Bouncing between Expedia and British Airways looking for a refund


William Dickinson was promised a refund on a flight he had to cancel because of a flight schedule change that would have made it impossible for him to make his connections to a workshop in Italy. But who, exactly, owes him that refund — and will it ever come?

Question: I am writing to find out how to get a refund after trying for many months.

In March of 2015, I booked a flight from Chicago to Pisa, Italy, with a stop at London Heathrow. From Pisa, I was to take a train to Carrara, Italy, for a marble carving workshop which cost $3,000. My wife passed away in December 2014, and the purpose of the workshop was to gain experience to carve her graveside monument.

I was supposed to receive a refund for the flight to Europe due to a delay in departure that would have caused me to miss my connections. I have contacted British Airways and Expedia at least two dozen times. Expedia tells me I need to contact British Airways, and British Airways tells me to contact Expedia.

I have copies of my letters. Can you help?– William Dickinson, Marshfield, Wis.

Answer: I’m sorry to hear that your attempts at self-advocacy came up against a wall.

As you explain, it all started with a change to your flight:

One day before departure I received an email from British Airways indicating I could check in online. My attempt to check in online failed and I was informed that instead of British Airways flight 1543 from Chicago to London, I was assigned to American Airlines Flight 86.

Flight 86 was scheduled to depart at 4:35 p.m. on June 9, 2015. At departure time, we had no plane. At 7 p.m., we still had no plane, and at that point I realized I would not make my connections in Europe.

And you weren’t alone:

A number of us on American Airlines flight 86 expressed our concern about failed connections and were told by American Airlines staff that they could not help us with connections, and that flights for the next few days were all booked up. So we were offered a refund, or we could wait for our plane and take our chances in London for connections. I chose the refund because I did not want to be stuck at Heathrow all day and night.


But actually getting the refund you were promised turned out to be a nightmare.

When I got home (a six-hour drive from Chicago in Wisconsin), I called American Airlines (three times) to get confirmation of my refund. No luck. I contacted British Airways (four times) to get confirmation of my refund. I spent the entire rest of the week on the phone with American Airlines and British Airways about my refund.

I have a fixed income, so every dollar is important. I lost the $3,000 for the workshop, and the costs of getting to and from the airport, not to mention the time lost trying to get a resolution. Every time I call British Airways customer service, I am put on hold and get a different story. I was told that I would get a full refund by the American Airlines person, and British Airways customer service confirmed that I was due a full refund. Expedia tells me that I need to contact British Airways but they have on record that British Airways processed the refund. So, this is a runaround.

Indeed.

This story is a cautionary tale about using third-party online agencies to purchase flights. When things go well it isn’t a problem, but when things go even slightly off track it adds an element of confusion and often leads to bigger travel woes. It’s also a reminder to space your international connection times generously — you missed a connection to Pisa because of a two-and-a-half-hour flight delay and had to cancel your entire trip.

The conflicting messages you received from the airlines and Expedia, each more frustrating than the one before, went on for months. The letters were often most apologetic, but each pointed the blame elsewhere. And even after you reposted your story to our forum and diligently followed the advice offered by the experts there, it was to no avail. You were still bouncing against that wall enough times to make even a handball player dizzy.

So our advocates stepped in to lend a hand.

We’re pleased to hear that finally, 18 months later, you’ve received your refund of $1,600.


Dale Irvin

Dale Irvin is a semi-retired writer and editor, now living in south Florida after three years roaming around North America in an RV. You can read about those adventures at fabulousfifthwheel.com.

  • Mel65

    Simply. Infuriating. So glad the Elliotteers made it finally happen!

  • Alan Gore

    It’s good that LW eventually got refunded $1600 for the refused flight, but he is still out the cost of the workshop in Carrara. There are probably about as many flights from London to Pisa as there are from New York to Whitefish, MT, leaving a traveler without much choice if something goes wrong. I would have made my international flight to Paris or Frankfurt instead and then taken the train to Carrara.

    And next time, use a real travel agency.

  • sirwired

    Yes, a genuine travel agent might not have been able to conjure up seats to make the original connection, but could have arranged a flight to a nearby city and booked train tickets to where he needed to go.

  • Bill___A

    Glad the Elliott team facilitated a refund. However, I think he had his connections too tight and was a little too quick to cancel. That is all very unfortunate as he would have missed his goal and endured frustration.

  • finance_tony

    Very maddening.

    I am curious, though: “I have a fixed income, so every dollar is important.” That just doesn’t reconcile with traveling to Europe to take a $3000 course on carving headstones. Whatever, it’s not anyone’s business, but if it’s not important to your case (and it’s not), then best to leave it out.

  • Travelnut

    True, I think you could learn to carve headstones in the US. Though I can understand being on a fixed income but still saving up for a special foreign trip. But in general, playing a card from the Elliott Deck of Misfortune (TM) shouldn’t make any difference in your issue being any more important than anyone else’s.

  • PsyGuy

    Bad British Airways. Once again the couple bucks saved using an OTA is not worth the trouble.

  • PsyGuy

    When can we actually order the Elliot Deck of Misfortune cards? I could use them, actually would love to give them to coworkers, so that I can reference them in documents without having to explain things to others.

  • PsyGuy

    I was thinking the same thing, he probably could have gotten a flight on something to Italy, and onward to Pisa.

  • PsyGuy

    I would agree, a professional could have seen the forest through the trees.

  • PsyGuy

    You should copyright Elliotteers.

  • Jeff W.

    The flight itinerary was not that complicated. However the subsequent rail trip did make it complicated and you certainly may have benefited from a real travel agent who could have figured out an alternate route. From Chicago, there are many, many ways to get to Italy. Maybe not to Pisa, not another city close to your final destination from which you can take that train. A real person could have figured that out.

    For all of your frustration, I think you are owed more than the $1600. It should not have taken 18 months to procure a refund.

  • Mark

    If the booking is within the airline’s MCT (which it was), then there’s no reason to blame the passenger. If you miss the connection then you’re usually loaded on the next flight.

    Arguably though, if you were flying in for a workshop that you’ve paid $3000 for, you might want to plan a little bit more buffer time – maybe arrive a day or two before and take in the sights of Pisa?

  • Mark

    There are seven daily flights between London and Pisa, three of which are on BA.

    Plenty of scope for rebooking, and if BA really couldn’t accommodate the passenger on one of their later flights, they could have looked to put them onto a Ryanair flight from another London airport.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I knew as soon as I read this that some would call out the LW’s mentioning of his “fixed income,” or his reason for the trip, as another attempt to play the misfortune/pity card.

    I disagree. I did not detect anything in the LW’s communications that indicated that he thought his case merited special attention or was more important than anyone else’s. He was simply providing some human details to it…some context. I see nothing wrong with that. These ARE real people, with real life stories, and I personally appreciate hearing them.

    Imagine how boring this site would be if every story surgically cut out all personal, human details? Then all you’d have is the same story over and over: “LW bought a plane ticket. Airline canceled/delayed flight, wouldn’t give refund. Team Elliot jumped to the rescue, refund received.”

    Boooooring! ;-)

  • Travelnut

    Chris is missing out on a potential income stream.

  • PsyGuy

    Totally agree, I could get all my Christmas shopping done early and in one place.

  • Lindabator

    The codeshare makes no difference – BA should have moved him to another flight, but if he chose to cancel, NEEDS to go back to the OTA for the cancellation refund – THEY have to take care of it (good lick with that!)

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