Aline Owens wants to know: How long should my Expedia refund take?
So would I.
She’s entitled to a refund on her United Airlines ticket. Expedia says it’s helping her. But it’s been more than a month. And I’m starting to wonder where exactly her $830 is. Should she expect some kind of interest payments for a short-term loan given to United or Expedia?
Let’s find out.
Aloha means goodbye
Owens and a friend had tickets to fly from New York to Honolulu this winter. But United canceled the flight after a snowstorm, and she ended up booking a ticket on another airline for $2,178. What can I say — she really wanted to go to Hawaii.
No doubt about it, United owed her an immediate refund. See its Contract of Carriage, Rule 24, section 7E.
The good news? When a refund is due, the airline must forward a credit to your card company within seven business days after receiving a complete refund application, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT).
The bad news? The credit may take a month or two to appear on your statement.
By the time Owens contacted me, it had been more than a month. It looked like her money had gone aloha — and by “aloha” I mean goodbye.
So how long should my Expedia refund take?
Owens tried to get a straight answer out of United and Expedia. But you probably can guess where that landed her: in Form-Response Land.
Here’s a sample of the maddening correspondence she received:
I will [sic] like to provide you with an update on your case. After being routed to multiple departments by United, I have finally received approval for a full refund. The United Management Team has forwarded the approval and ticket information to their refunds department. They will send an email once the refund has been processed.
I will keep the case open until I receive the final refund confirmation. You may also track the refund status by visiting https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/reservations/refunds/refund.aspx.
Here’s what she’d like to know: Where’s the money now? What are they doing with it?
As far as I can tell, here’s not what is happening with her $830:
✓ Neither United nor Expedia has moved the money into a short-term investment account to profit from the one month the DOT gives them with the funds.
✓ The companies are not intentionally holding her money, either. The delay is just normal red tape — a system intentionally designed to take the money quickly and return it slowly.
✓ The system is slow for good reasons (a lot of internal checks to ensure the money is going to the right person) and bad reasons (because they can). If more people raised hell about their slow refunds, companies and regulators would change.
United can do better
I believe United should take no more than a week to return Owens’ $830. After all, this is an open-and-shut case. The flight was canceled. United could probably have written her a refund check at the counter.
One week is more than enough time to dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s. Expedia and her credit card should work with the airline to return Owens’ money quickly, too. Otherwise, they are complicit in a system that hurts consumers, particularly those with limited means.
So, to answer her question, Owens’ Expedia refund should take no more than a week. Not a month. Not two months.