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Old Apr 27, 09, 4:53 pm   #1
 
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Poor Policy - Poor Customer Care

My mother had to fly from PDX-DEN to be with her father who has only days left to live. She flew F9 as opposed to AS simply because she could get an outbound ticket sooner. We then found out that F9 no longer offers any bereavement fares or compensation as all other airlines do. She also wanted to change her return flight by a couple days so she could stay around and help with funeral arrangements and F9 would not waive the change fees.

This is simply unacceptable. We have flown AS in the past on two different occasions for the same unfortunate reasons for other family members and they went out of their way to reimburse us for the last minute booking charges and they made schedule changes for us with no hassle or fees.

Goes to show how much the industry has gone downhill and needless to say F9 (which we used to fly several times per year when we went to Denver) will now no longer be receiving any business from us.

In this day and age where airlines are struggling for survival you would think that a smaller regional carrier would make sure they were better at customer care than the legacy airlines in order to keep customers, but sadly this does not seem to be the case anymore, so in turn F9 has now lost our family.
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Old Apr 28, 09, 10:31 am   #2
 
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Frontier is not a small regional carrier, it is a small carrier with up to par "Legacy" rules. I was also mistaken by their folksy demeanor.

In my experience AS is more customer friendly.
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Old Apr 28, 09, 1:42 pm   #3
 
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Frontier offers "Classic Plus" tickets which are fully-refundable/changeable and waive all the other fees, for a relatively small premium over standard Economy (20-50% more based on what I've seen while booking). The "legacy" carriers generally require a full "Y" fare for this, which can double or triple the cost. So-called "bereavement" fares (which many legacies and other airlines are dropping, or have already dropped), usually offer only a small % discount off of full "Y" fares, meaning that a Frontier "Classic Plus" ticket will usually be cheaper, and just as flexible. Offering this class of ticket is something that really sets Frontier apart from any other airline, and for the OP's situation, would have been the appropriate type of ticket to book.

It is certainly nice of Alaska Airlines to have a policy (whether Official or Unofficial) of offering free changes in this type of unfortunate situation, however do note that Alaska, along with the Legacies, is losing money fast. Frontier just today posted another significant operating profit, their fifth in as many months. I would rather give my business to an airline which is doing well and satisfies my needs for the fortunate 99%+ of the time when I travel for normal reasons, than to an airline which is not doing well but offers additional perks on the extremely rare occasion that I travel due to more tragic reasons, at which time frankly, price would be the least of my concerns.
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Old Apr 28, 09, 8:06 pm   #4
 
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Just wondering -- did you consider Southwest (WN)?

I see they have 2 non-stops daily DEN-PDX and couple more 1 stops.

Never a change fee (although you might have to upgrade from a Wanna-Get-Away fare to a full fare). You don't have to tell them why you need a change (death in the family), just change it without a fee anytime!

Not to say that Alaska isn't nice too.
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Old Apr 29, 09, 1:36 pm   #5
 
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She took F9 as she needed to fly within hours, as her father wasn't expected to make it through the night, and they were the only carrier that had open seats that night (or the next morning for that matter). AS (whom we usually fly) was booked on their DEN flights for the next 2 days, as was WN.

After all this I did some research and it now looks like the carriers who offer special bereavement fares are down to 3: AA, CO, and NW/DL. As I said we have flown AS in the past under these circumstances, and they gave a 50% discount off the walkup fare for bereavement cases and waived any change fees, but now after looking they no longer do so either.

I know they are all losing money in this day and age, but it's sad to see that making full revenue off of a passenger flying in distress is more important than showing compassion to said passenger, and helping them out.

I guess those days are long gone and sadly too are a lot of airlines who had great customer service.
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Old Apr 29, 09, 1:43 pm   #6
 
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My mother ended up having to pay $500 r/t for her ticket from PDX-DEN (as did her sister who flew the same route with her) then they needed to change their return to deal with funeral arrangements and F9 charged them each an additional $75 for the change/rebooking fees. Compare this to their other sister who flew from EAU-MSP-DEN on NW and was extended a bereavement fare by NW and paid $200 r/t for her ticket and was allowed to make changes on the back end with no fees.

So ultimately with F9 it was $575 and with NW it was $200. Pretty stark difference. I guess that shows why F9 is posting "significant" operating profits. Sad that they do so at the expense of someone in distress.
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Old Apr 29, 09, 1:48 pm   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DenverF9Flier View Post
I would rather give my business to an airline which is doing well and satisfies my needs for the fortunate 99%+ of the time when I travel for normal reasons, than to an airline which is not doing well but offers additional perks on the extremely rare occasion that I travel due to more tragic reasons, at which time frankly, price would be the least of my concerns.
Since bereavement travel is a very small percentage of reasons for people to fly you think it would be all the easier for carriers to offer a special fare for those "extremely rare" occasions, while still charging normal fares for the other 99% of travelers. Profit over compassion/customer care seems to be a common business model now and that's a shame.
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Old Apr 30, 09, 1:11 pm   #8
 
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Unfortunately there are plenty of people out there who would look to take advantage of the compassion / kindness of airlines which offer this sort of policy. That means that the airlines have to verify the actual circumstances of each individual request, require documentation, make calls to check the valididity, etc... which costs staff time and money, and in turn translates into higher fares during the 99.9% of the time that I'm not traveling under these kind of unfortunate circumstances. In today's economic climate, I'm not going to get angry with the airlines for seeing this as an area which they need to cut. As I said before, this happens so rarely that it's not going to even enter my calculations when I am deciding which airline I want to give my business.
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Old May 3, 09, 11:11 am   #9
 
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twofive99 -- sorry to hear about the circumstances regarding your trip, I know bereavement travel is always an unfortunately thing to have to contend with. But as it was already pointed out, why did you not bother selecting the Classic Plus fare, especially for the return? It sounds like you selected an Economy ($150 change fee) or Classic ($50 change fee) ticket on the return, but I've never been able to understand why people book bereavement travel knowing that those type of circumstances never create a set schedule, and changes are fairly common. When you book a ticket with F9, you clearly see what the rules/penalties are for changes, so in all honestly, you were not extended a waiver which you felt you were entitled to (I am not debating here if the circumstances warrant the change without a penalty), however, you also clearly booked a ticket knowing what those changes would cost.

You mention AS has been good to you about this before (if you have to travel for bereavement often, then I truly feel bad for you), but I doubt this is not their policy either, unless you can direct me to it on their website, change fees waived for bereavement travel. Going under the impression that waiving change fees is not common practice, there is no guarantee that AS would have waived the fee. WN has no fees, we know that, and indeed is a nice selling point. But if they have no seats for sale, then that isn't a viable option.

Sorry you weren't satisfied with Frontier's ticketing policies (you didn't make any mention of poor inflight service), but Frontier's Classic Plus fare is truly one of the most friendly offerings for fully changeable and refundable tickets today. Those Classic Plus fares can be, and generally are, SIGNIFICANTLY less than full Y fare on another airline. Of course Classic Plus fares on F9 may only offer a full Y fare if the flight is just about sold out.
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