William Dickinson was promised a refund on a flight he had to cancel because of a flight schedule change that would have made it impossible for him to make his connections to a workshop in Italy. But who, exactly, owes him that refund — and will it ever come?
Question: I am writing to find out how to get a refund after trying for many months.
In March of 2015, I booked a flight from Chicago to Pisa, Italy, with a stop at London Heathrow. From Pisa, I was to take a train to Carrara, Italy, for a marble carving workshop which cost $3,000. My wife passed away in December 2014, and the purpose of the workshop was to gain experience to carve her graveside monument.
I was supposed to receive a refund for the flight to Europe due to a delay in departure that would have caused me to miss my connections. I have contacted British Airways and Expedia at least two dozen times. Expedia tells me I need to contact British Airways, and British Airways tells me to contact Expedia.
I have copies of my letters. Can you help?– William Dickinson, Marshfield, Wis.
Answer: I’m sorry to hear that your attempts at self-advocacy came up against a wall.
As you explain, it all started with a change to your flight:
One day before departure I received an email from British Airways indicating I could check in online. My attempt to check in online failed and I was informed that instead of British Airways flight 1543 from Chicago to London, I was assigned to American Airlines Flight 86.
Flight 86 was scheduled to depart at 4:35 p.m. on June 9, 2015. At departure time, we had no plane. At 7 p.m., we still had no plane, and at that point I realized I would not make my connections in Europe.
And you weren’t alone:
A number of us on American Airlines flight 86 expressed our concern about failed connections and were told by American Airlines staff that they could not help us with connections, and that flights for the next few days were all booked up. So we were offered a refund, or we could wait for our plane and take our chances in London for connections. I chose the refund because I did not want to be stuck at Heathrow all day and night.
But actually getting the refund you were promised turned out to be a nightmare.
When I got home (a six-hour drive from Chicago in Wisconsin), I called American Airlines (three times) to get confirmation of my refund. No luck. I contacted British Airways (four times) to get confirmation of my refund. I spent the entire rest of the week on the phone with American Airlines and British Airways about my refund.
I have a fixed income, so every dollar is important. I lost the $3,000 for the workshop, and the costs of getting to and from the airport, not to mention the time lost trying to get a resolution. Every time I call British Airways customer service, I am put on hold and get a different story. I was told that I would get a full refund by the American Airlines person, and British Airways customer service confirmed that I was due a full refund. Expedia tells me that I need to contact British Airways but they have on record that British Airways processed the refund. So, this is a runaround.
This story is a cautionary tale about using third-party online agencies to purchase flights. When things go well it isn’t a problem, but when things go even slightly off track it adds an element of confusion and often leads to bigger travel woes. It’s also a reminder to space your international connection times generously — you missed a connection to Pisa because of a two-and-a-half-hour flight delay and had to cancel your entire trip.
The conflicting messages you received from the airlines and Expedia, each more frustrating than the one before, went on for months. The letters were often most apologetic, but each pointed the blame elsewhere. And even after you reposted your story to our forum and diligently followed the advice offered by the experts there, it was to no avail. You were still bouncing against that wall enough times to make even a handball player dizzy.
So our advocates stepped in to lend a hand.
We’re pleased to hear that finally, 18 months later, you’ve received your refund of $1,600.