For travelers stuck in LAX shooting, getting refunds should be easier

Cessie Cerrato, a spokeswoman for Palace Resorts, told me the hotel staffer was unprepared to handle a customer request like this.

"The automatic response was that she was a no-show," Cerrato said.

No, the automatic response should have been: "Oh my God, I'm so sorry that this happened to you. Of course we'll figure out some way to accommodate your needs."

The fact that the staffer stuck to the resort's cancellation playbook speaks volumes about the need for businesses large and small to empower workers to deal with customers on a case-by-case basis.

Not surprisingly, Cerrato told me that Palace Resorts would refund Mandracchia's full payment. She said the company was in the process of doing this anyway, even before I called.

As for that $200 penalty fee for a new airline ticket, Expedia pointed a finger at United and blamed the airline. United placed the blame on Expedia, saying the travel agency must not have understood that changes related to the LAX shooting wouldn't be subject to fees.

Charles Hobart, a United spokesman, said the airline would make sure that Mandracchia — and anyone else whose travel plans were affected by the shooting — doesn't face extra charges.

"Customers can contact us directly if they have any questions," he said. "We'll work with them."

I passed all this along to Mandracchia, who expressed relief that all this nonsense was behind her.

Her experience might prompt some people to consider travel insurance, which Mandracchia had declined for her trip. Such policies typically cover "terrorist incidents," which should include someone shooting up the airport.

But such protection should be unnecessary. Do the travel and hospitality industries really want to be thought of as completely heartless? There's only one reasonable response to an extraordinary situation like this, and that's to do the stand-up thing.

Mandracchia ended up being treated fairly by all concerned. But no one should have to work this hard for a little human decency.

David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

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