Hey Expedia, where’s our airline ticket refund?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Sue Ellen Svik’s mother-in-law passes away, she and her husband have to cancel a flight on US Airways. Their online agency, Expedia, promises to handle a refund. But now the airline says it’s keeping their money. Why?

Question

My husband and I had to cancel a flight from Tucson, Arizona, to Charlotte, North Carolina, last summer because my mother-in-law passed away in Ohio and we needed to be at her funeral. We contacted Expedia to cancel and were advised that the death of a parent was a legitimate reason for cancellation and refund. We followed the steps it gave us.

Expedia didn’t acknowledge receipt of this information, even though we sent it twice. In January, we found out that Expedia had not given the information to US Airways. The airline is insisting that we must book and take a flight by the end of February; otherwise, we will lose our ticket credit.

This is not possible, and we feel that Expedia should work with US Airways to get an extension on the deadline so that we can actually book and take a trip on US Airways. We do not feel that we are at fault, so we also do not want any penalty charges. Please help! — Sue Ellen Svik, Green Valley, Ariz. 

Answer

My condolences on your loss. Airlines usually refund nonrefundable tickets when there’s a death in the family. If an Expedia representative said you could get your money back, then you should have received a refund after sending your mother-in-law’s death certificate.

It appears that instead, Expedia simply canceled your flight, leaving you with a ticket credit that needed to be used before the end of February. You still would have to pay a change fee and any fare differential. By the way, US Airways would offer any passenger a ticket credit, so it wasn’t really doing you any favors. (Related: Expedia said it refunded my airline tickets, but it didn’t. What should I do?)

Expedia should have processed the paperwork with US Airways as it promised — if not the first time, then the second time you sent the necessary documents. It’s not clear why it didn’t. Maybe it never received the necessary forms. Maybe someone just pushed the wrong button. (Related: Why airline codesharing must die.)

You could have followed up with someone at Expedia in writing. I list the names of the customer-service executives on my site. And if they gave you the silent treatment, you could have tried US Airways. It recently merged with American Airlines, so its contacts are listed here. (Here’s our guide to booking an airline ticket.)

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None of that should have been necessary. Expedia should have processed your refund request through US Airways the first time. Every time you have to fax a death certificate to an anonymous number, it’s a fresh — and unnecessary — reminder of your recently departed loved one. You’ve been through enough already.

My advocacy team and I contacted Expedia on your behalf. It quickly processed a full refund for both your tickets.

This story first appeared March 4, 2015.

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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.

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