When Virgin Atlantic changes its schedule, Amanda Ramirez is offered a new flight that doesn’t work for her. Had her travel agent informed her of the change sooner, she might have been able to cancel her itinerary. Now, her agent refuses to refund her money, and Virgin says it’s the agency’s responsibility. Can our advocates help her get a refund?
Question: In February of this year I purchased a flight from Dublin to San Francisco from the U.K.-based travel agency Crystal Travel. A day before my departure, I attempted to check in and noticed that one of my flights had been rescheduled, but I would not be able to make the new flight time.
Crystal Travel couldn’t find a suitable solution for me, so I bought an entirely new ticket (at nearly double the cost of my original ticket) directly from another airline’s website and requested a full refund from Crystal Travel.
Crystal attempted to get the airline to refund me, but the airline refused. So, Crystal Travel said they would issue me a refund themselves. It has been well over a month and I still have not received my refund, and they are now ignoring my emails and refusing to give me any further updates on the status of my refund. Can you help me get back the 382 pounds ($435) I spent? — Amanda Ramirez, Sacramento, Calif.
Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your predicament. I travel a lot, and when a flight I’ve booked has changed, I usually hear about it far in advance. In fact, it is an airline’s responsibility to inform you or your travel agent of that change as soon as it makes it. Virgin contacted Crystal Travel, but Crystal clearly dropped the ball in this case. You should have heard from them long before your departure date.
You tried to rectify the situation by promptly contacting Crystal by email. The agency claimed they tried to reach you by phone but got your voicemail. You contended that you were off your phone the entire time, but I digress…
You did a great job of saving the email exchanges among you, Crystal, and Virgin Atlantic. The thread showed that Virgin Atlantic contacted Crystal in advance of your flight, but Crystal did not share the information with you in a timely fashion. As a result you were faced with a surprise itinerary that would get you home to Northern California later than you needed.
Meanwhile, you made alternate arrangements to “cross the pond.” You requested a refund from Crystal, and it eventually agreed to your request — as soon as it got the money back from Virgin Atlantic.
According to Virgin Atlantic’s conditions of carriage, “If, after purchase of your Ticket, we make what we consider to be a significant change to the scheduled flight time which is not convenient to you, and we are unable to book you on an alternative flight of ours which is convenient to you, you will be entitled to an involuntary refund.”
Clearly, you were entitled to a refund for your unused flight, but from whom? The airline insisted it was the travel agency’s fault that you weren’t notified of the schedule change until the last minute. After you spent several weeks following up on the status of your refund, Crystal’s representative began ignoring your emails. Finally, you took the case to our advocates, who reached out to Crystal Travel on your behalf.
While we never heard back from Crystal, you soon told us that the agency refunded your money, as promised. It looks like your self-advocacy and our involvement did the trick.