When Rachel Abott’s flight from Bali to New York is canceled, she finds another way to get home. But now her online travel agency is refusing her a refund. What’s going on here?
Question: I have had a very tough time dealing with Hotwire to be reimbursed for a flight that was canceled due to weather, and I am hoping that you can help me.
I was scheduled to fly from Denpasar, Bali, to New York earlier this year. The flight, operated by Garuda Indonesia and Qatar Airways, was purchased through Hotwire.
When I arrived at the airport in Denpasar, I was told that I would not be able to take the flight because of the blizzard in New York.
I asked to take the first flight — I had a layover in Qatar — but was told that since the second leg of my trip was canceled, I could not take any part of the trip.
I left the airport and attempted to call Hotwire to reschedule my flight the following day. I finally got through to Hotwire and was told the only flight option for the next three days was a $5,000 ticket through Paris. I declined to take this option and instead booked a one-way ticket through Orbitz.
When I arrived in the U.S., I called Hotwire a dozen times over a two-month period. Each time I called, I spoke to someone different and was given different information about a refund, who I needed to speak to, and even which airline controlled the refund. I was told several times that I was marked as a “no-show” for the flight. The last time I called, I was told that since I was marked down as a no-show, I’d have to prove that I wasn’t allowed to board the flight in Denpasar.
I’m really lost as to what to do at this point. I’m very tired of calling and receiving different information and instructions. I did not take the return flight because I was told that since I was a “no-show” the entire reservation was canceled, and I would really like a full refund for this ticket. — Rachel Abott, Baltimore
Answer: If your flight was canceled, you deserved a full refund — no questions asked.
So what went wrong? It appears that somewhere along the way, your airline and online travel agency believed you would find another way to New York and then fly your return portion — hence the “no-show” designation. When a customer no-shows, the entire fare is forfeited. That’s not just a Garuda or Qatar thing; it’s an industry-wide policy. When you miss a flight, you lose it all.
You say you were marked a “no-show” on the outbound flight, but it’s difficult to say which airline had marked you as absent, and and what point in the journey it happened.
It looks as if you spent way too long on the phone with Hotwire. I note that you had a paper trail, which is good. I recommend relying on that documentation by escalating it to a supervisor at Hotwire — I publish the names and numbers of them on my consumer advocacy site and letting them worry about your missing refund. After all, Hotwire is your travel agency.
Your circumstances were special. You were working with two airlines, a weather-related cancellation that may not have been recognized by all parties as a weather cancellation, and an online travel agency that seems ill-equipped to handle a complex itinerary and refund. Hotwire is great for simple, point-to-point domestic flights where you want to save money, but the more complex the itinerary, the more you need to consider a human travel agent.
Hotwire agreed to refund the full $950, as it originally promised.