Northwest Airlines took my money (but eventually gave it back).

NorthWest Airlines offered a special reduced fare to Singapore provided there was a full-price fare attached. And given that business arrangements would take me there, I thought to have my wife join me for a couple of days on her first trip to Asia and that we could fly back together.

So, about 2 months prior to the journey, I contact the airline and arrange to have her join me. The cost of this special fare companion ticket was $550 plus 10,000 frequent flyer miles in addition to my basic fare of $1,750.

Recent experiences with NorthWest weren't so hot. On my last trip, I left a bag with a large bottle of Gran Marnier and a few boxes of high-end chocolate on the long international leg landing in Detroit. It had also put my business card in the bag and they paged me from the International Terminal Lost and Found about having found it. But since I was catching another flight, I couldn't get there and back in time. So, then it was "lost" and never returned.

(It makes one wonder about what else the employees might be doing dishonestly like completing safety reports, maintenance records, etc. This act of dishonesty and outright theft was apparently not a concern to management -- their response was quite non-concerned and bland!)


A bit more than 3 weeks before the flight, my client postpones the conference and wants to shift it to the Fall. Thus, my portion of the trip cancels and I call to ask about a refund or rescheduling to Fall.

Interestingly, their fine print says that the ticket is COMPLETELY NON-REFUNDABLE and on top of that, they will charge me $35 to "restock" my frequent flyer points. And it is a "limited time promotion" so the Fall is not possible.

I write a letter expressing the feeling that I'd been robbed. One would think that 3 weeks would be more than enough notice for a cancellation forced by a business situation. Of course they wouldn't honor her ticket if I was not going. From a profit standpoint, it's all going to their bottom line. They have only the cost of handling the reservation and the cancellations and they keep $550 -- I've even paid taxes on the services!

Their position is, in the letter I received today,

"Unfortunately, we are unable to make any exceptions with this promotion. In fairness to all Worldperks members, we must adhere to the established guidelines. We offer our sincere apologies for any disappointment caused." (it should have added: by us stealing your money!"

Note that they even refer to them as "guidelines" -- and I would not think that a whole lot of other Worldperks Members would find it out of line to give me a refund. "Unfortunately" obviously applies to customers stupid enough to have a schedule change.

Kenneth Ness, who responded to my letter said it was personally reviewed by John Dasburg. But he did not leave a phone number where he could be easily reached. A 20 minute toll call later, another number to call, and a long wait for one of the reps to actually physically try to find Mr. Ness resulted in an offer to call me back tomorrow.

I think you've gotten all the facts. What do you think is fair?


Addendum - Nearly a month after the initial contact with them concerning the refund, I received a telephone call from another person in their executive offices asking about my initial letter. I explained the information in detail and she said she would get back to me. On April 28, I received an unsigned letter stating that they were refunding the total amount for the ticket. There was no further explanation.

Some other Airline-related Stuff of Interest

More Airline Stuff - From Ron Kaufman

Back to Other War Stories