How can I get my missing Expedia refund?

Shivi Chaturvedi used Expedia to book a flight to India. But the next day Expedia canceled her tickets — and the online company still hasn’t fully refunded her airfares. Chaturvedi, a student, wonders if she will ever receive her missing Expedia refund.

Great question. Expedia, as her agent, is the party that owes her the refund for her airfares. But instead of sending her the money, Expedia is pointing fingers at the airlines, which are pointing theirs in turn at Expedia. Meanwhile, Chaturvedi is waiting for Expedia to respond to her most recent email, which she sent a month ago. Her story is a painful example of why we don’t recommend using online sites like Expedia to book some complex trips.

“Is this a valid reason to cancel my flight?”

Last September, Chaturvedi used Expedia to book a flight to India on Alitalia for $2,062 with a prepaid card. We don’t have her itinerary, but she had reservations on Delta and Alitalia. Expedia emailed Chaturvedi a confirmation of her flights and accepted her payment.

The following day, Expedia canceled Chaturvedi’s tickets. Because Expedia’s agents told Chaturvedi that many other customers were booking the flight at the same time, she wonders whether Expedia oversold the flight.

“Is this even a valid reason for the cancellation?” asks Chaturvedi.

We know that it’s not a valid reason to cancel the flight — or withhold a refund.

A missing Expedia refund

Expedia’s agent promised Chaturvedi a full refund, but she received only $1,031, half the amount Expedia owed her. When Chaturvedi inquired about the balance of her Expedia refund, the agent assured her that she would receive it. But she never did.

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Over the next month, Chaturvedi tried to follow up with Expedia, only to receive a runaround. Expedia’s agent told her to contact Delta and Alitalia. The airlines’ agents told her that Expedia needed to initiate the refund process. And Expedia eventually stopped responding to her emails altogether.

As Chaturvedi notes, “It is not my responsibility to follow up with [Delta or] Alitalia. As I booked my flight through Expedia, I want a refund from [Expedia]. They should follow up with [Delta and] Alitalia and come up with a solution.”

And she is absolutely correct.

“Don’t use prepaid cards to book flights”

After a month of the runaround, Chaturvedi turned to our advocates for help. (Executive contact information for Expedia, Delta and Alitalia are available on our website.)

Our advocate, Dwayne Coward, advised Chaturvedi that her prepaid card didn’t offer the protection that a credit card would have provided. As Coward pointed out, “The way the airlines process and refund these transactions just doesn’t work well with these types of cards.”

That’s because travel companies use holds to make reservations and voids to issue refunds. Coward noted that had Chaturvedi used a credit card, “the hold would fall off when the merchant voided the tickets and the actual transaction wasn’t finalized.”

Namaste?

The prepaid card notwithstanding, Coward reached out to Expedia on Chaturvedi’s behalf.

Expedia replied that the remaining $1,031 was a “preauthorization charge” that should have disappeared from her account when the airlines canceled her flight. Although Coward asked Expedia to review Chaturvedi’s case a second time, the online agency was not helpful. Expedia insisted that it had voided both Chaturvedi’s flights and owed her nothing further.

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Coward suggested that Chaturvedi review her account. If she had not overlooked a credit from Expedia for the remaining $1,031, she should contact the card issuer to dispute the charge. And if that didn’t work, she would have to take legal action against all the parties to get her Expedia refund.

We wish we could have been more helpful to Chaturvedi. Neither Expedia nor the airlines should keep her money after canceling her flight. We can only remind our readers: Only book flights using credit cards, whether through the airlines or travel agents.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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