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Discounted airline ticket didn't qualify for fuel charge refund

Discounted airline ticket didn't qualify for fuel charge refund

Q: In November 2008 I booked a flight for my niece to visit from London. A few weeks later British Airways reduced the fuel charge. I tried to get a refund for the difference, but no such luck. British Airways told me because the flight was booked before the change in fuel prices I did not qualify for a refund.

We traveled on a cruise this year and it returned a fuel charge to us! I think British Airways is wrong and I deserve a refund.

Peter Gibson

A: John Lampl, a spokesman for British Airways, responded to your complaint. Again, the company said you do not qualify for a refund.

Lampl said that refunding the difference in fuel charges is something the airline doesn't do. He said "fuel is still very volatile and is costing (British Airways) over $3 billion a year."

He apologized for the inconvenience and suggested buying a flexible ticket next time, rather than a discounted ticket that doesn't allow for changes or refunds as easily.

There still may be something you can do to obtain a refund, if you're up to it. Christopher Elliott, a blogging travel expert writing for www.msnbc.com, suggested specific ways to approach airlines in order to get the results you want.

• Mind your P's and Q's. Elliott wrote that you'll get farther being polite than outraged when corresponding with an airline. (Action finds that to be true when dealing with any company.) He suggested reminding the company of your patronage and that you would like to remain a loyal traveler. This could sway a customer service representative's decision to refund your money.

• Use reason. When explaining your request, be sure your logic is intact. Elliott suggested one consumer write a concise, well-reasoned letter as an appeal to the denial of her refund. This consumer received her refund and a phone call from a customer representative, who explained: "I do believe that is a reasonable compensation."

• Cite their own policies. Make sure you are aware of company policies before going to battle for a refund. Elliott said citing policies when you're clearly in the right is a no-brainer, but citing them when you're wrong may also work to your advantage. Let's say extenuating circumstances prevent you from taking your flight, but they're outside company policy for a refund. If you share your knowledge of the policy while being polite and applying reason, you may be able to convince the company that the refund still makes sense.

• Remind them of the law. If a claim is wrongly denied, reminding the company of the law can persuade even the most difficult travel company to change their decision.

• Appeal to a higher power. If you aren't getting anywhere with a customer service representative, ask for a manager to review the case again.

• Copy all the right people. When you send a complaint, copy the ranking executives in the company, as well as any federal or state agencies that regulate the company. Elliott said, "When an airline sees the Transportation Department on the 'cc:' list, they are far likelier to give your complaint a little extra attention."

These are not foolproof techniques for a refund; rather little ways to tweak your complaint process in order to gain the airline's attention and possibly put some money back in your pocket.

Discounted airline ticket didn't qualify for fuel charge refund 07/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 9:05am]

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