A dream trip ends early when her London flight is canceled

By | April 28th, 2017

When Leslie Hammond’s flight to London is canceled, she calls off her vacation. Why won’t American Airlines refund her ticket?

Question: I recently booked round-trip airline tickets on British Airways to fly from Albuquerque, N.M., to Inverness, Scotland, on British Airways. I made the reservation through Expedia, which included one night’s lodging at Culloden House. I also booked five nights at Ullinish Lodge on Skye directly.

My flight from Albuquerque to Dallas was operated by American Airlines. I was scheduled to connect with another American flight to London, but my overseas flight was delayed because of a mechanical problem. That meant missing the only daily flight to Inverness.

An American Airlines representative made a tentative reservation for me to fly to Inverness on the next available flight. I asked if could be rerouted through Dublin, but all flights were booked. It became clear to me that once my American Airlines flight arrived at the gate at London, American’s responsibility to me would be finished. I would be stuck in London for the next 24 hours with no luggage.

My dream trip for my 67th birthday had come to an end.

Another American representative at Dallas was able to book me on a flight home at 9:30 p.m. I arrived back home in Santa Fe at 11 p.m. The representative also agreed to initiate a refund request for the unused portion of my ticket. She told me that I would receive a refund in 6 to 10 days.

When no refund appeared, I called American Airlines. Another American agent made another request for a refund. It’s been almost four months, and I’m still waiting. Can you help? — Leslie Hammond, Santa Fe, N.M.

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your 67th birthday trip. That’s what folks in the travel industry call a trip in vain. You flew to Dallas, only to have to return.

Related story:   Why is Virgin dragging its feet on my ticket refund?

I’m troubled by the perception that American Airlines didn’t care about getting you to your final destination. American and British Airways are code-share partners, which means they are taking responsibility for each others’ flights. No one from American should have left you with the impression that it was “finished” with you when you arrived in London.

A call to your online travel agency, Expedia, or to British Airways might have yielded a different result. As your travel agent, Expedia should have figured out a way of fixing your dream vacation — that’s what good travel agents do.

“Trip in vain” policies vary from airline to airline, but generally, they should offer a refund of the unused portion of your ticket. The money would be sent to your travel agent, which would then return it to you.

I list executive contacts for American Airlines, British Airways and Expedia on my consumer advocacy site. I think you could have successfully appealed this delayed refund to one of them.

As best I can tell, your refund followed a confusing path. If British Airways ticketed you, then it had your money. American would have had to ask British Airways for the refund, and then it would have been sent to Expedia. That may account for the delay, but it doesn’t fully explain it.

At my suggestion, you reached out to one of Expedia’s executives. Within a week, you had a full refund for your unused tickets.


    I am surprised that AA or BA did not offer Aberdeen as an option. About 2 hours from Inverness and maybe they would (ha ha) have helped with cost getting to Inverness from Aberdeen. My Inverness flight was cancelled last year and BA rebooked me to Aberdeen. My agent rebooked my car for pick up in Aberdeen. Not sure if talking to Expedia would have helped re-routing but I am surprised that AA did not offer Aberdeen as an option. (There is also Easy Jet from Gatwick if you are desperate….)

  • Bill___A

    I’m surprised the trip was called off after a flight delay. This sort of issue is common enough that one needs to encompass the possibility into their plans. A relative of mine was delayed by a day into Europe and although the delay was regrettable, he surely did not use that as a basis to call off the trip.

  • Susie

    I agree with you. He had a one night hotel stay at Culloden and 5 nights at Ullinish which adds up to 7 days of vacation. So because you are delayed you can’t enjoy the remaining 6 days? And why wouldn’t his luggage arrive with him in London (he claims he would be without his luggage for 24 hours…unless it’s because of customs?) And that’s why advocates on Elliott always suggest packing one day’s supplies in your carry on. Personally I would have made lemonade out of the lemon, and enjoyed a day in London.

  • Kristiana Lee

    If I were Expedia I would have thrown in a little something for the wasted time and trouble.

  • John Baker

    If one little delay causes you to cancel a week long vacation, you didn’t plan well. Beyond that, there are multiple ways to get to Inverness from London if you’re willing to work at it.

    Too bad he lost out on his trip…

  • John Baker

    @fqtvlr:disqus There’s lots of options …
    2+ hours from Aberdeen by car
    4+ hours from Edinburgh by car (rail a possibility too)
    4+ hours from Glasgow by car
    8+ hours from London by rail

  • Altosk

    Should be an IMMEDIATE return of money to the credit card once the trip was cancelled at the gate for “trip in vain.” If Walmart can do it, why can’t an airline?

  • cscasi

    When she would have arrived on American Airlines in London (LHR) she would have had to go through immigration, claim her luggage and go through customs and on to whatever hotel she might have selected in the area for the night and then would have gone back to the airport the next morning for whatever flight was booked for her. So, she would have had all his luggage with her. Of course, she would have had to recheck his bags at the ticket counter for his flight to Inverness and walk to his gate. But as “Susie” stated, she would have just lost one day but still had the other five nights on Skye, after taking the ferry from Inverness to Skye.
    It’s sad that she did that. Perhaps she was not thinking or did not ask about her luggage and whether or not he would have access to it when she got to London (which he would definitely have had).
    I do believe Expedia should have helped her through this, but then we all know about OTA’s, as we have discussed on this site for years. Also, too bad American did not tell her that she would have to claim her bags at London and recheck them the next morning. That might have swayed her decision and she might have gone ahead, rather than losing out as she did.

  • James

    Flying into the UK you do not need to claim your baggage at the port of entry and recheck. There is only one country into which I’ve flown that is not capable of handling this: the United States.

  • James

    There are 12 trains per day from Aberdeen to Inverness. It costs as little as £7.20.

    But I’d instead consider the Caledonian Sleeper. It can be pricey (£150) but includes the overnight….

  • Joe Blasi

    I would be stuck in London for the next 24 hours with no luggage. NO under EU 261 you get hotel + cash

  • Alan Gore

    As Americans we keep forgetting that when domestic air service in Europe lets you down, there is a Plan B: trains! They run everywhere, and more conveniently than local air service.

  • SierraRose 49

    What amazes me is that a person would book a “dream trip” overseas involving at least 2 airlines and 2 hotels and not do some research prior to the trip. And if there was ever a case for using a travel agent, this is it. It would be so beneficial to go online or local library – read some guidebooks, ask questions, perhaps consider a tour to get a taste of where you want to go, and avoid Expedia. And as many have said here, the train system in Europe is quite good to get from one place to another. I hope Ms. Hammond renews her fervor to visit Scotland for 68th birthday, but research first.

  • Mel65

    I’m glad that the OP got the refund eventually, but I’m troubled by the assumption that an overnight layover meant the “dream trip had come to an end.” That just seems overly … dramatic. I suspect that once in London, a hotel and meal would have been provided, and surely traveling overseas the OP had a change of underwear and some toiletries in a carry on… It’s too bad that Ms. Hammond gave up on her dream vacation so readily :(.

  • Mark

    I’m very frustrated for his experience – it should never have led to a cancelled holiday.

    There may only be one BA flight from LHR to INV, but EasyJet fly twice a day from nearby LGW. He could have asked BA staff at LHR to rebook him on one of those flights (which would have been cheaper than paying for an overnight hotel at LHR, which BA would have been obligated to provide). BA staff at LHR may have also been able to re-accommodate him onto an ABZ / EDI flight, and then use a train connection to INV (potentially at his own expense, but IMO still worthwhile). Sadly, in trying to fix this all at Dallas (rather than wait till LHR), these options were probably not known to the staff trying to help him.

    Secondly, the “without luggage for 24 hours” comment seems to be based on the expectation that AA would through-connect his luggage to INV, and he wouldn’t be able to access if for an extended layover in LHR; in fact in these cases airlines typically can tag your bag to your intermediate destination; BA can also retrieve your bag for your at LHR (but this does take a while).

  • Mark

    The Aberdeen trains to Inverness even stop at Aberdeen Airport station (Dyce). Really, it couldn’t have been easier. The problem is that it’s unlikely that they AA agents at Dallas would have known this – if Leslie had travelled to LHR, they would have been able to give him better quality advice and help him to his destination.

  • Mel65

    As a point of clarification the OP is female.

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