What can I do about a non-refundable airline ticket I can't use?
May 6, 2013 5:44 PM   Subscribe

Two days ago I bought a $1500 airline ticket through Swiss Air as a gift for my mother. This was roundtrip, from US to Switzerland and back. Things just didn't work out, and now she can't go. I called today and talked to a customer service rep and a supervisor, who informed me that I can get a whopping $12 refund. Is my only option to just keep a $1500 piece of paper? Ideally I would like a refund. I realize that the "non-refundable" part presents a problem. Side note: they should probably put that somewhere on the confirmation email or website. If not, can I sell the ticket? Give it away? Do anything besides use this as a $1500 life lesson? I'm not really interested in giving them another $250 to book with them in the next year.
posted by andariel to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does SwissAir allow you to change the ticket, so that your mother can travel on different dates (assuming that your mother is able to do that)? There would likely be a change fee associated with doing this, but that would be better than just losing the cost of the ticket.
posted by scody at 5:47 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Side note: I can almost guarantee it said non-refundable before you purchased.

Your only hope is if they let you change dates of the ticket and only charge a change fee.
posted by dobi at 5:48 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Non-refundable is non-refundable, and is the default on most fares. Sounds like at this point, you can either write off $1488, or $250. Are you planning on flying in the next year? Suck it up and pay rebooking fee. In the scheme of things, it's not so bad.
posted by keasby at 5:58 PM on May 6, 2013

I just went through this with my mother-in-law. They're not kidding. An insultingly low refund or the chance to reschedule the flight for a few hundred bucks are your only choices. International tickets are nontransferable, so you can't sell it either.

FYI: if you let the day of the scheduled flight come and go with rebooking, you will lose any/all leverage and you won't be offered a blessed thing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:01 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm not really interested in giving them another $250 to book with them in the next year.

This is the rebooking fee, yes? I was prepared to feel really bad for you when they wouldn't even let you rebook it but it sounds like they're being pretty reasonable about this. I'd rebook next year and consider $250 a cheap way to get your $1500 mostly back.
posted by arnicae at 6:02 PM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

As others say you've either spent $1500 on a life lesson, or $1750 on a flight next year.
posted by singingfish at 6:04 PM on May 6, 2013 [18 favorites]

I've had luck talking airlines into changes and refunds, even international, but it has never been easy. Also, what is the reason the flight change, and did you buy the ticket with a credit card that offers travel insurance? If it is a covered reason, such as a medical reason, that may be one avenue to pursue. Too bad it's two days instead of one, because Swiss is a member of ARC and they are obliged to honor refunds until noon the next business day.
posted by Nothing at 6:11 PM on May 6, 2013

Also look into your credit card coverage for buyer's remorse, though usually that does not cover flights. Heck, it might be worth it to call them and have them call the airline with you. Depends on the company, though.
posted by Nothing at 6:23 PM on May 6, 2013

Definitely do not get a refund if there's an option for a $250 change in the next year. No matter what your emotions are telling you now, circumstances might change.
posted by acidic at 6:31 PM on May 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for your replies! To clarify, the ticket was for my mother, and I was going to be there for business that week. Her accommodations fell through in a last minute surprise change and it will cost too much for her to stay at a hotel. She is not interested in traveling there alone at a later date. If I paid the $250 rebooking fee, could I transfer the ticket into my name (my name was on the credit card used to pay) and go alone at a later date?

I understand the rebooking fee is generous, but it just wouldn't be practical to send my mother to a foreign country alone. And it's not in my budget to spring for another airline ticket plus hotel to accompany her.
posted by andariel at 6:37 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Would it be at all possible for her to stay in whatever hotel you're staying in for business? Perhaps you could get a room with two beds?
posted by cider at 6:54 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

The rebooking fee and lack of refund options is not generous, it's ridiculous, but standard practice. I will stop monopolizing the thread after this, but I strongly suggest calling your credit card company as well as the airline. Name changes are generally not allowed (though the Swissair website is not entirely clear on this, saying in one section that it is not allowed, and in another that it is not possible online) but you might get lucky if you ask and explain the situation. It will take a lot of time on the phone and the answer will probably be no before it is yes.
posted by Nothing at 6:59 PM on May 6, 2013

I would try really hard to find other accommodations if the main problem with her going is the cost of a hotel. I know Airbnb or couchsurfing might not be your first choice for your mom but it might be worth considering; maybe a hostel could work or even an apartment (see vrbo). And check hotel.com, priceline and other specialty sites for deals. The hotel is only for sleeping and doesn't have to be the Ritz. It only needs to be clean and safe.
posted by shoesietart at 7:27 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Before you give up on the refund, double check the terms of your credit card. If you have a fancy one, it may offer cancellation insurance, or some other relevant service.
posted by keeo at 7:49 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should just figure out a way that she can stay with you at the hotel. Certainly they have a cot or something she could sleep on, or you could upgrade your room for the business trip. Wasting $1500 seems a lot more expensive than paying for a hotel to hang out in Switzerland. Would your mom really not be happy with a free flight to Switzerland?

I would also call the airline, explain your situation and elevate it as high as you have to, speaking to supervisors, etc. Call back and maybe a different person who answers will be more helpful. Many times, I find customer service is luck of the draw -- one agent tells me they can't help me, I call back and someone else says they can.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:40 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also check TripAdvisor for budget accommodation and reviews. Hostels have private rooms.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:06 AM on May 7, 2013

Perhaps one of your friends wants to tag along with you and will buy the ticket from you at a discount.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:29 AM on May 7, 2013

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