In this installment of “WWYD,” a flight voucher for a flight you weren’t on:
This past weekend, I booked a cheap, last-minute flight to visit my parents in Florida. When I arrived at the gate a bit early, I saw that my connecting flight through Atlanta was delayed, and that I wouldn’t make my flight to Tampa. I spoke to the agent, who was able to put me on a flight to Atlanta that was already boarding. My new flight had been scheduled for 6:30 a.m., but had mechanical problems that didn’t put us in the air until 10:30. Worked for me—I was leaving earlier than my scheduled 11 a.m. flight, but my fellow passengers were understandably grumpy. I made it to Tampa without a hitch.
While I was there, I got an email saying I had been awarded a $100 voucher for the delayed flight. I figured I got lucky because while I was on the very delayed flight, its lateness was an advantage. Then I get the voucher, and it includes an apology for an incident involving a flight to Detroit, where passengers were seated, but then had to deplane for a mechanical problem. I definitely wasn’t on that flight. Do I keep my mouth shut? While this is not the airline I use most often, I have flown with them before, been delayed by them before, and have received apology vouchers about half the time. I know that my justification (It’s not real money! They’ve burned me before!) reads like excuses to keep the voucher, but am I wrong to think this is a rare occasion where I should just reap the benefits of their automated error?
It’s a voucher to fly with them, with the usual limits—expires in a year, not valid for certain cities, there are blackout dates … It’s not so much a refund as an incentive to book with them, a marketing strategy! That’s my other vein of justification, ha. — G.
You know, I’d keep that voucher and happily use it. I’ve read and heard so many stories about travelers who have had their flight delayed for a number of different reasons and received a travel voucher after they politely complained to the airline. The flight you were on had mechanical problems and was delayed for four hours—that seems like a good enough reason to file a complaint for a travel voucher. You’re usually out of luck for weather delays, but you can justify a complaint when it comes to mechanical problems. So, really, this saves you the trouble of having to complain—something that a lot of inconvenienced travelers don’t bother to do. Here’s Kate Hanni, the founder of FlyersRights.org, in a Times article last year:
In general, she said, airlines try to offer each passenger the same flat compensation — say, a certain number of miles (the amount generally differs between coach and business class), a discount voucher for a future flight or a drink ticket. But because actual damages vary from traveler to traveler, it’s up to the consumer to pursue proper remuneration and “really go after the airlines,” she said, adding that it’s crucial to save receipts and documentation.
According to Ms. Hanni, most passengers don’t go after the airlines, and the airlines are aware of this. But it’s really not that difficult. All you have to do is write a letter to customer service or the airline’s chief executive.
I also totally understand the “making justifications based on previous bad experiences” too. I’ve had flights delayed or cancelled or rescheduled that have caused me to miss rehearsal dinners and birthdays, or shortened already too-short vacations, and when I’ve politely complained, I’ve received travel vouchers about a third of the time. I’d consider this a way to even the score. Have a wonderful time on your next flight.