He canceled his flight on Expedia, but refund flew away

When Eric Holman’s regional airline cancels his flight in Canada, he expects a refund from Expedia. He never gets it. What happened to his money?

  • Sunday, August 15, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

Q: Last year, I booked flights through Expedia on Pacific Coast Airlines, a regional carrier, from Vancouver to Bella Coola, British Columbia. The airline canceled the flights after the COVID-19 outbreak, and it agreed to refund our airfares.

The airline sent the money to Expedia, and despite repeated efforts, Expedia is unable to refund the money to my credit card. I have a receipt and email confirmation from the airline that they refunded the money to Expedia. Can you help me?

— Eric Holman, Sudbury, Massachusetts

A: I love British Columbia, and I’ve always wanted to try heli-skiing in that part of the province. I’m sorry you had to cancel your trip during the pandemic. Fortunately, because Pacific Coast Airlines canceled your flight, you’re entitled to a full refund. Both the airline and Expedia agree on that.

Refunds can take time, especially during a once-in-a-generation pandemic. But this doesn’t look like a delay. As I review your paper trail — and good job with keeping detailed records on this — it seems as if Expedia has offered you a refund but then failed to send it.

How do you fix something like this? First, check with your credit card to ensure you didn’t receive the money from somewhere else. For example, your airline might refund your tickets directly to your card, bypassing your travel agency.

If that doesn’t yield any results, then you have to go back to both the agency and airline to find out who has the money and what they’ve done with it. By the way, I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Expedia’s executives on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia-customer-service-contacts/.

This one is a little complicated. An Expedia representative initially told you that it didn’t have your money but that the airline had approved a refund. But when I asked Expedia about your case, it appears the airline only approved a flight credit, which was issued to you. Then, a few months later, the airline approved the refund request and processed the refund.

Expedia suggested that you check with your credit card. But the money wasn’t there.

So what happened? Well, it turns out that when you asked your credit card about the refund, it initiated a dispute of the charges. So when the airline tried to return the money, it found that the original purchase had been disputed. That gummed up the works on your refund.

You never want to initiate a chargeback unless you have something to dispute. But after you clarified that you were only asking about the status of your refund, rather than disputing the purchase, the refund appeared in your account.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org.

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