For the last time, no, a nonrefundable ticket is not refundable

When Shakera Bland wanted to go to Paris, she booked her plane ticket through an unknown third-party site called Hop2. She booked a nonrefundable ticket, expecting to enjoy a week in Paris, but then her plans changed and she had to cancel her trip.

Now Bland wants our assistance in canceling her ticket and getting a refund from Hop2. But can we help?

Bland’s case, sadly, is all too common but should serve as a warning to travelers. When you book a nonrefundable ticket you are doing just that — you’re booking a ticket that doesn’t entitle you to a refund. And of course, the same is true for a hotel stay or car rental.

Bland booked her flight to Paris using a third-party website about which she knew nothing.

When she posted on our forums, Bland explained how she ended up on an unknown third-party website:

“For the last few years, every time I needed to book a flight I would use Skyscanner. It hasn’t let me down,” she wrote.

Bland went on to explain:

“When I was booking my flight for Paris, I was redirected to a site called Hop2. I didn’t really think anything of it. The ticket was cheap and I’ve used Skyscanner a million times.”

That, we have to say, is a mistake. Bland was redirected from a site she knew and trusted to one she did not. Yet this did not stop her.

“I went ahead and paid for my ticket and things went relatively smoothly,” she says. “It wasn’t the same process that I usually take, but the end result gave me my itinerary and confirmation number.”

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And, with that decision, Bland’s fate was sealed.

“Fast forward a few weeks and I find that I cannot [take] my flight,” Bland explains, because of a family emergency.

“I reviewed their customer relations tab and although the ticket is nonrefundable it does state, in so many words, that it is possible.”

It is not clear if Bland had reviewed the terms of the ticket before she booked. But if she had not, then that was her second mistake. The time to review the terms of your ticket is before you book, not after.

Bland tried calling the company without success, so she emailed them. Now, to be fair to Hop2, they emailed her back the next day stating that the ticket was nonrefundable, but they would see if they could get an exchange from the airline.

That didn’t work for Bland so she wrote back to Hop2. Having explained the fare rules and the fact that the ticket was nonrefundable, they offered to help, saying “but we may still try to check with the airline to see if they can offer us a waiver, but we need to know what is the reason that stops you from taking the flight.”

The Hop2 agent went on to say:

“The waiver can’t be guaranteed by our travel agency, it is subject to the airline’s decision. We may also check with the airline if your reservation can be canceled for future exchange.”

That is good of Hop2. The company didn’t just say to Bland that they couldn’t help, which they so easily could have done. She booked a nonrefundable ticket and wasn’t entitled to anything. Yet Hop2 was prepared to work with her and the airline in order to see if there was anything they could do for Bland.

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Having emailed Hop2 back, it was at this point that Bland turned to our forum for help, saying that the booking terms in her view stated in so many words that a refund was possible.

Although she was under the impression that Hop2’s terms entitled her to a refund, our advocates pointed out that Hop2’s terms were clear.

Under the heading “cancellation” the terms state:

“All airline tickets are fully non-refundable after 24 hours. In certain cases, Hop2 will allow for a refund within the first 24 hours of booking for a fee of USD 50.”

If that was not clear enough, the position is made even more clear under the heading “refunds”:

“All of our tickets, hotels, and fees are NON_REFUNDABLE…”

This policy explains why Bland is not entitled to a refund even though she seems to think the terms say something else. Sadly, it is also a clear example of not reading and understanding the terms of a booking. Our advice is always, always check before you book.

In this case Hop2 was prepared to liaise with the airline to try and get a refund, but in our experience that is normally not the case with a ticket consolidator. We would therefore normally counsel against using a third-party website — especially one that you are not familiar with.

Booking directly or through a travel agent is usually better especially if you are an inexperienced traveler.

So did Hop2 manage to get Bland a refund?

Having initially posted on the forum, Bland did not return to the forum with an update, so we just don’t know. Therefore, this is filed under “Case Dismissed.”

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John Galbraith

John is a UK based lawyer and writer. He loves to travel and can be frequently found in remote locations in a suit and cravat.

  • sirwired

    I have to say, it looks like the travel agent did exactly what they were supposed to do, and tried to get her a refund, they just didn’t succeed. But if lots of customers insist on hassling the agency when they don’t get the answer they want, despite their best efforts, they may not be so eager to do so in the future.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Sounds like Hop2 went above and beyond on this one. Kudos to them.

  • Rebecca

    I googled Hop2, and fell into quite a rabbit hole this morning. While they do sell airline tickets, they are running a pretty sophisticated scam to steal credit card numbers. They run very small “test charges” then conference call the bank with the customer on the line, supposedly to “verify” the customer. What they’re really doing is purposely triggering a fraud alert at the bank, so when the customer calls (with Hop2 on the line – ensuring they now have the security info the bank verifies so they can call again in case it’s blocked while they run up fraudulent charges), the bank places a status on the account that the suspicious activity has been verified and future fraudulent charges are significantly more likely to go through. And remember they have the real customer’s security info, both from the conference call and the ridiculous amount of info they ask for to run a charge.

    I actually emailed a couple old contacts in a credit card fraud department and at Visa. No one seems to have caught onto it yet, and i imagine it’s because they’re (1) smart enough to only do this at the same bank relatively infrequently and (2) are running online charges so the banks are almost never out much money (but the merchants certainly are – unless they’re in on it too, which wouldn’t surprise me).

    A Note to Everyone: Do not EVER call your bank/credit card issuer with a third party on the line. There’s a very good chance they’re either stealing your credit card info or, even worse, and identity thief.

    Here’s the trip advisor link:

  • Tigger57

    It probably would have ended the same way no matter how she booked it.

  • Alan Gore

    Good catch!

  • greg watson

    I booked a non cancelable reservation at a hotel & because of a ‘saving’ of about $200 over a 2 week period. Within 2 hours of booking it, I discovered that the location wasn’t as convenient as they described, & tried to change it through I am not going to do that again ! My fault, lesson learned.

  • LeeAnneClark

    You’ve certainly had some winners lately, haven’t you? ;-) Well actually, you’ve probably always had these kinds of cases…maybe you’re just writing about them more often.

    I just don’t understand why people continue to believe the rules don’t apply to them. It’s really a simple concept – if non-refundable tickets were refundable, then why would anyone ever pay the higher price for refundable tickets?

    I’m not saying I agree with the way the airlines run their business. There’s certainly plenty of customer-unfriendly policies and practices baked into how air travel is sold. But there is an argument to be made for the whole non-refundable thing – by allowing passengers to lock in their tickets so that the airline knows it’s getting that money, they can sell some tickets for less. Those who don’t want to lock themselves in and are willing to pay more, can. If all tickets were refundable, all tickets would cost more…and air travel would be inaccessible to many.

    So if you want to pay less, you have to agree to the rules: it’s non-refundable. Don’t like those rules? Don’t buy that ticket.

    Sure, I think there are times when the airlines should bend the rules – and they do. But those cases are by necessity few and far between, as they should be — only the most dire circumstances should qualify, or the whole model fails. This article doesn’t state what the reason was for Bland having to cancel her flight…and absent that info, we can’t assess whether we feel the airline should have bent the rules for her.

    The end of the story is in the title of this story: non-refundable means just that – non-refundable.

  • Rebecca

    They’re good. I’ve since discovered they also call customers and ask them to “verify” security info before a charge can be processed and their ticket issued (and note here, they DO actually provide the ticket).

    Social engineering at it’s finest. They don’t know the answers to the questions. They know what certain banks will ask for (they all have proprietary questions that I can’t state here because it really is proprietary and I could get in trouble). So the thieves call the customer, ask the question, and say thank you for verifying, now we’ll be happy to process your card and email you your airline PNR. And they do. Then they run insanely suspicious charges and fly through almost all the call center reps security questions. Fascinating stuff to me.

  • John McDonald

    initially I thought Skyscanner was some sort of travel agent, but it appears they simply are a search engine, only for those agents, who pay, either by commission or a flat fee, don’t know.
    Skyscanner can be helpful, if there is a problem with an airline ticket. They can restrict or stop an agency, who doesn’t do the right thing, from advertising on their site.
    An agent not getting you a refund, for a non-refundable ticket is NOT in there job description, but they can easily send an email or ask an airline rep for a refund, if there’s a good reason. The airline can only say no at worst, but airline staff often bend the rules. It often depends on 2 things, a) the mood of the person, who can make a decision & b) how full the flights are the person is booked on.
    She would have been better asking for a credit or a change to the ticket to a later date.
    It seems most tickets sold these days are non-refundable, because consumers demand cheap.
    Many airlines now allow complete name changes for a few, so she may have been able to give ticket away to a friend or relative or sold it. Have seen quite a few legitimate tickets for sale on sites like ebay, including ads by travel agencies selling tickets, on behalf of their clients.

  • William Leeper

    Interesting side note for you too, MasterCard is rolling out a new BIN series that will being with “2”.

  • Annie M

    I assume that travel insurance was suggested on the forums and she refused it as well.

  • Annie M

    At least you can admit it. Most of the folks who write in refuse to acknowledge their mistakes.

  • michael anthony

    I’m not do sure I buy the argument that if tickets were refundable, then tickets would be more expensive for all. And no, I’m not saying that because I think this person should get her money back.

    We’ve bought into every single fee/restriction that the carriers have adopted, all because they say they’d be losing money. From luggage fees, to fuel surcharges to no refunds. The bereavement fare done away with because it was abused. I don’t recall ever seeing any report verifying that. But people and the carriers still insist it was abused so much, that it had to be done away with. That’s not the reason given by the first carrier to drop them.

    Carriers made money and survived when fares were refundable. Before luggage charges and all the rest. The extra few billions the carriers bring in each year now, is why they’ll never need to change. We went along like sheep.

  • Fishplate

    “I just don’t understand why people continue to believe the rules don’t apply to them.”

    Possibly because seems to be able to help people get refunds for non-refundable tickets on a regular basis.

  • joycexyz

    Love to know how much she “saved” by using this unknown, unvetted source. I’m surprised they were so accommodating in at least saying they’d try to get her a refund. But her interpretation of the terms was purely magical thinking.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Y’know…I can’t say I disagree with you. Other travel industries are able to thrive without the whole non-refundable thing. I’m no expert in airlines so I don’t know if there are unique reasons why airlines can’t be more flexible with their ticketing…but it would sure be nice if they would.

  • Lindabator

    go back to regulated times – all were refundable (with a few 30 day advance exceptions) – which is why it was referred to as the JETSET when they travelled – found tickets from the 70’s when we went to Disneyworld – and the cost was more than the same ticket today — de-regulation was made to reduce costs

  • Lindabator

    actually a lot of reasons — like the fact that the legacy carriers cover airports in remote areas, and those REAL costs are spread over the balance of ther flights to defray the exhorbitant costs those tickets would truly cost — which is why Spirit, Frontier and Southwest can do better money-wise — they get to cherry pick the best routes at the best times, where they are guaranteed to make money on each flight

  • LeeAnneClark

    Good points. Like I said, I’m no expert in the intricacies of the airline business. But I have definitely wondered by Southwest and Spirit are able to make money without that damn non-refundable crap, but the legacy airlines can’t.

    Either way, the fact is that they DO have this rule, and the LW in this case knew it was a non-refundable ticket, and so her expectation that they would just waive the rule for her is unreasonable and unfair to those of us who have paid more for refundable tickets in order to have that flexibility. Why should she get it for free?

  • Dutchess

    That’s astounding. Too many cases to be a coincidence.

  • greg watson

    how many examples of this have you seen in the last 6 months ?? I usually see ‘case dismissed’,
    unless, there is an extremely benevolent business that will aid the consumer !

  • Lindabator

    I agree 100%!

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