Several folks — with varying perspectives — sent me a link to a story about a Ukrainian woman whose family has a trip planned to Europe this summer. She wanted to change her tickets to cut out the visit to Russia given current tensions there, but Finnair directed her to the online agency she bought the tickets from to make changes and the online agency wanted several hundred dollars per passenger to make the change.
Marina Spor, 45, was born in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, about an hour and half drive from the Crimean peninsula. She immigrated to the United States with her parents at the age of 7.
Spor’s husband is of Norwegian stock, so the couple thought it would be fun to let their kids get a taste of their roots with a “heritage” trip to Europe this summer.
They still want to make the trip and still plan to cross the ocean both ways on Finnair. They just figure they’ll remain in Norway and do Russia some other time.
…Spor’s not asking Finnair to cancel the family’s entire trip. She just wants to eliminate the Moscow-Helsinki leg of her family’s planned return to Southern California. They’d like to fly straight home from the Finnish capital.
Spor booked the trip for $5,610.96 in early February, about a month before Russian troops started taking control of Crimea.
The original itinerary entailed flying from Los Angeles to the Norwegian town of Stavanger with a stopover in London. The family then planned to fly on Aeroflot from Oslo to Moscow, stay in the Russian capital a few days and head home on Finnair via Helsinki.
…Spor was expecting at least a modicum of flexibility on Finnair’s part, so the carrier’s $2,818.24 in change fees and ticketing costs was a bit of a shock.
Here’s the State Department advisory with urges caution.
I’m actually torn on this situation and would love reader opinions. Finnair is enforcing its fare rules. The family wanted a waiver of those rules given the geopolitical situation.
It doesn’t appear that there’s any sort of industry-standard waiver, that Finnair simply isn’t choosing to offer itself, for Russia travel. Delta had a Kiev, Ukraine waiver for travel through March 25, but it required travel to commence by April 13. And there was no Russia waiver.
There’s always geopolitical risk in international travel, and it’s not entirely clear to me that it ought to be the airline that should bear the cost and risk rather than the passenger choosing to travel to a given part of the world.
Should Finnair have waived the change fees? Does it matter that the family would still be taking Finnair flights, and fewer of them, so the change wouldn’t entail any cost to Finnair? Or should the ticket rules simply be enforced? What do you think?
Ultimately Orbitz (parent of Cheaptickets) got them the change at no cost. But I’m not sure, should they have?