Caught in a loop with Expedia

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When Peter Hodges’ flight to Norway is canceled, United promises him a prompt refund. But three months later, the airline still has his $2,086. What gives?

Question: My wife and I had tickets to fly to Norway on United Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which we had booked through Expedia. But our first flight from St. Louis was canceled. Since there were no available flights that would have allowed us to reach our connecting flight to Oslo, a United representative at the airport told us that it would refund our money.

Two weeks later, we still hadn’t received a refund. I called United and spoke to a customer-service representative, who told us to wait seven business days. I waited two more weeks and called the refunds department, which told me a different story. United said it had refunded the money to SAS and that it would issue the refund within 90 days.
But three months later, we still didn’t have our $2,086.

I called SAS and spoke with one of its customer-service representatives, and was told to contact Expedia. So I called Expedia, and it told me to work with SAS. We’ve been going back and forth since then. I’m caught in a loop.

On a side note, I’ve had many disconnects from Expedia through this whole process. It is very frustrating when you spend a few hours on the phone just to be cut off. Sometimes they call you back, sometimes they don’t. Can you help? — Peter Hodges, Dardenne Prairie, Mo.

Answer: If United canceled your flight, you should have received a prompt refund. The Transportation Department gives airlines one week to give you your money back. There’s no excuse for this foot-dragging.
I checked with Expedia to find out what happened. When your initial flight was canceled, United took control of your reservation. When an airline gains control of a reservation, the original issuing agency — in this case, Expedia — no longer has access to the most up-to-date records.

Expedia says its agents contacted both United and SAS “multiple times” and were given conflicting information about the status of your refund. So when you phoned Expedia, it didn’t have an answer for you.

It shouldn’t be this difficult to get a refund. If an airline or online agency can take your money in just a few seconds, it should be able to return it just as expeditiously.

Who has the money? An online travel agency or an airline code-sharing alliance shouldn’t matter; the buck should stop with the company you originally did business with.

I notice that you spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone with United, SAS and Expedia. Calling an airline is useful when you’re at the airport and need to rebook a ticket, but when it comes to a delayed refund, you’ll want to get everything in writing. That effectively eliminates the two-hour phone conversations, followed by a hang-up.
I list the names and email addresses of Expedia’s executives on my consumer-advocacy website.

Although United and SAS deserve part of the blame for this missing refund, I think your online travel agency was ultimately responsible for finding your money. After all, it took your money in the first place.

I asked Expedia about your case. A representative apologized for the delay and said the agency had contacted SAS on your behalf to inquire about your refund. Almost eight months after your original trip to Oslo was scheduled, Expedia confirmed that you would receive a $2,086 refund.

Who was responsible for Peter Hodges’ refund?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • The Original Joe S

    I don’t accept that. I would cancel the credit card charge with my credit union. Then they can take all the time they want to.

  • The Original Joe S

    Block the credit card payment to them if within the window, and let them then sort it out.

  • bodega3

    The payment is approved when the ticket is issued and when purchased via an agency, doesn’t get charged until the ARC report is sent and the carrier receives the information. The carrier then handles the charge. An agency can not ‘block’ a credit card payment. An agency can void a ticket within 24 hours of ticketing, but that is it. You are trying to assume something.

  • bodega3

    Yes, you can do that, but my guess is that this happened well after the ticket was issued, so the money is with the carrier. The credit card company would investigate, you don’t immediately get action via your credit card. BTW, when an agency, which you provide the card to, does a ticket and it goes to ARC, then you dispute the charge, there is paperwork on our end that we have to do and your card isn’t credited just because you put in a dispute.

  • bodega3

    Sadly, people who buy online are so ill informed, yet they willing go forward without understanding how their purchase is handled and then rely on assumptions.

  • bodega3

    Where it comes from matters in this industry, so just because someone wants their refund, doesn’t mean there are not steps in getting it.

  • The Original Joe S

    Credit union blocks the payment.

  • The Original Joe S

    It won’t be a liability which must be paid. Will accrue no interest charges, so it’s the same as not having paid. No payment is due to the credit card company until the dispute is resolved.

  • The Original Joe S

    I like Jackie Mason’s lawyer in Caddyshack II……

  • bodega3

    They only stop payment with the credit card within a certain time period. In the case of this article. this doesn’t apply.

  • The Original Joe S

    True. Guess he procrastinated too long…..

  • bodega3

    You can dispute a charge before you pay and yes, the credit card company allows you hold off paying the amount, no interest will accrue, while the amount is under dispute. But if you have already paid the bill, then have an issue, the same paperwork to the vendors takes place with the credit card company and you will either see a credit or you won’t. In the case of airline tickets, the money still is with the carrier.

  • bodega3

    You generally have 6 months to dispute a charge.

  • Lindabator

    Will answer again – we would have to submit for refund, wait till it arrives, and issue you a check for the total.

  • Lindabator

    And don’t want to hear the truth – he should have followed up with Expedia IMMEDIATELY.

  • Lindabator

    Unless you are a travel agent, you cannot even SEE consolidator fares in most cases – they can oftentimes be better prices, but you have to balance the restrictions on those versus a standard ticket.

  • JenniferFinger

    Did he ever receive the refund, or is he still waiting to get it?