Honestly, Mr. Alfonso, the check is in the mail!

By | March 30th, 2016

When Luis Alfonso canceled a flight from Cairo, Egypt, to Beirut, Lebanon, on Middle East Airlines, which he had booked through Expedia, he thought he’d get a refund soon.

He waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, after almost a year, he contacted us. Could we light a fire under Expedia to get his money back?

“I have been a very faithful client of Expedia for many years and am very disappointed about the way they have handled this matter,” he says. “Please help me to get a refund.”

Refunds should take a week, tops. Even the Department of Transportation has rules about issuing prompt refunds. From its consumer-facing Fly Rights brochure:

When a refund is due, the airline must forward a credit to your card company within seven business days after receiving a complete refund application; however, the credit may take a month or two to appear on your statement.

If you paid by credit card for a refundable fare, and you have trouble getting a refund that you are due (e.g., you have a refundable fare, or you have a nonrefundable fare, and the airline canceled your flight, and you did not travel as a result), report this in writing to your credit card company.

But more than anything, this case doesn’t show the importance of patience, but of paperwork. Review your credit card statement regularly. You’ll see why in a second.

Here’s the timeline: Alfonso’s trip was booked April 25, 2015, for May 17. He canceled before his departure, incurring a $16 cancellation fee. (As a side note, that’s an extremely reasonable cancellation fee.)

“When I called their customer service number, which I did on various occasions, I was informed that it was being processed,” he says.

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By October, he lost his patience and contacted one of the names on our Expedia executive contact list. A manager promised that the refund would be “investigated.”

“That was the last time I heard from her,” he says.

Our advocacy team thought Alfonso had waited long enough, so we contacted Expedia on his behalf.

Here’s how it responded:

We reviewed the refund which was submitted on April 25, 2015, and it shows that it was refunded by the airline to the original form of payment which was a Visa credit card. Please check with your banking institution for your refund. If they’re not able to locate the refund, please send us a copy of your statement for April 2015-May 2015 so that we can investigate the refund with Middle East Airlines.

In other words, you already have the money, Mr. Alfonso.

But wait. Haven’t we heard this before? Actually, yes.

David Weitzman was promised a refund by Expedia after getting his wires crossed on a hotel reservation. I’ve made numerous requests, as has he, and the check is still in the mail.

All of which begs the question: Who is telling the truth?

Do you believe Expedia when it says the money is in Alfonso’s account — or Weitzman’s? Or do you believe these customers, who claim they don’t have their money yet?

I think it’s worth checking their records again, and that’s what I’m advising. But if these travelers can’t find their money, I’m definitely staying on the case. No matter what Expedia claims.

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  • Jeff W.

    Both can be right and wrong.

    Is the card credit number that was used to make the purchase still in his possession? With all the various breaches occurring, my credit union has reissued my card twice in the past two years.

    So maybe Expedia issued a refund to the credit card that is no longer valid and the rejection was “lost”.

    He should be able to go through the CC statements on paper or online and credits should stand out.

  • AAGK

    The credit is either on his statement or it isn’t. It isn’t a matter of who to believe.

  • MF

    Expedia asserts that the money was refunded, but has no access to the PAX’s account to confirm that the customer actually got their money back. Perhaps this circumstance should be called ‘institutional friction’?

  • taxed2themax

    I think there’s probably a bit more to this… I’ve had cases where a credit was sent from the business, but never made it onto my statement.. In one case it was due to the fact that the account to which the credit was sent to, was closed due to fraud issues.. The bank held the credit (but did call me) and needed to verify the source of the credit and the original charge.
    So, what I’d wonder is if Jeff’s position is correct.. The merchant did sent it… but it never showed on the customers statements…

  • Annie M

    Your survey makes no sense. What does his statement say? Is it there or not? If it’s not there, the customer is telling the truth. If it is there Expedia is telling the truth.

    So Chris, which is it?

  • judyserienagy

    A consumer who doesn’t CAREFULLY read his credit card statements is asking for far more serious trouble than a missing credit. And waiting a year for a credit ….

  • taxed2themax

    I agree.. I travel internationally frequently and I’ve learned you’ve got to read what’s on your statements and if wrong, you’ve got to report it, in writing, within the time allowed.. I usually call first, but I always follow up with a print letter — just to protect my rights under applicable US law.

  • AAGK

    Not at all. This is quite common. The PAX simply needs to fax his statement to the refunding company. An even more efficient course of action is to dispute the charge directly with the card issuer, which prompts the issuer to inform the company of this information in the natural course of its investigation. Then the PAX would not have to submit a thing.

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