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Travel Troubleshooter: Credit for ticket fell way short

  • Article by: CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT
  • August 2, 2013 - 12:04 PM

Q: I booked a round-trip ticket from Buffalo, N.Y., to Chennai, India, on Continental Airlines, just before it merged with United Airlines. I used Expedia to make the reservation. I completed the one-way trip but due to a family medical issue, I had to cancel the return. I called Expedia and requested a cancellation.

Expedia issued a cancellation, saying it would be in the form of an airline credit that would last a year. I called Expedia a few months later to use my voucher, but was told they couldn’t book the flight because of the merger with United. They asked me to call United. United then informed me that fare rules mention that I can only book the same return flight and nothing else.

I called Expedia back and it admitted the representative who helped me cancel the ticket made a mistake by not informing me of the fare rules. Expedia offered a $400 credit, but the ticket credit I had was worth $1,150.

A representative told me that’s all that she could do. I did accept it, but I detest the fact that they are making me pay for their mistake. Is there any way I can elevate the issue?

 

A: Expedia should have told you about the fare rules when you called to cancel, of course. But in fairness to the online travel agency, the representative might have been confused about the fare rules or, worse, the rules were changed after the United merger.

But Expedia doesn’t dispute your claim that it gave you the wrong information by phone. I know it’s convenient, but when you call an online travel agency, you’re needlessly complicating the issue. Remember, the only party that has any record of your conversation is the company.

Had Expedia sent you the fare rules, and had you reviewed them, then this might have been avoided.

I contacted Expedia on your behalf. A representative corroborated your version of this story, but added that the agency did try to advocate on your behalf with United, asking it to apply the credit to a different flight. The airline refused. As a side note, I think these fare restrictions are ridiculous, and perhaps the best way to avoid getting ensnared by them is to avoid booking one in the first place. Expedia issued a refund for the remaining value of your flight credit.

 

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.

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