United v. Alaska; United wins

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Nov 16, 2018
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#1
My husband and I planned a trip in September to spend Thanksgiving in New Orleans. I used Alaska Airlines to book the flight and then decided to also book a hotel, too, which I did not realize at the time made the trip *not* through Alaska Airlines, but through another company called Alaska Air Trips, which apparently is a separate company. My tickets were the cheapest, most restrictive kind you can get.

About 3 weeks ago, my brother-in-law died unexpectedly in Iowa. I got our tickets to Iowa for the funeral from United. Again, the cheapest most restrictive tickets you can buy.

Then last night my husband's mother died, leaving his father, who has dementia, alone. My husband is frantically trying to find his father a memory care facility. He cannot take time out during the weekend to go to my brother-in-law's funeral.

I did not expect this and I'm more than happy to report that United refunded my husband's ticket to Iowa, which amounted to about $500. At this point, I do not see any way we can possibly go to New Orleans for Thanksgiving, but Alaska Airlines says there's nothing they can do about a refund. Completely out of their hands. Alaska Air Trips also will not give us a refund of any sort. They are adhering to the Alaska Airlines nonrefundable policy. One of the Alaska Airline reps suggested that I ask Alaska Air Trips to submit a waiver on our behalf, but they won't do that. The cost of this trip is about $3,000 and as melodramatic as this sounds, we need that money for my father-in-law's care.

I know I should have bought a refundable ticket, but at the time there was nothing on the horizon that we thought would interfere with our trip. Does anyone have any suggestions on anything I can do?

Thank you.
 
Jun 30, 2017
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#2
You can email Alaska, they are one of the more accommodating airlines, but you bought a nonrefundable ticket. Have you asked for a future travel credit instead of a refund-your tickets may have some residual value if canceled? They are more likely to agree to a future travel voucher. Less expensive than a non-refundable ticket is travel insurance. Travel insurance covers those things "not on the horizon" such as you have encountered, as well as many other things like illness or accident involving the travelers.

https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/alaska-airlines/
 
Nov 16, 2018
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#3
You can email Alaska, they are one of the more accommodating airlines, but you bought a nonrefundable ticket. Have you asked for a future travel credit instead of a refund-your tickets may have some residual value if canceled? They are more likely to agree to a future travel voucher. Less expensive than a non-refundable ticket is travel insurance. Travel insurance covers those things "not on the horizon" such as you have encountered, as well as many other things like illness or accident involving the travelers.

https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/alaska-airlines/

Alaska says the ticket is through another vendor even though I made the reservation on their site.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#5
i am sorry you are having such a difficult time.

many times the airline "branded" vacation packages are a separate company.

It appears that once someone goes to the Vacations section on the Alaska Air website, it is booked through Expedia.

I am not sure out this corporate structure.
 
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Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#6
Did you buy travel insurance? That might cover you. If you booked it through a third party site - you have to go to that site to see if you can get a refund. Most likely you will not qualify for a refund. You must always check the website on top of the page when you book.

Are you sure you were even in the Alaska Airlines website? There are many look alike websites that are meant to deceive just as you experienced.
 
Nov 16, 2018
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#7
Thanks everyone. I am at the airport now on my way to my brother-in-law’s funeral and made my case with Alaska Airlines. I managed to get a refund on our flight to New Orleans. Nothing like talking face to face. I still have to cancel our hotel in New Orleans and I’m hoping that will be easier.
 
Jun 30, 2017
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#8
Similar experience in 2017 from Tripadvisor: "although I was on Alaska Airline's website the minute you book a package the server switches to an Expedia server although the GUI doesn't change, the header and confirmation all display Alaska Air Travel. Even my email confirmation says Alaska. So why is this important? The agent told me because I book thru "Expedia" we weren't able to pick our own seats nor guarantee seats since I didn't book "air travel only" thru their website. I explained to her how the the website looks and I was on Alaska's website she said they were aware of it, she then said air travel is a separate entity and runs by a different program"
May be worth trying Expedia as well as Alaska Air.
https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia/
 

JVillegirl541

Verified Member
Nov 21, 2014
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#9
The credit card used to book the trip may have Travel
insurance benefits. I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve Card which has Travel Insurance. Please check your credit card provider for details.
 
Likes: jsn55
Nov 16, 2018
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#10
Similar experience in 2017 from Tripadvisor: "although I was on Alaska Airline's website the minute you book a package the server switches to an Expedia server although the GUI doesn't change, the header and confirmation all display Alaska Air Travel. Even my email confirmation says Alaska. So why is this important? The agent told me because I book thru "Expedia" we weren't able to pick our own seats nor guarantee seats since I didn't book "air travel only" thru their website. I explained to her how the the website looks and I was on Alaska's website she said they were aware of it, she then said air travel is a separate entity and runs by a different program"
May be worth trying Expedia as well as Alaska Air.
https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia/
Yeah. Note to self: do not book hotel through Alaska Airlines.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#12
I am so very sorry that you're going through such an awful experience, Katy. But take heart, once your life slows down you have a decent opportunity to obtain a credit towards a future trip. It all needs to be handled via email, but you are a very good writer, laying out the facts in order so your case is easily understood. That's the ticket to salvaging something out of your previous travel plans. When you get back, review all this and my colleagues' good advice and we can formulate a plan to make lemonade out of these sour lemons. Check all the charges on your credit card for the trip components and determine who charged you for what, then we'll know who to approach first. Again, my condolences to you and your husband for this sad loss. Airlines can seem to be heartless, but a well-written request for assistance often produces good results.
 
Likes: katiejane

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
14,684
13,751
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#13
I am so very sorry that you're going through such an awful experience, Katy. But take heart, once your life slows down you have a decent opportunity to obtain a credit towards a future trip. It all needs to be handled via email, but you are a very good writer, laying out the facts in order so your case is easily understood. That's the ticket to salvaging something out of your previous travel plans. When you get back, review all this and my colleagues' good advice and we can formulate a plan to make lemonade out of these sour lemons. Check all the charges on your credit card for the trip components and determine who charged you for what, then we'll know who to approach first. Again, my condolences to you and your husband for this sad loss. Airlines can seem to be heartless, but a well-written request for assistance often produces good results.
She got a refund at the airport:

“. I am at the airport now on my way to my brother-in-law’s funeral and made my case with Alaska Airlines. I managed to get a refund on our flight to New Orleans. Nothing like talking face to face. I still have to cancel our hotel in New Orleans and I’m hoping “
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#14
She got a refund at the airport:

“. I am at the airport now on my way to my brother-in-law’s funeral and made my case with Alaska Airlines. I managed to get a refund on our flight to New Orleans. Nothing like talking face to face. I still have to cancel our hotel in New Orleans and I’m hoping “
There was so much going on here I'm not sure she got everything refunded that she needs. I hope so, tho!
 
Nov 16, 2018
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#15
Hi everyone. Just thought I would give you the rest of the story, since everyone has been so nice and right now I need people to be nice to me. I was able to cancel my hotel reservation in New Orleans except for one night. I was able to get a refund for 3 nights, which saved me about a $1,000. I would not have been able to cancel the hotel if the flight had not been cancelled by Alaska Airlines, so I'm really grateful that they did that. I had to go through Expedia to cancel the hotel and it was not easy, but I was able to do it. I will never book a hotel through Alaska Airlines again.

I was able to go back to Iowa for my brother-in-law's funeral ("celebration of life") and it was nice. But this morning I learned that my little brother has an advanced and rare form of cancer and I'm looking at travel websites again. I have to say that United is the first site I'm going to look at just because they didn't rub it in my face that I had a nonrefundable ticket. That just refunded the ticket. All of this bad luck in such a short period of time would be almost funny if it wasn't true.

I have to admit that the Alaska Airline Customer Service agent at the airport was the best. I'm guessing she's better trained at showing empathy and is higher up in the food chain- she can make these type of decisions even though they go against the policy. The only way I got to speak to her was because I was already at the airport. I had a boarding pass that got me past the security gates. So, things worked out for me. The customer service people manning the phones for Alaska Airlines were kind of bad. One of them told me that she had a "big heart," but couldn't do anything for me. I guess she thought that I cared about her "big heart." I did not.
 
Jun 30, 2017
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#17
Do not use Expedia or other "travel sites" for anything except searches. Find the hotel you want and book directly with the hotel's website. That way you will know exactly what type of reservation you have and what the cancellation penalties and times are. Book your air on the airline's website only. You can choose the type of ticket you wish without the confusion from Expedia, Orbitz etc. Southwest has the most flexible tickets for a reasonable cost.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#19
Hi everyone. Just thought I would give you the rest of the story, since everyone has been so nice and right now I need people to be nice to me. I was able to cancel my hotel reservation in New Orleans except for one night. I was able to get a refund for 3 nights, which saved me about a $1,000. I would not have been able to cancel the hotel if the flight had not been cancelled by Alaska Airlines, so I'm really grateful that they did that. I had to go through Expedia to cancel the hotel and it was not easy, but I was able to do it. I will never book a hotel through Alaska Airlines again.

I was able to go back to Iowa for my brother-in-law's funeral ("celebration of life") and it was nice. But this morning I learned that my little brother has an advanced and rare form of cancer and I'm looking at travel websites again. I have to say that United is the first site I'm going to look at just because they didn't rub it in my face that I had a nonrefundable ticket. That just refunded the ticket. All of this bad luck in such a short period of time would be almost funny if it wasn't true.

I have to admit that the Alaska Airline Customer Service agent at the airport was the best. I'm guessing she's better trained at showing empathy and is higher up in the food chain- she can make these type of decisions even though they go against the policy. The only way I got to speak to her was because I was already at the airport. I had a boarding pass that got me past the security gates. So, things worked out for me. The customer service people manning the phones for Alaska Airlines were kind of bad. One of them told me that she had a "big heart," but couldn't do anything for me. I guess she thought that I cared about her "big heart." I did not.
You're really being put through the grinder here, Katie. I'm so sorry about your family, and now having a sibling diagnosed with a life-threatening illness has got to be beyond awful. I have a good friend who has lost 3 very close relatives in a 6 month period and it's an unbelievable struggle to keep things together with her kids, job and the grieving families. You have accomplished something with your trip cancellation that few travellers ever get to enjoy, so that extra money should help a little.

And of course I don't have to say, be super careful booking travel packages. The bad guys (actually quasi-bad guys, there's usually some legitimate link to the company you think you're using) are getting extremely clever with their websites. As a matter of policy now, I don't even click on search results, I jot down the website name and go in cold. This avoids me landing on a website that is not legitimate. Keep your chin up and be glad you did such a good job with this trip. All the best to you.
 
Dec 26, 2014
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#20
Starting on the Alaska Airlines home page you see options to book flights, hotels, cars, or packages. Clicking on hotels or cars for example will bring up a new page, the top of which says: Expedia/Alaska. Right below that is a link that says: Back to Alaska. They must have changed the web page GUI since 2017 because it is very clear now that you are no longer on an Alaska Airline site, but instead are on an Expedia site.
 
Likes: jsn55