When Katherine Welsh cancels her trip to Edinburgh, she is told that she will get a refund. Or will she? And from whom? If only they could find her paperwork.
Question: Last spring, I made reservations through Vayama to travel to Scotland in June via a United flight from Chicago to Edinburgh. The reservation was for me and my three children. In May, I was diagnosed with stage-three cancer and was advised by my oncologist not to travel and to begin chemotherapy.
I wrote to Vayama via email about 20 times explaining the situation and asking for a refund. They described the procedure and I sent Vayama the required info (passports, medical note, medical records, etc.). Vayama has written me back on several occasions telling me they don’t have the info I have sent and asking me to resend it. I have done this numerous times. Every time I write, I get some response to the effect that they can’t find the information and can I send it again.
I would like to get this resolved. It has dragged on for months. I am still undergoing chemotherapy and this is just adding more stress to an already stressful life. Can someone help me navigate this with Vayama? — Katherine Welsh, Northbrook, Ill.
Answer:I’m sorry to hear about your travel troubles, compounded by your awful medical diagnosis. This case sounds like a riddle inside a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Typically, in situations such as yours, the airlines will waive the change fees, but give you a travel credit for up to a year from the original date of purchase.
Part of the complication with your claim is that you used a third-party travel agency (Vayama) to book your flights rather than booking directly with the air carrier. In addition, sometimes agencies will purchase “code-share” fares, discount fares from an airline that is actually using a partner airline to transport the passengers. Often this leads to confusion, finger-pointing and projection of blame between agencies and airlines. Our forums are littered with problems caused by code-shares.
Another good idea would have been to take out insurance on your flights. The nominal cost would have offset the hassle you had recouping your money.
You contacted Vayama on your own but hit a brick wall with them. Well — it was more like a rubber wall, because the requests for documentation kept bouncing back to you. It’s probable that you started with a low-level representative with the travel agency. Our experience is that you get the best results by corresponding with executives of a company. We publish a list of Vayama’s corporate contacts, which you can find on our website.
You then contacted us directly, and one of our advocates reached out to Vayama on your behalf. Their representative told our team member that the agency was “in the process of getting an answer from the airlines” regarding the waiver and that once the request was processed by the airlines Vayama would respond with an answer. The agency rep did not indicate, however, which airline would be processing the refund.
In the meantime, we contacted United, whose representative told us that your tickets were purchased through a travel agency on Lufthansa (a travel partner of United’s) ticketing stock. (Confused yet?) Since Lufthansa collected the money, United claims that Lufthansa’s policies would take precedence. The representative also promised to have someone from United’s executive customer care team reach out to you directly.
You finally received a positive email from Vayama, whose representative said “the airline” would credit your account but did not specify whether it was Lufthansa or United. United claimed that Vayama would be compensating you, and apparently that is what ended up happening. You’ll be getting a refund from Vayama.