One OTA plus two airlines equals a complicated path to a refund

Gerald Pech’s flight to Baltimore is canceled and he wants a refund. But he purchased his tickets through Expedia, they were issued by Iberia, and the flight was canceled by American. So who is he supposed to ask?

Question: I traveled to the UK on codeshare flights that I bought through Expedia. The ticket was issued by Iberia Airlines, with a final segment from Philadelphia to Baltimore-Washington International Airport on an American Airlines commuter flight.

The American segment was canceled due to weather, and I returned to Baltimore by rental car. AA advised me to file for a refund with Iberia, as ticket issuer. I filed a refund request with Iberia and it took more than 30 days for this response: “We have passed your letter to the operating carrier of your flight so that they can provide you with an appropriate response.” Iberia provides no online or phone means to respond or inquire about this case. Can you help me get a refund for the canceled segment? — Gerald Pech, Baltimore

Answer: It’s frustrating enough to try to get a refund on a canceled flight from one company, but when you have to deal with three it has to be daunting.

Because American operated the flight that was canceled you logically asked its staff for a refund, but the staff at the Philadelphia airport told you that the refund would come from Iberia because it was the issuer of your tickets. So you filed your request for a refund, but after 30 days you hadn’t heard anything so you called Iberia. It couldn’t find your reference number so you made another request.

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When you finally got a response from Iberia, it told you that because American operated the canceled flight, your refund should come from American. And now you had entered the great corporate realm known as “passing the buck.”

That’s when you asked us if we could help you get something from any of the companies.

One of the first things our advocate asked you was if you had contacted Expedia. You had not. While your ticket was issued by Iberia and the canceled flight was operated by American, Expedia is the company you paid. It’s also the agency that should be your connection to both airlines, and it should have been able to help you.

Our advocate did just that — contacted Expedia, which contacted Iberia. Expedia learned that Iberia needed needed a confirmation of the flight cancellation from American, but one had never been requested. American provided the confirmation, and Iberia agreed to refund $34 for the canceled flight. Expedia agreed to add a $50 credit for a future Expedia purchase.

You were aware that the credit wouldn’t be a large amount because it was a short commuter flight, and only a small portion of the amount you paid for your overall itinerary. As our advocate put it, “Airline math can be fuzzy.” In the end, you were thrilled with the outcome.

At any time during your ordeal, you also could have reached out to the contacts we list on our website for American Airlines, Iberia Airlines, and Expedia. But we’re glad that we could help.

Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans. Read more of Michelle Bell's articles here.

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