Refunds Are Flights Of Fancy

, , , | Right | November 9, 2019

(I work in a travel agency. A friend from high school has contacted me wanting me to book a huge holiday for her to a set of Pacific Islands. There are four couples going, plus her two little kids, so ten people total. She wants the cheapest possible flights. Cheap as chips flights have GIANT catches; they often have no bags, and are “no changes, no refunds” fares. This means that if you want to change a ticket, the fees to do so are high, because it’s how the airline recoups on the cheap fares. I outline this very carefully for my friend over email. I’ve been bitten by not being super specific before, so I keep copious notes and ensure she understands. My friend is happy with everything, she has her husband review it, and they both sign and book. Two weeks later via email:)

Friend: “So, [Couple #4] can’t come any more, and [Couple #3] want to change how their names are spelled. Can you send me the refund for [Couple #4], and change [Couple #3] to [Name that is not their legal passport name]. “

Me: “Hey, so, as discussed, there’s no refund possible, and we can’t change [Couple #3]’s details as they must be their legal names.”

Friend: “What the h***?! You never told me that! You have to get my money back!”

Me: *sends the signed emails highlighted with the clause about no refunds or changes* “Sorry, but it’s all here like we and [Her Husband] agreed. I can get a refund on the hotel, but not the flights.”

(My friend of over 20+ years goes into meltdown, half pleading, half threatening. As she’s my “friend,” I ask my boss to step in and review everything to ensure I’ve got everything right. He does so and confirms I am totally correct, and he emails her to say so. Two hours later, I get a phone call:)

Friend: “So, your boss emailed me, but I didn’t believe him, and I want my money back. Call the airline for me and get me a refund.”

Me: “That would be a waste of both our times. The airline’s rules are super clear, and on all the paperwork. You wanted the cheapest, right?”

Friend: “Yeah, of course.”

Me: “Well, as I said, this is why they are cheap seats.”

Friend: *screeching* “I WANT THE MONEY!”

(Her husband picks up the phone and proceeds to scream and yell. Everyone in my office can hear the conversation, and as there are no customers in the office, I put the call on speakerphone. My boss finally manages to get a word in edgeways and advises them of the fare rules. After ten minutes of arguing, they finally accept this and hang up. I go for a long break. However, it keeps going!)

Friend: *via email* “So, I rang the airline and they agreed to give us a refund.”

Me: “Really? Why?”

Friend: “They said we were top customers, so you should issue us a refund straight away.”

(I’m instantly suspicious. This airline is not known for their service. Also, if there was a refund coming, we would have to wait for them to send it to us, and then we forward it back. With some airlines, this can take six weeks!)

Me: “Okay, well, they haven’t advised us of this, so I’ll check and let you know. It might take a couple of days.”

Friend: “That’s fine!”

(I manage to get hold of the airline, who confirm that they have spoken with my friend and they told her exactly what I had. No refund. At all. They also note that she became abusive. Before I am able to go back to my friend, I get a phone call from the CEO’s personal assistant. This is HUGE. I think it is to do with something else and go into a panic, and my manager has to calm me down and join me on the phone.)

CEO’s PA: “So, I just got an email and Facebook post from [Friend] saying that she booked refundable tickets, you guys were being rude, not allowing her step-daughter to come, calling her stupid, and stealing her money. Um, I rang her, and she said that while [My Name] was wonderful to deal with, she doesn’t like the policies that are robbing her step-daughter of a dream holiday, especially as she is sick. She cried the whole call! What is going on?! The CEO is really unhappy.”

(My manager turns puce and I have a full-blown panic attack. We end up compiling a report 24 pages long with conversations, emails, and everything we can and send it to both our complaints team and the CEO’s PA. Ultimately, I am vindicated, and all points have said that I did everything correctly — and that there is no step-daughter! However, the CEO decides that we will refund [Couple #4] as a goodwill sign, but they must use the refund and travel within a year of the initial booking. The initial booking was made on February 25th, and we are now in May. The trip was supposed to happen in October. I get this call on February 24th the next year:)

Couple #4: “Hi! We thought we might use this refund!”

Me: *HEAD-DESK*

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