38

I have two plane tickets for London - South America with one stop. For reasons that aren't relevant, my companion won't be able to make it, so the seat will be completely empty.

I'm almost certain because of the fare I paid the ticket can't be exchanged or refunded or anything, so I'm basically stuck with a very expensive empty seat next to mine.

What can I do with this? Ideally I'd like to somehow get part of the money back, but I'm open to ideas about how to use it to make my trip more comfortable if I can't do anything else with it.

  • sell it in gumtree or swapz – Him Nov 15 '15 at 21:11
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    Have you thought about framing the ticket? :) – JoErNanO Nov 15 '15 at 21:44
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    You can get Airport and country tax back if nothing else – indofraiser Nov 16 '15 at 14:32
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    Did you try telephoning the airline to ask them? Not sure what you expect us to do about it. – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 16 '15 at 19:00
  • @Him They're often non-transferable. – Mast Nov 17 '15 at 12:46

10 Answers 10

43

You can advertise for someone with the same name as your companion to come on the trip with you, like this person did:

A Toronto man looking for a travel partner with the same name as his ex-girlfriend has finally found his match. After making headlines a month ago by offering a free plane ticket around the world to someone named “Elizabeth Gallagher,” Jordan Axani has found the right girl. Elizabeth Quinn Gallagher of Cole Harbour, N.S., will be headed to New York Thursday to begin the trip of a lifetime. The journey began last month with a post to Reddit.com titled: “Are you named Elizabeth Gallagher (and Canadian)? Want a free plane ticket around the world?”

In the post, Axani said he was stuck with tickets purchased at a discount but worth several thousand dollars. He had planned a trip with his girlfriend, he said, but they had since broken up, and the airline wasn’t budging on the ticketholder names.

  • For London to South American this should definitely be feasible, especially if the other person's name is common. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Nov 16 '15 at 14:08
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    Changing your name in the UK costs less then a around the world ticket. – Ian Ringrose Nov 16 '15 at 18:27
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    @IanRingrose - that's already been done – Johnny Nov 17 '15 at 17:31
41

Even if the fare rule doesn't allow refunds in principle, the airline may decide to give you one anyway, especially if you cancel long in advance so they have ample time to sell the seat to someone else. Although it's only one data point, it happened to me with Lufthansa a couple years ago, but since it's the only time I have had to cancel a ticket, I can't say how common it is.

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    +1 It happened to me too, with Brussels Airlines (a Star Alliance member like Lufthansa). If you have no other options it's worth a shot, although in another occasion I asked an airline (I forgot which one) if I could get a refund by canceling early and their answer was that in order to know whether I can get a refund they'd need to cancel the ticket first, and then [sarcasm ahead] the ticket fairy will pop up and tell them if they can give me some refund; they knew the ticket was not refundable and it's possible that they were trying to trick me into canceling right away (just guessing). – SantiBailors Nov 16 '15 at 10:15
  • @SantiBailors The phone agent probably didn't know, genuinely, whether his system would allow a refund – Calchas Nov 16 '15 at 13:41
  • @Calchas Sure, it's a possibility. BTW I decided it was OK to have it canceled anyway, so I told her she could cancel it right away, and unsurprisingly it turned out there was no refund. – SantiBailors Nov 16 '15 at 14:04
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    @SantiBailors I only say this because most of the telephone agents I speak to know less about air fares than I do. So it is not meant to be a defence of them but a genuine statement that they probably have no idea what they are doing ;) – Calchas Nov 16 '15 at 14:22
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    I have a counter data point with Delta where they told me I can feel free to follow the fare rules to the letter even though the flight was a month out and I only booked it the day before. This was there stance even after I escalated through BBB. If OP is going London to South America they're most likely not on Delta though. – Dean MacGregor Nov 16 '15 at 14:48
29

I had a pair of non-refundable tickets I thought I was going to lose money on because my trip got cancelled; however, as a few people have mentioned...CALL THE AIRLINE! Technically, they did not refund the money for my tickets, but they gave me a credit to use within one year.

While that might not seem like a good deal, it really was. My plans changed at the last minute and I had no options. I couldn't call anyone or try to sell them--I'm not even sure I could sell the original tickets (they said "only the passenger listed on the ticket could use the ticket"). However, the "new" status of my credit not only gave me 12 months to use them, it also gave me new terms to change the passenger's name (for a fee). Although I used the credit to purchase tickets for a new destination, it was nice to know I had a year to figure out what to do.

You're already willing to sit next to a vacant seat (which isn't bad for long flights), but you'll be irritated if you don't ask the question...paid twice as much as you should have...and THEN find out the airline over-booked the flight and someone is sitting in YOUR empty seat.

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    +1, particularly for noting that you may end up with someone else in the seat next to you anyhow. Once the airline sees that your companion hasn't checked in, they may assume that they can give the seat to someone else. – Michael Seifert Nov 16 '15 at 15:28
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As far as the seat is concerned - the airline will take care of that problem for you - in that the seat won't be empty for long. It will probably be assigned to some standby passenger, especially if you are flying a busy route.

In most cases, airlines (for a fee that varies) will allow you to change the name on the ticket if it has not been used. You can check if this is allowed and then sell your ticket online; bearing the cost of the name change.

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    He could definitely check in with the second ticket. Whether or not the gate agent will scan the extra ticket to signify the seat isn't available is, of course, an open question. I feel like if you play on their sympathy then you'd have a good chance. On the other hand if they don't let you an do fill the seat then, depending on the laws, they might be entitled to a refund since they successfully resold the seat. – Dean MacGregor Nov 16 '15 at 14:55
  • This person's situation is just as if you were a no-show. If you are a no-show, the airline doesn't owe you anything if they resell the seat. Further, airlines need to consolidate the number of passengers with the number of check-ins (its part of the manifest which is required on a commercial flight). So believe me, the airline will know before anyone else if a seat is vacant - to start off with they will know the person never checked in, if they didn't then the seat is automatically released. – Burhan Khalid Nov 16 '15 at 15:17
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    @BurhanKhalid Many (most?) airlines these days allow online check-in. In those cases, it would be trivially easy to check-in both tickets. At least here in the U.S., that's the normal way to check in for reservations with multiple people traveling. If you didn't tell them, they wouldn't know the other person was "no-show" until everyone was on board and they were still waiting on that person. – reirab Nov 17 '15 at 16:51
  • I suppose you are right and I guess that would work for a domestic flight; however the OP is on an international long haul - doubt that trick would work. – Burhan Khalid Nov 17 '15 at 17:29
13

Have you contacted the airline yet? Depending on the circumstances of your travel companion's inability to go, they maybe able to cancel and leave you a credit that you can apply towards a future ticket, offer a partial refund of taxes or perhaps more, allow you to reschedule.

In terms of using it to make your trip more comfortable, if you are flying economy, simply keep it and enjoy an empty seat next to you. You would need to contact the airline and get them to put a note in your booking about having and using two seats (you could claim you are terribly obese and prefer two seats in lieu of disturbing your seat mates). You would likely still need to pay a name change fee, since your companions name would be currently attached to the booking.

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    “you could claim you are terribly obese”... Maybe you should do this only if you truly are obese. – Arturo Torres Sánchez Nov 16 '15 at 5:16
  • @ArturoTorresSánchez - does it really matter? He paid for both seats, he gets to use both seats. If a little fabrication saves him explaining whatever it is he doesn't want to discuss in public here, who cares. – user13044 Nov 16 '15 at 6:45
  • Will you also get two meals? – gerrit Nov 16 '15 at 10:21
  • @gerrit Based on some accidental experience, if you make the seat look occupied by, for example, putting the tray table down and leaving your book and empty cup on it, the flight attendant may be confused enough to ask if you know "the other person's" meal preference. – thanby Nov 16 '15 at 10:45
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    @Tom there is a good chance that the seat will be reassigned and he won't even get the empty seat – JamesRyan Nov 16 '15 at 12:26
8

Depending on the airline and the fare class, you may be able to get part of the value back by agreeing to a cancellation fee, with the remainder of the price paid given as a voucher you can use for future travel.

6

The airline may indicate that tickets are non-refundable, non-returnable, or non-transferable, but the reality is that those rules are there for the airline's benefit - they may choose to refund, return, transfer, or provide a gift card or voucher at the customer's request.

In other words, don't assume they will stick to the terms and conditions, they may choose to be flexible with you, particularly if they know they can re-sell the seat at a profit that you might have received at a discount.

Barring that, another option is to find out if, rather than transferring it to another person you can transfer the ticket to an item. Many airlines allow customers to purchase a seat for fragile or bulky items. If you can do this, post an ad and see if you can transport a fragile package for someone. It's a bit of a long shot, but "white glove" transportation services do this for a premium, and you might be able to find someone needing such a service that could offset or completely cover the cost of the ticket you might otherwise lose.

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    +1 Interesting answer. Though, I'd be pretty wary about transporting "stuff" from random strangers. IF someone ever does that, I'd suggest declaring that upfront to the airline, and having the "cargo" owners' info handy. – unknownprotocol Nov 17 '15 at 0:47
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    This was going to be my answer! One very good way to do it is to call a fine musical instrument dealer and offer the ticket for transport of, say, a violin or cello. – dwoz Nov 17 '15 at 21:57
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    Definitely a bad idea to advertise for an item. There's a reason why security always asks are you carrying something for someone you don't know. Even if it seems innocuous - a musical instrument for example, how do you know they haven't hidden drugs (or worse) in the case lining? – Dragonel Nov 18 '15 at 2:23
4

Even with a non-refundable ticket you should be able to get back whatever taxes you have paid on it, and on some tickets the taxes form most of the cost. Unfortunately, some airlines takes a substantial fee for this, so you will have to talk to your airline to figure out if it is worth it.

3

Cheap tickets are often not refundable, and certainly not transferable. But there are a lot of taxes that have probably been paid for, and being that there are two countries involved and possibly three given there's a stop somewhere, you probably would be entitled to some form of refund on fees and taxes that you were initially charged for that the airline had passed on to you.

If you don't fly, the airline doesn't pay these and you would be entitled to getting those funds back.

In Australia, the ABC series "The Checkout" did a segment on this and is quite relevant.

The Checkout: cheap airline ticket refunds

0

If you have time, give it away. Announce it on social media and tell everyone in London to share it with their friends.

The goodwill and social reach you get from the giveaway will be worth more than the price of the ticket.

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    Airline tickets are usually not transferrable – Calchas Nov 16 '15 at 13:42
  • If you are the one that paid for the ticket and you are bringing a different person than the name you originally listed on the ticket, they will often allow you to change the name on the ticket (sometimes for a small fee). Giving to someone you know or in the same field lets you pick who you sit with which can lead to business or other benefits or at the least an interesting conversation. And it may not work in this case but maybe others who have the same question later will take this idea. – Luke Gedeon Nov 16 '15 at 18:41
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    In my experience the name change fee is usually not small if it is allowed at all. – Calchas Nov 16 '15 at 18:42

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