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.

Related story:   Is this enough compensation? A partial refund for my dogless flight

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.

  • Alan Gore

    Normally, getting refunded if your flight is to an indefinitely closed airport would be a cut-and-dried situation. Was Travelocity the problem with this one?

  • It didn’t want to refund the money, that was the problem.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Why was this so difficult?
    Why would Delta not cancel the flight? Was it either intentionally so that people who take a voucher?
    Seems like a failure on Delta. Its not like SXM was opening anytime soon after Irma

  • SierraRose 49

    Sometimes when you make it exceptionally difficult for people to get a refund, they give up and just go away. Sort of sounds like Delta/Travelocity wanted James Quinn to accept their vouchers and if not, just go away. Once again, the Elliott advocates persisted and Mr. Quinn received his refund, which should have happened quickly without intervention.

  • cscasi

    Travelocity probably balked because Delta Airlines had not cancelled their scheduled flight (even though the airport was closed indefinitely). Therefore, until Delta did so, how could it ask for the money back for nonrefundable tickets (I am assuming they were nonrefundable) if the flight was still scheduled?

  • Attention All Passengers

    I only needed to see one word – Travelocity. Case closed.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I’m glad there was a good resolution, but this seems like a case where customer advocate could perform a “class action” service and advocate for all similarly situated customers on the flight, because they would all need refunds. (And maybe, after the Elliott team got after Delta, that’s what happened).

  • The Original Joe S

    through Travelocity ———-> The problem starts right there.

    Just like the idiots in Thailand who continued to schedule flights to Phuket even though the tsunami had devastated it in 2004. Morons…….

    How can Delta not cancel flights to an airport that’s closed? Dirtbags……

  • The Original Joe S

    Becuase the airport is closed.

    If I have a flight scheduled to the planet Neptune [ definitely NOT a class M planet ] on Fly-By-Nite Interplanetary Spacelines, am I ever gonna get there?

  • The Original Joe S

    Another OTA from a northern state…. It’s Upper US!

  • AMA

    This is, for once, not Travelocity’s fault. It is completely on Delta, for refusing to cancel the flight. What imbeciles at Delta couldn’t figure out that St. Maarten no longer has an airport?

  • Lindabator

    absolutely – they had to put in the refund request if the client was not rescheduling — have done this for several of my clients with no flak from Delta. Sad how these OTAs do not want to SERVICE their clients

  • Lindabator

    not true – they issued a waiver for the situation, but that meant they had to actually WORK on the record, instead of direct the client to Delta – have done this for sveral clients without an issue

  • Lindabator

    Delta had a waiver in effect that OTAs and agents used for getting a refund – Travelocity was just too lazy to service their clients — I have had this situation come up, and no issues at all

  • Lindabator

    NOT Delta – thy had a waiver Travelocity could apply to the ticket to issue a refund – Travelocity just doesn’t like to actually work on a client’s behalf – sad.

  • Lindabator

    NO – Delta HAD a waiver for refunds in place, but Travelocity had to actually apply it to the record and refund the ticket it issued – and thy are just too lazy to do any service work on their bookings – I have used this several times as an agent without issue. Sad

  • Lindabator

    They may choose to keep the route open until the airport opens – they still allow for a full refund, just Travelocity has to add a waiver to their records and refund tickets they issued, and they are far too lazy to do so.

  • Lindabator

    NOT – Delta issued a waiver for all agencies (including OTAs) to use to add to their record and issue a refund on their tickets – Travelocity is just too lazy to do so – I have issued several with no issues – and just because a route is kept open, does not mean the flights are actually issuable – by keeping the route open, they ensure being allowed to fly back when the ban is lifted, rather than having to wait for a new slot(s) to be issued to them

  • Lindabator

    correct – if you booked directly or with a real agent, they would have serviced these flights – OTAs are just too lazy to do so – perhaps Congress should look at why THEY are allowed to leave a client hanging

  • DChamp56

    It would have helped to have the date she was flying there.
    If it were tomorrow, I’d agree. If it were next August, I wouldn’t.

  • SierraRose 49

    Yes, Delta may have had a waiver, but apparently it was not easy to find because even the Elliott advocates could not find the waiver when they first tried to troubleshoot this case: “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.” And yes, Travelocity does not like to work on a client’s behalf, but it was Travelocity who ultimately directed the Elliott advocates to Delta’s Hurricane Irma travel policy — something Travelocity should have done for the OP in the first place, but didn’t. Still, Delta made it difficult for both the OP and the Elliott team to get a refund.

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