As coronavirus spreads, Frontier Airlines passengers cry foul over cancelation fees — the airline calls it a ‘misunderstanding’

Frontier Airlines said Sunday that, despite complaints from consumers who said they were being charged change and cancelation fees, it will honor a pledge to waive them due to COVID-19.

Some passengers looking to change or cancel their flights on Frontier Airlines because of concerns about the coronavirus epidemic had believed they were out of luck. The airline, which is owned by private-equity firm Indigo Partners, appeared to have rescinded a previously announced policy of waiving some flight-change and cancellation fees amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Frontier had told MarketWatch earlier this week that customers with existing reservations between March 3 and 16 would be allowed to change their flights or cancel them for a flight credit valid for 90 days, free of charge. Major airlines including American
AAL,
-0.43%
,
United
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+0.98%

and Delta
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have enacted similar policies recently as coronavirus has spread.

But a spokewoman for the airline said that the passengers in question should contact the airline, and said that the charges seemed to be an unfortunate error. “Seems like there was a misunderstanding,” the spokeswoman said via email. “Our policy remains as previously shared with you.” She added, “We will continue to offer fee waivers based on the specified parameters.”

Martin Semeraro, 36, called Frontier Airlines on Saturday to cancel round-trip tickets for him, his wife and their three kids. The Rhode Island family was planning to take their annual trip to Naples, Fla., to visit Semeraro’s parents, who live in a retirement community there, but chose to cancel their trip. His parents had expressed concern about the coronavirus, and the risk of it spreading.

Here is what the customers said on Twitter
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about the fees:

When Semararo managed to speak with a Frontier customer-service representative, he was told he’d be on the hook for cancellation fees, he said. “He put me on hold for a few minutes and then came back on and said, ‘All right, it’s going to be $119 a ticket to cancel your ticket,’” Semeraro, who works in information technology for an insurance company, said.

MarketWatch also called the airline’s customer support hot line and was told by a customer-service representative that the airline was, in fact, charging fees for changing or cancelling flights. If a customer changes flights on Frontier, they are subject to differences in fare. Cancellations must use their travel credit within 90 days. Sixty days or more before departure, changes are free.

Frontier Airlines typically charges $119 per ticket to cancel or change a flight 13 or fewer days prior to departure. Between 14 and 59 days before departure, passengers must pay $79 (or $49 if the ticket was purchased before Sept. 13, 2019) to change or to cancel. Customers can get a fully refundable ticket on Frontier by purchasing the airline’s “the works” bundle with their ticket.

Semararo said his family is waiting a few more days before paying the fees. He said the experience has made him hesitant about booking a flight with the low-cost carrier in the future. “I have a certain expectation with how they treat their customers and how they manage their customer service, and they’ve definitely failed on this one big time,” he told MarketWatch earlier Sunday.

Worldwide, there were 110,588 COVID-19 cases and 3,841 deaths as of Monday morning; 62,109 people worldwide have recovered, according to data published by the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. In the U.S., 22 people have died, and there are approximately 564 confirmed cases, Johns Hopkins added.

(This story was updated with a response from Frontier Airlines.)

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