When a beach isn’t really a beach, and other travel disappointments

Alan Kraft/Shutterstock
Alan Kraft/Shutterstock
To call Smathers Beach in Key West, Fla., a beach might be a little stretch.

The sand is imported from the Bahamas. On a recent windy day when I visited, there were no waves. Mostly, this island’s signature beach doesn’t have the scene you’d expect from a tropical resort, such as a boardwalk with concession stands.

So when a reader on Washington Post Travel section’s online chat recently asked if I could recommend a beach in Key West, I said not really. The natural shoreline in the Keys is dotted with coral rocks and mangroves that are beautiful in their own right. Tourists don’t come to this island for its beaches, and if they did, they’d be disappointed.

The complaints came in almost as soon as my response was published in the paper. Coincidentally, the answer appeared on Labor Day weekend, just as Diana Nyad finished her record swim from Cuba to Key West. And right there, on live television, readers saw Nyad coming ashore at Smathers Beach, which looked real enough on camera.

How could I say that Key West didn’t have beaches?
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Betrayed by a company? Here are 5 secrets for avoiding it

Kimberly Palmer/Shutterstock
Kimberly Palmer/Shutterstock

The call between Frank Alioto and his favorite cruise line went down like something straight out of a made-for-TV drama. You know that turning point where the hero actually turns out to be the villain? Just like that.

He and his wife, Susan, had accumulated 130,000 loyalty points over the years, using a special credit card called an “affinity” card that lets you earn more loyalty points, but can come with a series of unfavorable terms, like a higher annual percentage rate or a yearly fee.

“The program promises, among other rewards, that 125,000 points can be redeemed for a free five- to seven-day Caribbean cruise for two,” he says. And the Aliotos had collected for years, assuming that once they earned enough “loyalty” points, they’d get their promised cruise vacation.
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Did KLM lie about her ticket refund?

If you’re an airline apologist, you’ll probably answer Angelina Bellamy’s question reflexively, if not dismissively.

I almost did (and I’m no airline apologist). But this one’s interesting, and not as easy to fix as it looks.
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Sorry, you don’t have an airline ticket

Question: I need your help with a vacation to St. Kitts that was missing a key component: our airline tickets. I had paid Expedia $2,521 for the package, which was supposed to include airfare from Cleveland.

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

I called Expedia’s customer service department, which asked me to buy new tickets. Expedia agreed to reimburse me the difference between the package price and the tickets, which came to $871.

Three months later, I still had no credit. I called again, only to find out that because they had no documentation that we had purchased new tickets, they could not issue a credit. I faxed them a copy of the receipt for the tickets.

Shortly after that, I received an email from Expedia denying my request for a refund. They did offer a voucher for $100 to be used when booking another Expedia trip. I don’t understand why my refund request was denied. I did everything they asked. I even bought Expedia’s trip insurance. Can you help? — Linda Foy, Cleveland

Answer: Expedia should have booked your flights, of course. When it didn’t, it should have bought your replacement tickets — not asked you to buy them.

And the three-month delay, followed by a “no” on your refund request? Let’s just say it wasn’t in line with its vaunted Expedia “Promise” that guarantees, among other things, that, “the travel you booked with Expedia will meet the descriptions on our site and in your itinerary.” Here’s the full text of its warranty.

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How do you get an airline to keep its promises?

plane landingLast summer, Jennifer Patronis’ father suffered a massive aneurysm and stroke. She immediately booked a round-trip ticket from Athens to Cleveland on Delta Air Lines to be with him. Three months later, he died, leaving her with an unexpected problem: How to get back to Greece, where she lived.

Despite a verbal promise that it would waive its ticket change fee, Delta wanted another $700 for her return flight. That’s over and above the $1,000 she spent on the roundtrip ticket.

Far be it from me to argue with an an airline when it comes to change fees and fare differentials. But a promise is a promise, right?
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