Richard and Tosya Shore were certain they’d have the time for their bucket list trip, an ambitious tour of Australia and New Zealand scheduled for next March.
“We bought non-refundable tickets knowing we would never cancel this trip,” Tosya explains.
Never say never.
Shortly after purchasing their non-refundable tickets on OneTravel.com, Shore’s husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He had to undergo major surgery and has begun months of chemotherapy, which they hope will end in May.
Shore’s physicians have ordered him not to travel, and provided letters to the airline as evidence of Shore’s condition and travel restriction at the time of the planned trip.
The Shores have asked Qantas for a refund for the non-refundable tickets. Qantas directs her to the booking site, OneTravel, which routes her calls back to Qantas in a seemingly endless game of telephone tag.
One thing is sure: the Shores can’t travel, nor can they afford to lose the $2,500 they invested in their tickets.
“Do we have any hope of getting our money back?” Shore asked.
In an age of rising healthcare costs, it is easy to understand that the Shores’ priorities have dramatically shifted with a cancer diagnosis. The couple could surely use $2,500 to offset a small fraction of the mounting medical bills they are undoubtedly facing.
Qantas’ conditions of carriage states that a cancellation of a non-refundable ticket by the passenger is just that: non-refundable. The contract also includes provisions accommodating “events beyond your control,” which allow for refunds or rebooking — to refundable tickets only.
Qantas is careful to define an event beyond its control to mean, “an unusual and unforeseen circumstance which we cannot control and the consequences of which we could not have avoided.” Note, they are referring to themselves, not their passengers.
Curiously, it also has a provision for events beyond your control. It defines such an event as, “an unusual and unforeseen circumstance which you cannot control and the consequences of which you could not have avoided.” (That’s something unseen in U.S. contracts.)
But it doesn’t apply the exact same standard to itself as it does to you.
This is a typical adhesion contract — one that applies to you but not necessarily to the airline — that the Shores had to agree to when they purchased their tickets. You can’t negotiate it, in other words.
Should Qantas make an exception to its policy and refund the $2,500 to the Shores? Certainly the diagnosis falls into the “events beyond your control” category, with supporting facts documented and timely reported to the airline and booking site. Should the airline consider extending this policy to the Shores’ non-refundable purchase?
Update (Dec. 12): We contacted Qantas on Shore’s behalf and it refunded the cost of their tickets.