Well, after what the airline Virgin Australia did to us this week, I think I should begin writing the book I’ve always threatened to write—Flying Is the Pits!
As many of you know, we were recently in Australia to visit our two remaining elderly parents. About 12 hours before we were to leave on Virgin Australia to return to the USA, my wife’s father died suddenly in Australia, necessitating changing our flights to return 10 days later. And what did Virgin Australia do with our change in travel plans?
We had traveled over to Australia on premium economy seats—they have a little more leg room and slightly larger seats. These seats really help my chronic back problem, especially on very long flights. The Virgin airline said that we had obtained the seats at a cheap fare, and that to change our flights for the same class of seats, they would have to charge us just over $6,000 because no more of the cheap seats were available—even though they were the same class of seat! It was difficult to argue with them at the time as we were dealing with funeral arrangements and were trapped. We had to get back to the USA for our Christmas Town program and other meetings (we already had to cancel many meetings because of the death in the family), so we had no option but to pay the extra $6,000. (That's one of those times you groan and have no option but to use a credit card and figure it out later.) We were told to put in a request to Virgin Australia to consider us for compassionate circumstances and waive the exorbitant extra fee. So we did just that—and had the funeral company write a letter to document the circumstances and appeal to Virgin Australia. So what did this airline do? They responded with the following:
It is with regret to learn of the circumstances surrounding your recent need to travel . . . I can confirm that Virgin Australia does not currently offer reduce fares for compassionate circumstances. ([email protected])Oh yes, they did waive the “service fees” (a couple of hundred dollars)! They also stated this:
In saying this, we do appreciate that unforeseen challenges may arise and we will do our utmost to assist with waiving any service fees that may usually be applied to your fare type, where possible.But compared to the extra $6,000—waiving service fees meant almost nothing!
The airline used our sad circumstances to make even more money off us—even though it was the same type of seat, and in fact I noticed on the return flight that not every seat in premium economy was taken! (And by the way, yes—I did have travel insurance, but the insurance company pointed out that in the fine print that the insurance would have only applied to my father, not my father-in-law, and my situation did not qualify. After this, we have changed our travel insurance and read the fine print. This is a travel warning to all of you, too.)
Yes, Flying Is the Pits!
Over the years (and I’m sure many of you can identify with this), I’ve had airlines:
- Lose my luggage
- Send my luggage to the wrong airport
- Cancel flights at the last minute
- Delay flights for many different reasons causing me to miss important meetings
- Cause me to miss my flight connections
- Actually throw us off an overbooked flight because I was one of the last to book the flight (even though they accepted the booking and didn’t tell us it was overbooked) and cause us to lose days of vacation time
- Destroy my luggage
- Give someone the same seat I had
- Sit me beside someone who took up half my seat
- Make me sit on a plane for hours while the airline tried to figure out an issue relating to over-filling the plane with gas, or a computer issue, or whatever
- Delay flights to wait on late-arriving passengers—but when I’m late from a connecting flight, it seems the flight I’m connecting to will leave on time and I’ll miss it!
- Delay fights for late luggage—except when it’s my luggage, it seems!
- Arrive late into Los Angeles from Australia (as Virgin Australia has done) and cause us to miss our connecting flight—and then have to wait around the airport lounge for 6 hours in a jet-lagged (comatose) state!
It seems that most airlines can do whatever they want to their passengers, but when a passenger needs to make a change to a different flight with the same type of seat, all because of sad conditions like the death of a close family member, then the airline (well, this one anyway) uses the circumstances to their financial advantage. Of course, I’m not saying all airlines are like this.
For many of you, I’m sure you’d agree that these days, Flying Is the Pits.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,