Help! I lost $5,000 — I didn’t understand what I was buying!

By | February 19th, 2017

Sanchit Joshi’s parents were looking forward to their upcoming trip to India, paid for by Joshi. But when they couldn’t travel, Joshi forfeited the cost of their airfares — and he can’t get it back.

Joshi’s story is an emphatic reminder to not confirm a purchase — especially a large one such as an international trip — without completely familiarizing yourself with all the terms and conditions, including the refundability of your costs. Otherwise, like Joshi, you may not be able to recover them if something goes wrong.

Joshi purchased two round-trip business class tickets for more than $5,000 for his parents on
Air Canada from Los Angeles to Mumbai, India, via Vancouver, Canada and Zurich through a travel company called IndianEagle. Joshi’s parents, who were in India at the time of the ticket purchase, planned to fly from India to Los Angeles on a separate itinerary. They would then use the tickets on Air Canada to travel to India and back to Los Angeles, and return to India on another separate booking. (We have no information as to why they planned to take separately booked flights before and after the Air Canada trip.)

But when Joshi’s parents became ill and could not travel to Los Angeles to begin their journey, they decided to forgo the outbound portion of their tickets and use only the return portion.

Unfortunately for Joshi, he didn’t understand the nature of the tickets he bought or the company from which he obtained them.

IndianEagle is a “consolidator,” or wholesaler of airline tickets. Airlines contract with these companies to market tickets in bulk sales to niche travelers, such as members of ethnic groups going on pilgrimages or visiting their home countries, at preset reduced prices. Tickets sold by consolidators are subject to special fare rules and restrictions that do not apply to tickets sold directly by airlines or through regular travel agents — as Joshi learned the hard way.

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According to Joshi, “I … called the travel agency (IndianEagle) through which I had booked the ticket to let them know about [my parents’ inability to travel] and was told at that point that [to] no-show on [the] outbound journey would result in cancellation of the entire itinerary.”

Joshi also contacted Air Canada to request a refund of the airfares, but this request also was unsuccessful: “Air Canada says these changes can be done, but … [the] only response I [received] is ‘it can be done but we cannot do it since the ticket was issued by [a] travel agency.'”

At that point Joshi asked our advocates for help in seeking refunds for the tickets. (Executive contact information for Air Canada is available on our website. Joshi might also have benefited from travel insurance coverage.)

IndianEagle’s terms and conditions indicate that

We cancel a confirmed trip only if it is permitted by the relevant airline. We reserve the right to levy a cancellation fee of up to $100 per ticket at the time of cancelling a confirmed trip. The penalty by airlines, airlines’ cancellation / exchange policy and fare difference are out of our control. …

Be advised to contact us rather than calling the operating airline for modification or cancellation. If you get your reservation cancelled by the airline directly, we are not liable for any refund. If you contact the airline for modification, for instance, change of date, you may receive an additional invoice from IndianEagle stating the modification fee and the penalty that you are responsible to pay in accordance with our Terms of Service.

If you are unable to travel due to some medical condition after your reservation is confirmed, you can cancel the ticket by paying the airline penalty and our service fee if the ticket is refundable, or change the travel date(s) by paying the airline penalty, our service fee and fare difference if the ticket is changeable, or you can keep the ticket in the open status for traveling within a specific period of time if the airline allows, or the entire value of the ticket will be forfeited.

IndianEagle asks customers who cancel their flights to contact it and not the airline, but the tickets are subject to the airline’s refundability rules. And while its terms and conditions indicate that it is willing to process a refund for a ticket if a cancellation is required for medical reasons, it will only do so if the ticket is refundable.

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Unfortunately for Joshi, although he indicated that he was willing to pay a cancellation penalty as a condition of receiving a refund of the airfares, our advocates learned from IndianEagle that the tickets he purchased were nonrefundable.

There is nothing more we can do for Joshi, but we can warn our readers that when making a big-ticket purchase (pun intended), it’s important not only to understand what you’re buying, but whom you are purchasing it from. If you make a nonrefundable purchase, you may not be able to say “Namaste” to your money again.

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