Help! Fare Depot canceled my return ticket and left me in Madrid

By | September 4th, 2016

Thomas Langan is stranded in Madrid, and his travel agency refuses to fly him back home as promised. Is he entitled to a refund?

Question: I booked a round-trip airline ticket from Chicago to Madrid for a friend’s wedding on Iberia. On my return flight, the airline had my information in the system, but it said my ticket was canceled.

The airline asked me for the e-ticket information to see if they could help me get on the flight. I showed them what I had, but it only covered the flight from Chicago to Madrid. Because of this, they said I needed to work it out with Fare Depot, the booking agent.

I called Fare Depot about once an hour for 14 hours to see if a solution could be reached. Finally, at about 1 a.m., I was able to talk to somebody who could tell me what happened.

The manager I talked to, whose name is Steve, said that their system automatically canceled my return flight, and that it was a mistake of their system. I was never notified of a cancellation.

The immediate solution they offered was, I believe, a 26-hour flight with one stop in Istanbul, with a 10-hour stopover, where there have been numerous terrorist attacks in recent months.

The original return flight was a direct flight from Madrid to Chicago — about 9 hours. This is the flight that I originally purchased, and this is the flight that I felt I should be entitled to, or at least something reasonably close to this.

So I turned down Fare Depot’s offer.

The next direct flight to Chicago with availability was two days later at the same time of day that I had booked originally. Since they were unwilling to offer me this flight back home, they told me I could purchase it and they would “see” if they could offer me a refund. The cost of this flight was about $1,000, while the other one was $650. I didn’t want to be an American traveling alone in a place that had three major terrorist attacks since the beginning of the year.

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After I got home, I was contacted almost two weeks later with an offer from them of $170 refund and a $300 flight voucher. This amount reflected half of the original purchase that I had made.

They argued that since I used half of the fare already, they could only refund the half that had not been used, or canceled – again, something that I was never notified of.


After multiple conversations with two managers, they still have not budged from their offer. I have not accepted it, and will not because it is undeniably unfair. As you can imagine, I have been stressed out about this whole thing because not only did I spend $1,000 more than I had planned to, but I missed two days of work as well which cost me about $400.

I would like a refund of my flight home that I paid for as well as compensation for lost wages and extra costs incurred for an extra 2 days stay. Can you please help me get my money back? — Thomas Langan, Chicago

Answer: Fare Depot, your online travel agency, should have contacted you immediately when your return flight was canceled.

When it was clear that you were stuck in Madrid because of a system error Fare Depot admitted to, it should have done everything it could to get you back to Chicago on a comparable flight. It should have also covered any additional lodging expenses.

Fare Depot tries to shield itself from claims like yours, and particularly your last claim for compensation for lost work time, in its terms and conditions:

To the maximum extent permitted by law, neither we nor any of our officers, employees, shareholders or other representatives will be liable in damages or otherwise in connection with your use of or inability to access this web site or the purchase and use of any products and services supplied via this web site.

This limitation of liability applies to all damages of any kind, including compensatory, direct, indirect or consequential damages, loss of data, income or profit, loss of or damage to property, personal injury and claims of third parties.

Ah, but that assumes Fare Depot provided the product it sold you. And it gave you half a product — specifically a ticket from Chicago to Madrid. Then it stranded you in Madrid.

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Come on.

Our advocacy team jumped into action on this case, contacting Fare Depot on your behalf. The agency sweetened its offer to a $200 refund and a $300 flight voucher, which is slightly better, but still not ideal.

You decided to accept the offer and file a case in Illinois small claims court. I hope that persuades Fare Depot to do the right thing. We’ll update this story when we know what happened.

Is Fare Depot's $500 offer enough?

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  • KennyG

    “The airline asked me for the e-ticket information to see if they could help me get on the flight. I showed them what I had, but it only covered the flight from Chicago to Madrid. Because of this, they said I needed to work it out with Fare Depot, the booking agent.” The only paperwork the traveler had covered Chi-Madrid. If that is all he received from Fare Depot, why did he not check it out at the time he received a confirmation confirming only half of the trip he had “booked”. Something is missing here it would seem. If you get a confirmation, why not check it out? If it is wrong/missing information, getting it fixed is a whole lot easier [usually] if you are not standing in an airport trying to board a flight, as opposed to taking care of it when you are at home and not “under the gun”. It would appear on the surface, if one takes the traveler at his word, that Fare Depot screwed up, but in this day and age, fat fingers, no human interaction when booking, etc, it at least should be standard practice for a consumer to check out confirms, bills, boarding passes etc, before one is in a bind.

  • Altosk

    Fare Depot. Another business not to do business with.

  • AAGK

    This is the ultimate horrible airline scenario. Fare Depot sounds like the most awful company in the entire world.
    They owe this 1k for his new ticket as well as hotel and related trip delay costs ASAP. They don’t him lost wages. That’s a silly request, but I understand he was furious and rightfully so.
    If he accepted the lowball offer, however, I don’t see how he can then sue them. I’m hoping it wasn’t really a settlement but more of a partial reimbursement. I hope he gets the rest of the cash back. A voucher would be worthless as I would never use Fare Depot again.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Automatic cancellation is a lie. I guess the return was not confirmed and at the last day they cancelled it to cover the track of the scam and try to by him a reroute.

  • Blamona

    Why are people using OTAs? They sell you something for their commissions, then pass the buck. His only problem after the fact (since he can’t change the situation) is he accepted a resolution and now he won’t have a case in court.

  • Michael__K

    The only paperwork the traveler had covered Chi-Madrid. If that is all he received from Fare Depot, why did he not check it out at the time he received a confirmation confirming only half of the trip he had “booked”

    At the time he received a confirmation, his reservation number covered a full round trip. Fare Depot’s system “automatically canceled” his return flight at some LATER point in time, without providing any notice.

  • KennyG

    I have read and reread the post and no where did I see anything mentioned about him receiving a confirmation and e-tickets that covered a full round trip, only that he had stated what you quoted from my original comment, that the e-ticket in his possession only covered the chi-madrid leg. You seem to have more information on this particular incident than what Chris has posted. In addition, you will see that my quoted statement included a question about “if” that is all he received from Fare Depot. Now that we know with absolute certainty that he did in fact receive complete and accurate confirmations, e-tickets and paperwork , since you have confirmed it for us all, then I would agree that the traveler holds no fault, the e-ticket, once cancelled by Fare Depot magically disappeared from his possession and there are no longer any pieces of the puzzle missing. Thanks for clearing everything up with that missing piece of the puzzle, and there was no need for the traveler to have confirmed anything, since there was no way for him to know it was possible for Fare Depot to cause the e-ticket for the return leg to disintegrate while in his possession.

  • Michael__K

    If we believe Fare Depot’s explanation that their system “automatically canceled [his] return flight” by “mistake” then that implies the flight was previously confirmed prior to the system mistake…

  • Carchar

    Once he accepts an offer, may he still sue in small claims court?

  • Johng

    I had the same thought Carchar – I am not sure a Judge will think that is a reasonable course of action. Either accept the offer and that is the end of it or reject the offer and sue.

  • KennyG

    “At the time he received a confirmation, his reservation number covered a full round trip. ” You stated this as fact as opposed to the fact you “implied” it based on the statements of the traveler, which may or may not be accurate or complete. Note again, my original comment included the qualifier “if”, meaning, in my opinion, there was some doubt as to the actual facts surrounding the incident that seemed to not make sense. If nothing else, I think it is not unreasonable to at least question the veracity of a consumers statements, especially when there seems to be at least some things that possibly don’t make sense. Like only being in possession of an e-ticket for the outbound flight, but not the inbound.

  • Michael__K

    You are free to question the veracity of any statements (and not just the customer’s statements). However Chris has written that he already requires customers to provide records of all confirmations/correspondence before he contacts a company.

  • KennyG

    Note again, my original comment included the qualifier “if”, meaning, in my opinion, there was some doubt as to the actual facts surrounding the incident that seemed to not make sense. You are free to unequivocally believe everything a consumer states as fact, or that Chris has in his possession documents that are never discussed in an post he himself authors, or to state something as “fact” and then later when challenged change your qualifier to “implied”. It’s what makes blogs like this interesting and informative..

  • Michael__K

    Chris has written about his policies enough times that he doesn’t need to re-publish them with every single article for me to believe that he means what he says.

    You are free to believe whatever you wish.

    In order to help resolve your dispute, I need to see the paper trail of correspondence between you and the company.

    Do you have any emails between you and the company that you could please forward to me?

    If you don’t, then I would strongly recommend that you start a paper trail. I can’t get involved in a case unless I have a written record that you’ve tried to fix the issue yourself.

  • Peter Varhol

    You know, I am pretty paranoid about travel, especially international travel. I typically check and double check things. It takes a lot of time, some stress on complicated itineraries, and I will still occasionally miss something.

    But not everyone is like me. There are many people who believe that once they have an understanding of what they have purchased, they don’t check and double check. Many commenters here are implying that this is at least partially Thomas’ fault for not checking his paperwork, or confirming while he was there, or whatever.

    Okay. But it shouldn’t be that hard. People should be able to trust their travel agent. Odd as it may seem, they should also be able to trust Expedia and other middleman providers. The fact that Chris seems to be able to make a living from this proves that such trust is misplaced.

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