While the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of slowing down, many Frontier Airlines passengers say the airline is not offering customers an extension to expired travel vouchers.
Customer complaints raise the question: How could consumers complete travel plans when so many destinations remain off-limits?
It's the same question that Aimee Reed asked after she canceled a family trip booked on Frontier Airlines due to the pandemic.
Her sons, 6-year-old Ben and 4-year-old Ian, hoped to spend Easter hunting for eggs in Florida with their great grandparents.
“They absolutely loved being at their house, they were very excited to go,” Reed told NBC 5 Responds.
But the coronavirus had other plans, and the boys ended up filling their baskets at their Carpentersville home instead.
“At that time the flight hadn't been canceled, but you couldn't get through to anybody,” Reed said.
The mom of two said her request for a refund was denied because airlines don’t have to offer refunds when passengers cancel, only when the carrier does.
Frontier offered her credit for future travel instead but tied it to a 90-day window to re-book. Her voucher expired June 17, as the pandemic continued to worsen.
That is when Reed asked the airline for an extension.
“They had told me that I could get a credit extension,” Reed said. "But you have to call closer to your expiration date."
That was in April. Reed said she got the same answer in May. And in June.
“I would be on hold for two hours, you would finally get through to somebody, and the call would drop within 30 seconds. So you'd have to start the process all over again,” Reed recounted.
By the time she finally got through, it was too late.
“Your credit is expired, there's nothing we can do for you,” Reed said.
Unhappy customers in the Facebook group “I Hate Frontier Airlines” say they are in the same boat, describing “system overload” and “error codes.” One disgruntled customer said: “If Frontier was a body part, it would definitely be an armpit.”
“Frontier comes up in a lot of complaints reports we've seen,” Flyersrights.org President Paul Hudson said.
The watchdog group said some carriers are doing right by their passengers forced to cancel trips. But others, like Frontier, are making it harder.
“They have a policy of only wanting to issue vouchers, if at all possible. And then it turns out that a lot of these vouchers are either time limited, or when you try to use them they simply said there's no room, they're no good,” Hudson said.
NBC 5 Responds asked Frontier Airlines to look into Reed’s case and explain its credit extension policy.
In a statement, a Frontier spokesperson told NBC 5 Responds:
“We’ve looked into this and sincerely apologize for the frustrating experience our customers encountered while rebooking travel.“
The airline said it has “waived cancellation fees” providing “a full travel credit for non-refundable tickets booked April 15 or prior.” See the airline's full statement below.
As for extensions, Frontier said it is handling them “on a case by case basis.”
After our call, Frontier gave Reed a two-day extension to re-book. Her family is now Denver-bound to visit relatives in October on perhaps what will be their “final frontier.”
“The fact that I was getting, ‘there's nothing I can do’ and hang up on me? You can't mess with people's livelihood like that,” Reed said.
Help may be on the way for others in this boat, as a bill called "Cash Refunds for Coronavirus Cancellations" makes its way to lawmakers. If passed, customers would get cash refunds no matter who cancelled the ticket.
Frontier Airlines' full statement to NBC 5 Responds:
We sincerely apologize to our customers for the unprecedented impacts to air travel that have resulted from the global pandemic and are working with them to accommodate their travel wishes, within our policies.
We’re handling credit extensions on a case by case basis to best accommodate our customer’s travel wishes within our policies.
Government regulations related to providing refunds for non-refundable fares have not changed and Frontier continues to comply with the DOT’s rules regarding refunds. If an airline cancels a scheduled passenger’s flight, the airline is responsible for providing a timely refund at the customer’s request. If the customer voluntarily cancelled their reservation, as a courtesy due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we waived cancellation fees and provided a full travel credit for non-refundable tickets booked April 15 or prior. Please note that travel does not need to occur within that 90 day period the credit is valid for. The customer simply needs to book travel by the expiration date. The travel can be scheduled all the way through September 2021 and those reservations can be changed for no fee up until 60 or more days prior to the travel date. Any fare difference would apply.