WOW Airlines says it sold me flight insurance — so why won’t it refund my canceled flight?

Larry Ayres wishes he had bought travel insurance when he tried to change his flights on WOW Airlines. And now he can’t even go on the trip. But wait … maybe he did buy trip insurance. But if he did, where’s his refund? Our advocates help sort out the confusion.

Question: We booked a trip to Paris on WOW Airlines and asked to include a two-to-three-day stopover in Reykjavik. Then, after we were told Boston was the only flight option, they opened flights from Chicago which is MUCH easier and closer for us [South Dakota] than Boston. WOW’s phone agents didn’t even know where they fly from!

Their phone line is an absolute joke to get to anyone who really cares to help. Online responses are just a runaround. We fly a lot on other airlines, and they are a breeze compared to this experience.

We finally booked through a travel agent so we didn’t lose a connecting land/transatlantic package return to the U.S. The WOW agent never told us we needed insurance in order to make changes to flights.

Can you get us a full refund of $658, or at least a partial refund or a credit for a future flight next year? Our replacement flight cost us $964. — Larry Ayres, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Answer: Sorry to hear about your negative experience with WOW. Given your location in the plains, it was a great idea to begin your journey in Chicago rather than Boston. Unfortunately, WOW did not make it easy for you to make the change.

WOW is based in Iceland and has a growing U.S. presence. Clearly, they should be doing a better job with customer services with domestic travelers. You were having bad results trying to contact the company via its phone line and online help center. We always recommend doing self-advocacy in writing in order to establish a paper trail between you and the company. This method generates documentation that you can use to help settle your case.

One of the things you learned during this exchange with the company was that you had purchased trip interruption coverage from WOW along with your airfares, although you didn’t know it. You also learned that your son required immediate heart surgery, and you decided to cancel your trip altogether.

So this claim turned into a request for a full refund instead of a trip change, and you were pleased to learn that WOW would refund your purchase (minus the insurance premium) provided that you could submit documentation of your son’s medical condition.

You submitted documentation, but you were convinced that your refund request was falling on deaf ears. You received what you considered to be several impersonal responses, possibly form letters. So you contacted our advocates, who asked you for copies of the paper trail between you and WOW. We also directed you to the list of WOW corporate contacts we provide on our website.

Contact with one of WOW’s executives was just what you needed to accelerate the refund process. You soon saw the money posted to your credit card.

This serves as a reminder to readers to be very clear about what they are purchasing when self-booking tickets. Sometimes travelers think they are entitled to a refund when they had not purchased trip interruption coverage. You were lucky in this case.

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