Cus­tomer hits tur­bu­lence over Trav­e­loc­ity re­fund

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Travel - By Christo­pher El­liott Christo­pher El­liott is the om­buds­man for Na­tional Geo­graphic Trav­eler magazine and the au­thor of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Trav­eler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, el­, or email him at [email protected]­

I re­cently booked a flight from Pitts­burgh to Delhi via New York through Trav­e­loc­ity.

My tick­ets were on Delta Air Lines and Air In­dia. Delta can­celed my out­bound flight from Pitts­burgh to New York. It orig­i­nally got into JFK at 12:15 p.m., and I had a 2:30 p.m. flight out of JFK to Delhi.

When Delta can­celed the first leg, it re­booked me on a flight that got into JFK at 12:46 p.m. Trav­e­loc­ity said that wasn’t enough time for an in­ter­na­tional flight. The only other flight I (and Trav­e­loc­ity) saw got into JFK at 7 a.m., which I do not want to do.

I asked Trav­e­loc­ity for a re­fund so that I could book a new flight. But since then, it has been up­dat­ing me ev­ery week that it can’t get in touch with Air In­dia. In Trav­e­loc­ity’s last email, it said, “We would like to in­form you that we are still try­ing to co­or­di­nate with the air­lines about your con­cern. We will keep you posted as soon as we re­ceive their re­ply.”

I want to can­cel this whole flight, have it re­funded and book a new flight. Can you help me get my $972 back from Trav­e­loc­ity?

— Erin Vuono, Pitts­burgh

A: You shouldn’t have to wait for your Air In­dia flight re­fund.

The Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion gives an air­line a week to re­fund your money. Your on­line agent had to ne­go­ti­ate a re­fund from Air In­dia be­cause it con­trolled your ticket. That in­cluded the can­celed Delta leg, and Air In­dia wasn’t re­spond­ing to Trav­e­loc­ity’s re­fund re­quests.

This is the frus­trat­ing kind of re­fund game trav­el­ers shouldn’t have to play. You paid Trav­e­loc­ity for a ticket; Trav­e­loc­ity should ob­tain a prompt re­fund from all par­ties.

When an air­line can­cels a flight, you’re en­ti­tled to ei­ther a new flight of its choos­ing or a full re­fund. I list ex­ec­u­tive con­tacts for Trav­e­loc­ity on my con­sumer ad­vo­cacy site. I also have cus­tomer ser­vice in­for­ma­tion for Delta Air Lines and Air In­dia. Reach­ing out to one — or all — of these par­ties might have helped.

Delta should stick to its pub­lished sched­ule. I un­der­stand that air­lines some­times need to change their flights, but I find it up­set­ting when an air­line can can­cel a flight with al­most no con­se­quences to the car­rier. But when a pas­sen­ger wants to can­cel, the air­line tries to keep the money. It’s not fair.

If an on­line travel agency cob­bles to­gether an itin­er­ary on multiple car­ri­ers, then it bears some re­spon­si­bil­ity when the flights get changed. Trav­e­loc­ity should se­cure a quick re­fund so that you can book a new ticket that fits your itin­er­ary. It needs to help you with your en­tire flight. I con­tacted Trav­e­loc­ity on your be­half. It pro­cessed a full re­fund of $972.

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