“I’ll believe it when I see it!”

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When Rosa Pasarin asks for a flight change, only to be offered a refund, can she expect Expedia to deliver? Find out.

Question: My mother and I had tickets to fly to Alicante, Spain, on Iberia, but my mother had emergency spinal surgery and cannot fly until September. I have two letters from the doctors specifying she is not able to fly, still has an open wound and needs full-time care.

Our reservations were made through Expedia, so I called to request that we change the dates of our trip. After many hours of holding and several dropped calls that were never returned, I was able to reach someone at Expedia who was able to help me. His name was Jason Trayco. I explained my situation and that I wanted a flight change.

Jason put me on hold and when he came back on the phone he advised that due to the extenuating circumstances, Iberia agreed to refund the tickets, so he would cancel the flights. I hadn’t requested a refund, since these were nonrefundable tickets, but he insisted they would make an exception.

I asked Jason many times if he was sure and he said yes. I even asked him to give me a case number or something so that I could have confirmation of this, and he reassured me repeatedly that the refund of $2,300 was going to happen. He advised me that this was the best course of action and not to worry further.

Jason said all I would have to do is send the physicians’ letters to Iberia and the airline would handle the rest. He was so certain that I even called him “an angel.” I was so happy.

I immediately called Iberia to get their email address so I could send them the medical documentation. Iberia’s representative, Karen, said she saw no record of a refund. After so many days and hours on the phone, what I thought was going to finally be the beginning of the resolution turned into the beginning of the problem! This was completely frustrating and I was incredulous.

After speaking to Karen at Iberia for several more hours she finally said that because of the circumstances, she would issue the refund. She gave me Iberia’s email address so that I could send the two doctors’ letters to their sales office. Then she also reassured me that everything was taken care of. She said that she was escalating this and that the refund would be in place by the following Monday.

I sent the doctors’ letters to the Iberia office, and when I received their reply I was in complete shock. That’s when I really began to feel like I was in the Twilight Zone. Michael from their sales office said that I needed to contact Expedia. I asked why. I had already spoken with Expedia and Iberia, so why this runaround?

I called Expedia again and after several hours on hold and unreturned dropped calls, I reached an Expedia supervisor named Angel. We spoke for four and a half hours. She understood the situation and said that because this was all wrong and because I was ill-advised by Expedia’s agent, she would take care of it.

When that call dropped, I almost had a mini heart attack! She never called me back and now I really need your help. I am caught in the middle of the ‘pass the buck’ game. Except they are playing with a human being who has emotions, who can’t spend 18 hours on the phone because she has to work, and who is taking care of her mom who is still sick trying to recover from a very delicate spinal surgery.

Here we have two large companies that are completely inefficient and in the end of all of this I have resolved nothing. The most infuriating part is that every time I call I have to start all over again because I never get the same person on the phone and the hold times are over two hours each time. Then the calls drop, and even though they know that I’ve been on the phone with them for over four hours, they don’t call back. Is this for real?

After nearly 18 hours on the phone, I have lost my patience. Can you help? — Rosa Pasarin, Miami

Answer: Ah, yes. The classic game of online travel agency ping-pong. You’re right. It’s infuriating and unbelievable. And I’m sorry you’re going through all of this when you really need to focus on more important matters.

It was nice of Expedia to try to go above and beyond in getting your situation resolved. Jason, Expedia’s agent, could probably sense that you were stressed about your mother and thought he was doing the right thing.

Unfortunately, when he went above and beyond, he went a little too far, and promised things he perhaps shouldn’t have. And even if Iberia told him a refund was due, he should have been very clear about all the steps you’d have to take and how to reach him if you ran into difficulty.

Naturally, you ran into difficulty, or else you wouldn’t have come to us. Iberia’s response was equally frustrating, as when it agreed finally to issue to refund, it backpedaled, insisting on Expedia’s involvement.

Did you know that conference calling was first developed in 1956? That’s sixty years ago! Yet somehow in 2016, despite having contracts with each other and undoubtedly calling each other business partners, neither Expedia nor Iberia bothered to pick up the phone with you on the line to sort this one out. They’d rather leave all that to you.

The telephone antics you went through are not just frustrating — they’re unacceptable. Having to spend hours on the phone, only to have your phone call dropped and not returned — that’s not just bad business, it’s bad manners. Expedia needs to recognize the reason it offered the refund you didn’t request in the first place was that you were enduring a hardship. It shouldn’t add to your stress by keeping you on the phone endlessly.

You kept impeccable records, including call logs and the names of each agent you spoke with at each company. These details proved useful in the end.

Before we could reach out to Expedia on your behalf, you wrote to us with good news. Iberia actually reviewed the recorded phone conversations you had with its agents and confirmed your account was correct. Iberia has said definitively that you will receive a full refund on your credit card’s next billing cycle.

As you say, “I’ll believe it when I see it!” But you were thankful for our concern, and you added, “It’s nice to feel that someone cares about integrity in customer service and business matters.”

We’re happy to help.

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About the Author
A writer and natural advocate, Jessica joined our consumer advocacy effort following a decade of work on behalf of air crash victims at one of the nation's largest plaintiffs' law firms. She has lived in Europe and Asia, but now calls Charleston, S.C. home.
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