Gary Garretson has liver disease and wont be able to use his airline tickets. Why cant US Airways give him a refund? After repeatedly being turned down, Garretson turns to the Travel Troubleshooter.
Q: I need your help. Im suffering from end-stage liver disease, and my physicians have decided that my best chance for survival would be a liver transplant.
Based on my current status, it would not be safe for me to fly. I have asked US Airways for a refund on an airline ticket. But it responded with a form letter, saying, nonrefundable tickets are one of the more restrictive tickets, and offering the opportunity to change my ticket for $150 plus a fare differential.
I have requested a one-time exception to US Airways policy, based on my medical condition. I am a former elite-level frequent flier with US Airways, and have been very pleased with the service provided by the airline, until now. Can you help me persuade them to refund my ticket? Gary Garretson, Jacksonville, Fla.
A: US Airways should consider refunding your ticket, based on your medical condition. But it doesnt have to.
The airlines contract of carriage the legal agreement between you and the airline says so. (You can download the entire document here: http://www2.usair ways.com/en-US/aboutus/customers first/contractofcarriage.html).
It says unused nonrefundable tickets are valid and may be changed for one year from the date of issue, as long as you notify US Airways on or before the scheduled departure date if you dont plan to fly as ticketed. The new ticket is subject to any applicable fees.
In other words, you can still use your ticket if you postpone your trip, but youll have to pay a change fee and fare differential. Otherwise, your money is gone.
It could be worse: A few years ago, US Airways tried to make airline tickets completely nonrefundable no exceptions. Passengers didnt like that, and the airline quickly reversed itself.
Then again, it could also be better. Ideally, tickets would be transferrable so that you could give your unused ticket to a friend or relative. Or even sell it to someone else.
Writing to US Airways was a good idea. The first response will inevitably be a form letter, repeating the airlines no refunds policy. Which is exactly what you got. A review of your correspondence shows you appealed this denial and were again turned down.
When that happens, you still have a few more people you can ask. (I list them on my site: http://onyoursi.de/wiki/airline/us-airways/). You can appeal the decision all the way up to the chief executive officer, and in a situation like yours, that may be necessary.
Fortunately for you, it wasnt. I contacted US Airways on your behalf and asked it to review your request. Again, it didnt have to bend its rules for you, but given your serious medical problem, I thought it was worth asking.
US Airways agreed to refund your fare, minus a change fee.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or troubleshoot your trip through his website, www.elliott.org. Distributed by Tribune Media Services.