Help, my travel agency is pocketing my airfare refund!

Question: I recently had to have jaw surgery, and my doctor recommended that I cancel a planned flight on Delta Air Lines. I submitted a request through my travel agency, but it refused to refund the ticket because it had a policy that tickets are nonrefundable, except in cases of illness or death.

So I contacted Delta directly. It processed my refund, but told me they had sent the money back to my travel agency. I contacted the agency and asked it for the refund, but they refused, citing their refund policy.

I have tried repeatedly to contact my agency, but it won’t return my calls. I don’t want to lose the $1,771 I paid. Can you help me get my money back? — Nartach Djepbarova, Seattle

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Answer: I’m sorry about the problems with your ticket refund. The bottom line is: it’s your money and you should get it back immediately.

Using a travel agent is a good idea. I’m a big believer in using a competent travel advisor.

Most agencies have refund policies that reflect those of a travel provider. In other words, if a flight is nonrefundable, then the agency policy would match it. It may add a separate agency transaction fee, in the event of a refund, but that’s usually all.

In your case, the agency policy on refunds matched Delta’s. You had a nonrefundable ticket. Then Delta decided to make an exception to its policy. And then you and Delta assumed the agency would also make an exception. It didn’t.

I suppose your agency was technically right. It could have pocketed the entire $1,771 and made a nice profit on your ticket. But that seems wrong to me. Delta offered you a refund out of compassion, so that you could attend to your health needs. Your agency should have, too.

You could have avoided this in one of several ways. If you suspected that you might need surgery, you could have purchased a more flexible, refundable fare (but those can be significantly more expensive). Booking directly through Delta would have prevented this too, but as I mentioned before, having a good agent can be helpful.

By the way, I’m not sure if you’re working with the right agent. Any travel advisor that would refuse to pass along a refund from your airline needs to have its moral compass checked. I would find a new agent, right now.

I contacted Delta on your behalf and asked if it could put in a good word with your agency. Delta made sure the $1,771 refund made it all the way to you.

Should a travel agent ever keep your refund?

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103 thoughts on “Help, my travel agency is pocketing my airfare refund!

  1. Please tell us who this agency or agent is so I can make a note NEVER to use their services. We really need a name and shame, for these agents and agencies.
    The issue here is that the agent works FOR the traveler, not with them or against them. Policies are designed to resolve issues between the traveler and the agent, not to make a grab for money against the traveler.

    1. AMEN! As a travel agent, I would have actually BEEN the one to contact Delta for the exception, and gladly refunded the cost of the ticket. (Would have kept the fee, but that is not unusual)

  2. Chris, why not disclose the name of the “Agency”, or at least the “agent”? (I put the word “Agency” and “agent” in ‘scare quotes’ because clearly they aren’t acting as agents of the customer, since an actual agent would be working on their customer’s behalf.)

    In any case, I’m pretty sure retaining the refund was not legal; there is a legal doctrine called “unjust enrichment”, and this would seem to fit.

  3. I would think that an agency is supposed to work FOR the customer, not against. I agree with Mr. Elliott. Anyone who keeps a refund should be kicked to the curb ASAP. I also would like to know the name of the agency.

  4. My brain hurts trying to comprehend the logic the agency must have used to keep the refund…especially after the customer did all the hard work making it happen.

      1. This isn’t necessarily true. We need to know the contract of the fare issued. If it was an APEX, regularly issued ticket, then yes but since the ticket doesn’t appear to have been paid for by a credit card, there could be more to this that we have been told.

        1. Can you explain that it layperson’s terms.

          Ultimately the contract is probably not relevant as there are numerous quasi-contract theories to get around the contract, not the least of which is unconscionableness.

          1. Carver, usually Advance Purchase Excursion (APEX) fares for international travel allow for cancellation with a full refund, with documentation of a death or illness of a passenger or immediate family member. Most agents would contact the carrier for instructions on sending the documentation and also verifying that the need for canceling meets their refund requirements, and documenting this in the reservation. My guess is that the agency didn’t find the jaw surgery to qualify for a refund so the OP called the carrier directly and got it approved, which can happen if the carrier’s agent bends the rules. The travel agent can’t bend the rules without the carrier’s permission and a code for allowing it or they get fined. Again, I am assuming what happened based on the fact that the OP doesn’t say that the surgery was urgent due to an illness that caused the problem.
            Since the OP said the refund was to sent to the agency, this tells me that the form of payment in the reservation wasn’t by credit card via the airline computer system. The agency would receive notification of the refund through ARC. An agency can dispute the refund holding the passenger’s up the passengers refund.
            If the OP paid by credit card, I would ask, what name showed up on their credit card statement. If it was the carrier, then I am not sure why the carrier didn’t just handle the refund right there. If the agency’s name showed up, then the credit card was charged in house and the ticket was issued as a cash transaction. If this was how it was handled, the next question would why? Was it a net or bulk fare, therefore discounted with additional restrictions that the carrier didn’t bother to find out about? On the latter, this happens with consolidator fares and why many consolidators will even issue APEX fares as bulk, which the carrier then can’t see and it all has to come back to the issuing office to handle the refund due to the handling of the commission.
            If the carrier authorizes the refund, yes, the agency should refund it, but they should be allowed to keep their commission if the rules of the fare were broken by the carrier. This shouldn’t affect the passenger but it does just because of the way the carrier handled it.
            BTW, a nonrefundable airline ticket is a contract according to the airlines. They hold an issuing agency to this but they don’t hold themselves to it. I have used the airline’s own contract to my benefit, thanks to ASTA, against the carriers in the past to retain our commission on a nonrefundable ticket, if we qualified for commission on that particular nonrefundable fare.

          2. bodega, i think i managed to wade thru all of that, but in the end, it still sounds like an internal agency accounting problem.
            if the airline refunded the passenger’s fare to the agency (which it did), fare basis be darned, the agency would be stealing if it did not pass along that refund to the customer who originally paid it. the airline wasn’t just “giving money” to the agency, they sent it with the full intention of it being refunded to the customer.

          3. So, what I took away from that was that the agency may have the right to keep its commission, but the remainder of the refund belongs to the OP regardless. Is that a correct interpretation? If so, are there any situations where the agency has the right to keep the entirety of there refund?

          4. But even in the case of bulk fares, if the airline has sent ahead a refund, the agency should have refunded. UNLESS they went to Delta, and it was actually booked thru their vacations department – in THAT case, DLV would turn the refund into a voucher – perhaps something like this was the case???

          5. For me, there are too many missing pieces to figure out what actually happened. If the airline approved a refund, then the agency needs to refund less their handling/cancel fee. I am believing that the OP contacted the agency, the jaw situation didn’t pass the illness test for cancellation, so the OP contacted the carrier directly and someone there approved it. This stuff happens and it isn’t the agency’s fault in something like that, but the refund is certainly due back if it is given by the carrier, less any agency fees.

  5. If the agency had a policy not to refund tickets expect in the event of illness or death – why didn’t they refund the money due to the surgery? Isn’t a surgery that the doctor recommends not traveling after “illness”? If not, what does qualify?

    1. I was just going to make a very similar response. You don’t have jaw surgery just because you want to. It is because there is some sort of underlying illness that requires the corrective procedure. Now if this surgery was for cosmetic reasons, I could see that, but with the OP saying it “had” to be done, I’m inclined to believe it was not for cosmetic reasons.

      1. I can’t imagine anyone would have jaw surgery for cosmetic reasons alone and even if they did I’m sure the doctor would right a note about some medical reason they needed it.

      1. We don’t know the contract on the fare to know if the OP went around the agency to get what may not have been allowed. Not uncommon and since the carrier sent the agency the money, not crediting a credit card, there is more to this that is being told.

    2. The agency does not set the fare rules – the airline does. The agency represents the airline (they are an agent of the airline), so they have to abide by the rules of the fare set by the airline. They have to follow what the airlines tell them to do.

      But in this case, I wonder if the so-called agent actually issued the ticket.
      I have a feeling a CONSOLIDATOR issued the ticket and this agency was a sub-agent.
      I could be wrong but after reading the about us page, they claim to deal with consolidator fares.

  6. I’m sure if I thought hard enough I could probably find an instance or two where it might be acceptable for the agency to keep the money. However, this is NOT one of those times. They’re just a terrible agent who probably needs the money because they can’t make it by being an good agent.

  7. I can possibly understand the agent taking his/her share of the refund as their commission, since they did do the work of arranging the flight for the client, but to keep the entire refund is unconscionable!

    1. I can’t even see them keeping a portion of the refund as commission since they got their commission when they arranged the flights in the first place. That is double dipping and a no-no in my book.

      1. Actually Ann, if the carrier refunded against the rules of the fare, I would have no problem with the agency keeping their commission, should they have made any on this sale. The contract with the carrier and the agency, if this was a basic ticket issue from the GDS and no special contract between the agency and carrier, is that this is nonrefundable and therefore, the commission is the agency’s to keep. We use to do this all the time when the carrier bent their own rules when a client contacted the carrier directly and didn’t go through us for a refund on a nonrefundable ticket. Since we only take credit cards, the client didn’t know this, as it was between our agency and the carrier. ASTA backed agencies up on this….back when they were on our side!

        1. I was making the assumption that the fare refunded was minus the agent’s commission. If that refunded fare also included the commission, I also would not have an issue with them keeping back their portion of the commission. They did the service and should be paid for it, regardless.

  8. My wife and I own a leisure agency and I voted no. Who voted yes and why? My guess is that Delta told the agency to either pay the passenger or they (Delta) would issue a debit memo for the money and pay the client directly. The other alternative is that Delta explained that the agency’s ticketing privileges with Delta would be suspended. Lastly, the OP paid with cash or check since the refund would have gone back to the OP’s credit card had one been used.
    This is a tough enough business as it is without having a sleaze ball sully the reputation of the profession.

    1. I had exact thought about the cc and have a bad feeling I know why the agency refused.

      Commission / markup. I imagine the agency issued to check and charged the client directly, eating the merchant 3%.

      Basically the agency didn’t want to lose their profit from the original sale.

      Very bad policy and in this age of social media its baffling they would try it. Good job getting them to refund, Chris.

    2. Before jumping on the other agency, we don’t know what the fare was that the agency ticketed. Having worked for a an agency that had contracted fares, the carriers would always do something that went against our contract when a passenger would contact them directly. Even back when we got commission, the carrier would try and recall a commission on a nonrefundable ticket that they refunded but we didn’t have to give the commission up. We don’t like bad agents or agencies, but we also don’t have enough information on the fare rules to know if the agency should or shouldn’t have handled this the way they did. The biggest point being is the way the carrier is sending the refund raises the flag on this.

      1. Let’s assume for the moment that the contract is written,or the terms of the fare, permit the agent to keep the money. It still doesn’t pass the smell test that the agency gets to keep an extra $1700.

        You being an insider can perhaps lay out a scenario in which that resonates as ethical. But at this point, I’m very skeptical.

    3. The refund would not necessarily go back to the clients c.c if the agency, not the airline, charged the c.c. for the transaction. Agency charges the client c.c. and then pays the airline. But the client could have done a chargeback to the travel agency if a c.c. was used.

      1. The ONLY reason to use an agency card is for contracted fares with a hidden markup – otherwise YOU assume the responsibility for the ticket. I think this was a consolidator fare, and the agency has a contract NOT to refund those even when the airline makes a decision like this – they can STILL come back to the agency with a debit memo for the money when there is a mixup (such a pain)

        1. One of my consolidators won’t place amounts in the PNR for the carrier to see, issuing all tickets as bulk, making all refunds having to be handled by the consolidator due to issues like this.

          1. Same here. Bulk fare appear as BULK in ETR.

            In this particular case, I do not understand why after Delta issued a refund, the agency did not give the original payment minus their $250 service fee.

            You know it is possible that the vendor is a sub and the ticket was issued through another consolidator making accounting very tricky.

            Something like this:
            Money for ticket: Pax –> Sub—> Consolidator —> Airline (though ARC)

            When the airline refunded to Original Form of Payment, the refund money went back to consolidator. Since the refund transaction was not processed by the consolidator, then the money trail did not point back to the Sub. Maybe the consolidator kept the money first since the amount is just part of the netting that happens each week.

  9. I think most of your readers would appreciate knowing the name of the so-called “travel agency”. I’ve dealt with a travel agent from time to time, and have always received exemplary customer service; the unnamed agency in your column needs to be “outed”.

    1. Knowing the name of the Agency would be nice, and hearing their side of the story, would be interesting. Is this a “Shady” operation? or is there more to the story.

  10. “Ever” is a very strong word in today’s poll. Just like “never.” I was taught at a young age, never say never. Same with ever. I am sure there are circumstances, no matter how improbable, where the agent would be justified in not returning a refund.

    I can think of situations where the agent, more intimately familiar with the lives and actions of the customers, might not take as much compassion based on this personal relationship. Attempts at customer fraud after making very complicated itinerary arrangements might be one.

    1. Even in case of customer fraud, the money should belong to Delta, not the agency. I’m struggling to come up with a scenario, but my imagination just isn’t good enough 🙂

      1. Well, I am not a criminal, but i can imagine a clear case of customer fraud. Agency spends literally dozens of hours in arranging grand personal tour of Europe. Agency makes arrangements, pending commissions from hotels, tours, guides and others. Customer decides to cancel, gets doctors, etc. to cooperate, applies to all for refunds, and some come through to agency. Agency knows guest just changed their fickle minds (neighbors) after all cancellation deadlines passed. Instead, they have notarized letter from doctor about a coronary event. OK, what’s the agency to do once the refunds come in?

        Should the agency rat on the travellers to all these establishments? (Imagine the additional time spent writing each one that make a refund.) Should they refund all the money to the fraudsters? Should the agency take the big hit because customer is fickle and decided to take Alaska cruise through another agency?

        This is not too hard to imagine at all. Matter of fact, this seems like a very likely scenario considering what I have seen in my four-plus decades of business experience.

        1. For the purpose of your hypothetical we are assuming that its not the agency’s money and these are prepaid, nonrefundable fares.

          They have no right to keep the money. That would be criminal fraud, larceny, and perhaps even embezzlement on the part of the agency.

          They have two choices:

          Choice 1: Decide that they are not involved and return the money to the “Fraudster”

          Choice 2: They can return the money that comes through the agency to the travel provider(s).

          What they cannot do is decide that they are more deserving of the money and reap these ill-gotten gains.

          I suspect that should a travel provider learn that the refund that they believed was going though the agency to the traveler was kept by the agency, (this hypothetical case, not the OPS), the travel provider would be very very upset.

          In real life, the correct solution is to deposit the money with the court and let the parties duke it out.

          1. Unfortunately, the small travel agency does not have the luxury of pursuing “the court” and bird dog a situation like this. The Agency is out money and time in a clearly fraudulent case. Do you throw good money after bad? The commissions are gone for good. Suddenly you have refunds in your accounts for a fraudulent situation.

            The question was should they “ever” keep a refund. You have stated a legal opinion, which is probably valid and correct. Unfortunately, we have the real world situation of fraud being committed and a small business person screwed out of perhaps $1,000+ in commissions. Considering the time (costs) of appearances before a small claims court, gathering the paperwork and vendor accounting/refunds and then pursuing a local customer for justly deserved fees, the whole matter most likely will be dropped.

            So what does the public think if a refund ever should be kept? In this case, I am suggesting the agency should deduct the legitimate fees and commissions it is due as if the trip were taken, and return to the fraudsters the balance, with a brief note, “If you want more,we then can litigate your “cardiac condition” cancellation and inform the vendors, if you are back in time from your Alaska cruise.” It may not be the legal solution, but it is the just one IMHO.

          2. Discussions about TA fees while interesting are a red herring. We are talking about the refund. The money that the travel provider returns expecting it to go to the customer. Whether the TA deducts the fee or not is the side issue.

            Incidentally, the time and money to pursue small claims is insignificant. Under $100 to file and a couple hours in court.

  11. I can’t currently think of a reason the agency would withhold the refund, but it would certainly be interesting to know their side of the story.

  12. With the justification of “unjust enrichment,” I’d take this to small claims court. I’d also write to the local newspaper with the story and the name of the agency. Be sure to state just the facts and no name calling. Odds are you will win are 82.76%. 🙂

  13. As much as I’d like the name of the travel agent/agency, odds are great were Chris to share it, he’d be sued. He’d probably win, but it would still cost him a great deal of time and money to fight it.

    I’m glad this turned out okay for the OP but, wow, this is a travel agent/agency who shouldn’t be in the business. They sound like crooks, 100%.

  14. I agree, the agency name s/b published so we can avoid using them. When a person or entity is allowed to get away with immoral behaviour, they are just encouraged to continue. Certainly they could have kept a reasonable fee for performing the work … how much work is it to book a ticket? Keeping the entire refund is plain theft.

    1. Maybe Tony or one of the other agents that frequent here could answer this. But from other stories Chris featred where the airline made the refund, it was never for the amount the passenger paid, just what the agent paid the airline. So, I’m curious if the airline actually refunded the entire amount paid.

      1. The lesson learned here is to make sure you pay with a credit card and the airline becomes the merchant on record even if you use a travel agency.

        In a typical airline ticket credit card transaction, the agency does not charge your credit card for the cost of the ticket. It passes the credit card information to the airline and the airline becomes the merchant. If the airline decides to refund, they will do it to the original form of payment – meaning your credit card – directly. The agency can completely be bypassed for the refund transaction. In fact the agency will be required to return (aka recall) their commission to the airline.

        Tickets based on bulk or net fares may have some more complicated money accounting to do (since the agency marks up the cost of the ticket) but as long as the airline charges the credit card, you will still have lots of protection.

        The problem is when a ticket is issued as a cash transaction. The agency pays the airline in cash instead of the airline charging the passenger’s credit card. [Note: The agency might have charged your credit card itself so it becomes the merchant in record. Then it settles the cost of your ticket with the airline in cash.]
        With a cash transaction, the original form of payment from the airline’s perspective is CASH. So during a refund, the airline returns the CASH to the travel agency (and not to you). You end up having to collect the money from your agency – a lousy position to be in.

        So a blanket statement that says to use travel agent is really not such a good consumer friendly statement. In fact it is quite misleading. A lousy agent can really screw you up badly. What we really need are consumer agents – those that really represent the best interest of consumers (and not the service providers).

        IMO most of the good travel agents are those that provide service via 100% human interface. No internet nonsense. Anytime you buy or order something on the net, it is a vending machine not a human.

  15. I wonder if the agency isn’t solvent, and that’s the “hidden” reason they denied the refund. Still doesn’t make it right.

  16. It sounds like the OP paid cash or check for their ticket, otherwise the carrier could have credited their credit card that was used for the initial purchase without going through the agency. This is where, as an agent, I can’t stress enough the importance of using a credit card for your travel purchases.

    While our agency would be refunding based on the rules of the fare, we also would have a service fee to cover our time on handling of the refund. I am wondering if the OP is not willing to pay a fee that the agency might be charging and omitting this bit of information, therefore, their refund is being held. Something just doesn’t sound right on this.

    Also, the OP lives in Washington. Where is the agency that issued the ticket and it is registered to do business in the State of WA as a Seller of Travel? This is where knowing about the Seller of Travel laws in your state can be very helpful.

  17. Expedia did the same thing to me many years ago. It was a $109 hotel room and I eventually had to give up after an attorney reviewed their terms and conditions. I’ve told the story in here afew times. My hunch is its one of the big name in-line travel vending machines. But that’s just a hunch.

  18. The agency should pay the customer at once. The only money he / she might keep is the service fee/handling fee/ or what ever money he/she charged issuing the ticket. On the other hand Delta should have paid the customer direct rather then to the agency and just notified the agency that
    in fact they refunded the customer due to the circumstances

    1. They pay the way the money was received to the carrier. This sounds like it was paid by check or cash and has to go back to the agency. Now there are two ways this was issued. One as a regular ticket or the other as a contacted fare that the carrier may not know the rules on. One consolidator I use requires all refund to back through them as the carrier has screwed them too many times with passengers wishing to by pass the rules of the discounted ticket purchased.
      Chris should let the readers know what type of agency this was and if it was a contracted fare or an APEX fare. We might be missing some needed details to really understand what really is the truth.

    2. ALWAYS goes back to original FOP – so if it was cash/check, the monies go back to the agency. (For all they know, the agency gave the tickets away. paying out of their pocket, and it would be fraud to give the monies back to the client) – just a note on why its done this way.

  19. In order to name the agency in the story, I would have felt obligated to get a full statement from it, explaining its actions. Instead, I resolved this fairly quickly by contacting Delta. The agency was International Travel Network, but it’s unclear if she was dealing with the main office or with an affiliate. (Either way, I normally stop pursuing a case when it’s resolved.)

    1. There are a few holes still left open. Why didn’t the carrier just credit the OP’s card? My guess is that the agency took the payment in house and put the ticket through ARC as a cash payment. So was the inhouse fare discounted and therefore with additional restrictions than booking the regular fare? What was the OP told about the fare purchased? It is very possible that the carrier broke the rules of the fare between the ticketing agency and the carrier….this isn’t that as uncommon as you would think.

      Did the OP want a discount and then go around the agency to get the refund due to the rules that he/she didn’t like?

      1. Can you explain this going around the agency bit. Perhaps this is common knowledge within the industry, but if I buy a ticket from your travel agency for Delta, and later I want to make changes, its not obvious why I would need to go through your travel agency. I might if it were convenient, but to me, a layperson with regards to travel agencies, I would expect that I could either go to you or I could deal directly with Delta.

        This is doubly confusing to me particularly if the commission were paid by me rather than the airline.

        1. You ALWAYS need to go back to the original issuer until you have travelled (then you can go back to the carrier directly if need be, UNLESS a special fare – they don’t touch those). This is to ensure no fraud is perpetrated. (You would be surprised how many angry ex-whatevers know their BETTER half is going to Hawaii, and just decide to make horrific changes, cancellations. Used to get several calls a day from these types when I still worked for the airlines)

          1. That makes it less clear.

            Is that a carrier rule, or travel agency rule? If I buy a ticket for me, how can I perpetuate a fraud by going directly to the carrier instead of the travel agency. You have to dumb it down for us lay people, or at least me. :]

            I’m sure you can see how none of this would be obvious to a lay person.

          2. The carrier’s rule. All payments go back to the form of payment originally used. If you canceled your credit card and you are going to get a ticket refunded, you need to reopen that credit card account. I have had to deal with this many, many times and it is a PITA!

    2. I think they do business as ASAP Tickets dot com.
      Sorry my eyes are glued to the TV watching news about the Asiana crash on SFO.
      My sympathies to the travelers and their loved ones.

    3. AHA!!! Clarity – they are NOT a travel agency, but an airline consolidator – very different rules, and although the airlines may have claimed it was okay to refund, THEY may have ended up on the hook from the airline for violating the contract (that’s why the strict rules). Knowing the rules/restrictions on these tickets is PARAMOUNT when booking them.

      1. An airline ticket consolidator is a travel agency. The basic difference is a “consolidator” supposedly sells to other (smaller) agencies and tickets on their behalf. The real consolidators are wholesale only operations (wholesale meaning they do not sell retail to the general public) because they do not want to compete with their (downline) distributors. That said, there is no official description for consolidators other than the fact that airlines refer to them as agencies doing their own network distribution.

        The easiest way to tell if your ticket was issued by a “consolidator” is to look at the IATA number on the issued ticket. Then go to this website and check who owns it:

        If it is an agency not connected with your vendor, then you can pretty much tell that the ticket was issued by a host agency or consolidator.

        All the rules of a fare (be it published or a bulk fare) is in the fare rules usually uploaded to ATPCO. Those are the rules that count for consumers since they can read them before and after they buy a ticket. As a matter of fact, some of the bulk fares I have come across have LOWER FEES compared to published fares.

        And other sales contract stipulations between the Airline and the agency are not part of the ticket rules UNLESS the agency discloses the same in writing together with the ticket.

        That said, airlines provide OTAs with private (negotiated) fares that may be similar or better than they provide to consolidators.

  20. Glad the OP got back what the airline refunded.

    I have no problem with paying a fee to have a Travel Agent handle my bookings. They take the time and effort to provide me what I need, they deserve to be compensated. I also have no issue with paying a price to a Travel Agent which may or may not equal what they actually pay for what I am buying. As long as I feel I got a good price, they can provide me a free ticket they had laying around as long as it is an actual ticket and not a standby spot (don’t laugh, one agent tried to do that to me). And I also understand that the contract I have with the agency may be more restrictive on certain aspects than the actual arrangements they make for me. However, I am having difficulty understanding the whole Travel Agent process and maybe someone can clarify things for me.

    Why would a Travel Agent keep a refund they receive for a journey I ended up not taking? I have already paid them a fee to set all of this up for me which hopefully covers their costs. It is difficult to make money these days and everyone is looking for a way to make more profits, but keeping a refund because you have a contract that states everything we do for you is non-refundable just seems wrong. I would like to think the “non-refudable” clause in any contract with a Travel Agent means that if I choose to not travel, I don’t get the refund from the agent but would receive anything the carrier refunds. I am even OK with paying a cancellation fee out of the refunded money.

    Also, it has been a while since I did direct business with a travel agent (my work travel department handles all of my arrangements for both work and the complicated personal travel that I don’t book myself), the agency I did work with simply sent me a monthly bill for a services provided and I paid them. I never had any of the tickets appear directly on my credit card statement. Has this changed recently where the traveler’s credit card is required?

    1. I share your confusion. Although I think I am more confused. I am totally fine with a non-refundable commission. If I elect to use a travel agency, they should be compensated for their work. However, beyond that, I don’t understand the justification for a travel agency having a more restrictive policy than the travel provider.

      1. This outfit wants to make $250, their OWN fee for exchanges and refunds.
        That’s a lot of money for India.

        Q:Can I exchange or get a refund from my tickets?
        A:Most discounted tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. However,
        this varies depending on the airline. Airlines that allow exchanges or
        refunds may charge a penalty fee for the service, which your agent will
        quote at the time of purchase. Penalty fees are subject to airline

        Exchanges: If fare rules allow for exchanges, a $250 processing fee will
        be charged along with any airline penalty and fare difference.

        Refunds: If fare rules allow for refunds, a $250 processing fee will be
        charged along with any airline penalty.


          1. Not for my consolidators. They nor us keep a $250 penalty for ourselves.
            In fact the typical cancellation/refund fee is around $50 (sometime lower for better customers). I completely disagree with your statement that $250 is the norm. 100% of my discounted international tickets are issued by consolidators and the fee is mentioned in the agency remarks of the PNR together with their SOT #s.

          2. But for the STANDARD consolidators (USACA members) $250 IS the norm for changes, refunds. I use several other consolidators who have no such restrictions, but find most who sell to the public DO have those – and it is something the USACA points out – higher restrictions and little or not mileage offered on tickets (royal pain if long-haul and not much savings). I rarely use any but one in the area who works with agents, and who follows same ticketing restrictions we do – so no problems. NAD they get full miles as well! 🙂

          3. Yes indeed. My main consolidators are there the oldest members of USACA.
            Never heard of this $250 fee. I deal with these folks daily. In fact I just ticketed one 5 minutes ago.

          4. I have Tony. In fact, my main consolidator has a $250 per ticket rule and then I add a fee on top of that regardless of the reason for cancelling. Of course nobody pays attention to these fee until they are face with them and then they complain. They liked the discount at the time of purchase but they are told that the discount comes with a price if they cancel.

          5. ha ha, maybe time to change consolidators for you. Why would any customer put up with that when Expedia does not charge that high of a fee above what the airline charges for cancel/refunds? If you separate your TASF (Travel Agent Service Fee) then it is not refundable since you gave a service to the customer.
            The problem is when the cost of your service is embedded on the cost of the ticket (such as a markup to a bulk or net fare). When the ticket gets refunded, you still want to make sure you are paid something for your work.
            But $250 is just way too much IMO.

          6. Since we don’t know how this ticket was priced and what information the OP was given, we can’t judge the agency IMHO.

            The consolidator I use, is one you would recognize. A highly regarded and popular one. I have no problem with the fees the consolidator charges, even for published fares. I get maybe one ticket a year that is cancelled, so not a biggie for most clients.

          7. What’s wrong with that? I assume this fee is for the work involved in processing the return. If they don’t process the return why should this fee be paid?

        1. OK. So these fees are published and the OP should have been aware of them when the original transaction was done. I am fine with these fees, even though they do seem high, because you know about it when you decide to do business with the company. The OP stated that the agency would not refund ANY of the money even after he convinced the airline to do so. That is where the problem lies since even though a $250 fee for the change is high,keeping the whole $1700 is truly excessive and uncalled for.

          1. Agreed. I’d probably file a complaint with the consumer fraud division with the District Attorney’s office.

    2. You had a direct billing agreement with the agency (we do the same with some of our corporate accounts). Those tickets are actually paid by the agency direct, and you get a weekly or monthly bill.

  21. something not being told here (there’s always 2 sides to a story).

    Why is Delta refunding a non-refundable ticket ? If ticket is non-refundable, Delta looks really stupid refunding anything.

    So how much was supposedly refunded ?

    Maybe you’re a PITA (pain in the arse) client & agency wants you to go away.

    Maybe the agency charges like lawyers per minute ?

    & what on earth is the statement at the end all about ?

    “Delta made sure the $1,771 refund made it all the way to you.”
    Delta can’t do anything. They can’t get involved.
    If they refuse to supply the agency, that’s totally illegal in most juristictions, but we all know that US law is the dodgiest in the real world.

  22. psyguy …
    Name & shaming is very dangerous & can be defamatory (in the land of the dodgy lawyer that’s scary).
    What about naming & shaming the person who’s asking for refund, that their not in any way entitled too ?
    Name, address, phone number.
    It works both ways.

    1. No, that’s just silly.

      Its one thing to ask, politely, for an accommodation. The recipient can say yea or nay. It’s quite another to keep a refund that Delta issued, expecting it to be returned to the customer. These are not comparable actions by a long shot. The former is legal. the latter is quite possibly criminal.

  23. As a travel agent, these are the kind of agencies that give travel agents a bad name. There is no way the agency should have held that refund. if they had lost their commission, they could have retained that portion of the refund or charged a cancellation fee but what’s right is right – the agency is owed their commission or fee, but not the entire amount.

    Glad that you got involved with this one, Chris. And I bet that Delta said they would have issued a debit memo to the agency if hey didn’t provide a refund.

    1. Ann. What services can travel agents offer today that would make it beneficial to use one rather than booking directly via the web?

      1. I can answer that. We have live availability that you don’t find online, even on the airline’s website. Our GDS’ are government regulated and we have every flight a carrier offers, which you don’t get online, even on the carrier’s website. We can sell segment by segment that you can’t do online. We can hold a reservation, that from what I can seen, can’t be done online. We have access to agent only lines to the carrier and can get things done, you can’t do online. Depending on the carrier, the location of an agency, the volume of business, we have sales reps that can assist us.
        There is NO other booking engine that can do what the GDS can do and the GDS is only available through a travel agent, no online vending machine!

        1. AND, had this not been a consolidator (NOT a travel agent as Chris stated), a REAL travel agent such as Tony, Bodega or myself have access to a SALES REP we can go to just for an instance like this. I have gotten refunds on nonrefundable tickets MANY times (but only when they were legitimate cases) by utilizing my contacts. And the clients ALWAYS got the monies back!

          1. Not to mention there is something really wrong with this case.

            I am not trying to defend the online vendor here, ok; but note the passenger did not die and there is no death involved. As far as I know, a non-refundable Delta ticket is NON REFUNDABLE unless the pax (or family member) dies.

            Knowing the she had only jaw surgery (usually elective in most cases) and did not die, the pax had no cause for a refund under most Delta fare rules for non-refundable tickets. The vendor is certainly behaving correctly when it refused to process her refund because she had no basis under the fare rules.

            The complication here is supposedly Delta agreed to give her a refund on its own. Usually airlines will give e-certs (not refunds) which makes the resolution a lot easier. But a (CASH) refund to a vendor is actually much more complicated. Or a refund of the markup made by a vendor for bulk fares is more complicated.

            Seems to me if the OP agreed to the T&Cs of the vendor, then their $250 refund service fee stays even if that if is rather high. The vendor cannot be forced to waive its own fees. Maybe negotiate something reasonable, fine. But to be force to make it ZERO is also unfair to the vendor since they did some work to ticket this.

  24. This appears to be that 1 in a thousand situations that the airline grants a refund. But the questions still pop up. I do not believe that Delta should have made the refund, but they did! Against their “standard” policy, they did. So answer the questions.

    1) where was the ticket too?

    2) what kind of fare was it?

    3) what kind of fare was it? This was a big fare ticket, so it makes me wonder why? Consolidator fare or straight ticket? A consolidator fare may involve a huge commission while the straight ticket would be a simple service charge. That influences refund decisions.

    Our policy is to assist with letters to the airline to attempt to get a refund and a whole lot of advise for people that deserve a refund to follow. We do retain our service charge when making the final refund as we did do our work.

    But our work continues with the client until the refund is made or declined.

  25. BTW, something that isn’t mentioned in the article and needs to be pointed out is, that while the carrier said it would refund the fare, it has to go through the Airline Reporting Corporation before the agency sees it. While the OP said they contacted the agency, the time period isn’t mentioned. It took two months for the last refund I had requested for a client for it to show up. Therefore, we really don’t know if the agency in question even knew about the refund from the carrier, except by a message from the OP and the agency can’t refund what doesn’t show up. While customer service may have been lacking, I can’t fault the agency right now due to the usual missing bits of important information.

    1. I think we need to distinguish that a human travel agent rightfully needs to be paid a service fee to book and to cancel/refund a ticket. Therefore, the human travel agent needs to be able to recover and lost fees embedded on the price of the ticket. A reasonable amount would be around $100 for the effort of booking and processing the cancel/refund.

      I hope the OP knows that no cancel/refund is processes automatically by a vending machine. So there is human expense in doing so. The only question is HOW MUCH should that service fee be?

      The fee I am talking about is what the agency charges for itself and not what the airline charges. These 2 fees are separate. If the airline is willing to waive its fee, then the agency cannot keep the airline fee. However it may still charge its own service fees for the work done.

      The OP is wrong to believe s/he can use a travel agency and pay nothing for service.
      Airlines do not compensate agencies for refunds.

  26. Re:Delta made sure the $1,771 refund made it all the way to you.
    Chris, what do you mean by that?
    Did the agency write a check for that amount, or credit her card for that amount?
    Wasn’t the agency entitled to a reasonable service fee?

  27. Yes, I agree with PsyGuy..We need to know the agent’s and the agency name.. to avoid being trapped in their silly marketing strategies just to get sales.

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