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United charges for extra legroom customer didn’t ask for



Updated: September 20, 2012 10:10AM

Dear Fixer: In April, I purchased two airline tickets on United Airlines in two separate online transactions. I did not select a seat assignment.

After I finished and printed the confirmation, I noticed a $29 charge on each ticket for extra legroom.

I immediately called to complain. After waiting on the phone for about 35 minutes, I was assured by an agent that the charges were refunded to my credit card. He said he did not know why this happened.

After that, I periodically checked with my credit card company, but the refunds did not appear. So I again called United Airlines and waited on the phone for an extremely long time, spoke to a very rude representative, then asked to speak to a manager, and then was put on hold for another 30 minutes before I decided to hang up.

I waited a few days, but still no refund.

I called United again and was assured that a refund was processed.

But when my bill arrived, it had two charges for $29 plus interest.

I tried complaining online with no luck. Finally, I found a corporate phone number and spoke to someone who looked into it. She said a refund had not been put through, but she promised to help.

Three days later I got an email saying my request was denied because their records showed the tickets were used.

Of course they were used. I didn’t purchase tickets not to use them. But I did not purchase extra legroom seats and, moreover, the plane we flew out on was so small I had to duck to get through the door. The rows had two seats on one side and one seat on the other side. We could barely move on the plane, let alone stretch our legs.

Ann Caruso, Chicago

Dear Ann: Well, the good news is now you can put your feet up and relax because this got fixed.

Before we got involved, United did come through with one of the $29 refunds, plus a $100 voucher code for a future flight. But you were still upset that the other $29 refund was missing — you said it was now a matter of principle, not money — and you wanted this fully resolved.

We were able to help cut through the red tape by getting this to the PR team at United. They got the refund folks to see the problem and within days you were notified that the second $29 refund is on its way.

A consumer’s tale of woe

Over the years, we’ve heard from readers who’ve shown up, gift certificates in hand, to restaurants, spas or salons where they were shocked to find the lights were out and a big “out-of-business” sign was on the front door.

That’s what happened to Jen, only in her case it was a cruise certificate that sunk before she could use it.

Jen bought the certificate three years earlier from a travel company in Florida. It was a fabulous deal — just $798 for two people, with two years in which to use it.

Well, Jen never did have a chance to go, so after two years she renewed the certificate for one more year at a cost of $58.

This time, she was going to take that cruise.

Problem was, six months later when she called the book the trip, she learned the company no longer exists.

Poof … belly up … gone.

What’s more, it turns out they were shutting down a month before they called her to renew, Jen wrote The Fixer.

The lesson for the rest of us: Use gift certificates and cards while they’re still warm. And beware travel certificates that sound too good to be true.

What is a Costly Lesson? It’s an UNFIXABLE problem that cost someone a lot of money but holds a valuable lesson for the rest of us. If you’ve got something to warn the rest of us about, e-mail with Costly Lessons in the subject line. And don’t worry — for Costly Lessons, we leave out last names to prevent further embarrassment.

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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