Does this cancellation confirmation contain contradictory information?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Joane Perry cancels her Canadian vacation, her online agency leads her to believe she’ll have a year to use her flight credit. Her cancellation confirmation says otherwise. Is there a way to clear up this misunderstanding — and save her airline tickets?

Question

I recently booked a flight from Houston to Montreal on Air Canada through Expedia. I had to cancel the flight, but I received cancellation confirmation from Expedia that said, “Your airline credit expires 30-March-2018. To redeem your credit, you must book your travel by calling Expedia by 30-March-2018 and at least one leg of your flight must be on Air Canada.”

I called Expedia immediately and asked a representative if it meant that I had to travel before March 30. The representative assured me that as long as I would call Expedia before March 30 and book another flight, I could choose any date during 2018 to fly as long as I would book all or part of my trip using Air Canada.

He also told me that since I purchased the cancellation insurance package, the $200 rebooking fee would be waived and I would only have to pay the difference in the cost of my future flight.

I tried to book the flights, but a day after making a new reservation, Air Canada emailed me to tell me that my flights were cancelled since they didn’t accept the June dates. It turns out I had to travel between January and March 30 — otherwise I would lose everything! Now Expedia says it is up to Air Canada to fix this and Air Canada is saying it’s up to Expedia. Can you help me? — Joane Perry, Houston

Answer

I can see how you’d be confused. I am, too.

Normally, an airline ticket credit is only valid for one year from the date of your purchase. Travel insurance can cover change fees, but I’ve never heard of it extending the validity of your credit in the way you describe.

The “one year” misunderstanding is fairly common. It happens for a variety of reasons, including language barriers (English is often not a representative’s first language. Here’s how to get around a language barrier), inadequate training (there’s a reason those offshore call centers are so cost-efficient) and wishful thinking (maybe you heard what you wanted to hear).

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Which contract matters?

In this case, the written terms on your cancellation confirmation were correct; the verbal ones weren’t. In virtually every case I’ve worked on since the very beginning of this site, the written contract is the one that counts. I’m sorry you had to learn that the hard way.

Here are the executive contacts for Expedia and the executive contacts for Air Canada. A short, polite email to the higher-ups might help prevent a total loss of your airfare.

Strictly speaking, though, you were out of luck on this one. The written terms were crystal clear and they were communicated to you by Expedia.

A surprise ending

I love endings like this. I contacted Expedia on your behalf and, separately, you also reached out to one of the Air Canada execs. Unsurprisingly, Expedia could not do any more for you, despite my nudging. Maybe it reviewed its call records and concluded that you just misunderstood the terms of your cancellation. It’s hard to know for certain.

But your efforts to contact Air Canada resulted in an unexpectedly happy ending. The airline agreed to extend your credit and you’ll be able to use your $586 ticket credit for a summer vacation. Good job to both you for the self-advocacy and to Air Canada for the consideration.

Have you ever lost an airline ticket credit because of a “misunderstanding” between you and a representative? Do you think it’s fair for airlines to keep all of your money, even when they can — and probably do — resell your seat?

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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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