Will Orbitz get my refund from TAME approved?

TAME Airlines canceled Hans DeJong’s flight to the Galápagos Islands, booked through Orbitz (an Expedia brand), eight months ago. Orbitz and TAME are giving DeJong a runaround instead of a refund for his airfares. Can our advocates make Orbitz get DeJong’s refund from TAME approved?

Question

Last September I booked a flight through Orbitz on TAME Airlines from Quito, Ecuador, to the Galápagos Islands. Two days before the departure date of my trip, Orbitz notified me that TAME had canceled the flight. At that time, I asked Orbitz to cancel the return leg of my ticket. I purchased a new ticket, again through Orbitz, on Avianca.

At the Quito airport, I went to the TAME desk to request a refund for my canceled ticket. TAME’s agent told me to send my request to the airline by email. I then emailed TAME, but the TAME employee who responded told me to contact Orbitz instead.

I have emailed Orbitz several times. The only responses I have received are that Orbitz is “looking into it” or that I should contact TAME. Eight months have passed since I canceled my flights. How much longer do I need to wait for Orbitz to finish “looking into” my refund request? And since I purchased my tickets through Orbitz, shouldn’t Orbitz be the party to issue my refund?

Can you help me get Orbitz to stop this runaround and issue me the refund? — Hans DeJong, San Francisco

Answer

I agree that it shouldn’t take eight months for Orbitz to “look into” refunding your airfares. Since Orbitz sold you the tickets, it’s Orbitz’s responsibility to get your request for a refund approved.

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Your case exemplifies why we encourage booking only simple travel reservations through third-party sites like Orbitz or Expedia. When customers have problems or need refunds, these online companies don’t have reputations for speedy resolutions. They often engage in runarounds with the travel companies, which delays refunds and other assistance to their customers. And that’s what happened when you requested an airfare refund.

Obstacles to getting your refund from TAME approved

Unfortunately, Orbitz’s terms of use don’t help you out. They disclaim responsibility for refunding airfares for canceled flights: “Orbitz has no liability and will make no refund in the event of any delay, cancellation, overbooking, strike, force majeure or other causes beyond their direct control.”

And you didn’t help your case when you took an extremely aggressive tone in your emails to Orbitz:

The airlines contacted me and told me to collect through you!!! Why should I use Orbitz if you don’t help in situations where flights get canceled? In an earlier email you said you would send the money in eight weeks. Are you telling me you are lying? I will take you to small claims court if there is no action ASAP.

Your frustration at the delays in getting your refund is understandable. But accusing Orbitz of lying and threatening to sue the company was not likely to expedite the approval process. We always advise polite, concise communications when requesting help from a company. It’s counterproductive to accuse the company’s customer service agent or make threats. And it didn’t result in Orbitz or Expedia customer service agents acting faster to get your refund approved.

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Resolving your Orbitz case with Expedia customer service

After eight months of delays, you finally asked our advocates for help. (Executive contact information for Orbitz is available on our website.)

Our advocate, Dwayne Coward, contacted Expedia on your behalf. He learned that Orbitz made multiple attempts to obtain a refund from TAME for you. Orbitz failed you because it didn’t update you about their attempts.

When you called Orbitz after TAME canceled your flight, Orbitz’s agent tried to book a replacement flight.The agent requested a refund for you when no other flights were available. Then the agent needed some additional information from you, but you had already disconnected your phone call. Orbitz placed your refund request in a follow-up queue.

After that, Orbitz made several attempts to resolve your request for a refund from TAME. Unfortunately, TAME made many requests that Orbitz re-submit your information because of internal issues. The channel TAME used to process your refund can take eight weeks to transfer the funds to your account.

These resubmission requests caused the delays that you experienced. But your story ends on a happy note: You finally received your refund.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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