act, and act right away. We were unaware of any possible waivers at the time.

jsn55: We are certainly glad to have her home safe and sound and to hear that your niece was able to return home as well.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
The reason they charged you was because a last minute walk up ticket costs much more than what you paid for your original ticket and especially when this started and people were trying to get home in an emergency. One way tickets are almost always more than a round trip ticket. It’s not extortion, it was the going rate at that time for few seats that were left to get you home. It is just how pricing for air works.

We’ve seen instances where people paid thousands for a one way ticket to get home when this started. Seeing what we saw with other airlines, you were really charged a minimal fee for tickets. We had a client return from Europe that paid over $3,000 for one way ticket.

Did you have trip interruption insurance? You might be able to file a claim.
 
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justlisa

Feb 12, 2019
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The $300 was the change fee for the type of ticket your purchased which was agreed to when you purchased it. The $590 was the change in cost for the airfare over what you originally purchased - last minute airfare is usually quite a bit more expensive than airfare you buy months out. Both have been modus operandi for airlines for years - while some may call that extortion it definitely had nothing specific to do with global crisis.

The end of March was just when things were starting to ramp up. My county didn't go on lock down until 7 days after your daughter got back. Airlines were still figuring out how big this was going to be and what they were going to do about it - as evidenced by the change fees that had not been waived yet. Though they gave you the change fee back as a good will gesture.
 
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