It's the same seat on the same flight but Jetstar won't let the husband of a sick woman take her seat without paying $248 first.

Auckland mum Caroline Gray spent a total of $140 for two return tickets so she could take her four-year-old son Benji to Splash Planet in Hastings next month.

However, after being struck down by life-threatening bilateral pneumonia earlier this month, doctors have told her she can't fly for up to three months.

Gray, who spent 11 nights in hospital - four in the intensive care unit - contacted Jetstar hoping to simply transfer her ticket into her husband's name so he could take Benji on the special outing instead.

Advertisement

But, Jetstar won't do it without a "fare difference" charge of $248 - nearly $150 more than the cost of the original tickets for her and her son combined.

"They said 'yeah, yeah, yeah' we'll be able to change that for you, and even said they'd waive the change fee. But then they mentioned 'you only need to pay for the fare difference'.

"I wondered, 'but why, it's the same flight, the same ticket, the same seat?'"

Jetstar said because Caroline Gray wanted to change the name to her husband's at a time closer to the flight than originally booked there were fewer seats which were more expensive. Photo / File
Jetstar said because Caroline Gray wanted to change the name to her husband's at a time closer to the flight than originally booked there were fewer seats which were more expensive. Photo / File

A Jetstar spokeswoman said the airline had offered to refund Gray in the form of vouchers, consistent with its compassionate policy, but she had declined.

She said because Gray wanted to change the name to her husbands at a time closer to the flight than originally booked there were "fewer seats [which were] more expensive".

"To change the name on a booking, customers are charged a change fee and the fare difference. Under the circumstances we have offered to waive the change fees, which is around $170, and apply only the fare difference.

"All airlines have fare differences," she said.

The fare difference is the difference between the price the customer paid and the updated price of the fare at a later date.

When asked why a fare difference was implemented for the same ticket, same seat, on the same flight, the spokeswoman replied: "Because it is a different value at that stage."

Gray said Jetstar staff informed her she would "basically need to rebook the ticket".

She also said before Jetstar would consider changing the name she was forced to produce a specific doctor's certificate detailing why she was unable to fly.

"They're really hard to communicate with as well, you ring up and try talk to them online ... we would've contacted them about eight times.

"My husband contacted them a few times and explained that I was really sick, but they would say 'we can only deal with your wife'.

"I'm not asking for a cancellation, but it doesn't seem like the compassionate policy is very compassionate.

"It just seems to me that they should be doing the right thing."

Consumer NZ Chief Executive Sue Chetwin said the airline was probably within its rights to ask for the extra money.

"It will be in the ticketing terms and conditions. However, morally it seems unfair. The family has paid for a ticket, it shouldn't really matter who flies. Perhaps a small admin charge."

Chetwin acknowledged Jetstar had made an offer but said the airline did not seem concerned with "bad PR as it continually upsets passengers".

"It will argue it has to be firm to offer discounted fares. But even the price of this fare does not sound cheap."