Am I not entitled to a ticket credit, Virgin Atlantic?

Janice Dittman expected a full refund when she canceled her Virgin Atlantic flight from San Francisco to London. Instead, the carrier credited her for the taxes and offered no apologies for pocketing the rest of her money.

Is something wrong with this picture? Yes, there is — and it has almost nothing to do with Virgin Atlantic.

Dittman made a series of mistakes that doomed her case to failure, including contacting the wrong executive, choosing her words poorly and failing to take the time to understand the system. It turns out these are easy mistakes to make, which makes Dittman’s dismissed case worth writing about.

This spring, she paid $3,805 for a premium class, round-trip ticket. In May, she canceled the ticket for “personal reasons.”

“I believed that should I need to cancel that I was eligible for a credit, often to be used within a year,” she says.

A few weeks later, she received a credit of $276 for fuel, taxes, and airport charges. She assumed the rest would be given to her either as a ticket credit or as a refund. But she received neither.

She wrote to the airline several times, asking for her money. She appealed to the CEO.

“The final response I got was that I am out of luck,” she said.

She wanted my advocacy team to help. We reviewed the correspondence and discovered one problem after another.

Problem number one: her attitude. Let me excerpt from one of her emails:

I won’t say everything I want to say about your poor customer service. I will say, however, that I will never book, nor recommend to anyone I know, to fly with Virgin. I will use my credits, if I ever receive them, and that will be it.

Her frustration is understandable, but it doesn’t help her case. By keeping her correspondence brief and polite, she would have gotten much further. I’ve seen it, and if you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ve seen it, too.

Related story:   "Nothing more I can do at this point"

Problem two: She took this straight to the top, contacting the CEO. We list the customer service executives on this site. She might have tried them first.

And finally, which is problem three, she didn’t take the time to fully understand the terms of her ticket. She called and canceled her flight, asking for a refund of the refundable portion — the taxes and fees — instead of a credit.

“If your ticket was nonrefundable,” a Virgin rep explained, “this would mean only a portion of your taxes would be returned. I’m afraid no credit would then apply as in order to use the fare originally paid you would need to amend your booking as opposed to apply for a refund, Ms. Dittman.”

Had Dittman taken some time to familiarize herself with the fare rules, she could have requested a credit instead of a refund. But she didn’t, and now it’s too late.

Our advocacy team couldn’t help her. That doesn’t mean Dittman doesn’t deserve help. In a perfect world, her premium class ticket would be fully refundable (some are). She could have also avoided this by working with a knowledgeable travel agent.

Personally, I wish I could wave a magic wand and make her $3,805 reappear. But I’m doing something that could potentially save readers like you even more money. I’m warning you about an airline refund trap baited with assumptions and ignorance.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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