Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Change Fees: A (why murder sometimes happens) Mystery in Three Acts

The scene:  A home in Texas.  Daughter1(D1) is having her first baby, she lives near Baltimore.  She was due on February 23.  I am supposed to be in DC on March 6 for work.  I bought a plane ticket for the DC trip thinking I would have already been to see the new baby and been back to do my laundry before heading out again.

Act 1
Tuesday, February 28.  No baby yet.  Made the decision over the weekend to drive to Baltimore on Thursday no matter what happened  in the meantime.  Lots of baby stuff to transport and the original plan was always to drive there and fly home.  Baby to be induced Sunday the 4th...the same day as the flight I booked to DC for work.

D1:  They changed my date.  They will induce on Thursday unless I have the baby before then.
Me:  THIS Thursday?

D1:  Yes, this Thursday?
Me:  What time?

D1:  I don't know yet.  I just wanted to let you know they changed the date.
Me:  Let me call you back.

Act 2

Call Husband (H) at work.  He is sick.  Has been sick since sometime last week.  I was sick too but am better now, he is not, he is worse.  I told him to go to the doctor on Monday and am pretty sure I mentioned this over the weekend as well.  These "suggestions" were ignored.

Me:  D1 is having the baby no later than Thursday, they changed her date.
H:  Do you want to leave tomorrow now?  (harsh coughing...sounds of a lung tearing loose)

Me:  Yes, if you can get off of work, I would. 
H:  Okay.  (coughing)  The car needs to be rented.  (coughing, gasping)

Me:  Maybe you need to go to the doctor today.
H:  No, I don't.

Me:  No new mother on this earth is going to let you anywhere near her new baby sounding like you do.
H:  Let me call you back.

Act 3

Husband can't get appointment until Wednesday morning.  Housesitter/ dogsitter and other arrangements help determine that the original plan to leave Thursday is best.  This means we won't arrive until Friday night, March 2.  There is still a flight booked and paid for (non-refundable, of course) for me on March 4, a flight I won't need since I am now just going to put husband on a plane home when I drive from Baltimore to DC for my business trip.  Calling American Airlines.

AA:  Hello my name is (undistinguishable), how may I be of service?
Me:  I want to find out how to handle a situation.  I need to skip my outbound flight but keep my return flight.  Here is my record locator (recite secret code).  I was going to do this online but there doesn't appear to be a way to do it.

AA:  You did the right thing in calling Ms. Smith.  Cancelling the flight on March 4, one moment please.  (pause) There will be a $150 change fee associated with this.
Me:  I get that the flight is not refundable but I am not "changing" anything, I am skipping one leg of the trip.

AA:  That is considered a change.
Me:  Okay, what if I just don't go the airport on the 4th and just make my return flight?

AA:  If you don't make your outbound flight we automatically cancel the associated return flight.
Me:  Why?  Just because I didn't fly there doesn't mean I don't plan to fly back.  (That's a pretty big assumption obviously.)

AA:  The flights you booked are a package, they are linked.  I can cancel your outbound flight and you will owe the $150 change fee and will not be refunded the fare for that leg of your trip.  Now, let's look at the return flight.  So, your return flight on March 9 is at 1pm.  I can still put you on that flight but only in 1st class and the fare difference is $212.20.  You owe $362.20, how would you like to pay?
(a moment of silence, several actually)

AA:  Ms. Smith?
Me:  Sorry, I am confused.  I already had a seat in coach on the March 9, 1pm flight reserved and paid for.  Now you are saying that in the time we have been on the phone, that seat, that I reserved and paid for , is no longer available and I must pay $362 MORE dollars to make only 1 flight in addition to the$485 I already paid to make 2?  Seriously?  You must be kidding.

AA:  I am not kidding.

Me:  Let me call you back.

I ended up paying a total of $51.20 to take a later flight on Friday the 9th.  I understand what she is telling me but I definitely don't agree.  A change fee to skip the flight?  Isn't that double-dipping (or triple-dipping)?   They already charged me for the seat and will now charge someone else for the seat PLUS my $150 penalty.  I hope the person in 20A gets upgraded to first class.  Together, we paid for it.

And for those out there saying it is my own fault for flying American, well, this is Dallas so that is the best choice most of the time and I suspect Delta and the others would have done the same.  And for all of you Southwest fans, you can't fly non-stop from Dallas to Baltimore or DC or anywhere not in New Mexico, Oklahoma or Louisiana.  The Wright Amendment...look it up.

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