Do I really have to pay for this airline ticket twice?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Brad Walters checks in for his flight from Singapore to Manila, he’s told he needs to repurchase one of his flight segments. He’s trying to get a refund for the unused ticket, but months after he traveled, there’s no sign of his money.

Question

At the tail end of a trip last year to Southeast Asia, I had a pair of tickets on Cebu Pacific Airways from Singapore to Manila, and then from Manila to Osaka, to connect with my overseas flight back to the States. I bought the tickets separately because Cebu only does point-to-point ticketing.

Before the Singapore gate agents would let me board the plane to Manila, they requested proof of my ticket out of Manila, presumably due to government regulations. So I gave the gate agent my reservation number. But he wasn’t able to pull up the ticket. I gave him my name, my passport, any other information I thought might help, and still he wasn’t able to pull up the ticket.

With time winding down, I did the only thing I could do at that point, which was buy a brand-new ticket from Manila to Osaka from a ticketing agent on the spot. With that ticket out of Manila, I was able to board the flight to Manila and make my connections home.

Of course, as soon as I got back home, I began calling Cebu Pacific to try to get a refund for the extra ticket they’d made me purchase. Fast-forward nine months later and I’m still waiting for that refund.

I call once a month or so, and each time I’m told they are investigating the matter. Can you help? — Brad Walters, Arlington, Va.

Answer

Inbound air travelers to the Philippines are often asked for proof of onward travel. In other words, they want to be assured you’re planning to leave the country. It’s a problem with your itinerary, and Cebu Pacific’s booking restrictions.

Had your ticket indicated that you were flying from Singapore back to the States, via Manila, then this wouldn’t have been an issue. But as you say, Cebu Pacific would only allow you to book a point-to-point ticket.

Of course, the major flaw in Cebu Pacific’s system was its inability to recognize the rest of your itinerary. If it had been able to see the rest of your tickets, then it wouldn’t have forced you to buy another one. (Related: AeroMexico canceled my flight. I want a refund, not a ticket credit.)

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The best way to resolve a situation like this is right then and there, not later on. Ask for a supervisor when a ticket agent tells you that you need to buy a new ticket. Managers are often able to waive certain rules, and this is one of those times when someone with a little common sense should have said, “Look, the problem is on our end. Go ahead and board.”

Extracting a refund from Cebu Pacific after your flight was something of a challenge. The old “out of sight; out of mind” rule applies. When you’re thousands of miles away, why should Cebu Pacific move quickly on your refund request? (Here’s how to get a refund on a nonrefundable airline ticket.)

I contacted the airline on your behalf. Even so, it took several more emails from you and a phone call to get this straightened out. But 13 months after your flight, you received a full refund for the ticket you didn’t use.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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