Mamma Mia! No tour of Italy and no refund

By | February 19th, 2017

When Doreen Hogle and her husband are forced to cancel their trip to Italy, Expedia offers them credit for their Alitalia air tickets, which expires on a specified date. But that date is coming up, and the Hogles haven’t been able to use the credits to rebook the trip through Expedia. Can our advocates get the Hogles an extension of the deadline or a refund for their canceled trip?

Question: My husband and I booked tickets through Expedia on Alitalia to fly from Boston to Rome for a vacation last year. Unfortunately, we had to cancel our trip.
When we notified Expedia that we would not be able to travel at that time, we received two emails from Expedia. One email indicated that we would receive $2,231 in credits for our unused tickets, which could be used for a flight on Alitalia within one year from the original booking date, less $600 in reissue fees. The second email instructed us to call Expedia “and we’ll make the reservation for you.”

But when we called Expedia to rebook our reservations, we were told that it was up to Alitalia to issue flight credits, and we would have to contact the airline directly. Alitalia’s customer service agent told us that Alitalia does not issue credit on flight charges.

Alitalia’s agent also explained that Expedia had withheld airport taxes and fees totaling $1,249 from its payment to Alitalia for our tickets, to be paid when we actually traveled on Alitalia. Since we hadn’t done so, Alitalia considered us “no-shows.” The agent suggested that Expedia should refund these taxes and fees to us.

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For months, I repeatedly contacted Expedia, informing them of Alitalia’s response and asking them to issue the credits and rebook our flights for us, but I didn’t receive any response until a couple of months ago, at which time Expedia’s agent told me that the credits are available but must be used on Alitalia by the one-year anniversary of our original booking date.

That date is rapidly approaching and leaves us too short a time to plan a new trip. I’ve asked Expedia for a cash refund or an extension of the time we can use the credits. But we’ve gotten nothing. Can you help us out? — Doreen Hogle, Cambridge, Mass.

Answer: It was bad enough that you had to cancel your trip. But to get a runaround on top of that — Mamma Mia!

Clearly Expedia and Alitalia had their wires crossed.

Alitalia’s Tariffs Governing Transportation, which apply to flights to and from the U.S. and Canada, indicate that:

If the passenger loses interest in travelling or does not request its performance, the carrier will make voluntary refund of the amount paid only if the ticket was issued by the carrier itself or by one of its authorised agents.

In this case, the amount reimbursed, less any expenses reasonably incurred by the carrier for such service, will be: the entire sum paid if no part of carriage has been performed; or equal to the difference between the sum paid and the sum relating to carriage performed, if carriage has been performed only in part.

The above provisions apply subject to any more restrictive conditions provided by the chosen fares.

Alitalia erred in treating you as “no-shows” and violated its own tariffs in not refunding your unused airfares. You were at the very least entitled to your airfares back, as well as the airport taxes and fees.

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Expedia’s terms of use indicate that

The Expedia Companies, the Expedia Partners and their respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information, software, products and services contained on this Website for any purpose, and the inclusion or offering of any products or services on this Website does not constitute any endorsement or recommendation of such products or services by the Expedia Companies or the Expedia Partners. All such information, software products, and services are provided “as is” without warranty of any kind.

It’s not surprising that Expedia is disclaiming responsibility for helping you and sending you back to Alitalia. But its representatives should have given you correct information about the availability of those credits. And it should have responded timely to your contacts and refunded the airport taxes and fees it collected from you for a flight you didn’t take. And if Alitalia’s treating you and your husband as “no-shows” was because Expedia didn’t notify the airline of your cancellation, that’s something else Expedia should have corrected for you.

So we have a double-pronged customer service failure here. You might have escalated your complaints to Alitalia and Expedia using our company contacts, but after attempting to get help from Expedia for months, you asked our advocates for help.

We reached out to Expedia on your behalf, and it has has indicated that it will honor your credits or, alternatively, issue a refund to you.

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