Sick at the airport, so why won’t Airberlin refund my ticket?

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By Christopher Elliott

After an unexpected medical emergency, Osmar and Aracely Alvarez ask their airline for a refund. But Airberlin defers to their travel agent. Can anyone help this couple?

Question

I booked two round-trip flights through ExploreTrip from Miami to Copenhagen on Airberlin. When I was returning to Miami, after we passed immigration and we did the check-in, my husband was feeling sick.

He started with nausea, vomiting, he was horribly sick. We called the airport’s escort service to bring a wheelchair for him. The employee of the airport called a doctor that is in service at the airport. The doctor recommended we postpone our trip, due to the length and the connection. We did.

My husband continued vomiting and was in a really bad situation. A few days later, after he was well enough to travel, I checked with the ticket desk at the airport to try to make another reservation for two or three days later, but Airberlin didn’t have any flights available. We bought a ticket on another airline and returned home.

When we asked Airberlin for a refund, it explained they can’t give a refund because my tickets were not booked directly with them, but ExploreTrip. Can you help me? — Aracely Alvarez, Dade, Fla.

Answer

Airberlin should have quickly refunded your flight. You showed up at the airport with every intention of boarding the plane and were told by a medical professional not to fly. This is the first time I can remember someone getting sick at the airport and not being able to travel.

Airberlin should be grateful to you, your husband and the doctor in Copenhagen. Had it insisted you fly, your husband may not have survived the flight back to the States.

When you cancel a flight under extraordinary circumstances like this, you need to note a few names, at the very least. The attending physician, the supervisor at the counter, or anyone who helped you. This detail will help you pull together a more complete paper trail, should you need to. (Related: Budgetair’s new travel itinerary doesn’t work for me — how about a refund?)

Allianz Travel Insurance has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

You shouldn’t have needed to — and indeed, a closer look at the correspondence between you and Airberlin suggests there’s a good reason it wanted you to contact ExploreTrip, your travel agency. Airberlin had refunded your airfare as a gesture of goodwill. (Here’s how to get a refund on a nonrefundable airline ticket.)

Your next step was ExploreTrip, your online agency. Let’s have a look at its terms and conditions.

Refund
www.exploretrip.com reserves the right to determine the amount of refund value incase of cancellation and amendments. The decision on the quantum of refund will be final as that made by www.exploretrip.com . The refund will be made in the name of the client. In case you have booked through the Travel Agent or a Franchisee still we will make the refund in the passenger’s name. It will take at least 45 days to process refunds for all services. There will be no refund for unutilised services unless specified. All cancellation and amendment charges will be applicable as per principles policies [sic] on which www.exploretrip.com has no control and you will be subjected to it.

In other words, they may have your money, but they can keep it if they feel like it. So you must ask the company for a refund, otherwise it will keep your money from Airberlin. Tricky, huh?

I’ll save you the trouble. Our advocacy team contacted ExploreTrip on your behalf. The agency refunded the $896 for your return tickets.

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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 São Paulo.

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