Travelocity promised me a refund — did it do enough?

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By Christopher Elliott

Thank goodness for the new 24-hour rule. That’s what Joan Weiner thought when she booked an airline ticket from Philadelphia to Vienna through Travelocity, only to find a cheaper fare a few hours later.

She made a new reservation through American Express, only to discover that her original ticket hadn’t been canceled. Now she had two tickets.

“The cancellation — or what I thought was the cancellation — was made within the 24 hour rule,” she says. “I had the Amex website open and did not complete the reservation until I made the call to cancel. Their records show that I called Travelocity at 8:12 p.m. and made the reservation at 8:18 p.m. on the Amex site that apparently Travelocity also handles.”

As a refresher, the 24-hour rule allows you to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, as long as you make the reservation one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.

Here’s where things get interesting

A Travelocity’s supervisor confirmed I had called [to cancel] but not that the reservation had been canceled.

He tried to be helpful, contacted US Airways, and said they would cancel and refund one of the flights.

However, they would charge $50 and would use the higher fare and refund the lower one, minus the $50. So the cost would be $1,090 instead of $847.

That’s not ideal, but at least she’s not paying for a second ticket. But then things got worse.

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Last evening, I spent 2 1/2 hours with Travelocity and with a supervisor. US Airways indicated that it would not refund the first ticket and would only cancel and rebook with a $290 penalty within the year.

Obviously, that is the “usual” airline policy — with no help from Travelocity.

Uh-oh. That’s not an ideal resolution, and it seems someone dropped the ball on this cancellation. Now US Airways wants to keep Weiner’s money.

My advocacy team and I contacted Travelocity on her behalf, but did not hear back from the company. We contacted it again, and someone from the online agency’s executive office finally responded with a different resolution.

Here’s what it’s offering

We have spoken to US Airways who advised they have a policy regarding duplicate bookings. US Airways will allow a refund on the most recent booking (American Express Travel) to be processed minus a $50 processing fee.

As previously advised, Travelocity will process the refund request through US Airways refund department directly and also take care of the $50 processing fee as a courtesy.

Regrettably, Travelocity will not be able to refund any difference in the cost of the two tickets (i.e. Travelocity booking versus American Express-Travel booking).

Wiener wants to know if she should take this offer or keep fighting for the better fare. (Related: This $250 Travelocity gift card has expired — but there’s no expiration date on it!)

In reviewing my notes on this case, it appears Travelocity was called within 24 hours of the cancellation, but that for some reason, the cancellation wasn’t made with US Airways. (Related: Travelocity charged me twice, can I get a refund?)

The airline is well within its rights to keep all of Weiner’s money. But should Travelocity cover the price difference between fare number one and fare number two? (Here’s how to find the best travel advice.)

If it were me, I’d probably take the new ticket and the refund and consider myself lucky. I could have been on the hook for two tickets, after all. Also, this would be a lesson to me to always cancel a booking online instead of by phone. (I see some back-and-forth between Travelocity in which it suggested it had either not recorded or deleted the phone records between it and Weiner.)

The 24-hour cancellation rule is relatively new, so glitches like this are to be expected. Weiner’s flight leaves in a few weeks. What do you think she should do?

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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.

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