Travel

Travel Troubleshooter: Parents want refund for dead son’s airline ticket

Q: Our son William died in an automobile accident in May. The time following this tragedy was taken up with grief, with us attempting to reconcile and resolve his personal affairs. In June, I found evidence that our son and his girlfriend had airline reservations with Allegiant for round-trip travel from Orlando to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport the following month.

Given the circumstances, I thought I could contact Allegiant, explain the facts and request a refund. I called the number for customer service and waited for more than an hour, then spoke with a representative, who was quick to tell me she could not help. She said I should fill out the customer comment form on Allegiant’s website, and someone would get back to me in 24 to 48 hours.

I waited the 24 to 48 hours, and when I got no response, I called back. This time, my wait was 66 minutes. A representative was quick to “parrot back” to me the Allegiant refund policy, which I had already grown very familiar with. He told me that passengers were allowed to cancel only within 24 hours of booking a flight.

I reiterated to him that our son was dead. He then told me that even if Allegiant allowed our son’s estate the refund, a $75 penalty would be assessed on each traveler for each portion of the trip, for a total of $300. My son’s ticket cost $349.

When I told him I could not believe Allegiant could be so uncaring and insensitive, he told me he would submit my request for assistance for management review. Again, he told me I would hear back in 24 to 48 hours.

It has now been 18 days since I opened a dialogue with Allegiant. I have followed all the required steps to get this matter resolved. There still is no resolution or answer to my original request.

Our son left this world with debts that need to be settled. While $349 may seem like a small amount of money, it puts us farther down the road to paying off real obligations. All other businesses I have contacted have responded with cooperation and kindness. Only Allegiant has met my request for assistance with barriers to receiving a reasonable and just resolution. Can you help me?

William Osborne, Davenport, Florida

A: I’m so sorry about your loss. When a passenger dies, the industry-standard policy is to refund a ticket to the next of kin or to that person’s estate.

But a closer look at Allegiant’s terms and conditions suggests that it might not follow that standard. The airline doesn’t address the death of a passenger, but it takes a hard line on passengers who have a death in the family, saying that you can get a refund only if it’s within 24 hours of purchase (that’s a federal law) but otherwise are stuck with your ticket.

That’s an exceptionally coldhearted policy. And while it may be true that this policy can “keep our fares low for all passengers” and allows Allegiant to “stay competitive,” it also sticks passengers with a bill for a ticket they’ll never use and unjustly enriches Allegiant’s investors. That makes this advocate’s blood boil.

You could have reached out to one of Allegiant’s executives; I publish their names and email addresses on my site (http://elliott.org/company-contacts/allegiant/). Amazingly, it appears that Allegiant was willing to waive its “no refunds” policy in your case. However, adding the penalty fees to the point where you were getting only $49 back was incredibly insensitive. I contacted the airline on your behalf. Allegiant says it was waiting for you to send an obituary for your son, and that it intended to send you a full refund all along.

You received every penny of the $349 back.

Email Christopher Elliott at celliott@ngs.org.

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