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Is Frontier Airlines a Pandemic Profiteer?
Last fall, my little brother, who was battling cancer, was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. His carer called the family to tell us he only had days to live. My 83-year-old aunt who had helped support him during his illness was unable to come to see him. My other brother also had health issues and couldn’t make the trip. I am 63 years old and I was made redundant a few years ago. Finding a well-paying job when you are over 60 is difficult. I drive Uber to make ends meet so my budget is very limited. He’s my brother so I made an emergency trip to Ohio to see him one last time and represent the family. He lingered for a while and passed away on November 10, 2020.
My sister-in-law called in January. She wanted to organize a birthday party for my aunt who was going to be 84 on May 1st. Even though I hadn’t paid for my trip to see my brother, I agreed to fly back to Ohio for his birthday. At 83, we don’t know how long she will be with us. Life is very uncertain during a pandemic and she is in a very high risk group. The gathering would give us a chance to celebrate his life and mourn my brother.
I buy a ticket on Frontier Airlines on January 11, 2020.
I had hoped to only stay one day for the party, but had to book 3 days to get the cheapest ticket. I couldn’t drive for Uber on those days. I would take a big hit to my income that week. My loss of income associated with the cost of the trip would be over $1,000, but family is important. It would be nice to see them again.
Reports have started coming in from China regarding the Corona virus. They had locked up 500 million people, more than the entire population of the United States. On January 31, President Trump blocked travel from China. The news got progressively worse and I started to worry about traveling on a plane with a highly communicable disease that was ravaging the country.
On February 27, Frontier alerted me that they were canceling my original reservation probably because they did not have enough passengers to operate the flight. They wanted to reschedule my flights. I called to tell them I didn’t want to make the change. I wanted to wait and see if I could schedule a shorter trip so I wouldn’t lose 3 days of work. Frontier said they would issue a voucher good for 90 days so I could reschedule later.
The first American citizen died of the Corona virus on February 29. The infection was spreading rapidly. I thought it would be safe to wait to reschedule. On March 17, the governor of California announced a stay-at-home order. Other states across the country quickly announced their own stay-at-home orders. Frontier finally ceased flying altogether during the month of April. I couldn’t reschedule my flight even if I wanted to.
On April 3, the Department for Transport ruled that airlines must reimburse customers if their flights are cancelled. Many airlines were not complying, so DOT issued another warning on May 12, 2020. This was unprecedented.
I haven’t worked since March 17. The government said gig workers like me could get $600 a week, but that didn’t happen. I had no income other than the $1200 stimulus check for 3 months. I contacted Frontier and asked them to refund my $336. They didn’t provide any service and couldn’t because they weren’t flying when my flight was scheduled.
Frontier refused. Not only will they not return my money, but I only have until June 2 to schedule a flight with them or I lose my money. They will be able to keep $336 to do nothing at all.
Is Frontier profiting from the pandemic? I definitely would have made the trip had it not been for a highly contagious pandemic. They were closed in April, it was even impossible for me to use their services if I wanted to. I think I should be entitled to a refund. Their rep, Lulu Zaldivar, tells me they won’t refund me. They claim that even though they canceled my original flight and tried to reschedule it, I was the one who canceled the flight and am not eligible for a refund under the DOT order.
Do you think this is fair?
Frontier Airlines at (801) 401-9000
About the Author: David Berger is a 63-year-old Uber driver. He lives in San Diego, Calif., and has had no income since the California stay-at-home order on March 17.
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