Should I Stay or Should I Go?

by Nancy Bestor

Airlines tell us that most of the fares we purchase are “non-refundable.” But is there any wiggle room? Can the right customer service agent give you a full refund on an airline ticket if your story is really good, and you’re just the right helping of nice? I think so. Consumer advocate Chris Elliott says that while there is no “discernible pattern to the refunding of nonrefundable tickets, it does happen. Sometimes it happens with little fanfare, and other times it takes many phone calls and or letters, or the help of a consumer advocate like Mr. Elliott. It seems to me that at the very least, travelers who cancel a “non-refundable” ticket for a legitimate reason ought to contact their airline, and at least give it the old college try.

Over the years we’ve received a couple of refunds. Once when the airline changed our flight schedule in a manner that would have made it very tight to make our connecting flight. This took two phone calls and two emails to obtain. We also got a refund when a travel warning was issued by the US State Department for our destination. We did not have insurance, but the third customer service agent I spoke to on the phone had two children herself, and she understood where I was coming from. Notice I said the third agent? Yes, I called the airline three different times, because I didn’t like the first two answers I received.

Perseverance seems to be a good trait to have if you are trying to get a refund from your airline. And contacting your airline’s customer service center both via phone and in writing is another good tip. And being nice should go without saying too. Because nice is always bound to get you more than crabby.

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