If your daughter doesn’t have time for this, neither do we

Editor’s Note: We help a lot of travelers with a lot of different problems — everything from cell phone bills to computer problems, and from filthy rentals to canceled flights. But we do have limits on the cases we will take, and this case falls under one of those limits.

Elisabeth Gully and two family members purchased British Airways tickets through Webjet, an online travel agency (OTA). A few days prior to departure, Gully went to the emergency room at her local hospital — she was admitted for surgery and required continued care at home after being released.

Her flight was supposedly canceled with Webjet — her mother and brother used the tickets, as planned. Webjet apparently promised a refund of the cost of the unused ticket, but after sending the hospital records that Webjet requested, the refund was denied.

Gully could have contacted executives at Webjet, but instead she contacted us and asked for help — or so we thought.

We received a request for help from someone claiming to be Elisabeth Gully. The request included details of her medical conditions, hospitalization, the correspondence with Webjet, and the denial of a refund from British Airways. The correspondence continually indicated that the person writing the emails was Elisabeth Gully.

According to an email sent to the refund claimant from a Webjet representative, British Airways’ position was that the ticket was nonrefundable and no refund was due. Webjet even shared the email it received from the airline, which was succinct: “BA does not provide waiver for any reason. You will have to go by the fare rules.”

Related story:   Fees, fees, fees and more fees -- where will it end?

Our advocates began researching this case and noticed two things of importance. First, all the references to the tickets were under the same record locator. When multiple tickets are included on the same record and one is canceled, the airline separates the ticket being canceled and assigns a new record locator. For whatever reason, it seems that the ticket for Elisabeth Gully was never canceled and British Airways probably recorded a no-show.

The conditions of carriage for British Airways tickets does provide for a credit on non-refundable tickets:

3e) Your rights if you are prevented from travelling by events beyond your control

  • you are a consumer.
  • you have been prevented from travelling by events beyond your control and
  • all or part of the fare for your ticket is non-refundable.

we will give you a credit for the non-refundable part of the fare. We will do this if you:

  • have a completely unused ticket
  • have told us promptly about the events beyond your control and
  • have given us evidence of these events.

The credit can be used for future travel on us by you or any person you choose. We may take a reasonable fee from the credit to cover our administration costs.

Had the ticket been properly canceled, Gully would have been eligible to receive a credit for a future flight. We don’t know if Webjet made a mistake in the cancellation or if Gully never officially canceled the flight because of the second thing our advocate noticed about this case: we weren’t actually working with Elisabeth Gully. The person who originally sent the request for help and with whom we had been corresponding was actually her mother, Katherina Gully.

Related story:   Her trip is cut short by a cancer diagnosis, but what about these sky-high change fees?

Our advocate explained that we have to hear directly from the consumer in order to help advocate a case. Our policy about cases we will not advocate is explained in our FAQs.

When we finally heard directly from Elisabeth Gully she told us:

My mother has recently been in contact on my behalf … regarding the cancellation of a flight in June. I am allowing her to discuss the course of action regarding that canceled flight with whomever due to the fact that it is difficult for me to email back and forth in a timely matter because of my work schedule. Thank you.

I understand having a busy work schedule but it doesn’t change our policy and we won’t work with a traveler’s mother, friend, or other third party. If Elisabeth Gully finds time to work with us directly we’ll be happy to help. Until then, there’s nothing we can do.

Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans.

  • SirWIred

    Yay! Bouncing a helicopter parent case!


    “I understand having a busy work schedule but it doesn’t change our policy and we won’t work with a traveler’s mother, friend, or other third party. If Elisabeth Gully finds time to work with us directly we’ll be happy to help. Until then, there’s nothing we can do.”
    This statement is not completely true. About a month ago Chris successfully advocated for a parent assisting an adult son in regards to a problem at a B&B in Montreal Canada. Is this because the parent in the B&B case was honest about who she was?

  • Altosk

    I’ve been saying for years that advocates should not work for “friend of a friend” but that often happens. Glad to see you guys clamping down on that.

  • LeeAnneClark

    While I completely agree with this decision (mainly because they weren’t honest initially who was doing the communicating), one question that popped up was – what if Elizabeth’s health issues were the reason why her mother was communicating on her behalf? What if it wasn’t just because she’s busy?

    Would your decision have been different if the mother had stated up front who she was?

    If her issue wasn’t health but was, as she stated, job-related…would your decision have been different if the job that was keeping her too busy was, say a surgeon who is often busy in the operating room saving lives? What if she was in the Armed Forces and was currently deployed?

    What if the passenger had some form of disability that made it harder for her fight her own battle?

    I guess I just don’t understand why you have to make it a “policy” that you “won’t work with a traveler’s mother, friend, or other third party.” Look, I totally get that you want your correspondents to at least be honest about who they are. But why the outright refusal to work with anyone but the actual traveler?

  • Kevin Nash

    My guess is that the actual traveler can provide the details of what really happened versus having to relay the information through a third party who is likely to either not report it correctly or perhaps exaggerate it for whatever reason.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, of course, and that’s fine and all…but again, what if there’s a valid reason for having a “third party” do your communication? I listed several reasons that I would consider quite valid.

  • SirWIred

    I think a lot of it comes from it often rapidly becoming a game of telephone, or relevant parts of the full story being left out. If I were an advocate, I’d be mortified and worried about my future credibility with contacts if the company fills in a pile of details that radically change the case.

    I could see an exception for those truly not able to fight their own battles, but “too busy” shouldn’t make the cut. Few people, even doctors, are SO busy they don’t have time to write a few emails.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, agreed. And I completely agree that, in most cases, “too busy” wouldn’t be a valid reason for an exception. But outright refusing to work with anyone other than the traveler seems unreasonably restrictive.

    For the record, I have a mentally disabled adult son. He manages life independently for the most part, and even travels. But this would be beyond his abilities, and I would absolutely step in to communicate for him. I would, of course, be honest up front who I am and why I’m fighting the battle, but I certainly don’t think it would be fair for Chris’s team to say “sorry, we can’t help you because you’re the traveler’s mother.”

    So maybe that’s why their “policy” struck a sour note with me.

  • Sara Pace Vincent

    This is just a guess, but my guess is that the person most interested in the credit is the person who paid for the ticket. Maybe daughter hasn’t lost anything, so isn’t as invested?

  • AAGK

    Which also suggests a higher likelihood that the non paying ticket-holder did not have time or enough skin in the game to cancel. Usually we see this in cases from parents who write in on behalf of their college age kids.

  • finance_tony

    Ah yes, that one is still fresh in my mind. I’m curious to know the answer to this as well.

  • Annie M

    Only Elisabeth knows what actually happened and can answer questions. As a third party, Mom can’t. So good for Elliott in not working with her. But you should be consistent in all the cases that you have here – it should be policy that you will not help anyone that is a third party to a transaction – not help one and not another. And Mom can’t tell Elliott exactly HOW Elisabeth “canceled” her ticket – only Elisabeth can.

    But yet ANOTHER case that most likely would have been covered if Elisabeth had bought travel insurance. And if she DOES get the airline to issue a credit, she needs to know that it will probably be less a cancellation fee.

  • fairmont1955

    You did, true. I would have expected Elizabeth or her mother to have provided some additional color to explain why it wasn’t the consumer herself. If they can’t be bothered to do that, especially when the policy is brought to their attention, then perhaps they don’t have a legit reason.

  • LeeAnneClark

    As I said earlier, I can’t disagree with the choice to not take this case, given the dishonesty at the beginning. I have zero tolerance for dishonesty.

    That being said – none of us ever know what crosses people might be bearing, and I dislike it when people assume the worst about someone.

    If it really was just the daughter thinking she’s too darn important to deal with such nonsense and handing off to her mother, then they got what they deserved. But the truth is, we don’t know that. And it troubles me to see Christopher’s team taking such a hard-line stance of “we won’t help you if we can’t work directly with the traveler…period”. There are untold numbers of valid reasons why the traveler may need someone’s assistance to speak for them. I only mentioned a few.

    Compassion sometimes needs to be deployed, y’know?

  • Carrie Livingston

    I don’t believe it’s a one size fits all policy. In your case, you’d explain everything and I’m sure they would help.

  • Noah Kimmel

    my only response to that would be to ask for the compassion.

    If the OP was honest and said, “Chris can you work with my mother, or can you work with us…” (and cc on every email) or something, I would feel different. I don’t think Elliott and team is beyond extenuating circumstances, heck they deal in it, but the consumer has to actually ask for it. Same with sending a company a short polite email, send your advocate the same!

    Otherwise, it just seems like mother taking resources to fight something the daughter/customer doesn’t need to win. Which by definition takes limited resources away from others who value the help more.

  • C Schwartz

    A credit for a non used ticket goes to the named passenger, not the person who bought it. So if I bought a ticket for a friend, and they cancelled, I would not get the credit, the friend would. Now as you say if the passenger (ie the daughter) did not pay the passenger may not care as the passenger did not pay. But if the passenger would get a credit (even if did not pay) why not write.

    I would suspect that if one checked the social media accounts or other activities of the daughter there would be indication that the daughter had time for some things……

  • Kristiana Lee

    I hear what you’re saying but you probably would have opened with, “Dear Elliott advocates, I’m trying to resolve an issue on behalf of my mentally handicapped child…” I don’t think you would have pretended to be him.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, that’s true! LOL. Good point. :)

  • KennyG

    “There are untold numbers of valid reasons why the traveler may need someone’s assistance to speak for them. I only mentioned a few.”. Just wondering if you also have some valid reasons why the travelers mom should be committing identity fraud and lying to Chris about who she is instead of simply being upfront and honest about one of those “valid” reasons, which may in fact exist? Honesty also needs to be deployed sometimes, especially if you are asking someone else for help.

  • Blamona

    because the actual traveler has the problem. Courts don’t allow it, work doesn’t allow it, why would anyone allow it?

  • Blamona

    Your reason is valid. Too busy working isn’t in my opinion. I bet if needed Elliott would make an exception for you

  • Blamona

    Can’t find time for refund must not need it enough. (I have 2 full time jobs, self-employed, and 15 year all year round sports daughter. I can email and research info to get more than $1000 back? of course I can)

  • LonnieC

    If Chris and company would refuse to help under such circumstances, I’d have to completely rethink my opinion of Chris. I cannot believe your request for assistance (honestly described) would be rejected.

  • Carchar

    A number of people have asked questions pertaining to the handling of a “proxy” case. It is very disappointing that no answers have been forthcoming from the advocates. I admit I do not read all the cases, but I don’t remember an advocate ever addressing questions asked of them unless it’s about technical difficulties with the website. Again, very disappointing.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I expect you are right. But the “policy” as so stated doesn’t seem to leave room for it.

    I’ve been a reader of Christopher for many years now, long before this blog even started. And my knowledge of him is that he absolutely would help, and would expect his team to do so as well. I just dislike the way the policy is stated, which reads as if they wouldn’t.

  • LeeAnneClark

    No, of course not, and if you actually fully read ANY ONE of my comments on this article, you would see that I repeatedly stated that the dishonesty was the reason why this case should have been rejected. I even said it right in this comment to which you are responding, which is why I find it surprising why you seem to have not read it. It might help if you go back and read my comment. In fact it’s right in the very first sentence. Maybe you skipped that one?

    My sole point in every one of my comments about this topic has been the “policy” that is stated in this article, which, as written, would appear to leave no room for valid reasons for “third parties” to communicate on behalf of the traveler.

    If the article had been written to make the dishonesty the key reason why this case was rejected, I would not have made any of these comments. But it wasn’t. As the article is written, it makes it appear that the main problem was that it was the traveler’s mother who was communicating with them, not the traveler herself. And then they finished it off with a policy that, as written, would appear to preclude them taking on a case in which I advocate for my disabled son. Which I KNOW is not even true – I know full well they would. So why write an article that comes across as so cold-hearted, when they really aren’t? That was my point from the beginning.

    Now, would you like to re-write your comment, given that I’ve made it as clear as humanly possible that I did not agree with the mother’s dishonesty, and felt that was reason enough to reject their case?

  • LeeAnneClark

    I have no doubt he would. Which is why it makes no sense to publicly state that they wouldn’t.

  • LonnieC

    I agree completely.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And what if the “actual traveler” is unable to advocate for themselves, due to any of the issues I mentioned above? So they are just plain out-of-luck?

    What if they are ill? What if they are disabled? What if they are a deployed soldier?

    Pretty cold-hearted.

  • Blamona

    LeeAnn, of course there should always be exceptions, such as your case. My opinion applies to regular people being busy at work is not an excuse. Still capable to do it on her own.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Okay then. I agree. :)

  • KennyG

    I typically am in abject agreement with most of your posts on this forum. You are typically logical, to the point [correctly most of the times IMHO]. But in this case, I don’t believe a rewrite of my comment is necessary. Here’s why, even though you, as you accurately stated, decried the Mom’s [and possibly the daughters if she knew what was going on] dishonesty, and agreed with the determination to not advocate, you then went on to try to find all of the reasons we should have compassion for the identity theft and lies. Your final comment was “Compassion sometimes needs to be deployed, y’know?”. Seemed to me that you were lecturing the rest of us for not having compassion because there could be myriad reasons for the Mom advocating for her daughter, which there may very well have been, all though what appears to be complacency on the daughters part might put that “possibility” into some doubt at least. My response, was, if you believe there were possibly valid reasons for the “advocacy”, then since you were attempting to somewhat shame those of us and the article writer to be without compassion, I was simply wondering if you also had valid reasons why she was simply not upfront with the advocates. You then went on to characterize the article as “cold-hearted”. I can both sympathize and empathize with your comment about advocating for your disabled son. I advocated with hospitals, insurance companies, doctors, government agencies and many more beaurocrats for years as my daughter fought [successfully thankfully] a life threatening illness on her behalf, but I, as I believe you more than likely did, either filed the appropriate paperwork to advocate on behalf of another, or was fully transparent as to who you were and what your purpose was when you spoke/wrote/emailed a 3rd party. No one doubts the mothers motives I don’t believe, but you seem to, at the least. intimate that the author, and those of us criticizing the mothers actions as being without compassion. That is the reason for my response as it was. You accused me, and others of not “seeing the whole picture” and not showing compassion, and I asked you to fill in the remaining unpainted pieces of “valid” reasons for the mothers lies we should have had compassion for. That being said, I do understand your overall position on the matter, but still, this specific comment I replied to made statements about things that you either did not state directly in others of your comments, or those comments were not seen by me before my response to this one.

  • Attention All Passengers

    What is it with parents who continually do the work that their adult “children” should be capable of doing ?

  • LeeAnneClark

    AHH…okay I see the problem here. You have completely misconstrued who I was “lecturing”. You have completely misunderstood my plea for compassion.

    You wrote:

    “Here’s why, even though you, as you accurately stated, decried the Mom’s [and possibly the daughters if she knew what was going on] dishonesty, and agreed with the determination to not advocate, you then went on to try to find all of the reasons we should have compassion for the identity theft and lies. Your final comment was “Compassion sometimes needs to be deployed, y’know?”

    Here’s the part you misunderstood – I was never telling anyone to have compassion for the mother or Elizabeth, or for their lies. I wasn’t lecturing anyone in here for their valid criticism of them for the whole dishonestly/identity theft thing. I think what they did was completely wrong. In fact I said that in multiple places – their case should have been rejected solely based on the dishonesty.

    But their case should NOT have been rejected solely because there was a third party doing the communication. THAT’s my problem with this story.

    My comments from the beginning have been about that “policy” as stated in the article – that they are saying they flat-out refuse to work with third parties. And I offered many valid reasons why they should NOT have that policy. That policy rubbed me the wrong way, given that I am a mother of an adult son with mental challenges who would NEED me to step in and handle the communication. Naturally I would be honest about who I am and why I’m doing so up front, but it would be terribly wrong for Elliott’s team to say “sorry, we can take your case because you’re not the traveler”.

    So my comments were never about you, KennyG. They were never asking anyone for compassion for that lying mother, or that too-busy daughter.

    No, the compassion I was asking for was for any OTHER cases in which a third party is doing the communication. To outright refuse to work with a third party is, in my opinion, simply wrong.

    But as so many others pointed out in here, none of us even believe they WOULD refuse to work with a third party if there was a valid reason to do so. So…why put out that cold-hearted policy in that article? Why not at least include “unless there’s a valid reason that the traveler is unable to adequately communicate for him or herself”?

    And I will openly admit that I’m probably oversensitive about this. It’s just that, as the mother of a challenged adult son, this kind of thing HAS happened to me, more times than I can count. “Why isn’t your son the one making these calls?”

    Because he can’t. I mean, he would try – I’m not going to go into the details of my son’s disability – but he would not be able to manage it well enough to have a positive outcome. So I do it for him. Is that so wrong?

  • KennyG

    As you state, it would seem my interpretation of who you were attempting to “teach” seems misinterpreted on my part, and for that I do apologize. I too am overly sensitive on this topic, as I mentioned, I spent quite a few years in the same “3rd party advocate” situation you find yourself somewhat permanently in. I agree that the site should not simply outright disqualify 3rd party advocates, so long as they are upfront and honest about what is happening and why they are advocating, as you are, I am sure when you do so, and as I was when I did so on my daughters behalf, but as I [and probably you] found, because of the actions of less honest people, I [we] was many t imes put in a position to explain myself.. . Again, my apology for insinuating something negative about your comment. You and I are almost always pretty much on the same side of the “argument”, I like it a whole lot better that way.

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL I like it a whole lot better that way too, Kenny! :) Glad that I was able to explain myself better so we could come to agreement.

    And like I said, I fully acknowledge that I’m a bit over-sensitive on this topic. Sounds like you can relate to the issues I face in having an adult child with challenges. And yes, my situation is permanent, although we are always working towards greater independence. I will not always be here, and that does weigh heavily on me .

    See ya in the comments forum! :-)

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.