Road Scholar downgrades traveler from business to economy

While booking Maureen Kelleher on a different airline, British Airways also downgraded her. Is she entitled to a refund?

  • By Wire Service
  • Saturday, May 11, 2024 1:30am
  • Life

Q: I just completed a Road Scholar trip to Egypt, but on the trip home, British Airways canceled my flight four hours before its scheduled departure. My ticket on British Airways was in business class, but British Airways rebooked me on Egyptair in a leftover seat at the back of the plane in economy class. The ticket cost British Airways $416.

I spent $3,000 on business-class airfare. I’d like to get a refund for the fare difference. But so far, both Road Scholar and British Airways have refused. Can you help?

— Maureen Kelleher, Simsbury, Connecticut

A: Flight cancellations happen. But when they do, you should receive a refund for your downgrade from business class to economy.

British Airways’ general conditions of carriage — the legal agreement between you and the airline — addresses a change of schedule like the one you experienced. It explicitly says that you will get a refund when there is a fare difference and you use the ticket. Road Scholar’s terms and conditions don’t address an involuntary downgrade like the one you suffered.

There are also Department of Transportation rules that have to be followed. It says that you’re entitled to a refund if you’re involuntarily moved to a lower class of service. For example, if you buy a first-class ticket and get downgraded to economy class because of an aircraft change, the airline must refund the fare difference. If your flight had originated in the United States, DOT rules would have applied.

I think you have a strong case for a refund. So, what’s going on here? I reviewed the paper trail between you and Road Scholar. Since the tour operator had booked your flights, it was responsible for getting you your refund, so you went to the right place. But after four months, you weren’t getting anywhere. It was time to call my advocacy team.

I could see no reason for the delay in your refund. In fact, two other members of your party had already filed successful credit card disputes to recover their money. By the way, I don’t recommend doing that as a first step to recovering your money. It’s always better to ask the company for a refund first. You can find the executive contacts for Road Scholar on my consumer advocacy site,

I contacted Road Scholar on your behalf. A representative responded to me shortly after that.

“I’m happy to report that we have resolved the situation with Maureen and are issuing her a refund,” she said. “Her previous complaints had gotten caught up in the wrong department. Thanks for the nudge to escalate so we could get her talking to the right people to resolve her issue.”

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at or get help by contacting him at

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