My Puerto Rico hotel is closed for repairs, but Expedia won’t offer a refund


Kolby Harold’s hotel in San Juan closes for repairs after a hurricane. Why won’t Expedia refund her vacation?

Question: My husband and I never had a honeymoon, so I decided to book one for late October in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico on Sept. 20.

Airlines are waiving change charges until mid-November. I was able to speak with Delta Air Lines and Expedia and change our flight destination. My issue with Expedia arose when they refused to change the hotel. Yes, it is nonrefundable. However, in the wake of a natural disaster, you would think that I would simply be allowed to change the hotel.

This is not the case. Expedia advised that it would need to be refunded and rebooked, but has repeatedly lied to me, saying that they spoke to the hotel (InterContinental San Juan) and that they will not waive cancellation.

I have emailed proof from the InterContinental that they are waiving cancellation fees and that Expedia should approve it.

I also find it disturbing that a large travel agency such as Expedia wouldn’t know that there was a hurricane. I’ve spoken to at least six agents by phone. All of them ask, “Why can’t you go on your trip?” or, “What hurricane?” or, “Sorry, we cannot reach the hotel, there’s nothing we can do.”

I have read several online reviews and have even seen other people experience the same issue as me, where an agent says the hotel will not waive the fees, and the hotel is actually willing to, but Expedia is not. Nevertheless, I have emailed Expedia and a representative said there was nothing they could do, because the hotel won’t waive the fees. Can you help me? — Kolby Harold, Virginia Beach, Va.


Answer: Expedia should have helped you secure an immediate refund of your hotel. You’re right, we’ve received several cases like yours, and the travel agency can’t simply pocket your money and say it’s “nonrefundable.”

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I find the attitude of the phone agents to be problematic on several levels. Don’t they work for a leading online travel agency? Shouldn’t they be aware of any major natural disasters that would affect their customers?

Where does Expedia find these people? Who trains them?

Also, how hard is it to reach InterContinental Hotels, one of the largest hotel chains in the world?

As far as I can tell, your case got stuck in some deep red tape, created by Expedia in order to maximize its profit. That’s disappointing since you easily could have become a repeat customer if you’d had a positive experience — an experience that, from Expedia’s perspective, was only a phone call away.

Let me also speak up for all the human travel agents reading this. They will tell you that you should use a real travel agent for an important vacation like a honeymoon — a valid point. A travel consultant would have saved this vacation before Hurricane Maria moved out to sea.

An appeal to a higher-up at Expedia might have fixed this. I list the names, numbers and email addresses for Expedia’s executives on this site.

Our advocacy team reached out to Expedia on your behalf. Expedia confirmed that the hotel is closed and promised you a full refund. I’m sorry your honeymoon ended like this, but at least now you’ll have an opportunity to reschedule it.


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • Chris Johnson

    Booking online with Expedia, provided you find what you’re looking for, is a snap. But if you have to call them? Forget about it. Every time I’ve called I’ve been put an hold while the clueless agent has to talk to their supervisor about every little detail in my record. Numerous times, my call has gotten disconnected for no apparent reason other than perhaps a faulty phone system. They must either have terrible turnover in their call centers because every time I’ve called it seems like I’ve gotten somebody who just started that day, or the people in the call centers aren’t really Expedia employees, just a glorified answering service that has to confirm everything with real Expedia employees.

  • greg watson

    Booking.com……………….worked the same way with me…………although I wanted to change my hotel location (non-refundable) 2 hours after I booked it ( & 8 months away) they said they couldn’t help me…………even though I would have booked the different hotel with them & they could have kept my business………profit…..not service….& I won’t make the same mistake again……….say goodbye to 3rd party bookings!!

  • Bill___A

    Why do these mindless, stress inducing incidents happen in this day and age? Greedy, selfish, non-caring, unable to take ownership of an issue, you name it. Thanks to Elliott for fixing it but there is no excuse for many of these issues.

  • Annie M

    As Chris said- a real Travel Agent would have had you refunded the day after the hurricane. When will people learn? Sigh….

  • LeeAnneClark

    There is simply no earthly reason to ever use Expedia. You don’t save money compared to booking directly with the hotel or airline. You don’t get the benefit of an actual travel agent – clearly they won’t even provide the most rudimentary help. And then if there’s an issue with your trip, they will actually create MORE problems for you than if you’d just booked direct, and in some cases literally steal your money (as was the case here).

    To top it off, they receive an astonishingly high number of complaints. They have 1 star out of 5 on the Consumer Affairs site, with 3,488 complaints. Better Business Bureau gives them a A+ rating, which obviously means they paid for that…but they have a 98% negative customer review rating! Out of 379 reviews, only FOUR! (yes, really – four) reviews are positive, four are neutral, and 371 are negative.

    I just cannot fathom why they are still in business. What benefit do travelers see in them?

  • Doctor Now

    Not necessarily. Had much the same problem with a local travel agency in St. Louis. The hotel cancelled my pre-paid reservation due to a closure for renovations. It took almost 3 months with a lot of back and forth between me, the agent and the hotel to finally get a refund.

  • RichardII

    It was likely the hotel’s policy, not Booking’s. They are, as their name says, a booking service, not a travel agency. Driven the conditions you stated, it is probable the hotel had your money the moment you booked. So, Booking’s options would have been limited to trying to get the hotel tonagree to the refund.

  • Pegtoo

    It seems this lesson is being learned one person at a time. I’m baffled how this works.. (or how this isn’t working…) to get the word out about using OTAs. How does some info go viral and other info just doesn’t budge? What do we need to do?

  • mbods2002

    Only convinces me never to use Expedia

  • cscasi

    Good point. However, as Doctor Now pointed out in response, it took him and his travel agent three months to finally get refunded. So, I am fairly sure that, in some cases, it takes more than just a day or two. Perhaps some agents refund the client’s money and then fight with the hotel/cruise line, etc., to get the money back for things like this that do happen.

  • greg watson

    ……..despite many pages of emails………they blamed each other………the hotel had 8 months to re book the room………but wouldn’t……..& booking.com said they couldn’t help me ( some service??}………after staying there for 2 weeks……….& the info of location & room…. being inaccurate….I now understand why.
    …..lesson learned..

  • jsn55

    The issues arise with these internet websites because they are Online Booking Agents, not Travel Agents. A travel agent adds value to your trips in a thousand ways. A booking agent takes your booking and that’s the end of the relationship. If there are problems, you don’t get much help. Millions of trips are booked through OBAs because the public doesn’t know better. A vast majority of those trips are just fine. If you don’t want to take a chance on your travel plans, book directly with the hotel or airline.

  • Annie M

    His travel “agency” is not one known for customer service. How do you think they keep costs down? They have to book as many trips as possible. Customer service is not their forte.

    And I did get a refund for a client two days after the hurricane in a similar circumstance.

  • Bobby Dale

    The Roaming Gnome does not return calls nor consider customer service to be a virtue.
    Consumers might want to learn to differentiate between lowest price and best value.

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