Joan Monks’ story is a case of self-booking gone terribly wrong. She thought she was buying airline tickets from Delta Air Lines. When she found out she was mistaken, she took steps that made her situation worse, including a credit card chargeback.
Monks contacted us for help when the chargeback was reversed. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to help her. There are correct and incorrect ways to book and cancel flights – and Monks’ case is a grim reminder of the consequences of choosing incorrect methods of making airline reservations.
The story begins with Monks’ purchase of tickets on a Delta flight to Ireland last May. She Googled Delta, called a telephone number that she believed was the airline’s and booked two tickets for herself and her husband, charging $1,772 to her American Express card. The agent to whom she spoke promised that she would receive an email confirmation of the reservation within the hour. But the confirmation never arrived.
After 10 hours, Monks called the number back and spent 27 minutes on hold.
At that point, Monks decided to cancel her flight. But instead of speaking to a Delta agent to cancel the flights, she called American Express and initiated a chargeback. She then called Delta (apparently double-checking this time that the number she called was a Delta customer service number) and booked two flights on the same flight on which she had previously made reservations.
Monks didn’t realize that her previous reservations were still intact because she had never canceled them. In fact, she had never dealt directly with Delta at all. The first number she had called did not belong to Delta, but to a consolidator travel agency named Hari World Travel.
According to Monks, “I was unsuccessful in my attempts to call the travel agency. Over the next five months Amex took the charges on and off my account. Up until September, every Amex agent assured me I had no problem. In September Amex stated I was responsible for the charges: $226 [to the] travel agency and $1,545 [to Delta].”
Monks received a voucher for a discount off the cost of a future Delta flight, good until May 13, 2017 (we don’t know the amount of the discount). But when she tried to use the voucher, she was charged $800 as a “rebooking and tax fee” by another travel agency, Otis Travel.
“After several phone calls and a threat to call [the] Better Business [Bureau], Otis Travel agreed to credit the $800 back to my charge card,” says Monks.
Monks contacted our advocates, asking for a refund for the tickets she thought she had canceled or a usable voucher for a future Delta flight. In her help request, she claimed to be angry that no one at American Express, Delta or the travel agencies told her that a chargeback does not actually cancel reservations. Because she had not canceled her original reservations, she and her husband were considered “no-shows.” It also turned out that her original tickets were nonrefundable.
Delta’s international contract of carriage provides that “Delta will not refund any portion of a fare or surcharge that is nonrefundable,” but also indicates that it “may permit a portion of the fare paid for an unused nonrefundable ticket to be applied toward the purchase of future travel on Delta.” This would explain Monks’ voucher, although why she was charged an $800 fee to use it is unclear.
Our advocate advised Monks to write a polite note to the executive contacts for Delta that are listed on our website, asking to be allowed to use the voucher without being charged additional fees. As of this writing, Monks has written a letter to Delta’s executives and is awaiting a response. Meanwhile, she considers her experience a tough lesson learned about contacting an airline or travel agent to cancel a flight and not doing a chargeback.