Q: I recently booked round-trip airline tickets on British Airways to fly from Albuquerque, N.M., to Inverness, Scotland, on British Airways. I made the reservation through Expedia, which included one night’s lodging at the Culloden House Hotel. I also booked five nights at the Ullinish Country Lodge directly.
My flight from Albuquerque to Dallas was operated by American Airlines. I was scheduled to connect with another American Airlines flight to London, but my overseas flight was delayed because of a mechanical problem. That meant missing the only daily flight to Inverness.
An American Airlines representative made a tentative reservation for me to fly to Inverness on the next available flight. I asked if I could be rerouted through Dublin, but all flights were booked. It became clear to me that once my American Airlines flight arrived at the gate at London, American’s responsibility to me would be finished. I would be stuck in London for the next 24 hours with no luggage.
My dream trip for my 67th birthday had come to an end.
An American Airlines representative at Dallas was able to book me on a flight home at 9:30 p.m. I arrived back in Santa Fe at 11 p.m. The representative also agreed to initiate a refund request for the unused portion of my ticket. She told me that I would receive a refund in six to 10 days.
When no refund appeared, I called American Airlines. Another agent made another request for a refund. It’s been almost four months, and I’m still waiting. Can you help? – Leslie Hammond, Santa Fe, N.M.
A: I’m sorry to hear about your 67th birthday trip. That’s what folks in the travel industry call a “trip in vain.” You flew to Dallas, only to have to return home right away.
I’m troubled by the perception that American Airlines didn’t care about getting you to your final destination. American and British Airways are codeshare partners, which means they are taking responsibility for each other’s flights. No one from American should have left you with the impression that the airline was “finished” with you when you arrived in London.
A call to your online travel agency, Expedia, or to British Airways might have yielded a different result. As your travel agent, Expedia should have figured out a way to fix your dream vacation – that’s what good travel agents do.
“Trip in vain” policies vary from airline to airline, but generally, they should offer a refund of the unused portion of your ticket. The money would be sent to your travel agent, which then would return it to you.
I list the executive contacts for American Airlines (http://elliott.org/company-contacts/american), British Airways (http://elliott.org/company-contacts/british-airways/) and Expedia (http://elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia/) on my consumer-advocacy site. I think you could have successfully appealed this delayed refund to one of them.
As best I can tell, your refund followed a confusing path. If British Airways ticketed you, then it had your money. American would have had to ask British Airways for the refund, and then it would have been sent to Expedia. That may account for the delay, but it doesn’t fully explain it.
At my suggestion, you reached out to one of Expedia’s executives. Within a week, you had a full refund for your unused tickets.
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, elliott.org.