Who owes me a refund - the travel agency or the airlines?

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Feb 27, 2016
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Greetings!

I hope all are well.

I booked five round trip tickets on Delta Airlines for family members to travel from Baltimore, Maryland to Accra, Ghana. The total for the tickets was $5,750 ($1150 each). I used a local travel agency because it was significantly cheaper than booking directly through Delta Airlines.

The first part of their trip took them from Baltimore (BWI) to New York (JFK) to Accra (ACC). The airline made a slight time change with the BWI flight, but nothing significant. The return trip was to take them in reverse - ACC to JFK to BWI. They made the journey from ACC to JFK with no issues, but their flight was cancelled from JFK to BWI due to a winter storm. The airline stated that they would rebook their flight in three days, leaving them stranded in NY to find a place to stay. They opted to take a train from NY to Maryland since they did not want to wait for three days to be rebooked.

I called Delta the day of the cancellation after finding out my family took the train. Delta immediately started the process to issue me a refund. One week or so later, I noticed that Delta had applied about $125 ($25/ticket) back to my credit card. That refund seemed really low for five tickets. I called Delta to verify if that was all that I would be refunded. The agent stated that she could not investigate further because I purchased the ticket through an agency, and only the agency would know how much the JFK to BWI leg actually cost. She suggested I contact the travel agency.

I contacted the travel agency to ask how much was the last leg of the itinerary. I spoke to an agent who promised to relay my question to the agent who helped me purchase the tickets. It's been two weeks and the travel agent has not called back. I've called several times since then, and I have consistently been told he is not in the office and to try later.

My question is, who owes me a refund - is it Delta or the travel agency? Does $125 seem pretty low or is that par for the course? I've realized that I'm going to have to be the travel agent's "shadow" until he answers my call. I'm fine calling every hour until I get him, but I just want to make sure I'm putting my energy in the right place. Thank you greatly for your time!
 

kenish

Sep 1, 2015
1,067
1,816
113
KSNA
Thank you for the clear and concise description of events (but in further correspondence, you just need to say it was a roundtrip and the outbound direction went fine).

Your travel agent must handle this. You are their customer when it comes to the ticket purchase, not Delta's. It sounds like the $25 per-person "refund" was just Delta's gesture for your inconvenience, and not linked to any actual fare.

I used a local travel agency because it was significantly cheaper than booking directly through Delta Airlines.
I think this is key....the travel agent probably sold you a "bulk fare" ticket with an unpublished fare. Although it's totally legit, the fare construction is quite different, and only the travel agent can determine a refund amount.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
9,748
10,540
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San Francisco
Lucy, your TA is giving you the run-around big time. Airlines deal with "funny math" so I can't say for sure, but your refund sounds extremely low. There are many, many factors that go into the disposition of these return tix. Hang up the phone and communicate in writing.

Rather than second-guess your facts, I advise that you send the travel agent a polite, concise letter stating all the facts (we'll be happy to edit for you if you wish) and asking him to take care of this matter. Give him a week to respond, then email the agency owner, stating your disappointment in the TA's lack of customer service. You are owed some answers. Please report back, and good luck.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,044
23,002
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
I agree - your travel agency is the culprit here. If you can't get the agent on the phone, call and get the owner on the phone and ask for an explanation. Or email the owner. Once you book a flight through a travel agency, the airline will not deal with you at all.

If you still can't get an answer, you can file a complaints with the Consumer Affairs Dept. of the county where the agency is located or the Attorney General in the state the agency is located in.

I agree with Ken that you likely did buy a bulk ticket and as he said, the math is really fuzzy on bulk ticketing, as well as the terms and conditions.

Good luck and let us know how you make out.
 
Jan 5, 2015
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The TA should answer your questions. If they have a physical office that might be more effective to show up and don't go away until your questions are answered vs. calling repeatedly.
 
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Aug 28, 2015
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New York
I recall the shuttle from New York to DC is @80 so I assume the Agent got you something less than that. If your family just took the train without going through the proper protocols then you probably aren't due anything back and the $125 would be generous and covered the train tickets so at least you didn't lose anything.
 
Aug 10, 2013
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Atlanta
Can I ask, is the original charge on your credit card from the agency or Delta? That info could help in terms of what to do. Its possible Delta sent a refund to the agent, and they're not passing it along to you OR the agent needs to submit a refund request and hasn't.

Either way, the agent is responsible. But I'm concerned they're blowing you off to run the clock on a chargeback or some other scammy scenario. I could give more specific advice based on this information.
 
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Oct 5, 2015
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Let's get down to brass tacks here. I'm not sure most of you understand how bucket shops to Africa works. So many of these "bodegas" are offices where the sub agent pays for use of space (a desk with phone and GDS access). Your expectations are too high. None of these people offer concierge services. Most of them sell purely on the basis of low pricing. And this is that the Letter Writer opted for. She was issued the tickets and that's it. If you want to make a change then you pay a fee. There simply is not enough profit to talk to you after you pay :)

Now let's move on to the meat of her contention. She wants to be paid back the cost of the unflown segment JKF to BWI. :D:D:D Yes I am laughing because the fare from JFK to ACC is actually more expensive than the fare from BWI to ACC (via JFK). Therefore, if you do a return open-jaw ticket BWI-ACC-JFK, it will be more expensive than a round-trip ticket BWI-ACC. In layman's terms, there in nothing to refund. In fact if Delta wants to hardball with the agency, it can claw back any commission, reprice the ticket, and send the agency a debit memo. Ok so under these conditions, why would an agent even want to see you again? There is nothing more they can do and you are nothing but trouble. :(
 

kenish

Sep 1, 2015
1,067
1,816
113
KSNA
@Flywisely - I was just about to press "Post" when you beat me to it ^ ^ ^!! I've edited to reinforce what you've said:

@lady lucy used a TA, who is responsible for handling any refund no matter what. 90% chance she used a bucket shop which is the airline ticket version of the "scratch and dent" appliance store. Airlines sell inventory to bucket shops at a low, unpublished, bulk fare for a variety of reasons. At that point the airline receives their money and washes their hands of any future sales, marketing, and processing expenses with the ticket. The TA owns the ticket and takes the profit or loss (including totally unsold tickets). If everything goes right there can be some great deals, but the minute anything goes amok the downsides become painfully obvious.

Even if Lucy purchased directly from Delta, they fulfilled their Contract of Carriage obligation, which you agree to when you purchase the ticket. Almost every airline's CoC states that dates and times listed in schedules or on the ticket are "guidelines". Of course the reasonable thing to do is take the train, but DL fulfilled their CoC obligation by rebooking to BWI so no refund is contractually due.

It's futile separating out the JFK-BWI fare as the basis for a refund. The TA's fare was a very different amount than what DL would have charged. And as others pointed out, simple A+B arithmetic seldom works with fares. An actual example (one way fare on AA):

HNL-LAX: $481
LAX-SAN: $191

HNL-LAX-SAN (using the exact same HNL-LAX flight in the first line): $371

I recently saved friends the $110 each by suggesting they fly from SAN instead of LAX. If they had missed the LAX-SAN flight, what would the refund be? Using simple arithmetic they owe AA either $110 or $191 depending on the "logic" LOL!!!

Sorry about the long-ish post but hope this helps educate on bucket shops and fare constructions.
 
Last edited:
Feb 27, 2016
15
6
3
44
Thank you for the clear and concise description of events (but in further correspondence, you just need to say it was a roundtrip and the outbound direction went fine).

Your travel agent must handle this. You are their customer when it comes to the ticket purchase, not Delta's. It sounds like the $25 per-person "refund" was just Delta's gesture for your inconvenience, and not linked to any actual fare.



I think this is key....the travel agent probably sold you a "bulk fare" ticket with an unpublished fare. Although it's totally legit, the fare construction is quite different, and only the travel agent can determine a refund amount.

Thanks for the reply, Kenish! I appreciate it. It's interesting to look at what Delta gave me as a gesture for my inconvenience. They called it a 'refund' in their correspondence, but that may have just been part of a default message that gets sent with any refund application. I'll clarify this with the airline. Thanks again.
 
Feb 27, 2016
15
6
3
44
Lucy, your TA is giving you the run-around big time. Airlines deal with "funny math" so I can't say for sure, but your refund sounds extremely low. There are many, many factors that go into the disposition of these return tix. Hang up the phone and communicate in writing.

Rather than second-guess your facts, I advise that you send the travel agent a polite, concise letter stating all the facts (we'll be happy to edit for you if you wish) and asking him to take care of this matter. Give him a week to respond, then email the agency owner, stating your disappointment in the TA's lack of customer service. You are owed some answers. Please report back, and good luck.
Thank you for your reply, Judy! It's appreciated. I'll try every avenue, including a concise letter. I think I will also keep copious notes on each of my correspondences, especially any additional phone conversations. Thank you for the offer to edit my letter. I'll report back what happens. Thanks!
 
Feb 27, 2016
15
6
3
44
I agree - your travel agency is the culprit here. If you can't get the agent on the phone, call and get the owner on the phone and ask for an explanation. Or email the owner. Once you book a flight through a travel agency, the airline will not deal with you at all.

If you still can't get an answer, you can file a complaints with the Consumer Affairs Dept. of the county where the agency is located or the Attorney General in the state the agency is located in.

I agree with Ken that you likely did buy a bulk ticket and as he said, the math is really fuzzy on bulk ticketing, as well as the terms and conditions.

Good luck and let us know how you make out.
Thank you for the reply, Neil! I appreciate it. I'm beginning to understand that the airline is pretty much hands off after a transaction is finalized between a customer and travel agency. I hope I don't have to take it to Consumer Affairs, but have definitely considered it as a very very last resort. Thanks!
 
Feb 27, 2016
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Date of ticket purchase and date of first departure from BWI please? Let us compute the fare difference before all hell breaks loose.

Hi there! The date of the ticket purchase was 11/08/15. The date of the first departure was 01/09/16, returning to BWI on 01/22/16. Thanks in advance for your help!
 
Feb 27, 2016
15
6
3
44
The TA should answer your questions. If they have a physical office that might be more effective to show up and don't go away until your questions are answered vs. calling repeatedly.

Thanks Technomage1! I plan to pay them a visit but hope I make it through the front door since I have to be buzzed in. The agent can't hide forever. Thanks!
 
Feb 27, 2016
15
6
3
44
I recall the shuttle from New York to DC is @80 so I assume the Agent got you something less than that. If your family just took the train without going through the proper protocols then you probably aren't due anything back and the $125 would be generous and covered the train tickets so at least you didn't lose anything.
Thanks for the reply, AAGK! I don't know what the outcome will be, but this situation has made me aware that purchasing flight tickets is a little more complicated than I thought. Thanks again!
 
Feb 27, 2016
15
6
3
44
Can I ask, is the original charge on your credit card from the agency or Delta? That info could help in terms of what to do. Its possible Delta sent a refund to the agent, and they're not passing it along to you OR the agent needs to submit a refund request and hasn't.

Either way, the agent is responsible. But I'm concerned they're blowing you off to run the clock on a chargeback or some other scammy scenario. I could give more specific advice based on this information.
Hi Rebecca! Thanks for the reply. I confirmed with the credit card company that the charge was from Delta Air. I am also concerned by the agent's behavior even though the agency was recommended by a family member. I always do my own research before engaging in a transaction with any merchant, but I opted to take my family member's advice instead. Lessons learned ... Thanks again!
 
  • Like
Reactions: jsn55
Feb 27, 2016
15
6
3
44
Let's get down to brass tacks here. I'm not sure most of you understand how bucket shops to Africa works. So many of these "bodegas" are offices where the sub agent pays for use of space (a desk with phone and GDS access). Your expectations are too high. None of these people offer concierge services. Most of them sell purely on the basis of low pricing. And this is that the Letter Writer opted for. She was issued the tickets and that's it. If you want to make a change then you pay a fee. There simply is not enough profit to talk to you after you pay :)

Now let's move on to the meat of her contention. She wants to be paid back the cost of the unflown segment JKF to BWI. :D:D:D Yes I am laughing because the fare from JFK to ACC is actually more expensive than the fare from BWI to ACC (via JFK). Therefore, if you do a return open-jaw ticket BWI-ACC-JFK, it will be more expensive than a round-trip ticket BWI-ACC. In layman's terms, there in nothing to refund. In fact if Delta wants to hardball with the agency, it can claw back any commission, reprice the ticket, and send the agency a debit memo. Ok so under these conditions, why would an agent even want to see you again? There is nothing more they can do and you are nothing but trouble. :(
'Trouble' is my middle name! Seriously though, whether I get something back or not, I expect decent customer service. Returning a phone call would be the first step for the agent. I'm quite reasonable, but definitely not someone who accepts being ignored.
 
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R

Realitoes

Guest
'Trouble' is my middle name! Seriously though, whether I get something back or not, I expect decent customer service. Returning a phone call would be the first step for the agent. I'm quite reasonable, but definitely not someone who accepts being ignored.
Lucy, if they sent you a check for a refund, that is probably what it is. Airlines normally only provide "compensation" in the form of a voucher or miles. I agree with what Flywisely said, the residue value in a round trip ticket for just the JFK - BWI would be very small if non-existent.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jsn55
Feb 27, 2016
15
6
3
44
@Flywisely - I was just about to press "Post" when you beat me to it ^ ^ ^!! I've edited to reinforce what you've said:

@lady lucy used a TA, who is responsible for handling any refund no matter what. 90% chance she used a bucket shop which is the airline ticket version of the "scratch and dent" appliance store. Airlines sell inventory to bucket shops at a low, unpublished, bulk fare for a variety of reasons. At that point the airline receives their money and washes their hands of any future sales, marketing, and processing expenses with the ticket. The TA owns the ticket and takes the profit or loss (including totally unsold tickets). If everything goes right there can be some great deals, but the minute anything goes amok the downsides become painfully obvious.

Even if Lucy purchased directly from Delta, they fulfilled their Contract of Carriage obligation, which you agree to when you purchase the ticket. Almost every airline's CoC states that dates and times listed in schedules or on the ticket are "guidelines". Of course the reasonable thing to do is take the train, but DL fulfilled their CoC obligation by rebooking to BWI so no refund is contractually due.

It's futile separating out the JFK-BWI fare as the basis for a refund. The TA's fare was a very different amount than what DL would have charged. And as others pointed out, simple A+B arithmetic seldom works with fares. An actual example (one way fare on AA):

HNL-LAX: $481
LAX-SAN: $191

HNL-LAX-SAN (using the exact same HNL-LAX flight in the first line): $371

I recently saved friends the $110 each by suggesting they fly from SAN instead of LAX. If they had missed the LAX-SAN flight, what would the refund be? Using simple arithmetic they owe AA either $110 or $191 depending on the "logic" LOL!!!

Sorry about the long-ish post but hope this helps educate on bucket shops and fare constructions.
Indeed, it is very helpful! I think there is nothing more precious than educating yourself on something you didn't understand before. That's why I am super-appreciative of all of you taking the time out of your busy lives to answer my questions. Thanks All!