If you’re thinking about booking plane tickets through JustFly.com, my advise to you is don’t. At least, you might think twice about  it after hearing the experience my wife and I recently had.

So we searched for airline tickets at JustFly for her and our son. After narrowing down results to the best option, we proceeded to book the tickets. On the page where we were required to enter the passenger names, it warned that any errors could mean we won’t be able to get on the flight, since the TSA requires names on tickets to appear exactly as on the passport. Naturally, we were very careful to enter my wife’s name correctly.

We reviewed all our information and everything was correct, so we proceeded to process payment. But then when we arrived at the confirmation page, JustFly was showing my wife’s name incorrectly. She is Taiwanese and her Chinese name includes a hyphen. Their system had stripped the hyphen and made the second syllable her middle name. This obviously concerned us since it could mean the TSA might not allow her on the plane, and we didn’t want to be out $1,500 for the cost of useless tickets. So we called JustFly’s customer support.

We spoke with “Dylan”, who confirmed that the name error caused by their system was a problem. He said it would cost us $300 to get the name corrected! I objected that it was ridiculous to charge us hundreds of dollars to correct a mistake that was caused by their system. So he said then we needed to cancel the tickets immediately, while we still could, which would cost us a $150 cancellation fee ($75 for each ticket). I said no way, that is not acceptable either, they need to waive the fee. After a lengthy argument on the phone in which he tried to rationalize why it wasn’t their problem, Dylan reduced the fee to $50 ($25 for each ticket). His attitude about this was that he was doing us a favor by charging us “only” $50 for their error. After some further futile arguing, he insisted he had no capability or authority to do more than that.

I asked to speak with his supervisor, which he refused to allow me to do. After some time, he assured me that once the tickets were cancelled, we could call back to request an investigation be opened, and if it was determined that the problem was indeed caused by their system and not user error, we’d be able to get the cancellation fee refunded. Having little other choice, we proceeded with the cancellation.

After several minutes, the cancellation was appearing as processed in their system, so I called back. I went through the whole thing again with “Cynthia”. She tried to blame us for the problem by saying we could have checked with the airline first to make sure the name came through correctly, and that therefore by cancelling without doing that, it was our fault. I pointed out that the reason we cancelled was because we were told by her company’s own customer support representative that since the name was incorrect in their system, we would have to cancel the tickets.

After going around in circles with her for some time, I asked to speak with her supervisor. I then spoke with “Rich”, who likewise tried to blame us and kept going around in circles. He would argue why they couldn’t accept responsibility and I would point out the logical errors with his arguments, and he would just go back around and repeat the same things over and over again, never addressing my legitimate observations about precisely why it was their responsibility.

Shifting tactics, Rich then kept insisting that even if it was their fault, there was nothing they could do because that they have limitations with their system preventing them from refunding the cancellation fee. I told Rich that isn’t true, that if they can charge my credit card, they can also reverse the charge. He insisted he had “no authority” to do so, so I told him to let me speak with somebody who has that authority. He replied that nobody at the company has authority to issue a refund for a cancellation fee and that their system won’t allow it!

I kept asking Rich why they couldn’t do that. What was stopping them? He naturally refused to answer the question and just kept repeating the line about the “limitations” of their system. So I kept pointing out that he wasn’t answering my question, and he insisted he had. Finally, after he repeated for the umpteenth time that it wasn’t possible for them to issue the refund, I told him he was lying and that I wanted to speak with his supervisor. He said there were no supervisors higher than him. So I asked to speak with his employer, which he said I couldn’t do. He said I could speak with another supervisor, so I did that and ended up on the phone with “Carlos”.

I went through the same routine with Carlos, who likewise had an attitude like they had done us a favor by “only” charging us $50 instead of $150. He went through all the same arguments, over and over again, about why it wasn’t their responsibility. I pointed out the logical problems with his arguments over and over again, insisting he explain to me why, exactly, he couldn’t just issue the refund. He ended up citing their terms as relating to cancellation fees as justification for why they couldn’t do so. So I read back his own terms to him, the relevant portion of which states:

Please be aware that once you have made a reservation, name changes are not allowed. If you find you need to change or correct the spelling of a name after you’ve made a reservation, you will have to cancel your original reservation—if allowed—and then make a new reservation with a new flight at the then-current rate using the correct spelling of the name. This will likely incur fees and penalties. Therefore, it is imperative—and your responsibility—to verify the spelling of the names of all passengers before making your reservation.

I pointed out to him once again that we had verified the spelling of names, but that it was their system that caused the error because of its inability to handle hyphenated names. And since, by their own terms, we were not responsible for misspelling the name, we therefore cannot be held responsible for incurring the fee for the required cancellation. Since JustFly was itself responsible for the misspelling in this case, this fee logically must be waived.

After using his own terms against him, he finally relented to investigating the cause of the problem to verify our “claim”. He did so and confirmed that the problem with the name was caused by their system. So he said he would refund the fee for my wife’s ticket, but not my son’s! He described this as “fair”!

I said, no, that isn’t fair at all, since, again, the reason my son’s flight had to be cancelled was the same reason my wife’s flight had to be cancelled, which was that their system caused an error with her name. He finally gave up trying to argue with reason and issued the refund for the full $50. This, of course, proved what a liar Rich was repeatedly telling me that this was not possible.

Then Carlos said that they were issuing the refund only “as a courtesy”. I replied, “So let me get this straight. Your company accepts responsibility for problems caused by your own computer system only as a ‘courtesy‘ to your customers, not because it’s the right thing to do? Like you’re doing me a favor by not charging me to cover the costs for your error? What kind of company are you?” Oh, to be precise, he said it was a “one-time” courtesy. So I added that he doesn’t have to worry, we won’t be doing business with them again, ever.

And that pretty much wrapped up that conversation.

In the end, I got all our money back, but at a cost of several hours of lost productivity. No exaggeration, we were on the phone trying to rationalize with these unhelpful jerks for over three hours! I recognized early on in this debacle that it wasn’t worth the time due to my opportunity cost; however, there is a principle to uphold here! I wasn’t about to let them just get away with that, and that’s also why I’m writing about our atrocious experience, to warn you about this company and their horrible, horrible, horrible customer support.

After confirming that both the ticket price and cancellation fee were refunded, we ended up just going to the airline’s website and booking the same flight for a lower price. And the airline has a 24-hour free cancellation policy. So, yeah, our one mistake was thinking that we could book a cheaper flight by using JustFly. It did actually help us find the best flight for our needs, but we just used that information to book cheaper directly with the airline. So there’s your takeaway. Do not book airline tickets with JustFly! The one thing they seem highly competent at there is giving customers a hard time and ripping them off.

And I feel much better about it now that I’ve shared that experience with you so you can avoid having to go through anything like it.

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