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Should United Airlines pay for its mistake – or should I?

Q: I am writing to you for advice and help regarding a most frustrating experience with booking award travel and the resulting confusion and lack of help from United Airlines.

Can I get a refund for my river cruise to Ukraine?

Q: In mid-February, we booked a Viking River Cruises trip to Ukraine for this summer, beginning in Kiev and continuing throughout the country to Zaporozhye, Odessa, Kherson, Sevastopol and Yalta. Some of our ports of call were in Crimea. We paid for the total cost of our trip, including three nights in Istanbul and an additional five days in Turkey on our own before our return flight.

U.S. credit cards may not work with European technology

If you happen to drive down the Brenner Autobahn between Austria and Italy this summer, here’s a little advice for crossing the wind-whipped Europabrucke, or Europe Bridge: Keep a little cash on hand to pay the toll.

Is this car rental damage claim for real?

Q: Last March, I rented a vehicle from Hertz in Los Angeles. When I picked up the car, I noticed that the car had seen better days and had some minor damage, like scratches and small dents.

Does travel insurance policy cover my frequent flier miles?

Q: Last year, while I was visiting Australia, my wife had a medical emergency that caused us to cancel our trip and come home. Fortunately, we had bought a travel insurance policy through Allianz.

Mom died, but US Airways won’t refund my fee

Q: I recently flew from Washington to Chattanooga, Tenn., on US Airways, because my mother was ill. I planned to stay three days, but her condition worsened, and we put her in hospice care. She died five days after my original return date.

Airfare honesty? It may be an oxymoron.

Alina Novak’s complaint had a familiar ring to it. While she was searching for an inexpensive round-trip ticket from Toronto to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on TripAdvisor.com, she stumbled upon a $177 airfare.

Christopher Elliott: Car rental return like scam

We drove on some dirt roads, so the car was quite dusty when we returned it, and the representative eagerly went around the car like Sherlock Holmes looking for clues. She found a small scratch on the left rear bumper, which appeared to be possibly from someone backing into us, as we knew it wasn't done by our usage.

Christopher Elliott: Key to smooth rental car return: photos

When I returned the vehicle to the rental agency, I did a thorough walkaround, and found not one iota of damage. I cleaned the interior, and opened and closed the back gate to check for any left- behind items, and found the truck bed in exactly the same condition I rented it in.

Christopher Elliott: Be careful making multiple bookings

I recently purchased Amtrak tickets to Reno, Nev., on my American Express card. I paid $156 for the round-trip ticket and in return, I received 11,000 rewards points, which allowed me to buy another round-trip ticket.

Christopher Elliott: Do flight attendants care anymore?

When, exactly, did flight attendants stop caring about us? I ask for two reasons: First, because of the luscious new trailers for the upcoming TV show "Pan Am," which depicts svelte young stewardesses — yes, that's what they were called back then — serving passengers.

Christopher Elliott: Frequent fliers seek to solve security delays

Stung by the traveling public's disapproval of its one-size-fits-all approach to passenger screening, the Transportation Security Administration last month announced that it would begin testing a new trusted-traveler program. But if you think that the next time you fly, you'll speed through the security line like it's 1999, you'll probably be disappointed.

Christopher Elliott: Illness at resort leads to vacation blues

For the last four days of our trip, we were barely able to eat or drink and wouldn't dare take the chance of leaving the resort for any excursions.

Christopher Elliott: Travelers may benefit from using agent

For the trip in question, I searched Cheaptickets.com and found the W Hotel right off Broadway. We thought we booked the room, but when reviewing the confirming e-mail, we found that we had accidentally booked the W Hotel on Lexington Avenue — not the W Broadway hotel.

Christopher Elliott: Minor damage may result in major bill

I took good care of the minivan and we never parked in an area where the cars were close. I took extra special care of the rental and even vacuumed it before returning it.

Christopher Elliott: Rental car liability shouldn't be forever

I'm certain this damage didn't happen while I was renting the car. My wife and three kids were with me. We were getting in and out of all the doors repeatedly. We would have noticed any damage. When I returned the car, the agent did a quick walk-around, and the car was fine.

Christopher Elliott: Travel credits not useful for departed

I furnished all the requested documentation, including the death certificate. After not hearing anything from either Expedia or American Airlines, I called Expedia this week and was told that American had refused the refund.

Christopher Elliott: Refunds take the slowest form of travel

Everything was a "go" until we received a call one day in early April from an Expedia representative informing us of a change to our American Airlines flights. American had apparently changed quite a few flights to the island and, unfortunately, none of the changes worked for us.

Christopher Elliot: Nontransferable ticket has wrong name

We booked the trip through Expedia a few months ago, but last week, when we reviewed our itinerary, we discovered that Expedia messed up my stepson's last name (his is "Nielsen" while the rest of us are "Slain").

Site books room in wrong city

When I received the hotel conformation, it was in Elk Grove, Ill., not Rosemont. I immediately e-mailed Hotwire.

Rental's 'full tank' was topped off for bill

I've used Alamo many times in the past, always returning the car with a full tank. Last month, after bringing back my rental in Tucson, Ariz., an Alamo attendant verified the full tank and gave us a receipt.

Christopher Elliott: Rules on occupancy may differ when overseas

My reservation was for three nights. When we tried to check in, the clerk said the room had a king bed and could not accommodate us. I mentioned that my kids are quite young and can easily share the bed, as we do this often when staying at properties in the United States.

Christopher Elliott: How much is pain of hot coffee worth?

There was no turbulence. When the flight attendant reached over my husband to serve me in the window seat, she spilled the entire contents of a cup of scalding hot coffee directly into my lap.

Rail ticket reimbursement running slow

I am waiting for a 313-euro refund from Eurail for a lost ticket, which was fortunately covered under a ticket protection plan I bought when I made my reservation. I filed the claim with the appropriate paperwork but didn't receive a check.

Get it in writing to protect yourself

Imagine the absolute horror we encountered when we got to the Marriott and were told that our reservation with them was for the room only — no all-inclusive. Since we booked an all- inclusive we took only a small amount of cash, which would not have been enough for a week's worth of meals and liquid refreshments.

Companies don't show loyalty with their awards

About a month ago, I contacted the Marriott Vacation Club office to make a reservation for a vacation stay next year, and I asked the employee to check on a seven-day hotel award, which I thought was about to expire in a few months. I was informed that the award had been converted into 25,000 points and credited to our account.

Christopher Elliott: Travel insurance should cover lost airline credit, too

I had a bicycling accident and we could not travel to Colorado. I sent a claim to Access America with complete documentation, including receipts from American Airlines. The receipt shows a payment of $601 plus $350 in fees.

Christopher Elliott: Shop, compare for insurance

Afterwards, we received a document with the specifics of our policy. I didn't read it because I didn't anticipate having to make a claim. But I was wrong.

Christopher Elliott: Stand ground on car rental extra-driver fee

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I took a trip to Hilton Head Island. We booked a rental car with Enterprise and the fine print in the contract said there would be an additional charge of $5 a day for “each additional authorized driver other than a spouse or domestic partner.”

Fixing flight schedule shouldn't cost $1,534

Travelocity worked with the airline to make the change so that I could take a later flight to alleviate this problem and there was to be no charge.

Price guarantee doesn't get high priority with online travel site

Q: I am writing to complain about poor service I received in connection with Travelocity's price guarantee. We recently returned from an 11-night trip to Cancun, Mexico. Our package, which included airfare and accommodations at the Valentin Imperial Maya all-inclusive resort, cost $4,615.

Christopher Elliott: 'Free' cruise offers usually include a gotcha

We did, and asked all the pertinent info about the trip, and how much it would cost and if there were any other fees and expenses. A representative explained that it was a "free" promotional trip and that the only thing we had to pay was a departure fee of $190 and any expenses that we might incur getting to the cruise ship's port of departure in Miami.

Christopher Elliott: Hotwire hotel not four stars

After I made my purchase, I found out I had a room at the Hacienda Vista Real Resort & Spa, which was located far away from the beach. According to TripAdvisor.com, they have at least 85 percent bad reviews. I am traveling with my husband and a baby, and want to avoid taking taxis to get to the beach.

Christopher Elliott: Insurance a good idea when booking a condo

I had to cancel my reservation almost a month before I was supposed to arrive. The company refunded the sales taxes and linen charges of $69 out of the prepaid $965. But it kept $896 for the rental.

Christopher Elliott: Always check reservations for errors

This error is extremely unfortunate, since we planned this trip for my husband's birthday. It was an honest mistake.

Christopher Elliott: Car renter arm-twisted into paying extra for insurance in Mexico

Before leaving for my trip, I verified that my credit card company covered all types of rental car insurance and that no additional insurance should be purchased. When I arrived in Cancun, the Europcar agent insisted that it was company policy that I take the extra insurance, otherwise he could not rent me the car. He even insisted that this would have been on the Hotwire page.

Chris Elliott: Extra work part of the package for pure shooters

ESPN did a segment on Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen on Sunday that made me raise an eyebrow. It labeled Allen the premier three-point shooter of the NBA's modern era and broke down why his shot is so smooth.

Christopher Elliott: Take along backup credit card on trips

When my flight from Lusaka arrived in Johannesburg, I was forced to buy a new ticket to continue on to Cape Town. This was required because I could not provide the credit card I used to purchase the original ticket, which South African Airlines uses for identification. (I always travel with a different card, which has no fee on international transactions.)

Christopher Elliott: Read car rental contract carefully

I asked the agent why it said $105 instead of the $52 that I paid through Hotwire and she said they didn't know how much I paid through Hotwire but that was the Avis charge in their system and that I would only have to pay what I paid Hotwire.

Car-rental company should pay ticket

When we returned the car to Hertz, my husband handed the ticket to one of the agents and explained what happened. They wrote on the windshield with a wax pen "expired tags" and told us they would take care of it for us.

Christopher Elliott: A voucher is not enough for losing a vacation day

Each person was offered a $50 voucher for the inconvenience, but it could not be used during our vacation. It had to be used within one year for future Apple vacation travel.

Christopher Elliott: Airline stranded couple in Dallas

The attendant said there were plenty of standby seats and gave us tickets to Dallas and then from Dallas to San Jose. He also told us, "If you don't get on, you just use your original tickets." That was our first mistake. I didn't process the fact that if we could not get on in Dallas, how could we take our original flights?

Lost ticket refund application got lost

Q: I recently lost a paper airline ticket to Spain that I booked through Travelocity. I was told to fill out a lost ticket refund application through Iberia Airlines, which I did. Both Travelocity and Iberia assured me that I would receive a refund for the second ticket I had to buy, minus a $100 fee.

Elliott: Why take a rental car that looks like wreck?

The car was a mess. It had paint on the outside of the windshield and no gas in the tank. An Enterprise representative thrust a clipboard into my face and told me to "sign here." I did.

Christopher Elliott: A cautionary tale of offshore phone agents

My girlfriend and I had a set of multi-destination tickets that we booked through the site. We called Travelocity to ask if we could change one of our flights from Chicago to Washington. An agent told me it would cost another $300. She was nice but her English was not all that great. I got a confirmation e-mail, but without any numbers.

Christopher Elliott: Refund requests best handled by e-mail

They offered a substitute flight that was in no way comparable, so I called them and requested a refund. They said I had to take it up with the airline, which was Air One out of Italy, so I called them and they said no, that I must request the refund through CheapOair.

Reservation for room should have been made online

I was sent two e-mail confirmations, which I assumed were duplicates since they both were for one room for two nights. My granddaughters were given two keys when they arrived. They showed the desk clerk the confirmation, but were told the reservation was for two rooms and that they were prepaid.

Chris Elliott: It's easy to love players who love to defend

There was just something about the way Brian Latham played basketball.

Christopher Elliott: Use e-mail to address reservation woes

My 80-year-old parents, who live in New York, planned to join us to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. I suggested that my dad book through Expedia as well. My father called and said that he was having some trouble getting through the prompts and he asked if I could help him book the trip. So, I booked the trip for my parents and requested that Expedia forward all confirmations to my dad's e- mail address.

Airline doesn't have to refund your ticket

Based on my current status, it would not be safe for me to fly. I have asked US Airways for a refund on an airline ticket. But it responded with a form letter, saying, "nonrefundable tickets are one of the more restrictive tickets," and offering the opportunity to change my ticket for $150 plus a fare differential.

Car rental charge went up in Mexico

Q: For nearly a month now, I've been fighting to recover more than $280 from Hertz in connection with a reservation for a Mexican rental I made through Hotwire.

Hotel's double charge results in overdraft fees

Q: I booked a hotel room at the Hampton Inn Atlanta-Buckhead in Atlanta earlier this year. I paid a special online rate of $96 for one night. A few days later, I discovered that I had been charged for the room again.

You're better off calling to confirm even with a reservation

Q: My family is a member of Marriott Vacation Club International and we have a timeshare with them. As part of that purchase, we were told that we have the ability to purchase "getaways" for either a week or a weekend. (A getaway is simply a low-cost way to rent an unsold timeshare condo like a hotel room.)

Hotel may have fined the wrong guest

Q: My brother, his wife and two kids, ages 17 and 20, recently visited me to attend my wedding. They booked a room for one night at the Best Western Yucca Valley Hotel & Suites. When I returned from my honeymoon, I learned the hotel had tacked on a $250 charge for smoking in a nonsmoking room.

Travel Troubleshooter: Man should have been 'walked' to hotel

Q: Last year, my husband, Juan, traveled to Valencia, Spain. I made his hotel reservations through a travel agency. When he tried to check in at Melia Rey Don Jaime, it did not have a room for him. He was moved to the Confortel. The rate at the Confortel was nearly three times more than his original reservation. He was charged an extra $1,034.

Senior lives final season on sideline

"I live for this" is overused, especially in sports. Games can be important, and to a select group of athletes they pay the bills.

Travel insurance would have helped

The morning of our departure, our son, who has Down syndrome, woke up with the flu. We can't leave our son with caregivers when he is sick, so we immediately called the airline and the hotel to cancel our reservations.

Chris Elliott: Runner's instinct makes backs special

Runner's instinct can't be taught. There are plenty of football players who fly through a gap, follow blockers and pick up a big gain thanks to the system. Those guys are fun to watch, too.

'No' could have prevented car dispute

When we picked up the car, we were asked to check for any damage, but the car hadn't been cleaned, so it was difficult to do a thorough inspection. We looked over the car and didn't notice anything.

10-euro-a-night room an obvious error

Q: I recently booked a hotel in Paris through Travelocity for 10 euros a night. Great rate, huh? Afterward, I booked airline tickets separately.

Chris Elliott: Developing Qbs can be tricky

I've come to find that a good portion of my good ideas and moments of deep thought occur while I'm immersed in a video game.

Avoid drop box when returning rental car

Here's how it works: An employee tells you to just return the keys and paperwork in the off-hours return box. Then, when they get around to processing it, they say you returned it at a later time, and charge you extra.

Repair bill for scratch on car's roof: $600

Q: I hope you can help me with a dubious repair bill I received. I rented a car from Enterprise in Newark recently, and we did a cursory walk-around inspection with the agent in the rain.

Ready for a taste of Kansas football

"Eagles to the Dome, or go home."

No Internet in hotel room was breach of contract

I explained that I needed Internet access and that the Ramada would not do. I called Hotels.com from the Ramada lobby and the Hotels.com representative, whose English language skills were poor, confirmed with Ramada that there was no Internet and canceled my reservation.

Debit memo should not have been sent

Our travel agent called Continental and was told that the LAN leg could be changed without any change fee because we weren't changing any Continental legs. He asked if they were certain that there would be no change fee and was assured that was the policy. He had another follow-up discussion with a Continental agent and was given the same information. We changed the flight.

Full refund shouldn't have been offered

We called Priceline and went through several people to see if we could have the entire trip credited back and then we explained we planned on re-booking a more expensive package. Her sister had died recently, and after much arguing, a Priceline representative agreed to credit everything even though their policy was to only credit hotel and rental, as long as a death certificate was sent.

Agent, insurance advised for honeymoon

I called Apple and they simply told me to call the airline. They refused to help. Delta's customer service was only a little more helpful. They ended up getting us to Costa Rica a day later on a different airline.

Company should have booked flights

But when I arrived at the airport, I discovered that our tickets hadn't been issued. I had received an e-mail from Expedia the day before, confirming our reservations.

Try a different approach with hotel

We took up the matter with the organizers of the trade show, who later informed us that there was some kind of glitch in the reservation system and that we should get the special rate. When we checked the hotel website, we saw that they were indeed offering this special rate — though it was not offered to us.

Honeymoon trip no time to cut corners

Q: About a month ago, I took advantage of a Travelocity e-mail fare alert for a flight from Minneapolis to Costa Rica. The deal seemed too good to be true: $230 roundtrip on US Airways.

At times a call just confuses the issue

I tried to add another night at the same price, but Priceline said it would cost $160. I turned that down and said I would attempt another bid during the week. At that point, the agent canceled my entire reservation.

Where do tragedy tourists go?

No one wants to be called a tragedy tourist. Not Van Badham, a London-based playwright who spends her vacations visiting such places as ground zero in New York and Nazi concentration camps in Germany.

Contact hotel directly for reservations

The hotel would not change our room nor would they put us in a different hotel. We were forced to stay there or we would have to pay for a three-day stay, as well as a $250 penalty for an early departure.

Insurance would have helped

I broke my tibial plateau into several pieces — an injury that required immediate surgery. So we had to cancel the cruise and fly home.

Travel companies are slow to return money

American Airlines agreed to issue a full credit. But a problem arose because I have closed the original Chase credit card account that I paid for their tickets with. When I spoke to American Airlines, they said that if Chase rejected the credit, they would be able to issue a paper check refund.

Airline crawls when it comes to refunds

The original booking for my family had a 50-euro change fee per ticket, plus any fare differential. Every time we called to get a fare quote, we got a slightly different price.

Interline itineraries can go south

We arrived at the airport to check in at Mexicana for the first leg of our flight to Mexico City. The remainder of our flight was on Aeromexico. When we checked in, the Mexicana agent told us he could see our reservations, but that we needed paper tickets.

No unanimity on airline pricing errors

If you found a bargain airfare, you'd book it, right? But what if you knew the price was a mistake? Would you still do it?

Calls to airline over credit card charge mostly pointless

Here's what happened: I charged an airline ticket on my Discover card, but I had problems with my seat assignment, so I called the airline to fix it. When I received my bill, there was a separate charge for $35 on it from United with an explanation that I had bought flight insurance. But I never bought flight insurance.

Rewards program may not be rewarding

I tried to resolve this at the Greyhound station in Philadelphia, but they said their computers couldn't handle an awards redemption. I called the customer service number they gave me, but they said they do not process award tickets any more, and they gave me another number. The person at that number was extremely rude and refused to help me. I was told to go to a Greyhound station in some other city that had the computer capability. I sent an e-mail to Greyhound and received a reply that they'd reimburse me for half a ticket if I paid for it.— Lois Shestack, Philadelphia

Smoking in hotels on the way out

After President Obama's negative comments about Sin City and his subsequent mea culpa ("I love Vegas — always have!"), I realize that this might not be the most prudent way to start a column. But how do you fire up a discussion about smoking in hotels without mentioning America's capital of secondhand smoke?

Cruise line is being needlessly rigid

We planned to fly into Paris early. But now Viking is saying that we must arrive on the day the tour begins, as they are meeting us in the baggage area. We are terribly upset that they are refusing not only to take us the two plus hours to the starting point for the cruise, but they have ignored over and over again attempts to communicate through our travel agent. We would appreciate any help you can give us.— Michelle Rothstein, Furlong, Pa.

Mandatory hotel resort fees wrong

This was mandatory, even though we didn't plan to use the spa, and it had not been disclosed in the Hotwire booking process. I tried calling Hotwire about this and they simply kept saying, "It's in our terms and conditions that hotels may charge separate fees for parking and resort fees."

Airline stops payment on check for rerouted flight

I had to cancel an appointment and was rerouted through Portland. What should have been a half-hour stopover turned into a half day, and I arrived in Sacramento late in the evening.

Canceled class trip raises red flags

Q: I am a teacher at a high school in San Francisco that has lost $5,000 to Southwest Airlines. Our 12th-grade class did fundraising all year to raise enough money for a trip to Bahia de Los Angeles in Baja, Mexico, to stay at a marine biology lab owned by Glendale Community College. This trip was to allow the students to perform community service at the elementary school there, and for the sea turtle rescue station.

Star slipup should have been fixed

Q: My fiance and I are going to Melbourne, Australia, to celebrate his six-month "all clear" from cancer. I booked a four-star hotel on Priceline.com for our first two nights and when they revealed the hotel, it was actually a three-star on the hotel's own Web site.

Close connection went unmade

I recently bought tickets from Travelocity for my fiancee, Cara. Her return itinerary had her flying from Cyprus to Athens and then on to Munich on a Lufthansa flight operated by Aegean Airlines.

Motel working on cancellation policies

Because of a death in my family that required me to travel to Oklahoma to attend the funeral, I called Days Inn and requested that my reservation be canceled. I was informed that online reservations could not be canceled and that my credit card would be charged — the reason for the cancellation request notwithstanding.

Australian trip not meant to happen

Q: My friend and I recently booked a tour of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji through Grand Circle Travel. The trip never happened, and it looks as if it never will, even though I bought travel insurance.

Travel agent should have issued refund

I have been trying to get a refund for that canceled flight since then. I've spent hours on the phone with Expedia, but they have not credited me, saying it's up to Continental.

Airline should have refunded tickets

British Airways requested a copy of my father's death certificate, which was sent to them. So far, despite several notes to the airline, I have received a refund only for the tax paid for the tickets.

Universal hotel rating system needed

A friend of mine in the area told me about how bad that hotel is. They had tried to stay there but had checked out within the hour because it was filthy and the staff was uncooperative. I did some research on reviews of this property and all the reviews I found, except one, rated it very poor for the same reasons.

Airline zaps his frequent flier miles

It turns out that even though I used to have points with no expiration date, Delta had made changes to its program and because of inactivity on my account my points were deleted late last year.

Reflagging led to higher room charge

I booked a refundable room for my son at the hotel. I had the choice between prepaying a lower nonrefundable rate or a higher, refundable rate. I chose the refundable rate because I wanted to be flexible.

Be sure to get a cancellation number

I wrote to Hotels.com, asking it to adjust my charges. I received a letter from the hotel stating that they showed no record of the cancellation, and that we were listed as a "no-show" for the second night. Can you help me with this?— Elaine Farkas, Parma Heights, Ohio

All the right moves don't always work

I paid $634 for this property, believing I would receive not only a pre-night hotel with my meals and drinks, but also transportation to the pier the very next day to begin the cruise with my husband.

Travel companies slow to return money

I went online and booked an overnight tour that included a light show and a room at the Mayaland Hotel, as well as access to the grounds in the evening. This cost me $99 per person.

Airline reschedules honeymoon flight

Q: I'm trying to get a long-overdue refund from American Airlines, and I need your help. Last year, my husband and I had tickets for our honeymoon on American Airlines. On the morning of the flight from San Diego to Orlando, we got a phone call that said our itinerary had been changed. However, the new flight was almost two days later.

Lawsuit letter a standard response

To our surprise, we later found a $250 charge on our American Express for a damaged tire. But that didn't make sense. If it had been damaged we wouldn't have been able to drive the car back to the airport.

Car rental company using airline logic

I picked up the car the next day and returned it on time. When I dropped off the rental, a representative said the computer system was down. But when I got my bill the next month, there was an additional $1,116 charge because of the late pick-up.

Hotel promises refund because of storm

We had made reservations at the Holiday Inn on the Riverwalk for the weekend. The rate was prepaid and nonrefundable, which at the time of booking was fine. However, when we saw where the hurricane was headed, we called to cancel our reservations independently.

Airline fold-up a nightmare for couple

A Travelocity representative assured us we had been rebooked on new flights and that everything was taken care of. On the morning of our honeymoon, we had no tickets. The airline we were supposed to have been rebooked on, Delta Air Lines, was adamant that it wasn't giving us any tickets. And a Travelocity representative kept telling us everything would be fine and they were "working it out." But we had to buy another set of tickets to keep our trip.

Cancellation number isn't enough

When I arrived, the New Orleans Police Department had the entire block closed off. I immediately called the hotel and told a manager I couldn't access the hotel. He said he did not know when the blockade would be lifted and couldn't help get my car or luggage to the hotel.

Next time, try using a travel agent

Half an hour later, Icelandair charged my credit card again for the same seven tickets. My credit card company denied this charge, and the airline then sent me an e-mail saying my credit card had been declined and that all of my tickets had been canceled.

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