My travel agent neglected to inform me of my schedule change

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.

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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.

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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.

Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined.

  • AAGK

    What’s the difference how long the agency took to notify the OP. If Virgin refunds for a change of this nature then it should have immediately returned the money to the agency so it could be forwarded to the OP.

  • MarkKelling

    They didn’t leave a message on voice mail?

    I can’t understand any company that won’t leave a message to at least say “call us”! But I am finding more and more of them doing that. I don’t sit by my phone waiting for it to ring, and sometimes I can’t answer it immediately when it does ring. And I do check often to see if I have any missed calls and return those that I find important or those that left a message.

    Glad this worked out.

  • Daddydo

    Advising the customer of a schedule change is cool, but the agent is responsible to fix the problem not acknowledge the problem. We spend hours on problems like this. Sometimes they cannot be rescheduled, so the agent has to refund and start all over to try to get an alternate. Leaving the passenger hanging is no excuse. “I tried to reach you and left a message?” Excuse! You keep trying for hours until the new schedule is resolved. 1) find a new agency 2) My customers are told to check in with us a week in advance for last second changes. This also allows us to wish them a safe and wonderful trip.

  • Noah Kimmel

    Virgin refunds under the idea that you cant find an alternate Virgin operated flight after being informed. Realizing the day before the flight might be seen as a stretch in Virgin’s eyes to say that no other flight works for them. Had they responded earlier, it might have been easier. They did what they were required, and notified the agent in advance. It isn’t their fault that the agent failed to notify you. As a result, they are left refunding your ticket and not being able to resell the seat. That being said, I don’t see anywhere that Virgin specifies a response time.

    Glad they all got together to do what is right for the customer, even if it took some wrangling.

    Pro tip: many times agents become the contact info for things like schedule changes, lost bags, etc. Helps to book direct, or to at least create a Frequent Traveler account and link the reservation just in case anything goes wrong, your likelihood of contact will be better.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “The agency claimed they tried to reach you by phone but got your voicemail.”

    Unless the OP’s voicemail was not set up, why didn’t the agency left a voicemail? Also, how about the agency sending an e-mail? I have had a few international reservations over the years that had changes…the airline, America WestUS Airways, called me as well as sent me an e-mail about the change. One time, the change in the flight was only 15 minutes.

    If the phone number for the OP is a cell, the OP can use her cell phone bill. Earlier this year, a company told me that they called me several times and left me several messages during a two week period about a shipment. I downloaded my cell phone bill and sent them the portion of the bill representing the two weeks plus the week before and after the two weeks showing that I didn’t receive a single phone call from them.

  • I’ve had people pull the “we called you” excuse too. Like you, I downloaded the detailed cell phone record.

  • AAGK

    Virgin can see as anything they want. Who pays the travel agent? Isn’t it the airline? Also, Virgin’s rule is purposely broad to give the airline more flexibility. In this case, it may have had a shot at rebooking, but the airlines have taught us not to focus what happens to our seats if we are not in them.

  • Blamona

    How long was the delay? The agent had email–why not send notice? Why cancel entire flight and not just portion? So many questions

  • Annie M

    Is she based in the U.K. and that’s why she used an agency in England?

    But Virgin changed the itinerary that caused a problem- I don’t know why they didn’t refund in the first place. Even if she was notified earlier and the itinerary didn’t work, they would have had to refund anyway.

  • Annie M

    The airlines don’t pay commission – not sure what you are referring to- do you mean the refund?

  • Annie M

    The agent is responsible to advise the customer and find out what the customer wants to do- if the new itinerary isn’t acceptable, then the agent notifies the airline and gets a refund for the client and then rebooks a new ticket.

    If the agency had left a message I am sure Amanda would have called back – I call b.s. to the agency. Especially reading these reviews that perhaps Amanda should have read before she booked:

  • AAGK

    Yes. Virgin refunds when the flight is changed by x hours, etc. It should have refunded here. If the OP could not make the flight then it would have to reimburse regardless of when she found out. I understand it is harder for Virgin to resell the seat but that is not the OP’s problem, unless the Terms make it her problem.

  • The Original Joe S

    That was Can’tinental. Those dirtbags had my phone number and e-mail, but NEVER informed me of schedule changes. They once changed the flight to EWR which made it problematical to make the connection, and tried to charge me $100 change fee for THEIR mistake. I stopped flying with them. Now that they have bought Untied, I won’t fly with them either…..

  • The Original Joe S

    Because of spammer calls, I ignore numbers I don’t recognize, especially NO NUMBERS / BLOCKED NUMBERS. My voicemail says “I DON’T ANSWER NUMBERS I DON’T RECOGNIZE BECAUSE OF SPAM CALLS. LEAVE A MESSAGE NAME AND PHONE AND WHAT YOU WANT”. Even with this, stupids don’t leave messages. Well, if it’s someone I don’t really care about, then I can’t get back to ’em; I don’t lose any sleep over it.

  • The Original Joe S

    they will try to cheat you if you will let them.

  • Daddydo

    Refunds generally do not happen automatically. You must initiate an action.

  • Daddydo

    Voicemails not set up is about the only acceptable excuse OR send a text instead

  • Daddydo

    It is not who pays the agent… reversed… we pay Virgin. The client pays us

  • AAGK

    Well whoever. Virgin should still refund the ticket bc it changed the flight. Virgin can refund and issue the charge to the travel agent if it wants also.

  • Daddydo

    The agent needs to take care of the customer. Virgin did their job of informing the agent

  • AAGK

    Then the agent and Virgin can duke it out. Virgin can refund and send the agent a debit memo for the funds if the agent did not comply with the ticketing rules vis a vis virgin. I detest when a consumer is caught in the middle of something that should not be its problem. At least Virgin has leverage and can prevent the agent from ticketing its flights. The OP just wanted to go on vacation.

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