Where are my airline vouchers?

Question: I need your help getting a voucher that US Airways promised us, but has yet to be delivered. While my wife and I were on a Mediterranean cruise last year, my wife fell and was severely injured. As a result, we couldn’t make our return flight from Venice to Philadelphia.

I called US Airways, explained what happened, and requested a refund for the return flight. The agent promised us a $960 voucher.

We were able to use part of the credit on a flight to Miami several months later, but only after explaining everything again to a US Airways representative again. In fact, I had to give him the names of the hospital and doctors who treated my wife.

Our Miami tickets cost $124 per person each way, which should have left us a credit of about $400. It’s been several months, and there’s no sign of the voucher. We are getting ready to book another trip and would like to use the rest of our credit, but we need the voucher. Is there anything you can do?

— Myron Sigal, Marlton, N.J.

Answer: If US Airways said it would give you a voucher, it should have sent it to you quickly. It never ceases to amaze me that an airline — or any travel company, for that matter — can take your money within seconds but then force you to wait months before giving you a refund or a credit.

Here’s the thing, though. As I read US Airways’ terms of transportation — the legal agreement between you and the airline — it’s clear that you were not owed a refund and possibly not even a credit. Section 8 of the contract says that no refunds will be made for nonrefundable tickets, and that special rules apply to international tickets.

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As I review your correspondence, I think it’s possible US Airways made an exception for you and your wife because of her medical condition. I think that’s commendable. Making you wait months for the voucher — that’s not so commendable.

You might have avoided this difficulty by starting a paper trail. Some grievances are best handled by phone, but others should be done electronically. Calling US Airways initially was a good idea, because you needed to let the airline know about your circumstances right away. If you had waited until after your flight, US Airways might have offered you nothing.

After that, you should have begun e-mailing the carrier; a written correspondence would have allowed both sides to keep track of what was said, and more importantly, what was not said. You needed some kind of confirmation that the airline was going to offer a voucher for $960 — and later, for$400. Verbal assurances aren’t enough.

Having that documentation would have saved you from having to recount the painful story of your wife’s accident, and it might have (maybe) speeded up the processing of your second voucher. In any case, you shouldn’t have had to wait months for your voucher. When you think you’re being stonewalled by an airline, try escalating your complaint to a supervisor. I list their names on my Web site.

I contacted US Airways on your behalf, and the airline sent you the promised vouchers and an apology.

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.

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