Airline ‘Weather Waivers’ Have Been Way Too Inflexible
[U]nder most of the airline “waivers,” passengers were allowed to rebook their flights as long as they flew by today. Are they kidding? It’s almost impossible to do that.
Limiting no-penalty travel changes to travel by Friday, with a storm that was expected to wallop the region Tuesday and Wednesday, makes little sense ex ante. As it turns out, things worked out reasonably well. The air transportation system as a whole wasn’t impacted as much as expected. So you didn’t have the kind of debacle with aircraft out of position that takes days to recover from.
We easily could have seen people rebooking flights, and finding themselves having to rebook again under another weather waiver. And this sort of inflexible policy ties up inventory, clogs up phone lines, and makes it harder to recover from a weather event rather than making it easier.
So I do think the airlines generally have been too stringy with their weather waivers recently, requiring travel during too limited of a window (I know I don’t find it easy to completely rebuild meeting schedules and trips). My own approach would be to take a full refund rather than re-scheduling, and then rebook later.
Greenberg’s Travel Fouled By Weather, Sort Of. Demands Refund.
Here’s what he had booked:
I flew from New York to Dallas on Monday and got out of LaGuardia just before the airport closed. I was also scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Tuesday evening to meet colleagues flying out of New York. I booked the tickets with Orbitz on American/US Air code share flights.
He flew to Dallas, his flights were not interrupted.
His scheduled onward flights to Los Angeles were all operating as-planned.
It turns out though that his meetings in Los Angeles would no longer be productive, because people couldn’t get there from New York due to the impending storm. So he wanted to go home to New York, skip the rest of his trip, and get a full refund.
He’s frustrated because he had to talk to Orbitz, since he booked through Orbitz. And he shouldn’t have booked a codeshare rather than the natural American flights. Booking codeshares isn’t ever a good idea without a specific, compelling reason (like cheaper flights, or mileage accumulation).
But he got through to Orbitz, and they metaphorically laughed at his refund request — because his flights were operating as scheduled, because he wasn’t even flying from a city affected by the weather waiver.
I called Orbitz and they declined the refund, claiming that since there was no weather in Dallas, they wouldn’t refund anything because the flights were scheduled to operate.
But I was indeed stranded because all my colleagues were stranded by weather. No one at Orbitz would help. I was then told I would forfeit my entire fare. That, ultimately, is what happened.
So, will I accept Orbitz’s refusal to honor the waiver? Of course not. First, I am disputing the charge on my credit card.
“I was stranded because all my colleagues were stranged…” strikes me as not quite correct. He no longer had a reason to travel. Just as if his meetings got cancelled for some other reason, maybe he was meeting with a movie studio and their servers got hacked and the executives had to cancel. He’d have been left with non-refundable tickets and no reason to use them.
For this trip he would only “forfeit the entire fare” if he decided not to take the flight segments in order. He could have paid to make a change. But he wanted to throw away the rest of the trip and just book a new ticket home (or travel elsewhere, he doesn’t say).
So he’s going to file a chargeback with his credit card company. He should lose that, because he was asking for something he wasn’t entitled to, and because the airline was providing transportation that they had promised to.
He’s also demanding that Orbitz executives be called to account.
I couldn’t fly because of the weather—because my colleagues were also trapped. Since the Orbitz representatives refused to budge, I will give Orbitz executives an opportunity to explain their logic—through this posting—to me and everyone else.
Of course, he could fly. His colleagues’ travel had no bearing on whether he was able to take his flights as-scheduled. It changed only his interest in and willingness to take those flights.
Should Orbitz have processed a refund for Peter Greenberg, in violation of American’s weather waiver and knowing that they’d receive a debit from the airline for having done so?
(HT: Jonathan W.)
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