Travel Troubleshooter: Flights canceled, but refund still up in the air


Q: My wife and I booked air travel through Expedia from Boston to Madrid via Dublin on Aer Lingus. The airline canceled our outbound flight because of weather in Dublin. Neither Expedia nor Aer Lingus notified us of the cancellation (each claims this was the responsibility of the other party).

When we arrived at the Logan Airport in Boston and learned that the flight was canceled, Aer Lingus put us on a direct flight from Boston to Madrid scheduled to depart the next day. However, the airline also canceled that flight because of weather in Boston.

We decided not to go on the trip because we could not get to Madrid in time for some important events. We asked Expedia for a refund.

It has been nearly eight weeks since the original flight was due to depart. We have had 10 phone calls with Expedia and have spent more than 20 hours on the phone. Expedia representatives have told us multiple times that we would get a refund, but this has not happened.

Aer Lingus told us that it gave Expedia waiver codes for the refund the day of our flight, but every time we call Expedia, the company tells us it must call the airline, and then it tells us to wait seven business days. Expedia has done nothing but repeatedly lie to us. Aer Lingus claims no responsibility whatsoever because we booked through a third party.

It has become apparent that Expedia will ignore us until we give up. We will not give up. We want a refund for the air travel. We also believe that if Aer Lingus or Expedia had notified us about the canceled outbound flight, we would have canceled our hotel reservations in time to avoid paying a penalty.

Jeffrey Saffitz, Waban, Mass.

A: You should have your refund by now. Instead, you have excuses about waiver codes and empty promises about refunds.

Here’s how it should work: When an airline cancels your flight, you can either accept a rescheduled flight or a full, no-questions-asked refund. The Department of Transportation regulates these refunds; they must be made within seven business days.

As your online travel agent, Expedia is responsible for retrieving that money. The part about waiver codes is nonsense. Expedia shouldn’t draw you into the internal workings of a refund — it should just retrieve the money for you.

Contacting the right customer-service executive by email might have helped. I list the names, numbers and emails of the Expedia customer-service managers on my site: www.elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia/.

I notice that you spent a lot of time on the phone with Expedia. Phone calls are great for real-time problems, like being stuck at the airport with a canceled flight and needing a fast rebooking. But on a refund case like yours, you’ll want to keep everything in writing. It’ll save you time and hassle. And remember, you can always forward your paper trail to an executive — or to a consumer advocate.

I contacted Expedia on your behalf. It confirmed that the refund would come from Aer Lingus, and was en route. Aer Lingus issues refunds within eight weeks, according to my Expedia contact. That’s way too long. It can take your money in less than eight seconds when you’re paying by credit card.

“We’ve apologized for the delay they experienced while we attempted to process this refund with the airline, and regret any inconvenience it caused them,” an Expedia representative told me. “A full refund for the flight and hotel is coming Mr. Saffitz’s way.”

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Find travel tips at www.elliott.org. Email: chris@elliott.org Twitter: @elliottdotorg





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