Could you help us get a refund for our trip to Puerto Rico?


Edward Epstein books a bundled vacation package to Puerto Rico through Expedia but, in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s wrath, he’s forced to cancel his trip to the beleaguered island. While Expedia willingly refunds his hotel expense, American Airlines offers only credit for the airfare portion of the package. Can our advocates convince American to fork over a full refund?

Question: After Hurricane Irma completely destroyed the five Caribbean Islands we booked on Royal Caribbean, they happily and speedily refunded to our credit card our total cruise cost, without delay.

We then booked a “bundled” air (American Airlines) and hotel package to Puerto Rico on the Expedia.com website.

As you know, Hurricane Maria directly hit Puerto Rico with devastating damage across the entire island. Recovery may take months, if not years, to put the island back to a tourist positive and acceptable environment. Even if we could fly to Puerto Rico, hotels, beaches, casinos, rental car agencies, stores, restaurants, tourist attractions and more, may never recover in time for our scheduled vacation trip in December.

Because we bought Expedia travel insurance, our airfare will only be “credited” for future travel and not refunded to our credit card. We plan on booking another trip and using American Airlines. For some reason, the Expedia system does not give the appropriate airline credit for any future trip. We want American to reconsider their refund policy and to allow Expedia to refund our credit card directly. Can you help? — Edward Epstein, Baltimore

Answer: What a double-whammy of natural disasters. I can’t imagine how upsetting it must have been for you to reschedule a vacation because of hurricane damage and then have another one ruin your backup plans.

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It looks like you handled things correctly by not only purchasing your package on Expedia.com but also by purchasing their insurance package, which kicked in and got you a full refund for the hotel expense.

However, you ran into a problem with the airfare portion of your refund. Your situation is complicated because it affected many passengers traveling to the Caribbean in the coming weeks and months. Therefore, American, and other airlines, set up a standardized approach to these passengers. These fliers were given credit towards future flights and nothing more. Unfortunately, this didn’t take into account the fact that you purchased your airfare as part of a package, and, without a full refund, you were unable to re-package your vacation.

You reached out to our advocates, who suggested that you escalate your complaint by contacting executives at Expedia and American Airlines that we list on our website. We suggested that you write a brief, polite letter to each company’s executives explaining your situation.

We also encouraged you to check with the credit card company you used to book the trip to see if their benefits included insurance that, combined with your Expedia policy, might have made a full refund possible.

We heard from you shortly after with the great news that a representative from American’s Executive Resolution Team responded with approval of a full refund. You called our executive contacts directory “a great resource” and thanked us for our assistance.


Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined.

  • LDVinVA

    You would think that in extraordinary circumstances you would not have to “beg” a company to do the right thing! Glad it worked out.

  • SirWIred

    Why would a sans-change-fee Airline credit not have worked? American flies (or their partners do) to a pretty darn wide variety of places that one might want to travel on vacation.

    I guess if I was working the case, I would have worked with Expedia to get the correct future trip credit issued (it was indicated that Expedia’s system was having trouble with this) instead of pressuring American to issue a refund. I mean, an actual refund is nice, but it’s an exception to a reasonable policy, vs. Expedia, who simply wasn’t going through with their obligations at all. Why let them off the hook?

  • jim6555

    There are three lessons to be learned from this posting:
    1. Never book travel through an online travel agency. Usually you do not save money by doing so and, if you run into problems, the situation is complicated by having to deal with two entities instead of one. Sometimes these entities will blame each other for the problem and the traveler is caught in the middle.
    2. Never buy travel insurance from the entity providing your transportation or lodging. Not all travel policies are equal and those from third party providers usually have greater benefits and may even cost less.
    3. Some airlines are less consumer friendly than others.When possible, I try to stay away from those who lead the complaint list. Just a few days ago, we were informed that during October, American Airlines had more complaints at Elliott.org than any airline or other type of business. United Airlines, which carries almost as many passengers as American had only about half as many complaints. Southwest Airlines, which is low on complaint list, is the only airline that flies non-stop from BWI to San Juan. Perhaps Mr. Epstein needs to look at them the next time he travels.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “Because we bought Expedia travel insurance, our airfare will only be “credited” for future travel and not refunded to our credit card.”

    Is the reason why the OP had the problem because how the terms of the Expedia travel insurance were written…a credit not cash?

  • Marc

    Except that American is an outlier considered with what other airlines are doing for Puerto Rico itineraries after the hurricane. JetBlue and Southwest are both offering refunds for their Caribbean flights.

  • The Original Joe S

    bad insurance. I would want the money back.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Absolutely Expedia Insurance is the WORST in the world. Usually Travel Insurance compensate by the term of the policy whatever the travel providers. Like the commercial “I didn’t chose the wrong POLICY, I did chose the wrong COMPANY”

  • Asiansm Dan

    That remind the commercial AD on TV “I didn’t chose the wrong POLICY, I did chose the wrong COMPANY (who issues worthless policies)”

  • Michael__K

    It should work even with a change-fee — the Expedia Vacation Waiver is supposed to reimburse the change fee.
    What might be the problem is that under AA’s special handling of Puerto Rico flight changes per their Travel Alert, the credit for a packaged flight isn’t properly going through to the customer’s Expedia account such that it could be used towards a new Expedia Vacation package purchase (as opposed to a straight-forward flight-only itinerary from AA).

  • jsn55

    Great story, Mark! I continue to be astonished at the way travel providers run their businesses. Is NOTHING simple and/or easy? They seem to set up ‘procedures’ that will help their customers as little as possible.

  • DChamp56

    Something doesn’t make sense here:
    “Question: After Hurricane Irma completely destroyed the five Caribbean Islands we booked on Royal Caribbean, they happily and speedily refunded to our credit card our total cruise cost, without delay.
    We then booked a “bundled” air (American Airlines) and hotel package to Puerto Rico on the Expedia.com website.” WE THEN BOOKED? After the hurricane destroyed Puerto Rico?
    What you don’t have here, is what date was the cruise.
    I was scheduled for the Sep 29 cruise out of San Juan, and it got cancelled and I got ALL of my money back, cruise AND airfare (booked through the cruise line).
    If her cruise did indeed happen, yes, the airport was open and cruise happened and she’s not really owed a cash refund.

  • Travelnut

    Wellll, as an insurance professional you don’t want to get me started on the deceptive Liberty Mutual commercials. But I get what you’re saying.

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