Dear Penny Pincher,
I have a bit of a unique situation. I’m getting married in the Virgin Islands in March. My future mother-in-law bought a ticket for my brother-in-law that is nonrefundable and very expensive. They now want my sister-in-law and their new baby to purchase a second ticket on that expensive flight but she can find a rate for half the price at a nearby airport with fewer connections to accommodate her two-month-old son.
The problem now comes in trying to get a refund on the expensive ticket so that my brother-in-law can fly along with his wife and child instead of going with his mother on the ticketed flight.
Is there any way to get a refund on that “expensive” flight or even transfer over to the other airport departure since most of the flight is run by the same airline? Hope it’s not too confusing, but he just wants to get his mother’s money back and be able to fly with his wife and child.
Answered by The Penny Pincher
This complex situation should be solvable with a good strategy and by asking the right questions. As a general rule the more expensive your air ticket the more flexible it is. Since I do not know the entire specifics about your ticket and the particular airline’s refund policy, I will try to guide you in the right direction with the basics. The first thing you want to do is call the airline’s toll-free reservation number and have the phone representative pull up the itinerary for your current ticket. Than tell the phone agent that you wish to change the routing to the flights that your brother-in-law’s wife and son are on. If some of the new flights are not with the same airline, check to see if the other airline is a code-share or alliance partner with the primary airline. If they are it will make transferring your ticket a bit easier.
At this point the agent will either make the changes without any delays, or more likely, tell you that the ticket is non-refundable. If he says this, ask him what your options are? In most cases, there will be a change-fee, which should not exceed $100. I suggest that you request the fee to be waived, due to the high cost of your original ticket and since you have already purchased two additional tickets on another flight. Also be sure that any credit from the cost of the original ticket is credited back to you or given to you in the form of a voucher for a future flight.
If the situation cannot be resolved this easily, then you need a more creative approach. What you will now do, is plead your case. Essentially, you want to explain that this trip is for a wedding, and that you hope the beauty of the wedding is not marred by a negative flight experience. Than continue to explain that the reason for the change is so that a mother does not have to fly alone with a two-month-old child. Stress how nice it would be for the family to fly together.
Occasionally, travelers run into roadblocks with the regular phone representatives. If this is your experience, call the executive offices of the airline (get the number for the corporate offices from the airline’s web site) and state your case as instructed above, to an assistant for the airline’s CEO.
Keep in mind your strengths: traveling for a wedding, a mother traveling alone with a two-month-old son, your original air-fare was costly, and you’re changing most of your flights to the same airline.