How To Talk QR Into Waiving A Fare Rule

Old Jan 12, 11, 5:54 am
  #1  
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How To Talk QR Into Waiving A Fare Rule

This is from my travel blog Nomad Law:


The Phone Calls

Technically, I was hosed. I had paid US$530 for a non-refundable one-way economy class ticket on Qatar Airways from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Hong Kong International Airport. The flight left Paris on Tuesday, January 4, 2011, but, due to a change of schedule (mostly involving cat-sitting duties), I now needed to leave Paris on December 28th.

“Your ticket is completely non-changeable,” the person at the call center in Doha explained.

“I’m willing to pay the difference in fares and a change fee,” I offered.

“I’m sorry, sir, you selected a fare that was completely non-changeable,” she said in the conversation that I am paraphrasing with artistic license but the gist of which is accurate. “I can’t change the date of the ticket. You’ll have to buy an entirely new ticket if you want to leave earlier.”

“I need to speak with someone with the authority to waive the fare rule,” I said.

“No one can do that,” she replied.

“Are you saying that Mr. Al Baker doesn’t have the authority to change a fare rule?” I asked, dropping the name of the airline’s charismatic CEO.

“Well —“ she stumbled, hesitant to limit her boss’ authority.

“Can I please talk to your supervisor?” I asked.

Variations of the same conversation ensued three or four times, and each time I asked the supervisor to please name a person who had authority to waive a fare rule. I finally received a list, which included the CEO, the COO and the France country manager.

The Emails

I also searched the web looking for contact information for country managers or otherwise senior executive at Qatar Airways. This list from the Arab Air Carriers Organization was helpful. Once I had the names of likely suspects, a lot more online detective work was necessary, because Qatar Airways’ email formats differed by country.

Using a method which Consumerist.com has dubbed the “executive email carpet bomb,” I sent off variations of this letter:

Dear XXXXXX XXXX:

This is to request a waiver of the fare rule on the reservation bearing Reference No. XXXXXX. The reservation is for one-way travel on QR 20 (CDG-DOH) and QR 812 (DOH-HKG) commencing on January 4, 2011.

Due to a change of circumstances, I must travel from Paris to Hong Kong on an earlier day, specifically, December 28, 2010. I am willing to pay the difference in fares and a change penalty. While the fare rule of the ticket prohibits any changes, I am requesting a one-time waiver of the rule.

I am a moderately heavy flier, taking perhaps one international return trip a month in my capacities as an attorney and a travel writer (my blog received more than 250,000 hits in the last six months). In fact, I took four flights on QR within the last week (QR 20, 812, 813, 19), and I have written positively about QR recently.

A one-time waiver of the fare rule would be a reasonable way to obtain my future business.


The Results

It worked. Of the seven executives I emailed, two wrote back, and someone waived the rule. Within 24 hours, I received a telephone call from customer service confirming the change. I had to pay a fare difference of US$93 but was not charged a change fee.

Take Aways

1. All Fare Rules Are Waivable. Airline rules, like most consumer transactions, are contracts. The ticket terms you are most interested in are generally not mandated by Congress or any government body. The fare rules are whatever the airlines wish to offer, and, in buying a ticket, you agree to abide by them.

Here’s one of the most useful principles in all of contract law: A contractual provision can be waived by the person it benefits. Since the rule that deemed my ticket non-changeable benefited Qatar Airways, the carrier could waive the rule.

Consequently, don’t ever take the word of a customer service rep that something can’t be changed. Almost anything can be changed. You have to find the person with the authority and convince her. On that note . . .

2. The CSRs Are Useless. No phone jockey will have authority to waive a fare rule. You’re talking to them to (1) obtain the names and emails of people with authority and (2) so you can say you worked your way through the system.

3. You Want a Country Manager Or A Vice President, Preferably a Senior Vice President For Your Region. Those are the titles of people who probably have – or can obtain – the authority to waive a fare rule. With regard to region, you can email the VP for the region in which you reside, the region in which the flight departs and the region in which the flight lands, plus there’s probably someone at HQ with a suitable title.

Do not email a general counsel or other lawyer; he will say No to act tough. Some airlines seem finely attuned to social media these days, so Corporate Communications personnel are a good bet. I would avoid emailing anyone in Revenue or Yield Management since I assume their job is to catch every penny, but your mileage may vary.

4. Be Polite And Reasonable. From a contractual point of view, you are in the wrong. To use a criminal law analogy, your appeals have been exhausted, and you’re asking the governor for a pardon. So ask for a “one-time waiver” or offer to make a partial payment or otherwise be reasonable, polite and brief.

5. Use Whatever You Got. If you’re an elite, mention it. If you’ve recently flown on the carrier, put that in. Feel free to note your total air travel consumption, your globetrotting occupation, your ownership of a small business – whatever is truthful and will make the airline exec more inclined to work with you.


A Final Note About Qatar Airways: I will later post a review of the in-flight service on my six segments on Qatar, but I think the carrier deserves some credit for its response. I doubt an indifferent behemoth like American or China Eastern would have been moved by my request. The jerks who run Spirit and Ryanair would have had a chuckle and deleted the mail. So, while there’s a lot of grousing about Qatar’s customer service on the flyer boards, credit is due here for responsiveness, flexibility and a desire to retain a customer.
PaulKarl is offline  
Old Jan 13, 11, 4:10 am
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I don't know how serious your post is, and I appreciate your "final note about Qatar Airways," but I resent your attitude a bit. Fare rules exist for a reason (i.e., a lower fare in exchange for less flexibility), and I think that it's really obnoxious to attempt to contact a senior executive of the company to indulge your "cat-sitting duties" against a relatively inexpensive fare. (If you had bought a $4,000 ticket and had a life-threatening medical situation, I would have more sympathy.)

And to conclude from your experience that CSRs are "useless" is blatantly unfair. The person you contacted did her job, in a courteous and professional manner (or so it seems from what you paraphrased). The fact that she articulated the circumstances correctly is more than you will sometimes get from CSRs on QR or other airlines.

I have no problem trying to get rules waived sometimes, and using your status as a loyal customer and other leverage that you have, but in such cases you should be grateful for the accommodation (which you are), as opposed to position-dropping and feeling like you are entitled to the change as long as you talk to the right person.
mecabq is offline  
Old Jan 13, 11, 8:32 am
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Sometimes buying an entirely new ticket, would be cheaper vis a vie changing the old ticket.

However for $93 US, you got off easy.
meFIRST is offline  
Old Jan 13, 11, 1:00 pm
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Knowing QR I wouldn't be surprised if the person that waived the fare rules gets in trouble if your post encourages for people to "Carpet Bomb" Qatar Airways with similar requests. In addition to the person getting in trouble in the future such executives could be more inaccessible to more legitimate requests.

I'm sorry to say this but all the effort and pressure you exerted and your sense of entitlement to change a ticket that you saved money on knowing it's not changeable comes off to me as arrogant and cheap.
N1Rotate is offline  
Old Jan 13, 11, 11:18 pm
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I would call it "blackmail".
kataka is offline  
Old Jan 14, 11, 1:26 am
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You paid a fair at a fixed rate with rules applied to it, you should have really have stuck to it (regardless of what has changed in your life). QR and other airlines offer cheaper deals for fixed fights for a reason (they are fixed), your lucky they changed it but I think that by posting this on your blog (if you do get as many hits as you state) was not the best idea.

If QR now receive more requests for changes from the result of your blog, with your name attached to the blog - I have a feeling you will not be upgraded and your change will always be rejected.

You got away with it but posting it on a blog in my personal view was just stupid.
cundall is offline  
Old Jan 14, 11, 1:58 am
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May I humbly point out that, sentiments aside, braking a pre-set rule for the sake of ego, sense of entitlement or whatever is not such an exception in Middle East.

OP seem to be trying hard to say that fare rules CAN be bent with some effort. Point taken. However this may not work for all even with elite status, future business potential and legal qualifications.
kshastry is offline  
Old Jan 14, 11, 2:15 am
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Yeah, I am not too sure if I approve of this post either. There is a reason these cheap tickets are sold and it's because of the restrictions. Information like this can only mean a couple of things;

1. People start to book inflexible fares and then expect to be able to change them, then flame every forum and review site on the web when the can't because the airline has clamped down.

2. When there is an actual emergency or someone really desperately requires the changing of an inflexible ticket the airline won't bugde as management have received the amount of tickets being changed and put a company wide ban on it.

If your email had landed on my desk, I would've been one of the ones who didn't act. It comes across as blackmail and to be quite blunt, there is another person behind you waiting to buy the cheapest ticket possible who can meet it's restrictions.
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Old Jan 14, 11, 6:34 am
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Paul Karl

What a thoroughly unpleasant person you sound
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Old Jan 14, 11, 8:26 am
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This is so low. I don't know how else I can put it.
lee_apromise is offline  
Old Jan 14, 11, 1:55 pm
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I was worried about getting flamed with my post... its good that i am not the only person that feels this way.
cundall is offline  
Old Jan 14, 11, 6:38 pm
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For many fares on any airlines, there are exceptions to each case if they need to be changed. And it is usually in emergency situations, where there really isn't an alternative. Then you'd work your way up for alternatives. For TAs, they go to their Sales Representatives of each respective airlines, and even so not every case can be done FOC or done at all. We don't want to burn our bridges either. However positive an appoval for a waiver may have been, we always worry if we have caused offense so that future waivers may be frowned upon.

However I do agree that the Paul Karl was just a bit crass in his way that HE got things done just because he wanted to change his flight. Cat sitting duties does not constitute an emergency for reason to change a ticket without paying a fee. And by announcing what he had done here for all the whole world to see would actually make it difficult for genuine cases of emergencies that need waivers are needed next time.

Paul Karl just resorted to blackmail that favoured him. Sorry but this thread is just plain obnoxious. And judging by the replies he got on his blog on same subject, people there agreed with us here...

Last edited by Guy Betsy; Jan 19, 11 at 8:29 pm
Guy Betsy is offline  
Old Jan 14, 11, 8:11 pm
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this is probably why lawyers have the reputation they have.

im betting he neglected to include in his blackmail that the urgent need do a date change was "cat sitting duties"

posting here was probably a shameless attempt to promote his blog anyway
afhstingray is offline  
Old Oct 24, 15, 8:57 am
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Qatar and waiving non refundable rule

I know this is an old post but just came across it. I join most of the responders in saying that this is out of line. I just spent $6.000 on non refundable tickets..had a complete check up two weeks before flight so I thought I was good to go and even had checked in on line the 24 hours prior to the flight. I woke up the morning of the departure with an elephant sitting on my chest. I turned out to be Pneumonia and I was hospitalized for two and 1/2 days. This is a legitimate medical emergency and one that one would hope would receive some mercy and consideration by the airline. I am not arguing my case here on the I shoulda , coulda woulda etc..just saying that with so much at stake and having a medical emergency that this iis what the customer services consideration for a waiver is all about..not mising a fllight over a few hundred dollars because of "cat sitting" or anything so trivial. I don't know how I am going to come out but after Customer Service being barraged by such selfish petty requests, I am sure it hurts my chances as well as others who have serious medical and family emergencies. My opinion is only for other members of the forum as we are talking about a "______
" and I would expect nothing less than making a mountain out of a mole hill..
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Old Oct 24, 15, 10:29 am
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I would have thought travel insurance is a better bet than customer service in this case
zebrametalevel is offline  

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