Well, at least one of them did the right thing
Tuesday January 02nd 2018, 12:04 am
Filed under: Family,Life

I’m spoiled. I’m used to Southwest, which doesn’t charge change fees, doesn’t charge for two bags, and if you have to cancel a flight right up to the beginning of boarding time they’ll let you apply the funds to another flight within the year. (If you want full refundability, you have to pay top price upfront on the flight, but you can do that.) The people who work for them are better treated than some in the industry, and it shows.

Alaska Airlines is also a pretty happy group to fly with, and if you get their credit card they’ll waive the $25 fee on that first bag and at the moment offer you a BOGO on a flight. Cool.

But if you want to be able to avoid large change fees or cancel your flight with them and get a refund you need to pay an outside company that they contract with for flight insurance.

Maybe one answer to today’s experience is, don’t ask a question on a major holiday, but…

A month ago we asked my sister-in-law when she was going to need to be out of town so we could plan ahead to cover for her on taking care of DadH. March? Booked, done, thanks, we’re coming, enjoy your trip.

I contacted that secondary company and explained why we could no longer go to see my father-in-law.

They emailed back that we could only cancel and be reimbursed if there were an emergency from their restricted, specified list, which she did not give me, and she offered her condolences but implied we were not eligible.

My jaw hit the floor. Death?! Is not considered an emergency re the trip?! I could see my husband again, phone in hand, worried over what he’d just heard as his dad gave out on him, dialing his brother to find out what was going on and to make sure his brother knew something was wrong right now, wishing he were there himself so he could do something. Thanks, customer rep, it was emergency enough for us.

Their last paragraph, they told me to contact Alaska. Uh, yes. Most definitely.

The airline guy said okay: we need a form from the funeral home and then for you to call us back after you have it; I have a note on your file now, and they will let you reapply those funds to any travel within the year after you do so. I’m so sorry about your father-in-law.

(They were doing what they should do. Good.) I thanked him, relieved to be working with a decent human being who cared.

It sounded like he was required as part of his job to ask me this next, given the wince in his voice with: Was I sure I didn’t want to fly to Ft. Worth in March?

Sir, he’s gone…

I’m so sorry…

But that flight insurer. I’d always checked that expensive box on Alaska Airline’s website the three times I’ve flown with them, because autoimmune flares can squirrelize any plan. I think we’re done.

7 Comments so far
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Check their fine print … you may be able to cancel the travel insurance, since you are months ahead of your travel date. Also contact the credit card issuer (the bank).

I do not like United for a similar reason. I was charged a $150 change fee to return home early from a trip the day my father died.

Comment by Anne 01.02.18 @ 12:43 am

Oh, for heaven’s sake. My dad (who worked for an insurance company for many years) used to like to say that insurance companies were in the business of NOT paying out. Sounds like this one found yet another way. I’m so glad Alaska Air did the right thing in the end.

Comment by Pegi 01.02.18 @ 5:12 am

This is one of those cases where you need to be aggressive. (Umm, assertive,) definitely consider all the suggestions above, plus a letter to their CEO or head of customer service. OR, if you can bear it, talk to a friendly reporter or put it on a public social media page. It seems obvious that the insurance and the flights are there for real people to visit loved ones who are ill/near death. If folks know how (NOT) compassionate they are, next time, they will know who not to fly with. I think they expect people to be too broken up to ask for their money back, and that is just not ok.

Comment by joanne 01.02.18 @ 8:03 am

I’m shaking my head: why would a death not be considered an emergency?

Larry had a similar issue when his mother-in-law passed last year: “We need a death certificate to reimburse you.” And then in the summer, when his father died the day he was leaving to go see him…

Makes me wonder why these insurances exist in the first place.

Comment by Suzanne from Montreal 01.02.18 @ 9:28 am

It’s so frustrating to deal with companies (and sadly, there are many) for whom human decency is not a guiding light. I’m glad Alaska did better, at least.

Comment by ccr in MA 01.02.18 @ 11:08 am

My father in law had renewed his Direct TV subscription right before he died. It was actually our home, so I had to call to cancel it. I was told there would be an early termination fee, and I said, “But the customer won’t be paying the bill because he’s dead.” The customer service person had the decency to immediately say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Then he said, “Could you send up a copy of the death certificate? Then we will immediately cancel the service.” So I did. However, later, when we moved into the house ourselves, one of the first things we got in the mail was a letter from Direct TV to my father in law that said, I large letters on the envelope, “It pays to come back.” They had his death certificate on file, so I couldn’t help wondering how they thought he was going to do that.

Meanwhile, I’m sure Richard’s dad is glad he can finally fly without help from airlines. God speed.

Comment by LauraN 01.02.18 @ 7:13 pm

Ugh and agh. ?

Comment by idiosyncratic eye 01.04.18 @ 10:13 am

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