Is Frontier Airlines a Pandemic Profiteer?

Last fall my little brother, who has been battling cancer was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. His caregiver called the family to tell us he had only a few days to live. My 83-year-old Aunt had been helping support him during his illness was not able to travel to see him. My other brother also had health issues and could not make the trip. I am 63 and was laid off a couple years ago. Finding a high paying job when you are over 60 is difficult. I drive Uber to make ends meet so my budget is very limited. He is 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 have a birthday party for my Aunt who would be turning 84 on May 1. Even though I hadn’t paid off my trip to see my brother, I agreed to fly back to Ohio for her party. At 83, we don’t know how much longer she’ll be with us. Life is very uncertain during a pandemic and she’s in a very high-risk group. The gathering would give us a chance to celebrate her life and grieve my brother.

I purchase a ticket on Frontier Airlines on January 11, 2020.

I had hoped to only stay 1 day for the party but had to book for 3 days to get the less expensive ticket. I wouldn’t be able to drive for Uber on those days. I would take a big hit on my income that week. My income loss coupled with the cost of the trip would be over $1000, but family is important. It would be good to see them again.

Reports started coming in from China regarding the Corona virus. They had locked down 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 worrying about traveling in an airplane with a highly communicable disease ravaging the country.

On February 27, Frontier alerted me that they were cancelling my original booking presumably because they didn’t have enough passengers to make 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 US citizen died of Corona Virus on February 29. The infection was spreading rapidly. I thought it would be prudent to wait to reschedule. On March 17, the California Governor announced a stay-at-home order. Other states across the country quickly announced their own stay at home orders. Frontier eventually stopped flying completely during the month of April. I could not reschedule my flight even if I wanted to.

On April 3, the Department of Transportation ruled that airlines must refund customers if their flights were cancelled. Many airlines were not complying so the DOT issued another warning on May 12, 2020. This was unprecedented.

I have not worked since March 17. The government has said gig workers like me would be able to get $600/week but that has not happened. I have had no income except the $1200 stimulus check for 3 months. I contacted Frontier and asked them to refund my $336. They haven’t provided any services nor could they because they weren’t flying when my flight was scheduled.

Frontier has refused. Not only won’t they give me my money back, I only have until June 2 to schedule a flight with them or I lose my money. They will get to keep $336 for doing nothing at all.

Is Frontier profiting from the pandemic? I would have definitely taken the trip if there wasn’t a highly infectious pandemic. They were shut down in April, it was impossible for me to even use their services if I wanted to. I feel I should be entitled to a refund. Their representative, Lulu Zaldivar tells me they will not refund my money. They claim that even though they cancelled my original flight and tried to reschedule, it was me who cancelled the flight and am not eligible for a refund under the Department of Transportations order.

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