Paid change fee on canceled flight

By: Stanley Mui
This article appears on page 24 of the September 2017 issue.

Around May 2016, when I was searching on Kayak.com for flights to Guadalajara, Mexico, the Mexican airline Volaris (www.volaris.com) always showed up as having the cheapest fares. When I looked at its Yelp.com rating, it was a dismal 1.5 stars. Despite all the negative reviews, I had a budget to meet (under $1,000 for a 10-day trip), so I booked tickets. 

The outgoing flight was delayed by more than three hours. I was forgiving because, at least, we were given a sandwich, a drink and a bag of potato chips. We ended up arriving in Guadalajara after dark, which we didn’t like. I was OK with this incident, however, because many airlines, including US-based airlines, have flight delays.

I loved Mexico so much that I decided to go back in February 2017. My friends and I hate to get up too early in the morning. Had we booked a round-trip ticket with United Airlines, we would have had to get up very early for the return flight. Volaris had a return flight that departed at 11:37 a.m., so the four of us decided to each buy two one-way tickets between Los Angeles and Mexico City, the outbound on United and the inbound on Volaris.

On Feb. 22, upon checking my emails, I noticed one from Volaris that said the flight scheduled for Feb. 25 was canceled. It gave me a “protection” number to call. I called and was put on hold. When an agent picked up the phone, she didn’t speak English, so I was put on hold again. 

After about 30 minutes of waiting, I decided to look online for another Volaris number. With the number I found, I got through to the airline quickly, and the agent spoke English fluently. I told him what happened and he offered to rebook us for another flight, but he insisted that we had to pay $99 per person. I thought we had no choice but to pay for it, since we needed to get home because of work.

In rebooking, we decided to split up our reservations so that two of us could take advantage of a cash-back offer from the credit card company. After changing two tickets, the agent said he had a warning from the computer and couldn’t rebook the other two passengers. 

Later the same evening, my friend’s husband, who was in the US, managed to get through to the original number we had been given to call Volaris, and he got the other two tickets changed for free.

When I found out the other tickets were rebooked for free, I was angry. I called again and tried to get a refund but was refused. I was told that had I called the “protection” number originally provided, the change would have been free. My response was that regardless of which number I called, since the cancellation was caused by Volaris, it should be free. 

I also disputed the charge with my credit card company, but they found in Volaris’ favor.

Volaris’ customer service department shouldn’t have given me the option to rebook to another flight for $99. They should have just advised me to call the “protection” number provided and ended the call, period.

A few days later I received an email from Volaris saying that I could get $80 off of the next flight, but I had had it with Volaris and decided not to use the voucher. I have taken three flights with Volaris, and I had one flight delayed and another canceled. It’s not worth saving a few bucks if my vacation is ruined.

STANLEY MUI

Woodland Hills, CA

ITN sent a copy of Mr. Mui’s email to Volaris (volaris@gcya.mx) but received no response.