Tax refund after routing change due to schedule change

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by HaveMilesWillTravel, Nov 4, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    UA recently messed up one of my itins. They changed their SFO-LHR departure time, turning my connection in LHR to a LH flight into a misconnect. Their system didn't flag that (but I noticed it). Their overall handling of this was craptacular, but that's a story for another thread.

    They eventually put me on their UA 903 nonstop SFO-FRA.

    Looking at my booking on united.com, it still has my "partner flight" confirmation number for the LH segment from LHR to SFO (the flight itself is gone from the PNR). Oh well.

    But the fee breakdown also still lists the $39.10 "U.K. Passenger Service Charge" even though I am no longer touching the UK.

    What are my chances of getting that back? Presumably zero if I don't ask for it, but will they refund it if I email them? (I'd probably wait until I have flown the trip to avoid further complications)
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
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  2. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Are you supposed to get anything back when they do such a wholesale re-route? I was supposed to fly LGA-IAD-MUC-MXP on UA/LH, but due to bad weather I was transferred to a Alitalia flight that did JFK-FCO-MXP (or could have done JFK-MXP). However, there was no discussion about refund or my paying extra for the change. What I had already paid was considered good enough.

    Now, what if the more direct route that they just switched onto costs more than going through LHR or even more than the "U.K. Passenger Service Charge", should you be asked to pay the difference? Have you compared the ticket price differential that you may not be paying because they screwed up?

    Just wondering. I have no position on this at all...
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
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  3. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    My change was due to a flight schedule change by United, so it was under their control. Also, more than a month prior to departure. So plenty of time to sort this out.

    I suspect that if I had initiated the change without a schedule change, then yes they would have asked me for a change fee, the fare differential and any additional fees and charges.

    I don't know if they would have asked me for the UK Pax Service Charge if the re-route had been the reverse (from non-stop SFO-FRA to SFO-LHR-FRA). I suspect not and I don't think it would be fair (any additional cost due their schedule change should be theirs to cover), but I honestly don't really care about that scenario. It's their change of plans that is inconveniencing me. I would have preferred my original routing, which I booked fully knowing that there are non-stops on UA and LH from SFO to FRA.

    There were only B fares available on the non-stop when they rebooked me; my ticket is W. So no, I don't think my fare should have dropped.
     
  4. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I think that from UA's point of view, and now mine, you are even. They made a mistake, and it is costing them more to get you to destination, but they will eat the price differential. ;)
     
  5. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Call and tell them to re-fare the taxes. They should issue a credit for it.
     
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  6. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Not really. They'll resell my original seat on SFO-LHR, and a quick check confirmed that that flight, too, has B fares as the lowest economy fares.

    Another way to look at it? Why should Her Majesty's government collect $39.10 for a service not provided? I suspect the fee won't actually end up in United's coffers, but rather gets sent to the government since the accounting records for my trip will show it as such (and not as revenue).

    Also -- if United had actually done what would appear to be logical -- rebook me on a slightly later LH flight -- this thread would not exist. The agent insisted that no such flight existed even though united.com was happily selling it at the time for the same price as the one that I was booked on. When I gave her the flight number and time, she insisted that it was an ANA flight (yup, ANA now flies LHR-FRA. Who knew). Instead she put me on the nonstop, resulting in me moving from a 777 to a 747 (suckier E+) and presumably dropping far down on the GPU wait list. Also lost a few RDM and PQM, but that really doesn't matter this year.
     
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  7. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I am not even sure the funds will go to her Majesty the Queen because there won't be any reason to give it to her. I think that it will be rebudgeted internally. They will resell your ticket but you'd be occupying a seat that they could have sold to someone else.

    Another way to look at it is that you had spent money to get to somewhere. Without the snafu by the carrier that money was gone already. Now they made amends and would get you to destination on a flight that only had B fares available for the same price and you complain?

    Please let us know how this is resolved but I feel that UA screwed up, but made amends to take you to where you wanted to go. The only way a refund would make sense would be for you to show that the alternate way is much cheaper than the original way; otherwise I see no case.
     
  8. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    United might refund the passenger service charge for the UK but then assess you the passenger service charge for Germany so you don't really get that much of a refund back or might end up paying more.
     
  9. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Actually, if you compare the fees for the old booking and a new "mock" booking for the new routing, the only difference is the UK PSC. As far as Germany is concerned, in both cases I arrive and depart from Frankfurt. The only difference is that with my original booking I arrived from LHR, and with the new routing I arrive from SFO.
     
  10. lapointdm

    lapointdm Silver Member

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    It doesn't hurt to ask!
     
  11. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    Oh yes, it can hurt to ask if you then get a stupid answer.
     
  12. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    This thread raises an important matter all frequent flyers should keep in mind -- actual taxes and fees (i.e., not carrier-imposed) are usually subject to refund in case of cancellation or re-routing.

    Even in the case of non-refundable tickets, normally the taxes are reimbursable in case of cancellation. When I've been been forced to cancel a non-refundable ticket, the first thing I do is tell the entity that sold me the ticket that I want to claim refund of the taxes that will not be turned over to the taxing authority. The carrier is simply collecting the taxes, and has no right to keep them as profit, so if they are not required to turn the money over to the taxing authority they have no right to keep it. I have never failed, ultimately, to get the taxes back.

    The issue HaveMilesWillTravel raises is similar from the perspective of law. If the money isn't being turned over to the taxing authority (because the taxing authority isn't due it), it should be returned to the payor. Sometimes one runs into difficulties because there has been a last-minute re-routing (not pax-initiated) and in such case it gets hairy to sort out what taxes have actually been paid by the carrier to the taxing authorities (which the carrier is entitled to recoup) and what wasn't paid (and therefore should be returned to the passenger). If the amount is large enough to merit the investment of time and putting up with the hassle, I'd say go ahead and pursue the refund. You should prevail in the end, but it may take some time and fuss.

    In the instant case, this change was not pax-initiated, the fights have not yet been flown, and the tax implication is easy to calculate. I'd be inclined to pursue it, if it were me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
  13. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    Especially with premium class trips originating in LHR the taxes/fees can be rather high and definitely worth recovering. I was actually surprised that the UK tax was nearly $40 for my coach trip.
     
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  14. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Let's try a quantitative example-scenario because I am having a bit of a hard time wrapping my brain around the need for this tax refund.

    Let's say a Pax was supposed to do SFO-LHR-FRA on a ticket that cost $1,123, including a LHR-imposed tax.

    Due to an error by the airline, the Pax had to be re-routed on a second, more direct itinerary, which the airline estimates would cost $1,234, including a FRA--imposed tax.

    The result is that the airline re-routing of the Pax on a more convenient (direct) itin ended up costing them $111 more than the original ticket, everything included, but because the error was theirs, they are willing to take the loss.

    Question: Having already gotten the Pax to destination at a loss, should the airline also have to take the additional loss of reimbursing the Pax for the LHR-imposed tax?

    Inquiring minds wanna know...
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2014
  15. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    The. Tax. Wasn't. Theirs. To. Keep. Ever.
     
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  16. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Missing. the. point.
    Itin A cost less than itin B and YOU did not have to pay for the cost of the more expensive re-route. There are operating costs associated with the re-route, no?
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
  17. Wandering Aramean
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    Yes.

    Also, the "loss" incurred by the airline in your example is a theoretical one based on the arbitrary value they assign to fares, not actual operating costs.
     
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  18. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Some type valuation is necessary to know how to resolve a case like this, otherwise it would all seem arbitrary. I clearly recall being re-routed once involuntarily and getting a refund because the second itin was cheaper. But when an involuntary re-route results in a more expensive itin, the carrier does not pass the cost on to the pax. They eat it and call it even...

    To the OP: Please pursue the course of action that you feel is right and let us know the outcome...
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2014
  19. Counsellor
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    From a legal standpoint, I think you may be missing the point.

    The amount of the ticket cost that is collected for taxes is not the airline's. They are acting as a fiduciary in collecting the tax, and are required to remit the tax to the taxing authority or return it. For them to keep the money that is not theirs would be a breach of the fiduciary duty tantamount to embezzlement.

    If they feel they had it coming to off-set additional costs they incurred, they can ask your permission to keep it, but they can't (legally) just keep it.
     
  20. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Quite possibly...
     
  21. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    For what it's worth, the outcome:

    After completing the trip I sent a concise email to 1KVoice requesting a refund (since the online refund functionality on united.com doesn't seem to cover this scenario). I got a reply back a day later indicating that they had requested the refund for me. Less than a week later I got confirmation from the Refunds department that the refund had been credited to my VISA card. And indeed it's there.
     

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