Can Windstar Cruises keep my $17,000 airfare after I cancel?

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By Christopher Elliott

When one of my readers cancels her Windstar cruise, the company decides to keep her $17,000 airfare. Can it do that?

Question

My husband and I booked business class airfare for our Windstar cruise in New Zealand through the cruise line. There was no mention of the tickets being nonrefundable until we received the confirmation. We had to cancel the cruise, and we tried to get a ticket refund. 

Windstar claims it booked the tickets through a third party called Global Marine Travel and that they are nonrefundable. I called American Airlines, which confirmed that it sent a refund to Global Marine Travel. It looks like Windstar Cruises is keeping our $17,000 airfare. Can you help us get a refund? — P. McMurtry, Indio, Calif.

Answer

Windstar should have disclosed that your airline tickets were nonrefundable. And if the airline refunded your tickets, it should have at least considered passing that refund along to you. 

I reviewed the correspondence between you and Windstar. I could not find any disclosure of the non-refundability in its emails to you. Since business class tickets are often refundable, you had every reason to believe you might get a refund — or, at least, a full ticket credit 

In an email sent to you, Windstar pointed out that according to its terms, air travel is nonrefundable once purchased, no matter what your ticket says. So that means even if American refunds Windstar’s travel agency, it gets to keep the money. (Related: Is this enough compensation for an interrupted Windstar cruise?)

I’ve dealt with these double-jeopardy refund cases before, and I have a problem with any company imposing new rules on a purchase. But that’s not why I took your case. I did because I could not find any disclosure of Windstar’s refund rules.

You tried to resolve this yourself by filing a dispute on your credit card. A chargeback is your last line of defense against a fraudulent purchase. You might have contacted one of the executives at Windstar Cruises to plead your case before trying a credit card dispute.

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands, including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Mostly, I was curious about Windstar’s disclosure. The paper trail between you and the cruise line did not spell out the airfare refund rules. I contacted Windstar to see if I had missed something. In response, the cruise line refunded your $17,000 airline tickets. 

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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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