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No refund after dishonoured Neighbour-Free Seats

shedboy

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2019
Messages
22
Hi,

I had a lot of help here with my recent QFF issues, so now it's time for my Etihad disupte. On a return leg from JFK to AUH (then MEL) I made a successful bid for two neighbour free seats (hoping for sleep) and the money was immediately taken from my account. I was assigned seat 67A with 67B & 67C 'blocked out'. Upon boarding, a passenger was seated in 67C, whilst 67B remained empty. There were numerous other empty seats in our section of the cabin. I requested a refund and was denied, with Etihad's response being, "67B was vacant and not assigned to any guest" so we cannot refund you. Frankly I had no interest in paying hundreds of dollars for a single empty seat and would not have done so if I thought this would be a possibility. It is not mentioned in their T&C that you see before bidding. My assumption is that as the original ticket was purchased in Australia, under Australian Consumer Law I am entitled to a refund.

The complicating factor is that I placed my bid whilst in the US, but using an Australian Credit Card. I have contacted the ACCC for clarity, but did only just think of the fact that I was in the USA when bidding. Does anyone else have thoughts on whether I am covered under ACL? Alternatively, any other suggestions for a resolution? Travel Insurance is one I've thought of, with my VISA Platinum Concierge service being the other.

And just for reference, to quote their website:
A successful bid for two seats on a narrow-body aircraft means that you’ll have an entire row to yourself.
 

ftm

Active Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
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597
It doesn't sound like the flight was a narrow body aircraft (which is an aircraft with only one aisle). So is there another section that refers to wide body aircraft?
 

Daver6

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Did you bring this up on the flight? What did they say?

I presume you have had some correspondence with EY since?

How many seats can I reserve with Economy Neighbour-Free?
You may place a bid for one, two or three additional seats depending on the type of aircraft you are flying on. On wide-body planes (two aisles), you can bid for a maximum of three seats. For a narrow-body aircraft (one aisle) you can bid for a maximum of two seats.

A successful bid for two seats on a narrow-body aircraft means that you’ll have an entire row to yourself.

A successful bid for three seats on a wide-body aircraft grants you an entire row to yourself.
If you bid and were successful for two, I can't see how one is ok. Unless you also placed a bid for one?

Try a charge back on your credit card if EY are giving you uphill. Their customer service sucks at the best of times. You'll probably have the rep here showing interest but not actually doing anything.
 

shedboy

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2019
Messages
22
Hi @ftm . Unfortunately that's it. To me it's a pretty simple equation. I paid for two but was only given one. Their terms and conditions never mention that the seats can be split, so it really looks like they're trying to scam me. The T&C are actually a little unclear about this whole thing too:

13. There will be no refunds, credits, or exchanges once your Offer has been accepted by Etihad and your credit card has been charged, except under the following conditions:

- The flight for which your Offer was accepted was cancelled, and Etihad re-accommodated you on another flight without offering you NFS, in which case the amount paid for the NFS will be refunded to the payment card that was used to bid and Etihad shall have not further liability to you.

- Your Offer was accepted and you were given a NFS, but you were not able to be seated in the assigned seats for reasons attributable to Etihad, including, but not limited to, an overbooked flight, a change in equipment, a delay in the connecting flight that resulted in your missing the connection on which you were assigned a NFS, but excluding reasons attributable to your actions, including, but not limited to, you on your own volition opting to change flights, you missing a flight.

- You are entitled to refunds, credits, or exchanges under applicable Fare Rules and/or our Conditions of Carriage.

14. Should refunds be approved, they will be processed in the currency in which the NFS amount was charged. Such refunds would be limited to amount charged for the NFS and no bank related charges will be refunded, note that refund usually takes about 10 – 15 working days to reflect in your account.

15. The fare conditions for the original ticket you purchased shall remain in effect and will be applicable even if your Offer has been accepted, including, but not limited to, cancellation policies, change fees, baggage allowance, and rules relating to the accrual of frequent flyer miles.
 

shedboy

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2019
Messages
22
Thanks @Daver6 . Because she was sitting in her assigned seat there was nothing they would do. No bid for one either as that would just be a total waste of money.

Literally as soon as I posted I had a follow-up email response from them actually. I wouldn't say they're monitoring here, but fingers crossed this guy may yet be helpful.
 

MEL_Traveller

Enthusiast
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Apr 27, 2005
Messages
19,338
I'd (a) write back to Etihad saying you had confirmed 67C and this was occupied by another passenger. And (b) you could write to the (US) DOT. They are pretty consumer friendly.
 

moa999

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Was the other pax assigned the seat or just took it?
Did you raise it with the crew on board.

AirAsiaX has a similar program, and I once had to get crew help to boot someone who moved after takeoff on a centre four.
 

shedboy

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2019
Messages
22
Thanks all. @moa999 . Yes she was assigned to the seat. I also checked her boarding pass to confirm.

I'll likely have to go for the chargeback, but figured I'd update on their progress so it's transparent & in the public domain.

The latest response is "I can find only 1 transaction made towards Neighbour Free seat" therefore, I only had one reserved seat and don't qualify for a refund. I have the email confirming both seats though and they describe 67C as my reserved seat in the initial email response, so it looks like they're trying to change their story.

I think it's also VERY interesting that in my confirmation email, it was worded as 'one or more' seats, and that the total was billed as $xxx.xx per seat, instead of the overall total as a lump sum for two as a block. Nowhere was this stated in the T&C you are shown before bidding, and I only saw it in the confirmation email for the first time. It's pretty clear that they are trying to change the conditions of sale after it was made, which I suspect is illegal in both the US and Australia. As soon as I saw that I got a bad feeling and suspected they might try a scam like this. Regardless of a refund, I'll be referring that to the ACCC & may also contact the DOT as @MEL_Traveller suggests. Imagine paying for two meals, then only receiving one and being told that 'up to two' was clearly stated on the receipt so therefore you don't get a refund.
 
Last edited:

MEL_Traveller

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It looks like Etihad giving away your seat and great difficulty in getting a refund is pretty common: Neighbour-free seats - FlyerTalk Forums

I agree it is absolutely not clear that you are bidding for single seats and that you cuold end up with fewer seats than you have bid. If this is the case EY should clearly state it.

It looks like persistence is going to be key here. Although you may well have to end up writing off the seat that was spare next to you. While you didn't get a row of three (flat bed), perhaps you did at least get some small benefit?
 

shedboy

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2019
Messages
22
Thanks for that link @MEL_Traveller. Seems like a pattern. I also checked their Trip Advisor reviews (after making mine). Lots of negative reviews coming through so it also looks like they're on a downhill slope.
 

EtihadAirways

Member
Authenticated Company Representative
Joined
Mar 7, 2010
Messages
127
Hi Shedboy. I would like to look into it further for you. Can you please let me know if you have an existing case number? You mentioned you have been in touch with one of us. On which channel was it, and under which name? If it's easier, just drop us a Facebook private message, and we'll check this. *Sky
 

travelnutjohn

Member
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Feb 11, 2018
Messages
232
Hi Shedboy. I would like to look into it further for you. Can you please let me know if you have an existing case number? You mentioned you have been in touch with one of us. On which channel was it, and under which name? If it's easier, just drop us a Facebook private message, and we'll check this. *Sky
am going to put my money on, you're just going to pretend to help to make yourself look good, and either not do anything or just repeat the original excuse

id like to be proven wrong
 

travelnutjohn

Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2018
Messages
232
Or you could give the airline the benefit of the doubt and see what happens.
time and time again we see people getting stuffed around when the airline has clearly made a mistake ,

if this were very ambiguous or 50/50 or if the customer was in the wrong, I would understand, but this case is its not,

its unfortunate the world is like that these days
 

MEL_Traveller

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Or you could give the airline the benefit of the doubt and see what happens.
Agree. The airline has been proactive, which is a good start.

Hopefully they will be able to provide the OP with assistance, and also give us all a bit of information on how this bidding works. My reading of the bidding process is that if you bid for two seats, that’s what you’ll get (if successful). I wouldn’t necessarily be happy with a ‘half successful’ bid.
 

straitman

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You have heard the quote often attributed to Einstein about the definition of insanity, havent you?
I prefer to say I have a positive outlook rather than a negative one.

Time will tell who is right.
 

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