Should this traveler be forced to pay for a ticket that wasn’t valid at check in?

When Hazel Chiang tries to check in for her flight on Malindo Air, she is denied boarding because her travel agency, eDreams, never paid for her ticket. Can our advocates obtain a refund for Chiang’s walk-up airfare?

Question: I purchased tickets on Citilink Indonesia and Malindo Air from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Bali with my Chase credit card through the travel website eDreams. There were no problems with the outbound flight on Citilink Indonesia, but when I tried to check in for the return flight on Malindo Air, I was denied boarding.

Malindo Air’s agent informed me that eDreams never remitted payment for my airfare, and my booking was neither confirmed nor ticketed (the outbound and return flights were on different airlines). At my request, Malindo Air provided an email to that effect as written proof that my reservation was unpaid for.

I contacted eDreams, which promised to investigate, but when they never updated me, I contacted JPMorgan Chase to file a chargeback against eDreams. Chase sided with eDreams, claiming that service was provided. But it wasn’t. I had to pay a walk-up price for a new ticket home.

Can you help me get a refund for the second ticket? — Hazel Chiang, Woodridge, N.J.

Answer: It isn’t clear why Chase refused you a chargeback for the Malindo Air ticket you purchased through eDreams, because when eDreams didn’t transmit your payment to the airline, it failed to provide you with “service.”

And although Malindo Air’s terms and conditions don’t contain any language that specifies that passengers with unpaid airfares will be denied boarding, every airline, including Malindo Air, requires full payment of airfares by passengers as a condition of carriage.

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That’s one of the reasons we warn readers to exercise caution when making travel bookings through online sites. You run the risk that your transaction will not be properly processed. When that happens, either the travel company won’t receive your payment or won’t properly credit your fare as paid, leaving you without a valid ticket.

Had you purchased your return ticket directly from Malindo Air, you would have stood a better chance of being able to fly on that ticket. It would have reduced the risk of what happened to you — that your flight was neither properly confirmed nor ticketed.

Our advocates reached out to eDreams on your behalf and received the following response:

The tickets appeared to be correctly issued on our system at the time of booking and the customer was charged accordingly. However, due to a technical error with the airline’s ticketing system, these flights were not issued properly.

We are very sorry for the undue stress this matter has caused Ms. Chiang and the passengers on this booking.

We are compensating the customer for the total cost of the Malindo Air flights purchased on our website, as well as any additional flight costs incurred at the airport.

Our advocates hope you receive your promised refund from eDreams soon.

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 Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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