Linda Galante dreamed for nine months of a refund for her eDreams canceled flights. But none of her efforts could yield that refund in reality — until she came to Elliott Advocacy.
Galante’s quest for a refund carries an important reminder. Two of the three Ps of consumer advocacy are patience and persistence. Travel companies are taking longer to issue refunds, even for cancellations that predate the coronavirus pandemic. Travelers seeking refunds need to allow these companies more time to issue the refunds — and not to give up trying to obtain them.
The vacation of her dreams — canceled
In January, Galante and her husband made reservations for a Caribbean vacation through eDreams, a third-party booking website. The Galantes paid $792 for flights on Bahamasair from Orlando, Fla. to Nassau, Bahamas, in May. Their purchase included eDreams’ “cancel for any reason” insurance coverage.
But in February, the Galantes decided not to take the trip. They requested a refund from eDreams for their canceled flights. EDreams notified them that it had approved a refund of $500, or 80 percent of the purchase price of their trip.
According to the email eDreams sent the Galantes, Bahamasair would issue the refund directly to the credit card they used for their bookings. It would appear on their credit card statement within five to seven days, eDreams promised.
Galante waited ten days, but the refund did not arrive. Then the coronavirus pandemic began.
Was that refund for those eDreams canceled flights just a pipe dream?
Galante called eDreams several times between March and May. But during this period, all she was able to access was a recording. It indicated that eDreams customer service agents would only speak to callers about flights scheduled for the following week.
Finally, in May, Galante reached an eDreams customer service agent by telephone. The agent assured Galante that eDreams had processed her refund, which she could expect within 72 hours. But one week after this call, no refund for her eDreams canceled flights appeared on her credit card statement.
Galante called eDreams again. She learned that eDreams was waiting for Bahamasair to issue the refund. She asked eDreams’ agent if she should follow up with Bahamasair directly regarding the status of her refund. Inexplicably, the agent advised her to do that.
But when Galante called Bahamasair, she encountered another recording, advising that Bahamasair’s offices were closed until further notice. She then completed a form on Bahamasair’s website to request a refund. Unfortunately, the form did not generate a refund. All Galante received from the airline was an emailed notice that the Bahamian government was prohibiting airlines from transporting passengers into the country.
“Under no circumstances will we accept a voucher”
The following day, eDreams emailed Galante:
We’ve received your refund request relating to your cancelled booking. Given the growing number of passengers requesting repayment for their bookings, most airlines have stopped offering cash refunds, giving the option of vouchers and free rebooking to affected passengers instead.
Should your airline be offering refund vouchers, as your travel agent, we are here to act on your behalf to obtain your voucher for you, if you agree, as soon as it becomes available.
The Galantes were not willing to accept vouchers. Galante emphatically responded:
(Galante to eDreams, June 5, 2020)
Still no way to speak to a person at eDreams
Galante continued to call eDreams’ two customer service numbers. But both had been disconnected.
This left eDreams’ website as Galante’s only remaining means of contacting the company. The website indicated that her refund had been processed in February. Galante was unsuccessful in reaching any person at eDreams or in getting any other help through the website. Her eDreams canceled flights refund seemed more unobtainable than ever.
Could Elliott Advocacy get a refund for Galante’s eDreams canceled flights?
Deeply frustrated, Galante contacted Elliott Advocacy for help in September. Our advocate Dwayne Coward reached out to eDreams on Galante’s behalf.
EDreams finally responded to Galante’s refund request. First, its customer care service notified her of Dwayne’s contact. Thirty minutes later, an eDreams agent emailed Galante. The agent explained that her colleagues with whom Galante had previously dealt had made “an oversight back in February.”
According to this agent, Galante had directly paid Bahamasair for the flights, so eDreams could not issue the refund to her credit card. The agent who told her in February that her eDreams canceled flights refund would appear on her credit card statement was wrong. What that agent should have done, Galante learned, was request her banking information so that eDreams could arrange a wire transfer of the refund.
One week later, eDreams made the wire transfer. It also provided Galante and her husband with a $150 voucher, good for two years, for future travel through eDreams.
When you’re stuck waiting for a refund
As Galante discovered, the coronavirus pandemic requires travel companies to operate with reduced staff and fewer resources. As our publisher, Christopher Elliott, noted at the beginning of the pandemic, travelers need to allow for longer than normal wait times to obtain refunds. And cash-strapped travel companies may pressure them to accept vouchers for future travel instead of refunds.
But despite these constraints, the obligation of travel companies to issue refunds promptly remains the same. Travelers are entitled to their refunds.
If coronavirus put an involuntary halt to your travel plans, here are some answers to questions about how to deal with the changes. (We’re constantly updating these FAQs as new information becomes available.)
You can take the following steps to self-advocate for missing refunds:
- Write a letter of complaint to the company. The Contacts section of our website contains executive contact information for hundreds of companies. (As of this writing, contact information for eDreams and Bahamasair are pending.)
- Address your letter to the primary contact or lowest-ranking customer service executive. Give that person 10 to 14 days to respond. Then escalate to the next highest-ranking executive if you don’t receive a satisfactory response.
- Include with your letter a paper trail of emails, receipts, confirmations, and any other documentation establishing the company’s obligations to you.
- Observe the three Ps of consumer advocacy in all your communications with the company. As frustrating as indefinite waits for promised refunds can be, patience, persistence and politeness are your best friends when self-advocating.
And if none of these steps yield your refund, contact Elliott Advocacy. Our advocates are ready to assist you!