Travel Troubleshooter: Whodunit on expired airline ticket

  • September 27, 2013 - 2:07 PM

Q: I need your help resolving a situation with Hotwire. A little over a year ago I booked a flight from Baltimore to Orlando, but canceled because of a hurricane.

A Hotwire representative told me to contact Allianz, the company through which I had insured my tickets. An Allianz representative led me to believe that I might be able to receive a refund, and suggested I call Hotwire to cancel my ticket, which I did.

When I requested a refund, Allianz denied me and referred me to Hotwire. Hotwire denied me and referred me to the airline. The airline referred me back to Hotwire.

I recently called Hotwire to rebook my ticket. After being transferred three times, I was told someone would call me back. They never did. Now my ticket credit has expired.

A: That’s absurd. But the absurdity is happening on many levels.

First, you had insured your flight — not a bad idea for an August flight, because hurricanes do happen in Florida. But you have to read the fine print on your insurance policy. In order to make a successful claim, your flight must be canceled by the airline.

You canceled your flight proactively, and someone from Allianz should have told you that when you called. No one should have led you to believe you could have canceled your flight before the airline did.

Re-using your ticket should have been relatively easy, and if Hotwire couldn’t help you, your airline should have. In reviewing your case, I note that a great deal of your communication was by phone, which is unfortunate because it means you don’t have the benefit of a written record.

I checked with Hotwire, which had several detailed files on your case. “As we worked through a potential rebooking, there were several discussions and messages exchanged back and forth between [the customer] and Hotwire in the weeks leading up to that one-year deadline,” a representative told me. “During that time, several workflows were created on our side due to the multiple contacts.”

In trying to sort through those files, Hotwire inadvertently closed your case and allowed your ticket credit to expire. It apologized for doing so and issued you a full refund for your ticket.

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

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