I had to pay twice for my checked luggage on Avianca. I want a refund!

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By Christopher Elliott

Peter Holt prepays $66 for two checked bags on his Avianca flight from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Mexico City. Why did he pay twice?

Question

I booked two flights through GoToGate from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Mexico City and then Oaxaca.

But I ran into a problem on my flight from San Jose to Mexico City, which was on Avianca. I knew these were small planes, so I prepaid $33 for each checked bag. But when I checked in at San Jose, the agent had no record of my prepaid bags. I discussed it with them and showed my receipt. I even spoke to a supervisor. But I ended up having to pay $90 per bag.

I have copies of my boarding pass showing ‘no checked bags’ and also the receipt for the $180. When we arrived in Oaxaca, I called the phone number on my receipt, but after speaking to a representative, we were disconnected. A representative emailed me and said there should have been no issue with the baggage. She invited me to file a claim. I’ve heard nothing since. Can you help? — Peter Holt, Woodinville, Wash.

Answer

You shouldn’t have had to pay twice for your luggage. A quick phone call to GoToGate should have cleared this up before you left. Instead, it turned into a losing argument with an Avianca supervisor.

GoToGate is an online travel agency, which means it is supposed to represent your interests (and it also takes a commission from the airline). Even if there wasn’t time to sort out the luggage problem at the airport, the agency should have quickly refunded the extra fee. But again, no refund. By the time you contacted me, it had been more than a month.

Let’s take a step back. Why are airlines charging so much for checked baggage? Because they can. Airlines know that we need to travel with luggage, and so they charge for it when we buy our tickets — and if we don’t immediately say yes, they more than double the price and charge us extra at the airport. (Related: Can an airline charge you twice for the same ticket?)

One day, when enough passengers refuse to play along, airlines will stop this nonsense. Until then, you should know that airlines have built their entire business model on charging luggage fees. They will try to squeeze every red cent from you when you fly. (Here’s our guide to finding your lost luggage.)

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I noticed that after you called GoToGate, you quickly switched to email. That’s preferable. You need a paper trail that shows Avianca or GoToGate goofed. It looks like GoToGate intended to process your refund but never got around to it. The company needed a reminder. (Related: A real lost luggage whodunnit.)

Who handled this reservation?

Evidently, your reservation was handled by multiple online agencies, which made your resolution a little more complicated and may have led to the crossed wires. At some point, you also dealt with a third agency called Mytrip, which is owned by the European online agency Etraveli Group. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the GoToGate customer service contacts and Etraveli Group (now known as Flight Network) contacts on my consumer advocacy website, Elliott.org.

How do you avoid something like this? Book directly with the airline because going through intermediaries just leads to confusion and potential problems.

I contacted Etraveli Group on your behalf. A representative contacted you and refunded the $180 in extra luggage fees you had to pay.

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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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