A Megabus dilemma: Why only half a refund on a round-trip ticket?

If Megabus promises Kenneth Stovarsky a refund for a delayed bus trip, why won’t it refund the entire fare?

That’s an interesting question, given that an airline would do the exact opposite. You see, Megabus only canceled his outbound portion, but assumed he would make it for the return trip. If he’d been on a flight, both the outbound and return would have been refunded.

And that makes me wonder: Is there a universal, common-sense rule, when it comes to transportation? And if so, what is it?

Let’s take a closer look at Stovarsky’s situation. Last year, he planned a trip from Independence, Ohio, to Chicago and paid $84 as a Megabus fare.

When he arrived at the bus stop for his 6 p.m. departure, he waited. And waited. And waited.

“At approximately 7:30 pm one of the Megabus employees came up to a group of us that were waiting and told us that the Megabus was going to be late, and if the Megabus was more than two hours late we would be entitled to a refund,” he says.

Stovarsky drove to Chicago after a five-hour delay.

“Our drive to Chicago was an added expense we didn’t expect, with the cost of gas, tolls, and parking,” he says. “The hotel parking in downtown Chicago cost $75 per night alone; we had to stay for four nights and left the car in the garage the entire time.”

Megabus did what it promised. It refunded $42 to Stovarsky.

“I felt that if we bought round-trip tickets, and the initial trip was already five hours late, we were entitled to a full refund. After we returned home they agreed to refund us for the trip to Chicago, but refused to refund us for the trip back because the trip back, they said, was on time. We couldn’t take the bus back if we had to drive there! It wasn’t our fault we had to drive there, we hadn’t planned on that at all. We only did so because Megabus failed us.”

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Our advocacy team is trying to help him get a full refund, because we agree. How did Megabus expect him to get to Chicago?

The Megabus terms and conditions on refunds are a little vague:

2. Reservations with megabus.com may not be refunded or cancelled except where megabus.com has materially failed in its delivery of the service offered by this site.

But what constitutes a “material” failure? That’s really left up to the company to decide. I think it materially failed to operate the bus from Independence to Chicago, but it still operated the bus back to Independence on time.

Could Megabus be blamed if Stovarsky drove? No, it could not.

Now, we’re all familiar with airline rules. You miss one leg, the whole itinerary gets canceled. This is the opposite. The bus company assumes you’ll still be on that return trip from Chicago, even though common sense should suggest otherwise.

Maybe that’s the real problem. There’s just not enough common sense.

Should an airline assume you’re not going to fly the rest of your legs if you miss one? No more than a bus company should assume you’ll use the return portion of your trip. Why don’t they just ask? In this day and age, the technology exists to do that, without requiring a massive call center.

Perhaps the rules of the road shouldn’t be standardized. They should be common-sense-ized. But that might be asking for too much.

Should Megabus refund Stovarsky the other half of his fare?

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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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