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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Airline Cancellations

I READ YOUR item "Before You Cancel, Read the Fine Print" [Coming and Going, Feb. 17] and have a comment. After more than a decade in the airline industry, I always recommend that a person verify all change/cancellation policies before paying. However, Sarah could have saved money if she'd skipped the middleman.

Just because she purchased the ticket through Travelocity doesn't mean she had to change her ticket through them. Except in rare occasions when a person buys a bulk-rate ticket through an airline's vendor, after purchase all other transactions should go directly through the airline. This saves on getting "double dinged" in penalties and allows the airline a chance to interact with the passenger, so it can collect important info that Travelocity may have neglected to forward.

No matter whom a passenger goes through to get the ticket (a travel agent, a cruise line, a resort or a myriad of Web sites), unless it's a bulk-rate ticket the airline owns and has full control over that ticket, so the airline can be contacted directly for any and all changes. Don't get stuck with double penalties!

Kimberly Siepmann


AS YOU ALLUDED, not all domestic carriers give complete credit. Our daughter was stranded in Denver in the 2006 Christmas snowfalls. We ended up with a credit on US Airways that we could only use toward one future trip (within 12 months), regardless of the cost. We had to forfeit the rest of the money. This had nothing to do with international travel at all. It was all domestic.

Even though most domestic airlines allow the credit to be used for multiple tickets until it has run out, we did get penalized by US Airways, one major carrier that does not follow that philosophy.

Ellen Golden


THE SAME THING recently happened to me. I canceled a trip to Edinburgh on United last summer and decided to use the credit to go to Ireland this spring break -- also on United. I didn't have to cancel my trip to Edinburgh, so when I was calling about possibly canceling my flight, I asked the agent what the restrictions were, in case it wasn't worth it. She told me that other than swallowing the $200 cancellation fee you noted in the article, the balance would be available to me so long as I was buying a trip of equal or greater value. Based on that, I decided to cancel my trip.

When I attempted to book my flight to Ireland, I was informed of this caveat: that the credit could only be used on a fare with a "base price" equal to or greater than the credit (even though the credit includes both the base price of the trip to Scotland and all the fees and taxes). The price of the trip to Ireland was $750 with a base of $300. The credit was about $900.

I complained, and they offered to increase the base price of my Ireland trip to $900 so that I could use my credit. Huzzah! Except now I would have to pay taxes and fees on a $900 ticket, which put me somewhere near $1,500. So, basically, if I used my $900 credit, I would have to pay about $700 out of pocket to pay for the fare. Which was, of course, about what I'd have to pay without a credit.

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