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Southwest Airlines backs off, gives extra year to redeem free flight



Updated: May 28, 2012 9:10AM

Dear Fixer: Last year, I was looking forward to earning enough Rapid Rewards points on Southwest Airlines to get a free flight. I had apparently qualified for a free flight, but right around that time Southwest underwent a website overhaul that left me confused and in the dark.

With their vague notification email and even hazier website navigation, I didn’t realize that my free flight had indeed been rewarded until a week before it was to expire!

All of this occurred around the time I had opened a Rapid Rewards credit card. It took several months to get my points from the card, which contributed to the confusion.

Needless to say, I was furious and sent them a complaint, only to be told, “Sorry for the trouble, but an expired free flight cannot be reimbursed.” Ugh!

I have been a loyal Southwest customer for several years. Up until now, I have been extremely pleased with every Southwest travel experience I have had.

Michael Murphy, Oak Lawn

Dear Michael: We sympathize. Trying to keep track of all the different rules for all the different rewards programs can be a challenge in ordinary circumstances. Your situation was exacerbated by the delay in credit card points, changes in the Rapid Rewards program and the fancy new website.

We weren’t sure what would happen, but we were pleasantly surprised after taking your complaint to Linda Rutherford, a VP at Southwest. The airline has decided, as a “good will” gesture, to give you an additional year in which to use your free round trip flight.

How ’bout that refund?

Dear Fixer: After we had a hail storm in April 2011, public insurance adjuster Robert Baldassari filed an insurance claim for me for damage to my home.

His company collected the insurance money. They sent me a check for the repair work minus his commission of 25 percent. The check was rejected by my bank.

I have reported them to the Better Business Bureau and the Illinois attorney general’s office.

How does a company get away with ripping off the public?

Tom Vargo, Minooka

Dear Tom: Baldassari’s company, Alliance Services Group in Franklin Park, operates under a number of names, including Anchor Board-Up and Glass and Triple A Board-Up, according to the Illinois secretary of state’s office.

You told us the claim was filed on April 4, 2011, with your insurance company, West Bend Mutual in Wisconsin, which sent a check to Baldassari for $3,500. Baldassari was supposed to deduct his commission, which came to nearly $900, then send you a check for the balance, $2,607.

Apparently, that sweet $900 commission wasn’t enough for this guy, because when you tried to deposit his check at your bank, it bounced like a Happy Fun Ball.

When Team Fixer got in touch with Baldassari, he said he’d send you a money order to make up for the bad check. It never came. We asked Baldassari again, and he said he was having cash-flow issues.

The latest we were told is that his attorney is somehow involved. Baldassari’s not denying he cashed your insurance money and sent you a rubber check, but says a lack of funds is preventing him from making amends.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Insurance revoked Baldassari’s license as of Jan. 20. The department said an investigation found he misappropriated money that should have been held in trust, among other issues.

Contributing: Mike Nolan.

Getting the runaround over a consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer at , where you’ll find a simple form to fill out. You’ll also find a list of consumer contacts and tips. Because of the large volume of submissions, The Fixer can’t personally reply to every problem. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

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