The Princess Juliana is closed indefinitely, so why won’t Delta refund my flight?

Princess Juliana International Airport cancels James Quinn’s flights because of hurricane damage. He wants a refund from Delta Air Lines, but it wants him to reschedule. Can our advocates help him get a refund for the flight the airport canceled?

Question: We booked a vacation to the island of St. Maarten through Travelocity. Our flights were on Delta Air Lines. Shortly before our trip, Hurricane Irma destroyed the island. The airport has canceled all commercial incoming and outgoing flights for weeks beyond our travel time.

But, Delta will not cancel the flight and won’t issue a refund. Its agents refer us to its website to reschedule. We don’t want to reschedule. If we cancel, we’ll only receive vouchers for a future flight. We purchased trip insurance and thought we could cancel for any reason and receive a refund. But, now we’ve been told that if we cancel, the insurance won’t cover the trip.

We contacted Travelocity and its agents keep telling us to contact Delta to reschedule. We’ve already received a refund directly from the resort. Can you help us obtain a refund for the flights from Delta Air Lines? — James Quinn, Valparaiso, Ind.

Answer: It’s common knowledge that Princess Juliana International Airport on the Dutch side of the island of St. Maarten was badly damaged by Hurricane Irma. If the island’s aviation authorities canceled incoming and outgoing commercial flights, it’s disallowing the use of the airport – presumably, for safety reasons related to the airport’s infrastructure and facilities.

When you first contacted us for help, our advocates researched your flight on the Delta website. They discovered that not only had Delta not canceled your flight, it was still selling tickets for it. Normally, I wouldn’t criticize optimism, but when the country’s authorities took definitive action and canceled your flight, Delta should have done so as well. By not canceling the flight, Delta left you in limbo. This was a problem because you would not fly to an island on which you had no place to stay.

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Prior to contacting us for help, you could have tried escalating your complaint by directly contacting Delta’s executives for help. We list company contact information for Delta on our website. And, you could have posted your question to our help forums. Our help forums which are staffed by travel industry experts, who may have had helpful suggestions about how to address this issue with Delta.

Our advocates contacted Travelocity on your behalf. The Travelocity representative we contacted referred your case to its escalation team. However, that agent also referred us back to the Delta website so that you could reschedule the flight. At first, it seemed that our advocates had hit the same wall that you had, and wouldn’t be able to make any progress on your behalf. But, our advocates persevered.

When Travelocity directed our advocates to Delta’s Hurricane Irma travel policy, they learned that Delta would honor refund requests for flights into and out of affected airports. St. Maarten was one of those affected locations. Shortly after our inquiry, you received notice from Delta that it was canceling your flight and would issue a full refund. We’re glad that we could help you reach a resolution to a problem that undoubtedly, impacted numerous travelers.

Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight. Read more of Diane's articles here.

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