Larry Bonistalli is a determined father. When his son’s fiancée suffers a sudden stroke right before their wedding and honeymoon, Bonistalli resolves to retrieve the money that the couple spent on the uninsured trip. Can we help him with this quest? Should we help?
Question: I am writing on behalf of my son. In late August he and his fiancée booked a European honeymoon to Greece (Santorini and Mykonos). Since then, his 29-year-old fiancée had a stroke. She can’t travel. We have the medical document from her team of doctors. I am working with American Airlines and, after several tries, I think we will get a full refund.
With medical expenses and not knowing the future, my son needs all of these flights and hotels to be refunded. So far, the hotels have already refunded.
The problem is that the Greek commuters to the Islands (Aegean and Olympic) won’t respond. They were booked through Expedia and Priceline. These airlines simply do not care and the booking agents are not helpful at all. Between the two, it’s another $700. My son could really use this money for all the expenses that he now faces. Could you help me? Larry Bonistalli, Naperville, Ill.
Answer: As you may know, we typically don’t advocate third-party requests for help — except in rare cases which have aspects that point to a need for the additional “helper.”
Each week we field a multitude of requests for assistance. Invariably, a small portion of these are well-meaning parents who are contacting us on behalf of their adult children. In most of these cases the “kids” are described by their parents as being simply “too busy” to handle the problem on their own. That’s not exactly a compelling argument for our team to take a case.
Sometimes the parent pretends to be the adult child. The big reveal usually happens when the consumer is unable to provide the actual facts of the case. These types of requests end up wasting our time and the time of the over-involved parent. No one benefits.
But when I read your request for help, it was clear that your case fit into an entirely different category.
It is completely understandable that your son can’t focus on this monetary problem right now — he has much bigger things to worry about.
Knowing that it would be exceedingly difficult to obtain refunds if the dates of the trip passed, you sprung into action to help your son.
With careful planning, this young couple had booked their honeymoon on their own. Unfortunately, most parts of their journey were nonrefundable, and they had neglected to purchase any trip insurance.
When I reviewed your paper trail, I was amazed by the refunds that you had already secured for your son.
There is no doubt that you are a proficient advocate.
Using much of the How to write an effective complaint letter guidance that can be found in the FAQs on our site, you methodically wrote to each involved company.
Your emails were concise, polite and fact-based, and they acknowledged that you were asking for a compassionate consideration — not anything that was owed to your son. Lastly, you attached the supporting medical documentation.
Your letters were as close to perfect as I have seen.
American Airlines and both hotels in Greece responded to you affirmatively. Unfortunately, you hit a stumbling block when you reached out to Aegean and Olympic Airlines.
In fact, you received no response at all.
And when you asked Priceline and Expedia for assistance, your initial requests were rebuffed.
You finally reached someone at Priceline who agreed to refund the Aegean Airlines tickets.
That left only one holdout on your list: Expedia.
You asked if I could help with this final hurdle. I contacted Expedia and described your ongoing pursuit and explained why a refund (and not a voucher) would be particularly helpful to your son and his fiancée.
The resolution team at Expedia also had compassion for this terrible, unexpected event and agreed to the refund.
In the end, through a variety of means you were able to retrieve all of your son’s prepaid expenses. But it wasn’t easy, and your time certainly could have been better spent focusing on your family during this difficult time.
This situation is one that points to the importance of trip insurance — even for young people. Unexpected calamities and illnesses can happen to anyone. Trip insurance can make a terrible situation a little less troublesome by at least removing the threat of a financial loss of a canceled vacation.
We wish your son’s fiancée continued improvement, and we hope that someday soon this couple will be able to enjoy the wedding and honeymoon that was originally planned.