No refunds for Flint Hills symphony-goers after cancellation? A better plan is needed

The decision to cancel last weekend’s Symphony in the Flint Hills was a serious disappointment to organizers, musicians, exhibitors, volunteers — and to more than 5,000 people who bought tickets for the concert.

For those ticket holders, though, the cancellation, blamed on bad weather, was more than just disappointing. The nonprofit that operates the program confirmed in a statement Wednesday that there would be no refunds. The tickets aren’t cheap — the price for one adult is $95.

“Symphony in the Flint Hills has always had a ‘no refunds/no exchanges’ policy,” the group wrote on its website. “All revenue generated by ticket sales is used to pay for a portion of the costs associated with the event.”

By all accounts, Symphony in the Flint Hills is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Obviously, the challenges of dealing with violent weather are beyond organizers’ control. Safety and convenience are paramount.

But it’s also clear that the nonprofit must reconsider its ticket policy for future events.

The group pays for liability insurance but doesn’t carry event cancellation insurance. “The (premium) cost for traditional event insurance exceeds what our losses would be,” Executive Director Christy Davis said.

Perhaps. On Friday, Davis said the premium might be $150,000 or more. While that sounds like a lot, it comes to about $30 a ticket — a price customers who travel hundreds of miles for the concert might be willing to pay.

Given the high-profile event’s importance and popularity, the nonprofit should seriously discuss such an option. It might ask the state of Kansas or corporate donors to help defray premiums for cancellation insurance.

At a minimum, though, the Symphony in the Flint Hills should establish a system allowing customers to buy cancellation refund insurance on an individual basis when they buy their tickets. Another $30 seems like a small price to pay for protection on the Kansas prairie.

To her credit, Davis said she’s exploring that option and other changes to the ticket policy. “We’re absolutely listening to all the feedback,” she told us.

Adjusting the ticket policy is in the nonprofit’s best interest. The Symphony in the Flint Hills has become a beloved event, but enthusiasm will surely wane if ticket buyers become convinced they’re taking a gamble. That would threaten the event itself.

Organizers say it was impossible to reschedule the concert. Instead, they’re offering “Flint Hills experiences throughout the year to honor the 2019 ticket holders.” Current ticket holders can also jump to the front of the line to buy tickets for next year’s concert.

Those offers are clearly made in good faith. But it may be hard to convince someone who just spent $300 or $400 on tickets for the family to spend that amount again for 2020 and then hope it doesn’t rain next June.

Symphony in the Flint Hills organizers are taking a step in the right direction by considering improvements for their customers. The concert is a boon for Kansas, and it shouldn’t be jeopardized by an unworkable cancellation policy.