When Beth Tenenbaum’s husband’s return flight on Turkish Airlines is canceled, she can only get a refund for the taxes included in the ticket cost. Can our advocates get the rest of his airfare back from CheapTickets.com?
Question: I purchased a round-trip ticket on Turkish Airlines from Washington to Tel Aviv, Israel, via Istanbul for my husband on CheapTickets.com (a brand of Orbitz). He used the outbound ticket to fly to Tel Aviv, but his return flight was canceled because of inclement weather.
I contacted CheapTickets to seek a refund for the airfare for the canceled return flight. CheapTickets’ agent told me, and Turkish Airlines confirmed, that I would receive a refund of 50 percent of the ticket price of $1,068. My husband then booked a return ticket on Aeroflot which would depart the following day. That night I received a call from CheapTickets indicating that they had initiated a refund claim for the return flight. But I received a refund of only $194.
When I contacted CheapTickets to ask for the rest of the refund, its agent told me that the ticket was nonrefundable and that CheapTickets could refund me only the taxes for the return portion of the ticket. I told the agent that CheapTickets’ representative had promised me a refund of $534, but the agent responded that the representative did not document this promise.
Can you help me get the remaining $340 of the return ticket price refunded to me? — Beth Tenenbaum, Baltimore, MD
Answer: If CheapTickets and Turkish Airlines both confirmed to you that you could expect a refund of $534 for the canceled portion of your husband’s flight, then that’s what you should have received. And CheapTickets’ representative should have documented that promise to you.
Had you purchased the ticket directly through Turkish Airlines, you could have expected that the airline would keep a record of its promise to issue you a refund of half of the total airfare that you could have relied upon when seeking the $340 that you didn’t receive.
We often note that it’s risky to use online booking sites to make travel reservations rather than contact travel companies directly, because the math that airlines, hotels and other travel companies use to compute refundable fares is fuzzy at best. Booking directly with a travel provider adds a layer of protection to prepayments that isn’t there when you purchase through one of those sites.
CheapTickets, like many other travel booking sites, contains a provision in its terms and conditions that disclaims liability for any promises made by travel companies selling tickets on its site:
The carriers, hotels and other suppliers providing travel or other services on this Website are independent contractors and not agents or employees of CheapTickets. CheapTickets is not liable for the acts, errors, omissions, representations, warranties, breaches or negligence of any such suppliers or for any personal injuries, death, property damage, or other damages or expenses resulting there from. CheapTickets has no liability and will make no refund in the event of any delay, cancellation, overbooking, strike, force majeure or other causes beyond their direct control, and they have no responsibility for any additional expenses, omissions, delays, re-routing or acts of any government or authority.
When your husband’s flight was canceled, this provision, together with CheapTickets’ claim that there was no documentation of its representative’s promise of a refund of the airfare, enabled CheapTickets to declare that it owed you only a refund of the airport taxes.
Our advocates agreed that this wasn’t fair. CheapTickets should have honored its representative’s promise, especially since Turkish Airlines confirmed that you were entitled to an airfare refund.
We reached out to CheapTickets on your behalf. CheapTickets agreed to process a refund for the remainder of the airfare “to demonstrate [its] commitment to customer satisfaction.”