LIRR waives $10 ticket refund fee for Sandy after all

Commuters board the 7:48 a.m. LIRR train in Commuters board the 7:48 a.m. LIRR train in Long Beach. (Nov. 14, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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The Long Island Rail Road shouldn't have charged customers a penalty for returning a ticket they couldn't use because of superstorm Sandy-related service suspensions, and won't do so going forward, the LIRR said Friday.

On Thursday, the LIRR's parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said it would not waive the LIRR's $10 processing fee for ticket refunds, even for customers who were unable to use their tickets because the LIRR did not run any trains Oct. 28 through Oct. 30.

Citing a "communications error," LIRR customer service vice president Joe Calderone said Friday that the railroad's policy is to waive the processing fee whenever a customer is unable to use a one-way or round-trip ticket because of a service suspension.

That policy was included in the LIRR's Pledge to Customers, which the agency adopted after a Sept. 29, 2011, lightning strike knocked out its signal system and caused widespread service disruptions.

The policy states that a "customer with an unused One-Way or Round-Trip ticket may receive a waiver of the $10 refund processing fee when a LIRR service suspension is declared on the MTA website."

Nevertheless, Dee Daloisio, of Huntington, was charged the fee when she returned an unused Jamaica-Huntington ticket.

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She bought a round-trip ticket the week before the storm for a trip connecting to Jamaica's AirTrain to Kennedy Airport for a Pittsburgh medical convention.

Daloisio attended the convention and returned to New York hours after the LIRR suspended service on Oct. 28 in preparation for Sandy. On Oct. 30, she filled out a refund application. But because the $10 fee was more than the $7.25 she was looking to have refunded for the unused portion of the ticket, she got back nothing.

"I spelled it out clearly. I said the railroad was closed because of the hurricane. How much more clear can I be?" said Daloisio, who was glad to hear she'll be getting her money back after all. "It wasn't the seven dollars. It's the whole principle of the thing."

Calderone apologized on the railroad's behalf and said anyone who was unable to use a one-way or round-trip ticket because of the storm could seek a full refund. He noted, however, that they could also save the ticket for a future trip within the 60-day validity period.

Mark Epstein, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council, applauded the move. He said the council will continue fighting to have the fee repealed, "or at least reduced for all riders at all times."

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