Q: I’m trying to get a refund for an Alitalia flight that has been approved but not received. In March, my wife and I had to cancel our flight to Rome because my wife’s sister passed away. We had to fly to South Africa to arrange her funeral.

Alitalia refunded one of the tickets soon after approving my refund request. But my wife’s ticket still hasn’t been refunded.

I have spent hours on the phone both with Expedia, the online travel agency through which I bought the ticket, and Alitalia. I’ve written dozens of e-mails to both companies.

Expedia tells me that it is waiting for the refund from Alitalia to post to my account. Alitalia tells me it takes up to three months to post. But it’s already been three months. Now the airline is telling me it can take up to six months!

Something is not right. Can you help me get my $1,043 refunded?

A: I’m sorry about your wife’s sister. When a close relative dies, and you have to cancel a flight, airlines usually offer a full refund or a ticket credit as a matter of policy. No rule requires it — it’s just the right thing to do.

For your ticket, Alitalia held up its end of the bargain quickly. You had your money within a few days. But it didn’t send you a refund for your wife’s ticket.

Based on your story and my research on this case, it’s difficult to say why one refund went through and the other didn’t. It’s highly unusual, given that you had booked the tickets together and they were on the same reservation.

Since Alitalia is under no legal obligation to refund your second ticket, it can take its time returning your money. But it kind of puts Expedia in an awkward position as the middleman. You spent a lot of time on the phone with both Expedia and Alitalia, to no avail.

In a situation like this, you might stay off the phone and take your grievance online. I list the names, numbers and e-mail addresses of the customer-service managers for both Expedia (elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia) and Alitalia (elliott.org/company-contacts/alitalia) on my nonprofit consumer-advocacy site. A brief, polite e-mail to one of them might have expedited your wife’s refund.

While we may never know why Alitalia took its sweet time on the second refund, I can say this with some certainty: Airlines love to take your money quickly and return it slowly. It’s just part of their corporate DNA.

I contacted your online agency for you. It turns out this Expedia plane-ticket refund case was fixable, after all. The company apologized for the delay and refunded your wife’s ticket.

 

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.