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Getting Screwed by Hawaiian Airlines, 101

csodjd

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I was scheduled to attend my step-daughter's wedding in Hana over Memorial Weekend. I fly American typically and did this time. But I purchased tickets on Hawaiian Air for direct flights to and from Maui for my son (from SFO), my daughter (from SFO), and my other step-daughter (from LAX). Pretty steep fares too, about $400 each way, since it was holiday weekend travel. Needless to say, the wedding is off, hotel closed, quarantined on arrival, etc. I waited until HA canceled the flights to and from Maui, which they have now done. So, time to ask for a refund.

Refund? No. They were "able" (they did, without asking) to rebook the flights to one-stop through Honolulu, with less than a six-hour delay, and so - even though Maui is subject to a 14-day quarantine, the booked flight was canceled, and it changed from a non-stop to a layover in Honolulu - to them that's a "reasonable accommodation" and so they will not refund the fare. Moreover, they screw you on the voucher. If the one-way voucher was for $400 (my daughter's flight back to SF), and the fare drops to $179 each way in the future (as it has), less than $400 RT, she can only use the entire $400 voucher for that one-way fare. Basically pissing $221 into the wind. So the voucher doesn't even have equal value. If the fare is > $400, it only counts for $400. If it is < $400, they charge you $400. That is unconscionable in my view.

I strongly urge and recommend that NOBODY EVER choose to fly Hawaiian Airlines if they are paying for their tickets. You are buying a risk. Spend your money on airlines that try to help their customers. (Remember, the US, that's us, the taxpayer, has given them BILLIONS of dollars to help them.) In contrast, American (which my wife and I were booked on) gave full refunds, no questions asked.

I urge you not to reward an airline with your business for doing what it can to take advantage of its customers in extraordinary circumstances. Spend your money on airlines that put their customers first. That is NOT Hawaiian Airlines.

Here are some notable quotes from the "Chat" with the HA agent this evening:

"Thank you for patiently waiting. Unfortunately we are unable to provide you with a refund for the other 3 confirmation. DOT guidelines only require that we refund tickets if we cancel a flight and are able to provide a reasonable accommodation (generally more than 6 hour time difference)." Meaning: they are not going to do anything for their customers that they are not absolutely required by law to do.

"Unfortunately we are unable to provide you with a refund as we were able to provide you with alternative accommodations."

"Only the passengers can use the tickets for our tickets are non-transferable, and please be advised that we need to maximize the amount of the Travel Credit." (That last part was in reference to charging the full voucher value even if the fare is less than the value of the voucher. Airline speak for, we're going to screw you if we can.)

"Refund or credit will not be provided if a flight change is made and the applicable new fare is less than the original fare paid."

Disgruntled ex-Hawaiian Air customer.

Craig
 
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Kapolei

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I have no allegiance to any companies. Although I will say I am a big fan of Alaska Airlines. I really like their attitude. I would fly HA if it was my only option. But Alaska is normally my go to airline.
 

csodjd

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I have no allegiance to any companies. Although I will say I am a big fan of Alaska Airlines. I really like their attitude. I would fly HA if it was my only option. But Alaska is normally my go to airline.
When looking to use AA miles a lot of the flights that come up are on Alaska. Agree. A good airline generally.
 

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When looking to use AA miles a lot of the flights that come up are on Alaska. Agree. A good airline generally.

The British Airways (Chase card) has nice sign up points that can be used on Alaska. Alaska is a basic no frills airline run by good people. I prefer their smaller planes. I would rather be on a flight with a 100 souls than 350. Their 1st class is nothing special but can be somewhat affordable.
 

dioxide45

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This is the game that all the airlines are playing.
 

T_R_Oglodyte

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The game that the airlines play is that they want to attract the business of people who fly frequently. They want those customers to divert as much of their flying as possible to the chosen airline. So their first priority is to take care of those regular, frequent customers via the mileage program perks that are given to those flyers.

Maintaining that customer base builds their passenger loads. Also, those flyers will will often fly on the selected airline even if it isn't the cheapest flight. The flip side is that if someone is only an infrequent flyer, the experience won't be quite so pleasant.. It shows up most often when passengers have flight changes - as you are experiencing.
 

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@csodjd Sorry to hear about your issues. We had a close call on a few flights in April with United and Alaska but we ended up getting refunds. This was a great lesson for me to book with Southwest and avoid this hassle next time.

A 6 hour delay is within the guidelines if the same flight is delayed but they are routing you through another airport on a different flight which takes a non-stop to a 1-stop. IMO that is a significant change because you purchased a nonstop; it is not only a hassle to change planes but it exposes your family to potentially more covid exposure through the stop-over airport.

"In its “enforcement notice,” the DOT said “carriers have a longstanding obligation to provide a prompt refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels the passenger’s flight or makes a significant change in the flight schedule and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier.”


I would recommend calling Hawaiian again and see if the next agent can be more accommodating, pointing out that rerouting a non-stop to a stop-over flight is a significant change and not acceptable accommodation.

If that doesn't work, file a USA DOT complaint. It takes about 5 minute to fill out the form and they do respond.


Good luck!
 
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Years ago I was able to cancel a flight to Florida that was a direct changed to one stop and received a full refund.
 

rickandcindy23

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This is the game that all the airlines are playing.
Yes, most of the airlines, but Southwest is my favorite. Granted, I book only with points because I have Chase credit cards and can move points over, and I get 100% of my points refunded + the $5.60 per leg fee is refunded back to my credit card.

We have to cancel United to Kauai for 6/6. I am hoping they let us book Maui with the credit. That would be my ideal. It's basically the same price as the ticket we bought to Kauai.

Alaska is flying us back to Oakland from Kauai. We were flying SW to Denver from Oakland. I do love Alaska. I feel so welcomed by their flight attendants. The flight attendant on our last United flight kept rolling her eyes at me. I had my earbuds in, listening to my book and didn't hear whatever question she was asking the first time. I had to pop my earbuds out to hear. I guess it was bothering her that I was not paying attention to her. My SIL was a flight attendant for 33 years for United, and when I told her that, she was sure she knew the woman. I just knew her first name. The lady needs to retire. She apparently hates her job. And this was first class.
 

csodjd

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@csodjd Sorry to hear about your issues. We had a close call on a few flights in April with United and Alaska but we ended up getting refunds. This was a great lesson for me to book with Southwest and avoid this hassle next time.

A 6 hour delay is within the guidelines if the same flight is delayed but they are routing you through another airport on a different flight which takes a non-stop to a 1-stop. IMO that is a significant change because you purchased a nonstop; it is not only a hassle to change planes but it exposes your family to potentially more covid exposure through the stop-over airport.

"In its “enforcement notice,” the DOT said “carriers have a longstanding obligation to provide a prompt refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels the passenger’s flight or makes a significant change in the flight schedule and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier.”


I would recommend calling Hawaiian again and see if the next agent can be more accommodating, pointing out that rerouting a non-stop to a stop-over flight is a significant change and not acceptable accommodation.

If that doesn't work, file a USA DOT complaint. It takes about 5 minute to fill out the form and they do respond.


Good luck!
Thanks. That's a good reference. I DID emphasize that turning a non-stop into a one-stop with change of plan is not an acceptable accommodation to me, even if it can all be done without delaying me more than six hours (who things a 5-hour change is reasonable?). No luck. In their view, they could route me through Venus as long as the delay is not more than six hours. But, yes, I'm going to take that DOT language and try again.
 

csodjd

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The game that the airlines play is that they want to attract the business of people who fly frequently. They want those customers to divert as much of their flying as possible to the chosen airline. So their first priority is to take care of those regular, frequent customers via the mileage program perks that are given to those flyers.

Maintaining that customer base builds their passenger loads. Also, those flyers will will often fly on the selected airline even if it isn't the cheapest flight. The flip side is that if someone is only an infrequent flyer, the experience won't be quite so pleasant.. It shows up most often when passengers have flight changes - as you are experiencing.
I am one of their HawaiianMiles customers, and I (used to) fly them pretty regularly. I also have their credit card. I'm certainly not one of their "best" customers, but I have generally flown Hawaiian at least once or twice a year.
 

csodjd

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Years ago I was able to cancel a flight to Florida that was a direct changed to one stop and received a full refund.
That is part of American's Contract of Carriage. Refund for any time change of more than one hour, or any change from non-stop to one or more stops.
 

Tamaradarann

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I am one of their HawaiianMiles customers, and I (used to) fly them pretty regularly. I also have their credit card. I'm certainly not one of their "best" customers, but I have generally flown Hawaiian at least once or twice a year.

We fly Hawaiian from JFK to HNL since it is a direct flight. However their change policy is not customer friendly. I love Southwest's change policy and would rather fly them but it would entail at least 2 plane changes from my local airport and an overnight stay between flights. Now that Southwest is flying between island we are using that as our interisland airline rather than Hawaiian. Of course Southwest is the best for Florida flights from NY.
 

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That is part of American's Contract of Carriage. Refund for any time change of more than one hour, or any change from non-stop to one or more stops.

That WAS AA's Contract of Carriage. On April 8 they changed to refunds for a change of four hours or more.
 

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Unfortunately, I don't think DOT defines what "significant change" means, and instead leaves it to the airline's CoC. If Hawaiian's CoC only defines it to be six hours (but not e.g. change in routing, metal, etc.) then in this case they are within their rights to not offer a refund. It might be short-sighted, but they can.

For reference, Delta's threshold for refunds is an arrival difference of 90 minutes or more, which almost always would include any change from a nonstop to a connecting flight.
 

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IMO...HUCA (Hang Up Call Again) may help. Who knows? Perhaps the last rep was having a bad day or is new and doesn't know where rules can be flexed.

IMO Asking your family to reroute with a stop at least doubles the risk of Covid exposure because of new flight crews, passengers etc. So use DOT as a fallback especially since other airlines have shorter windows. United had a 24 hour window when this started and DOT shot that down as unreasonable. Covid changed what is reasonable.
 
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Kapolei

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We fly Hawaiian from JFK to HNL since it is a direct flight. However their change policy is not customer friendly. I love Southwest's change policy and would rather fly them but it would entail at least 2 plane changes from my local airport and an overnight stay between flights. Now that Southwest is flying between island we are using that as our interisland airline rather than Hawaiian. Of course Southwest is the best for Florida flights from NY.

My negative attitude towards HA goes back to the time that I used to fly Aloha interisland. Aloha was so flexible and Hawaiian was difficult. So I picked my favorite. Aloha went bankrupt due to third airline competition and an aging fleet of jets the did not have modern fuel-efficient engines. Sad loss for the State of Hawaii. HA should be given credit for the progress they have made as a company and the number they employ. Now they are in survival mode and they need to survive.
 

CalGalTraveler

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HA has historically price gouged inter-island flights. I heard it is the most expensive in the U.S.A. on a cost per mile basis.

Southwest is bringing rationaity to a mostly monopoly market. I do not feel badly for HA
 

csodjd

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Unfortunately, I don't think DOT defines what "significant change" means, and instead leaves it to the airline's CoC. If Hawaiian's CoC only defines it to be six hours (but not e.g. change in routing, metal, etc.) then in this case they are within their rights to not offer a refund. It might be short-sighted, but they can.

For reference, Delta's threshold for refunds is an arrival difference of 90 minutes or more, which almost always would include any change from a nonstop to a connecting flight.
So, I just read the actual Enforcement Notice of the DOT dated April 3, 2020. It does NOT support HA in this case. Three things stand out.

The first is the use of "or." It says, " passengers should be refunded promptly when their scheduled flights are cancelled or significantly delayed...."

Second, the passenger has the right to decline the alternative schedule offered by the airline. It says, "Carriers have a longstanding obligation to provide a prompt refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels the passenger’s flight or makes a significant change in the flight schedule and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier."

Finally, it references law from 2011 in a footnote rejecting the "accommodation" argument being made by Hawaiian Airlines and rejecting their Contract of Carriage provision: "See Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections, 76 Fed. Reg. 23110-01, at 23129 (Apr. 25, 2011) (“We reject . . . assertions that carriers are not required to refund a passenger's fare when a flight is cancelled if the carrier can accommodate the passenger with other transportation options after the cancellation. We find it to be manifestly unfair for a carrier to fail to provide the transportation contracted for and then to refuse to provide a refund if the passenger finds the offered rerouting unacceptable (e.g., greatly delayed or otherwise inconvenient) and he or she no longer wishes to travel.”)"

They go on to explain, per a March 4, 2020, DOT statement, that "Cancelled Flight – A passenger is entitled to a refund if the airline cancelled a flight, regardless of the reason, and the passenger chooses not to be rebooked on a new flight on that airline."

So, the passenger gets to choose and can reject the rescheduled/rebooked flight in his/her discretion.
 

bnoble

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or makes a significant change in the flight schedule and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier."
I read that too. The question is: what is a "significant change"? The answer: it's defined by the Contract of Carriage, and that says anything that changes your arrival by less than six hours is not "significant."

We find it to be manifestly unfair for a carrier to fail to provide the transportation contracted for and then to refuse to provide a refund if the passenger finds the offered rerouting unacceptable
Right. And the Contract of Carriage defines what was contracted for---it's not as simple as "your original flight."

Personally, I think six hours is outrageous as a definition of irregular operations, and think Delta's 90 minutes is a lot more reasonable. But it's not up to me.
 

csodjd

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I read that too. The question is: what is a "significant change"? The answer: it's defined by the Contract of Carriage, and that says anything that changes your arrival by less than six hours is not "significant."

Right. And the Contract of Carriage defines what was contracted for---it's not as simple as "your original flight."

Personally, I think six hours is outrageous as a definition of irregular operations, and think Delta's 90 minutes is a lot more reasonable. But it's not up to me.
You're missing the import of the use of the word "or." Significant change OR canceled. Fine... significant change is 6 hrs or more. But that's the second clause. The first clause is "canceled." If EITHER occurs (that's what "or" means) the refund requirement is met.

Moreover, the reason for this enforcement notice was because the DOT is seeking to protect the customer, not inform that airline what they can get away with. It was a threat to bring enforcement action if they are viewed by the DOT as acting unfairly toward the flying consumer. It should therefore be construed so as to effect its purpose, which is consumer protection by ensuring refunds. To that end, in March 2020 they made clear that the passenger does not have to accept the rebooking, irrespective of the time delay. Note the, "or otherwise inconvenient" language. It is clearly "inconvenient" to have a non-stop changed to a stop-over with a plane change.
 

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I read that too. The question is: what is a "significant change"? The answer: it's defined by the Contract of Carriage, and that says anything that changes your arrival by less than six hours is not "significant."


Right. And the Contract of Carriage defines what was contracted for---it's not as simple as "your original flight."

Personally, I think six hours is outrageous as a definition of irregular operations, and think Delta's 90 minutes is a lot more reasonable. But it's not up to me.

@csodjd +1 the "or" is important.

United thought 24 hours was "reasonable" but got overruled by DOT.

I always went by the mantra that if your flight number changed, that constitutes a cancellation. Airlines are playing all kinds of games right now and DOT is backing consumers.
 

Luanne

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I'm wondering if this is just the way Hawaiian Airlines has always operated, or if the airlines are now getting desperate to protect some revenue. I had no problem getting a full refund from Alaska when one leg of a flight changed by two hours and the return leg changed from a non-stop to one stop and added 4 hours to the flight. I was first offered a credit, but when I said I wanted a refund, no problem. They even returned my companion pass to me. But, that was a bit earlier. I'm wondering if now airlines are trying to tighten up on their refunds.
 

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I'm wondering if this is just the way Hawaiian Airlines has always operated, or if the airlines are now getting desperate to protect some revenue. I had no problem getting a full refund from Alaska when one leg of a flight changed by two hours and the return leg changed from a non-stop to one stop and added 4 hours to the flight. I was first offered a credit, but when I said I wanted a refund, no problem. They even returned my companion pass to me. But, that was a bit earlier. I'm wondering if now airlines are trying to tighten up on their refunds.
It would not surprise anyone, I'm sure, if they were bending over backward to try and hold on to our money, out of perhaps a legitimate fear of insolvency and/or bankruptcy. But for a customer, that is even more reason to demand a refund, because a voucher for an airline that's out of business isn't worth much.
 

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I am done with Hawaiian. I sold my points and canceled my credit card. I was supposed to fly to Vegas on May 4th and canceled my trip a few weeks ago. The flight had already been canceled, but that didn’t seem to matter. I didn’t get my money back and was told that I would be given a credit and it would cost $250 per trip per person to use that credit. So $500 RT to fly to Vegas or LA per person and that is about what they normally charge anyway. Additionally, the $89 extra comfort seats and any tax would not be available. So even if I used the credit, that was $400 I will never get back. Other airlines don’t charge as much and have better service. I have a lot of friends at Hawaiian and wish them well. The company will be fine. But they will have to be a lot cheaper than other airlines before I fly them again.
 
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