Her daughter just doesn’t have time for our advocacy team

Our advocacy team can't take this case.

Editor’s Note: We help a lot of travelers with a lot of different problems — everything from cell phone bills to computer troubles, and from filthy rentals to canceled flights. But our advocacy team has limits on the cases we’ll take. Here’s one.

Elisabeth Gully and two family members purchased British Airways tickets through Webjet, an online travel agency (OTA). A few days before departure, Gully went to the emergency room at her local hospital. She was admitted for surgery and required continued care at home after being released.

Gully said she canceled her Webjet flight and her mother and brother used the tickets, as planned. Webjet promised a refund of the cost of the unused ticket, she explained.  But, she told our advocacy team, Webjet rejected her refund request after she sent all her medical records.

Who is contacting our advocacy team?

Gully could have contacted executives at Webjet, but instead, she asked our advocacy team for help. Or did she?

Our advocacy team received a request for help from someone claiming to be Elisabeth Gully. That request included details of her medical conditions, hospitalization, the correspondence with Webjet, and the denial of a refund from British Airways. Those emails continually indicated that the person writing was Elisabeth Gully.

According to these emails, British Airways’ position was that the ticket was nonrefundable and no refund was due. Webjet shared the email it received from the airline, which was succinct: “BA does not provide waiver for any reason. You will have to go by the fare rules.”

Our advocate Michelle Couch-Friedman began researching this case and noticed two things of importance. First, all the references to the tickets were under the same record locator. When multiple tickets are included on the same record and one is canceled, the airline must separate the ticket being canceled and assigns a new record locator. For whatever reason,  Elisabeth Gully’s ticket was never canceled and British Airways recorded a no-show.

British Airways conditions of carriage

The conditions of carriage for British Airways tickets does provide for a credit on non-refundable tickets:

3e) Your rights if you are prevented from travelling by events beyond your control

  • you are a consumer.
  • you have been prevented from travelling by events beyond your control and
  • all or part of the fare for your ticket is non-refundable.

we will give you a credit for the non-refundable part of the fare. We will do this if you have:

  •  a completely unused ticket
  • told us promptly about the events beyond your control and
  • given us evidence of these events.

The credit can be used for future travel on us by you or any person you choose. We may take a reasonable fee from the credit to cover our administration costs.

Our advocacy team discovers several problems with this request

If Gully had canceled her ticket before the flight, she would have been eligible to receive a credit for a future flight. We don’t know if Webjet made a mistake in the cancellation or if Gully never officially canceled the flight. The reason we don’t know this is because of the second thing Michelle noticed about this case. Our advocacy team wasn’t working with Elisabeth Gully. The person who sent the request for help and with whom Michelle had been corresponding was her mother, Katherina Gully.

Michelle explained that we have to hear directly from the consumer to advocate a case. Our advocacy team needs to have first-hand knowledge of the circumstances of the cases it handles. Information filtered through a third party is often not entirely accurate.

We explain our policy about cases we will not advocate in our FAQs.

When our advocacy team finally heard directly from Elisabeth Gully she explained:

My mother has recently been in contact on my behalf … regarding the cancellation of a flight in June. I am allowing her to discuss the course of action regarding that canceled flight with whomever due to the fact that it is difficult for me to email back and forth in a timely matter because of my work schedule. Thank you.

I understand having a busy work schedule but it doesn’t change our policy. We can’t work with a traveler’s mother, friend, or another third party. If Elisabeth Gully finds time to work with us directly we’ll be happy to help. Until then, there’s nothing we can do.

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