Help, my United Airlines flight doesn’t exist. How about a refund?

My United Airlines flight doesn't exist

When Doreen Naumann tries to check in to leave Koror in the Republic of Palau, she discovers that her United Airlines flight doesn’t exist. But after Naumann has to spend an extra week on Koror, United won’t refund her additional expenses.


I used Travelstart, an online travel website, to book a Pacific island vacation for me and my partner. I paid 933 euros ($1,148) for a round-trip ticket on United between Koror, Palau, and Yap, Micronesia, as well as for hotel and diving packages in Yap.

But when we checked in for our return flight, a United representative told us that the flight no longer existed. United had stopped operating the flight one month previously.

We had to stay in Palau for another week and lost our trip to Yap. In addition, I had to pay for a new airline ticket, hotel room, and rental car while we were stuck in Palau.

When I returned home, I called and emailed Travelstart and United to ask for refunds for the airfare and extra costs of my trip, but neither company will respond. Can you help me get them to refund my expenses? — Doreen Naumann, Mellieha, Malta


Losing an entire week because of a disappearing flight was expensive for you. Then you received the silent treatment when you asked for help. At the very least, Travelstart should have responded. The online agency should never have sold you a ticket on a United Airlines flight that didn’t exist.

There are a number of lessons in your story: Always check out the reputation of every company you deal with before making a booking. Always confirm flights before you leave on a trip. And avoid booking complicated trips, especially international ones, through online websites that sell deeply discounted fares. Use a reputable travel agent to book your trips.

A world of complications

United Airlines flight doesn't exist

You had an especially complex travel situation. You’re a German citizen and your partner is French, and you live in Malta. Travelstart was founded in Sweden and is based in South Africa. And a German bank issued the credit card you used to pay for your trip. Trying to determine which country’s laws apply to your case is a mental exercise in itself!

A good travel agent could have helped navigate the rules and laws that apply to international trips and might have advocated for you with the companies whose trips and services you purchased. An agent could also have made sure you weren’t booked on a United Airlines flight that doesn’t exist. That professional could have helped you obtain travel insurance coverage for your trip.

Confirming your flights

Your case underscores the importance of confirming flights before leaving for the airport. Airlines reserve the right to cancel flights and change schedules, and United makes this clear in its contract of carriage:

Schedules are Subject To Change Without Notice – Times shown on tickets, timetables, published schedules or elsewhere, … are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract. UA may … delay or cancel flights … shown on the ticket at any time. …UA shall not be liable for failing to operate any flight according to schedule, or for any change in flight schedule, with or without notice to the passenger.

United won’t accept responsibility for not informing you that your flight no longer existed. You told us that you didn’t confirm your flight from Koror to Yap because you generally don’t confirm any flights. But had you done so before this trip, you might have learned that your United Airlines flight didn’t exist — and you might not have made the travel reservations on Yap that you lost.

A stalled refund process

Every travel company requires customers who use travel agents to submit refund claims through their agents, and United is no exception. These include bookings made online. When you discovered that your United Airlines flight didn’t exist, you needed to start your refund claim process by going to Travelstart.

As you discovered after you finally returned home, Travelstart has a bad reputation. As of this writing, its rating averages two stars or less on travel rating sites like TripAdvisor.

Fortunately, you used a credit card to pay for your trip, which might have provided insurance coverage for your trip. It also could have allowed you to initiate a chargeback against Travelstart had Travelstart not agreed to help you.

Would Travelstart help?

After you asked Travelstart to refund your extra costs, it upheld its shaky customer service reputation by taking its time in assisting you. Travelstart promised to refund your airfares and other travel costs, but then reneged when you asked for a reimbursement for your rental car fee. Then its agents stopped communicating with you altogether.

You asked our advocates to help you recover your costs. (Our website features executive contact information for United Airlines; information for Travelstart is pending.) Our advocate, Michelle Couch-Friedman, suggested that you write to Travelstart to request refunds.

Getting a refund

After you contacted us, Travelstart notified you that it would reimburse you for your airfares that you couldn’t use as well as a portion of your extra expenses. You weren’t specific about which other costs Travelstart is refunding, but you are happy with this resolution.

Who is most responsible for Doreen Naumann's situation?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Underwritten by

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company 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.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

%d bloggers like this:
This free newsletter will save you from scams.