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.
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.