He claimed he had known me many years ago. Wizened, unshaven, with only three
teeth in his entire mouth, he requested to meet with me. With his shabby jacket,
his upright stature revealed someone who had fallen upon hard times.
the holiday season in full force, I could hardly refuse such a humble
He explained that while he desired to fly to New York, he was
unable to fly nonstop, as the thought of being held captive in a metal cylinder
for over 12 hours was something he simply couldn’t handle. He spoke clearly and
lucidly, not at all what one would expect from his appearance.
out that a long time ago, he had flown with Sabena, departing Lod Airport in the
afternoon to Brussels and continuing the next morning to Idlewild, with the
airline footing the bill for an airport hotel. I politely explained that
Brussels Air (the successor to the bankrupt Sabena) no longer paid for an
overnight in Brussels on the way to JFK (the “correct” name for Idlewild Airport
Realizing that business class might prove too expensive, he
asked what I knew about BA’s vaunted premium economy class. British Airways has
been marketing this product for over a year, offering a superior product to the
normal economy class, complete with a separate check-in counter at the airport
and aircraft seats with more pitch than the normal seat. They’ve priced it at
only a few hundred dollars more, and it has proved very popular among customers.
So popular, in fact, that El Al has decided it, too, will offer a premium
economy class on its flights to both London and New York next year.
elected to avail himself of this extra comfort and booked a 7 a.m. flight to
London with a stop of almost 24 hours before continuing the next morning to JFK.
He pulled out all of his documents, his credit card was charged and he loped out
of the office with his e-ticket.
It took him only 10 minutes to return
and ask if he could delay his trip by one week.
Happy to oblige, with no
additional cost, one more week in Israel was arranged. I explained that in the
future, changing his ticket would incur a $100 reissue fee, provided there was
space in his reserved class.
Away he went, but a nagging feeling festered
in my mind that this was not the last I would hear of him.
prevail until the morning of his flight, when I received an urgent message from
BA that he was a no-show on his flight to London and the airline had canceled
the rest of his trip.
Curious to find out what plight had transpired for
him to miss his flight, I rang him at his home to find him quite calm. My first
reaction was to inquire if he had mixed up the date of his departure. Quite the
contrary, he retorted, he had ordered the taxi to pick him up at 4 a.m., but it
had simply never appeared. Befuddled and betwixt, he had stayed in his house
waiting patiently for a cab that never showed.
“Did you call for another
cab?” I asked.
“Did you call my office? Did you call BA at Ben-Gurion
Airport to inform them you weren’t flying?” He sheepishly admitted that none of
those options had entered his mind.
Asked what he did want to do, he said
he might fly with the airline in the future.
I called BA, only to be told
the following information, which from a cursory investigation seems to be a
policy that few airlines have adopted (I have confirmed that it appears on BA’s
site): Passengers who no-show for a flight will be considered as canceling after
departure, and the ticket will have no value for refund or onward
I repeat – if you’re a no-show, not only won’t you get your
payment refunded, you won’t be able to use the rest of your ticket.
did point out that the client would get back the airport taxes, which in this
case totaled over $300.
By sitting in his living room doing nothing, my
client lost his entire ticket, with no option to refund it and pay the
cancellation fee. A simple phone call or e-mail would have resulted in BA simply
canceling his first flight; failure to do anything meant he forfeited the entire
Personally I felt this was rather draconian; professionally I
asked BA to make an exception.
They were fairly forthcoming, pointing out
that they were making a large exception, but in the end relenting and permitting
him to rebook his ticket with a large penalty for a future trip. Let’s hope that
this time he manages to show up for his flight.
I RARELY argue about an
airline’s policy, especially when it appears clearly. It behooves the passenger
who blithely feels that if he or she doesn’t show up for the scheduled flight,
there will be little backlash from the airline, to know what that policy
Most airlines, Delta or Continental, El Al or US Air, charge a steep
no-show fee on international tickets that originate in Israel, but don’t
restrict the client from refunding the ticket as BA does.
you’re not going to make a flight, let someone know. If you’re not working with
a travel consultant with a 24-hour phone number, or if you booked online, be
responsible and contact the airline directly.
Trust me: These days,
nothing and nobody can slip under the radar. If you don’t show up for your
flight, it will be seen.
The writer is the CEO of Ziontours,