Charging fees for any fare changes is a common practice among airlines, which see the fees both as a deterrent for passengers making last-minute adjustments to their itineraries and as a way of increasing the bottom line. Customer service agents can waive the fee at their discretion, but their protocols for doing so vary wildly.
It was the last thing any parent of a sick child needed, but Ryan Austin Dean of Bossier City, LA, found himself in a public fight with American Airlines on October 2nd when the airline refused to waive the change fees on a trip he needed to reschedule.
The reason for the delay? His three-year-old son’s appendix had ruptured, landing the boy in the hospital and the family unable to fly.
View from the Wing, which reported on this story, excerpted American’s policy on fee waivers for travel changes due to bereavement or illness, which states that “In the event of critical illness of an immediate family member or traveling companion, a ticket change fee waiver may be reviewed for consideration of refund with the appropriate documentation and justification.”
So Dean was shocked when American refused to waive his $400 change fees and took to Twitter to complain about their reason for doing so. He reported that they had told him the fee would still apply because his son’s appendix had not ruptured “on the day of the flight.” He further included a screenshot of a direct message from the American Airlines Twitter account that read: “We appreciate you following up with us and wish your son a very speedy recovery. We took a quick look at your reservation and we see you purchased a nonrefundable restricted fare, which does come with a $200 change charge plus any fare difference. Did you have new travel dates in mind?”
Dean answered with a curt “no” and told his Twitter followers that American did not have “a semblance of a heart.”
In a tweet the following day, Dean reported that American had “suddenly decided to make ‘a one time exception,'” perhaps due to the attention the tale had garnered on social media.
[Photo: American Airlines]