I lost the battle, but I don't want the war to be over.
Last November, fulfilling a dream I'd had since I was 9 years old, I booked a vacation for this summer in Iceland. Anyone who's been reading this blog for more than a day knows that I won't be able to go on that trip, that I'll be right in the middle of physical therapy trying to walk again.
So I had to cancel my trip. I asked to postpone it, but that was out of the question. Icelandair wouldn't deal with me, but would only deal with my online travel agency--which was not much of a help. Bottom line is that because I didn't purchase travel insurance, they're going to impose the maximum penalty on me for cancelling this trip. They're going to refund me 50% of my fare, but to rub salt into the wound, they want to charge me an extra $100 to do this. That's right, I'll get 50% minus $100. (See "Update" below--this $100 goes to the travel agency, not Icelandair.)
I'm not arguing that this isn't legal, and I'm not seeking government rules forbidding such a practice. I asked them out of a sense of human sympathy and decency to allow me to cancel that flight without penalty, or at least to reschedule it until next summer when I will be healthy again. They refused, because they could.
I've written to their CEO. I've sent letters, including a letter from my doctor, to their North American office in Massachusetts. So far this has been to no avail.
A friend just told me that he emailed them asking that they refund the rest of my money, and I quote, "because they can choose to do so." He suggested I ask for your help.
So I'm asking. If you're willing to participate in this little email campaign, please be courteous in your message. You know my name, and my Yahoo email address is pretty easy to deduce from the contact information in the left column of my blog profile (here). (I prefer not to list my full and complete email address anywhere, so as to avoid the spambots.) The email address for Icelandair's Reykjavik headquarters is here, and their North American office is here--and all of them are here. My airline reservation number is 2VXOOP.
Again, I'm not trying to incite you to storm the gates or to carry pitchforks, but to implore Icelandair as decent, good people, to make an exception to their policy so that I can visit their country when I'm healthy again.
I hope you're with me :-)
Update, 6/21/11: Icelandair says that the $100 fee is not from them, that it must be from the travel agency. This makes sense: the travel agency representative could not explain to me why Icelandair would credit me one amount while charging me a second. The reason is because Icelandair isn't doing the charging here! Because this was misrepresented to me (that's a polite way of saying they lied), I will certainly not pay that $100 charge.
Update #2, 6/21/11: Several people have sent me their replies from Icelandair, which are all variations on the same theme: I booked my flight through a travel agent, and they can only deal with the travel agent. While that's true, it is Icelandair that refuses to budge on its refund policy. The most recent reply I got from them is that while they understand my frustration, they do not waive their policy. That is what I'm hoping to change with this email campaign.
Update #3, 6/21/11: "Now witness the power of this fully operational battle station!" OK, there's no Darth Vader in this story, but a West Point classmate of mine is trying to help my story go viral:
Often times these customer service opportunities will become viral marketing for or against a company regardless of the company’s activity in social media, and today is just one of those times. You see, Icelandair chose to tell a customer that he was not important, and I think it will end up costing them business. Of course, if this story goes viral, they will end up spending a lot of money just trying to “undo” the negativity from all of the commotion that is created.
It is important to note that Icelandair did nothing legally wrong, and they did not violate any contract terms either. However, there are times in business when you can make a judgement call that will cost the company a small amount of money but gain a large return in word of mouth marketing. Unfortunately, our short story is about the the exact opposite occurring...
Think about the long reach of viral marketing and the internet. This is a Florida business marketing blog about a airline in Iceland treating a California customer poorly, and it will be tweeted to 100+ countries and over 200,000 twitter followers (and hopefully a lot more) everywhere. This is word of mouth marketing that works against IcelandAir, and all because they did not think about how this could help their company...
Remember, this is not an article about the big bad wolf, IcelandAir did nothing contractually wrong. They just missed a great opportunity to get some very cheap viral marketing from social media accounts all over the world. Not to mention the attention that it will receive in the blogging community.
Icelandair is holding firm, but they can still change their mind.