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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Wait, I never bought flight insurance!

Question: I recently disputed a charge on my credit card from United Airlines and lost. I need your help getting a refund.

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.

I tried to contact United, but it is impossible to speak to anyone and if you can, you are speaking with people in India who don’t have command of the English language. It’s very frustrating.

I sent a letter to United and Discover, disputing the charge. Discover removed the charge, but later reinstated it because United sent a letter stating it was a legitimate charge and that I knew about it. I sent another letter to United and never received a response.

So my response is this: I will never fly on United again, unless I absolutely have no other option. — Angie Zimmerman, El Dorado Hills, Calif.

Answer: United shouldn’t have billed you for insurance you didn’t buy. Except, I’m not entirely convinced you were paying for insurance. At the time you bought your ticket, the major airlines were charging anywhere between $5 and $35 just to make a reservation by phone. It’s possible that by calling United, you incurred such a fee, but that it was mislabeled as insurance.

You did the right thing by protesting the charge, but phone calls to an airline are pretty much pointless unless your flight is imminent. An email to United through its site would have been far more effective. If that didn’t work, you could have taken your case up the food chain to a supervisor. I publish a list of them on my Web site.
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Do travel Web sites discriminate against non-English users?

Yes they do, according to a new survey by travel marketing firm Oban.

Travel sites ignore the needs of international users by offering English-only pages, the study concluded. That could be causing travelers extra frustrations — and costing these sites business.

Greig Holbrook, Oban’s managing director, says the findings surprised him.

What we had expected was that the travelers would say that they search in their native language. But instead, most of them admitted they were forced to search in English, since the travel sites often do not give them a multilingual option.

Nearly all the people interviewed by the company said they would prefer to search in their own language.

What languages should travel sites be offered in? Next to English, Spanish and Chinese were cited as the most frequently-used languages, followed by French and Dutch.

Take this poll and register your opinion.

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There have been efforts to legislate multilingual Web sites — most notably in Canada — but perhaps in the end, the best argument for a translation is the economic one.

On the flip side, I wonder how many English-speaking travelers have encountered language barriers when using a travel site.