My ticket credit is gone — can you help me get it back?

By | September 26th, 2013


Velta Mahon’s airline ticket credit is gone and she says it’s Hotwire’s fault. Is there any hope of a refund?

Question: I need your help resolving a situation that I have with Hotwire. A little over a year ago I booked a flight from Baltimore to Orlando, but canceled because of a hurricane.

Before I canceled, I called Hotwire and told them that I was concerned about the weather and afraid to travel at that time. A representative told me to contact Allianz, the company through which I had insured my tickets.

An Allianz representative led me to believe that I might be able to receive a refund, and suggested I call Hotwire to cancel my ticket, which I did. When I requested a refund, Allianz denied me and referred me to Hotwire. Hotwire denied me and said I had a ticket credit, and referred me to the airline. The airline just referred me back to Hotwire.

I recently called Hotwire to rebook my ticket. After being transferred three times, I was told someone would call me back. They never did. I’ve tried to connect with Hotwire numerous times, and I can never get through to them. Now my ticket credit has expired. I really feel disappointed, hurt, and cheated by Hotwire. I am kindly asking if you would please intervene and help me to get my money back. — Velta Mahon, New York

Answer: That’s absurd. But the absurdity is happening on many levels, so let me break it down for you. First, you had insured your flight from Baltimore to Orlando. That’s not a bad idea for an August flight, because hurricanes do happen in Florida.

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But you have to read the fine print on your insurance policy. In order to make a successful claim, your flight must be canceled by the airline. (By the way, if it is canceled, the airline will offer you a refund, anyway — but there are still other benefits from travel insurance, like trip interruption coverage.)

Anyway, you canceled your flight proactively, and someone from Allianz should have told you that when you called. No one should have led you to believe you could have canceled your flight before the airline did. Re-using your ticket should have been relatively easy, and if Hotwire couldn’t help you, then your airline should have. In reviewing your case, I note that a great deal of your communication was done by phone, which is unfortunate. Doing this by phone means you don’t have the benefit of a written record, so it’s hard to prove anything.

I checked with Hotwire and as it turns out it had several detailed files on your case. “As we worked through a potential rebooking, there were several discussions and messages exchanged back and forth between Velta and Hotwire in the weeks leading up to that one year deadline,” a representative told me. “During that time, several workflows were created on our side due to the multiple contacts.”

In trying to sort through those files, Hotwire inadvertently closed your case and allowed your ticket credit to expire. It apologized for doing so and issued you a full refund for your ticket.

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  • bodega3

    In response to the poll, the customer is responsible for staying on top of the use date on a cancelled, but reusable ticket.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    (By the way, if it is canceled, the airline will offer you a refund, anyway

    AA cancelled my flight due to Hurricane Katrina. They refused to issue refunds citing some loophole buried deep, deep, in the fine print. They gave me electronic credit. It ultimately wasn’t a big deal as I fly AA regularly, but I was pretty pissed at the time.

  • TonyA_says

    Now this is the kind of case that just drives one nuts. You buy an airline ticket from an online agency and you also buy travel insurance sold through the online agency. One would and should normally think that they are protected. But after they take your money, you end up with no trip and no protection. You feel that you are a victim of consumer “rape”. And instead of helping you, all you will hear from travel experts are “you-should-have-done-that” or “why didn’t you use a travel agent?” insults. Something is definitely wrong with the system. People are now being expected to be expert-shoppers, expert-travelers, expert-DIYers … or else get conned or scammed.
    Maybe Elliott should write a book – How to beat the airlines and online agents in their own game. I’ll volunteer some content for free.

  • bodega3

    BTW, when you purchase a ticket from a source, other than with the carrier (by phone to the carrier’s reservation department or the carrier’s online site), the carrier will usually refer you back to the original point of sale, hence the experience the OP received.
    I am concerned to why Hotwire said it would get back to the OP. An open ticket that they issued, is easily accessed in their GDS. It makes me wonder if the 800 number called actually could handle these or are only order takers, meaning someone else has to actually handle the transactions. This is really not how things should to be handled especially with time sensitive documents.

  • Dutchess

    Ignoring the multiple contacts issue, this whole problem could have been averted if Velta had purchased her original ticket directly from the airline. There would have been none of this bouncing back and forth and would have likely received a refund far sooner. The travel consolidating sites are fine for searching for deals but if you want to book, go directly to the carrier or travel providers website to book!

  • Stanley Wester

    Getting to the point is important. Travel insurance picks up if due to an action taken by the Airline or circumstances beyond the OP’s control. Just because you don’t like the way the weather may be, you cannot choose to cancel. If the weather was that serious, the Airlines post notices on their websites offering options. Just because you feel like it you cannot cancel and expect the insurance company to compensate you on your fears. With regards to the 1 year reuse issue, I am curious if Hotwire stated that same must be used within 1 year of purchase? If they have stated, then not attempting to use the ticket falls back to the OP. More and more posts here appear to be of OP’s lack of personal responsibility than actual failure of a customer service issue. In any case Chris has more info about the case than we do. So the ball is back in Chris’s court.

  • polexia_rogue

    and because she the canceled a ticket out of fear not the airline canceling due to actual bad weather.

    if i was about to fly on a day where there was said to be a hurricane- i would keep checking the flight info. if my flight was not canceled on the day of my trip i would assume the airline knew more then me.

  • Daddydo

    It is interesting that all of these people know to complain to / through you, but just not read your answers until it affects them. Everything that takes place needs to be documented. You have always said to keep a “paper trail”. “Allianz told me”; prove it! I know of no insurance transaction or claim that is completed over the phone – ever. So OP ( what the heck is an OP?) was screwed over by a very poor suggestion. Hotwire screwed up by losing the file but assumed that responsibility and did a very nice thing in making the refund. I was trained well by Allegheny Airlines (yes I have been around that long) to make the problem go away and let somebody else worry about it later. I have never followed that practice; my line always took the longest and I resolved the issues. Now 35 years in my own agency. Alliance made the problem disappear, at the OP”s loss.

  • MarkKelling

    OP is “Original Poster” which is a term used to indicate the person starting a discussion thread. Here OP means the person whom Chris refers to in his article.

  • Michael__K

    You have always said to keep a “paper trail”. “Allianz told me”; prove it!

    Paper trails are nice, but you don’t always have the luxury of waiting 48 hours (Allianz’s posted response time for emails) for a response. A response which in many cases will be a canned reply that doesn’t even address the original query.

  • Alan Gore

    he OP’s main problem here was dealing with Hotwire. Tickets of this kind are easy enough to buy directly from the carrier. Travel insurance, though it protects you from some contingencies everyone needs to cover, is not a substitute for customer service. When a bucket shop like Hotwire decides to “inadvertently close the case” on a customer it thinks will just stomp off and never be heard from again, it takes Chris and the threat of that bigInternet floodlight to miraculously resurrect the case.

  • Cybrsk8r

    And it doesn’t help that she was probably talking to someone in India.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The problem is, if you’re not an experienced traveler, you might believe the hype that these OTAs have better prices. I gave up on OTAs years ago as I found a better price on them only once back in 2002. And that was for a hotel.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It is interesting that all of these people know to complain to / through you, but just not read your answers until it affects them

    It’s really not that interesting. I doubt most of these folks are regular readers of Chris’ site. More likely after the fact, they use Google to find him.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree, but to be fair, sometimes the travel provider does the same thing. I got food poisoning in Belgium years ago. The hotel tried stonewalling me thinking that I’m a foreigner and would not pursue it.

    What they didn’t know was that I had a European calling plan on all of my office phone lines so it wasn’t much of an issue for me.

  • backprop

    While the travel loopholes in a policy are many, I don’t see this as one of them. A reason such as “I decided I didn’t want to travel” is an outright exclusion in every policy, and not just in the fine print.

    Note the weasel words about the exchange: “Alliance led me to believe that I could receive a refund…” Those words are used by people who either (a) did not have the conversation at all or (b) heard what they wanted to hear and canceled anyway.

    If you had a conversation, tell us what you said to the agent, and what the agent said to you. Not what you were “led to believe” or what you “got the impression” of. What words were exchanged? If you don’t have a recording, at least use a basic trasnscript of what was spoken between you, not how you felt during the call.

    Sorry, this one’s on the customer.

  • EdB

    Where is the “All of the above” option? Based on the story, all three parties contributed to the snafu.

  • EdB

    “Alliance led me to believe that I could receive a refund…”

    My guess is the agent said something like, “If the airline cancels the flight,…” and she assumed if she cancelled the ticket, it would be the same thing.

  • MarkKelling

    Regardless of where the customer service agent was located, she was talking to someone without the authority to do anything other than stall the customer until they give up. Unfortunately that seems to be the direction most companies take in their customer service operations.


    “Led me to believe that I might receive a refund” is probably an interpretation of what Allianz told her regarding her cancelling her reservation and if the airline cancelled the flight because of weather. Without a paper trail we will never know what went on in that conversation. Hotwire should not have closed her file and let her credit vanish, but she also said she took nearly a year to rebook and then kept waiting for Hotwire to call her back. She dropped the ball as much as they did when it came to rebooking. As to insurance. “I don’t want to go” is usually not a covered reason under most policies. The reason does not matter unless you purchased a policy that allows cancellation for any reason.

  • marina

    I, too, think it is the customers fault- she tried to book, and re-book and re-book and yet could never get through to Hotwire and then her ticket expired. We are meant to believe that she tried every avenue to book her seat and in the interim her ticket expired? Nope. Sorry.

  • Michael__K

    If the airline won’t help and refers the customer back to the OTA (was it a multi-airline ticket?) and the OTA won’t take live calls and promises to call back and never does…. oh, yes, of course, it’s the customer who is responsible for that….

  • TonyA_says

    Most airlines usually proactively cancel flights ahead of a known large weather disturbance. They also provide some advice in the consumer and agency websites on how to handle cancellations, reschedules, refunds (if applicable) together with the waiver codes that are necessary to make these happen.

    That said, you might certainly get away saying “I don’t feel like traveling” when a hurricane (or typhoon) is coming. But here is the kicker – you need to know what you can do with that ticket you still have in hand (figuratively since you only have an electronic ticket).

    Hotline usually sell BULK fares. The procedure for refunds and reissues of BULK fare tickets are usually different from a published fare ticket. That said, the onus is on Hotwire to inform their buyers what that process is. My suggestion is to require airlines to provide a physical certificate with the amount and expiry clearly printed if they do not refund to the original form of payment or if the passenger does not prefer to fly on the replacement period.

  • flutiefan

    this is where she lost, in my book: “I called Hotwire and told them that I was…afraid to travel at that time.”

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