We had a medical/family emergency up here last week and that, as always, required last minute ticket purchases and last minute plan changes. One family member had purchased Spring Break tickets through Priceline for a few days later and merely needed to come back to Seattle 3 days earlier due to the medical emergency. Priceline was unyielding when I spoke with them. They claimed they dp could nothing, even with proof of an emergency of the most indisputable kind. Priceline said I had to deal with United but did offer to sell me a new one way ticket for the next flight for $1300 and could not prevent cancellation of the already-exisiting return flight back east. When I asked to talk to a manager, they refused my first 4 requests, finally agreed, put me on hold for 25 minutes and never came back, at which point I gave up and left for the hospital.
I next called United, who said they were sorry but they could not help me as the ticket had been purchased through a "travel agent" and I needed to deal with them. United offered to sell me a ticket on the next flight for $1100.
In the end, we used 30,000 Alaska miles to bring this person home on the next flight.
These were not tickets I purchased - I never even use Priceline or any other site for purchasing. By comparison, my partner and I had to cancel our trip to Hawaii due to this emergency. I bought our tickets from Hawaiian, using mileage and paid cash for a seat upgrade. I called Hawaiian, explained the situation and the agent helped me rebook the flights. Since we put the trip off for a bit, I was able to choose days at the same mileage award level and so used no additional miles. Hawaiian honored/transferred our paid seat upgrades to the new flight.
They did charge us $100 each for a change fee but the agent emailed me a form to fill out and said that he was pretty sure Hawaiian would credit it back. I filled out the form the best I could but could not offer a medical note or anything as there was NO WAY I was going to nose around at the hospital seeking proof. Instead I gave them a link to the blog site that was detailing the crisis.
Two days later, Hawaiian refunded our $200 change fee, along with a kind note.
I'm amazed at how many of my family members and friends still use Priceline and the like, given how vehemently I warn against them. I'm putting this recent story out there in hopes of convincing a few more people.