Review of child medical cancallation with KLM/OmegaFlightStore

Old Mar 16, 17, 1:59 am
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Review of child medical cancallation with KLM/OmegaFlightStore

Hi,

I have always found Flyertalk to be a good source of information based on member's past experience so I think I will add mine to the bank.

I am based in Asia and I took my 4-year old son and wife to visit my UK family. Within our intended stay we had booked a trip to Israel so my son could experience a new and different culture and the ancient city experience of Jerusalem. We booked through OmegaFlightStore to travel on KLM for their cheap fares, and I happen to be FB Gold too.

Unfortunately, my son fell ill before our expected departure. The day before departure the doctor advised against travel (the specifics are that he was being nebulised for a throat infection and the doctor advised against travelling in a pressurised air cabin which might affect his respiratory condition and cause a medical diversion). I subsequently got a letter saying as much.

So, of course, we decide not to go. Unfortunately for us, the ticket was not cancellable and changeable at a fee. I rang KLM who advised me I would have to go to the travel agent to cancel the itinerary (not ticket) to avoid a no-show so I could leave my options open. Fortunately, there was a branch of OmegaFlightStore in my home city that was open so I went off and had the Itinerary cancelled.

The travel agent advised that if I provided a medical letter they would submit this to KLM and ask for a refund on medical grounds (although the lady said they couldn't gaurentee anything). Failing that, I could request a tax refund, which amounted to more than 50% of what I paid. A few days later when the doctor had written the note I did this.

While I was waiting for a response I was able to contact the hotels I had booked with (thru Accor), and had my room rates cancelled (which were non-cancellable) and incurred no charge. Also, as I worked out my insurance excess would be more than what I stood to lose after a tax refund I had the travel insurance cancelled and refunded on the basis of trip cancellation (and therefore nothing to cover).

When the travel agent got back to my they advised (and produced documentation to prove) that KLM refused a refund on medical grounds citing their General Terms and Conditions. I rang KLM who advised I could change my ticket date for free as I had a medical letter advising against travel on the original dates, but unfortunately, the travel agent had erroneously proceeded to request a tax refund. The tax refund came quite quickly, and amounted to about 30 less than the tax (after the agent's admin fees - their discount on the fare).

Now then, I took exception to KLM refusing a full refund (amounting to the fare by this point - as I already had the tax back) on medical grounds as in my eyes, it incentivised me to go to the airport with my sick son and either get denied boarding or risk travelling against doctor's advice. KLM's attitude is that is why we buy insurance - but I don't see why I should pay someone else to de-incentivise me to travel with a sick child. Afterall, I am not the one ill - my son, for whom I make the travel decisions for, is ill, and I cannot really truly appreciate his illness unless I have it too (I didn't).

Anyway, I was going to let it drop but eventually I filed a formal complaint much to the same effect - asking if KLM would have allowed me to travel with my sick son anyway? Their answers weren't satisfactory, and they quoted their general terms and conditions. My reply to this was that, as the ticket was bought in the UK, with a UK card for a departure in the UK, it is bound by UK law and under the Consumer Rights Act (2015), an unfair term in a contract is unenforceable, and in my case I feel it is unfair as I am being incentivised to force a poorly child to fly. As it was a matter of principal I would file a complaint with UK trading standards and pursue it through the courts (as I said, the fare component was less than my travel insurance excess which wasn't very high either). I was asking them for a travel voucher as a consideration to their Revenue Protection (either it expires or they collect extra revenue through further travel).

Less than 24 hours later I had travel vouchers for the fare which KLM refused to refund previously.

Overall, I was happy with OmegaFlightStore's response (but I did deal with someone in branch) and unhappy with KLM's - but a resolution was found.
I hope this can be a useful reference to anyone else in a similar predicament to me.
ahopkins767 is offline  
Old Mar 16, 17, 9:41 am
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Isn't this why travel insurance was invented? Could have saved you a lot of trouble...
EricVdb is offline  
Old Mar 16, 17, 10:15 am
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Unless the child died I don't really see why you should get a refund on non-refundable tickets.
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Old Mar 16, 17, 11:51 am
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Originally Posted by CyBeR View Post
Unless the child died I don't really see why you should get a refund on non-refundable tickets.
I know some airlines includes in their fares an illness clause if supported by a MD note in order to avoid having people forcing themselves to fly which can increase the likelihood of a costly diversion.
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Old Mar 16, 17, 12:43 pm
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Unfortunately, in dealing with a travel agent, you absolve the airline of certain interactions with you. Your beef for most things will be with the TA, not KLM. They are correct in telling you what they have said. Next time, book with them directly, as their terms are almost always more fair than that of a travel agent.
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Old Mar 16, 17, 1:36 pm
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Bottom line here is that this was a self-inflicted wound.

Travel insurance is the best way to hedge against this risk. It is certain and easy. OP would have simply cancelled the tickets, received a cash refund and then purchased new tickets at some point in the future. This insurance is typically very low-cost for single trips.

OP simply found a more sympathetic reviewer. The threat of action in the UK would not move any carrier. The terms in the KL COC and fare rules are fairly consistent across the industry and the fallacy here is that anybody is "forced" to do anything. These restricted tickets are all about consumer choice. One trades flexibility for price. While this should by no means be taken as a lack of sympathy for OP's child's sore throat, that is entirely forseeable and routine.

OP ought to be grateful rather than gloating. If KL reads this, it will likely instruct its agents to deal with less sympathy.
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Old Mar 16, 17, 4:18 pm
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You are quite lucky that the hotel also allowed you to cancel.
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Old Mar 16, 17, 8:28 pm
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Originally Posted by Mirk View Post
I know some airlines includes in their fares an illness clause if supported by a MD note in order to avoid having people forcing themselves to fly which can increase the likelihood of a costly diversion.
And that is their prerogative. But there is no requirement, either legal or moral, to do such a thing.
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Old Mar 16, 17, 9:37 pm
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What is the reason for this rant against KLM?

A non refundable fare is non refundable.
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Old Mar 17, 17, 3:10 am
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I apologise if my writing came over as a rant, or gloating, or anything else negative. It was simply me making a record of my experience to anyone who might find it useful in the future.

My grind with KLM was that they were in a position to profit out of my son's illness. I find that morally objectionable for an airline to do. I myself have been in positions whereby I have had work cancelled or rescheduled due to child illness and I have had to bear the cost of that. I show that I care for my clients and their family through the values I adhere too, and I do expect that those who I deal with somewhat adhere to my values too. So if I don't like KLM's attitude, I will question it and complain as I did.

A middle-eastern hotel allowing me to cancel the room on the basis of my son's illness shows a difference between the cultures of the companies. I know which one I will use more.

Now then - I had to go far through the formal complaints process to get this resolution - it wasn't dealt with a junior agent which shows that most KL agents do indeed keep to their rules. Actually, through experience, I know plenty of other airlines where the agents have more discretion to waive fees. It was only after the threat of a referral to trading standards did they issue a travel voucher (not cash refund). I had wondered if anyone would actually debate whether in my circumstance, that T&C was unfair and thus unenforceable, as the child isn't able to make the decision to travel or not and there is a financial incentive to travel (not to lose out on the fare). I had grounds in what I said. As for it not moving an airline's decision - in my case it did. Perhaps they didn't want the debate in a court as the implications could be quite large - as was the attitude of UK banks over overdraft charges a decade ago which they went on to eventually lose. If this is the case then it is of benefit for people to know.

And as for travel insurance, I had it, and read the policy, and the excess for pre-trip cancellation was more than the fare I stood to lose, so I cancelled it after the event.
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Old Mar 17, 17, 5:12 am
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KLM's policy:

Waiver for Illness
No refund in case of illness/hospitalization
Passengers may refer to their travel insurance

Prior to commencement of travel:

When a passenger is unable to travel due to his/her illness or the illness of an
immediate family member (travelling or not) or a travelling companion, KLM will
waive advance reservation/ticketing requirements and service charges (if applicable) when passenger wishes to travel later.
Start of travel may be postponed maximum 30 days.
Any waiver will also apply to associates with whom the passenger is travelling.
Travel will not be permitted on an earlier flight than originally ticketed; nor will travel be permitted to commence at a fare that has expired.
When necessary, the appropriate difference in fare will be refunded or collected.

After commencement of travel:

Once travel has commenced, the minimum stay requirement (with regard to the fare) will be waived, or the maximum stay requirement will be extended until the date on which the passenger is once again able to travel.
Said extension shall only start at the point at which the journey was interrupted and shall be valid for carriage in the class of the fare paid.
The validity of the ticket shall be extended for not more than three months.

The same applies to travelling companions who were accompanying the passenger at the time such health problems prevented the passenger from travelling.

Documentation
In case of Illness
Illness must be certified in writing by a physician on his/her letterhead stationary verifying that the passenger could not travel on the date of travel because of illness.
This statement may not be written on a doctor's prescription pad.
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Old Mar 17, 17, 12:20 pm
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Originally Posted by EricVdb View Post
Isn't this why travel insurance was invented? Could have saved you a lot of trouble...
It seems you missed part of the post:

Also, as I worked out my insurance excess would be more than what I stood to lose after a tax refund I had the travel insurance cancelled and refunded on the basis of trip cancellation (and therefore nothing to cover).
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Old Mar 17, 17, 1:10 pm
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Originally Posted by ahopkins767 View Post
My grind with KLM was that they were in a position to profit out of my son's illness. I find that morally objectionable for an airline to do. I myself have been in positions whereby I have had work cancelled or rescheduled due to child illness and I have had to bear the cost of that. I show that I care for my clients and their family through the values I adhere too, and I do expect that those who I deal with somewhat adhere to my values too. So if I don't like KLM's attitude, I will question it and complain as I did.
It's great that you care for your clients, but KLM is a business, and as such nobody should expect anything other than contractually agreed. Everything on top is a bonus, but getting upset because you're being held to the contract you entered is a waste of energy.
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Old Mar 17, 17, 11:52 pm
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Originally Posted by ahopkins767 View Post
My grind with KLM was that they were in a position to profit out of my son's illness. I find that morally objectionable for an airline to do.
I find it requires rather stretchy mental gymnastics to assert that KLM profited off your son's illness. Then going on to consider that in itself a soapbox to stand on and make cultural (?) comparisons seems even more far-fetched. I understand you are upset. It's not a fun situation. Nobody profited here, and I don't think this was a particularly cultural display of corporate policy.
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Old Mar 22, 17, 1:55 am
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I am glad that the airlines don't adopt the same attitudes as the OP. If they did, all tickets wold be fully flexible, and there would be no cheap fares.

Travel insurance is all that was required here.
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