Why won’t Princess Cruises refund our canceled flight? They have my money.

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By Christopher Elliott

Julie Schumer’s return flight gets canceled during the Southwest Airlines meltdown in December. Southwest sends the money to her cruise line, but her cruise line won’t refund her. What’s going on?

Question

My family and I recently took a Princess cruise, and I booked my airline tickets through the cruise line’s EZair program. Our return flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Denver was on Southwest Airlines, and it happened in December during the airline’s service debacle. Southwest canceled our flight. We had to return on another airline.

Southwest Airlines refunded Princess in early January for all four tickets. But I have not received the money yet. I’ve sent emails to the vice president of guest relations, the director of customer service and the president of the cruise line, but have received no reply. Can you help us get our $983 back? — Julie Schumer, Aurora, Colo.

Answer

Princess should have refunded you promptly for the Southwest Airlines flights. After all, the airline had fully refunded the cruise line after its service meltdown at the end of last year. (You contacted me in late April to ask for help, so it had been four months since your flight.)

The EZair program is Princess’ air-inclusive program, and it offers certain guarantees that your airline can’t. Those include the ability to cancel airline tickets up to 45 days before your departure with no fees. Princess also says you can “rest easy” that you’ll make your cruise if it’s delayed or canceled on the day of travel with same-day arrival protection. So it makes sense to look into EZair. 

Unfortunately, for the type of tickets you booked, the EZair terms stated that your flights were completely nonrefundable. So technically, Princess was following its rules.

But rules are made to be broken, especially during an extraordinary event like the Southwest Airlines service disruption. (Related: A broken toilet, a busted shower — and you’re offering a voucher?)

Princess did respond to you initially, claiming that you are only entitled to vouchers that can be used with Southwest directly. “Southwest did not issue any refunds to Princess Cruises,” the representative said.

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, SinglesCruise.com, 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.

However, Southwest said it had issued full refunds during the service disruption and that it sent the money to Princess. (Related: A flight cancellation sinks a Princess cruise.)

Who’s right? Well, technically, you bought your tickets through Princess, so your contract is with the cruise line. If your agreement says Princess can keep the money — which it appears to — then the cruise line could keep your money, however wrong that may seem to you or me. A previous reader also sought a refund because the cruise didn’t deliver as promised. Regrettably, the result wasn’t favorable.

It looks like you contacted the Princess executives based on the list on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. Someone should have answered you and offered to review your case. Southwest said it had refunded Princess, but Princess said it didn’t have your money. So who was right?

There’s only one way to find out. I contacted Princess on your behalf. The cruise line reviewed your case and sent a full refund to your credit card.

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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 Panamá City.

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