Miriam Bustamonte's ticket credit with American Airlines is gone because she and her husband were "no shows" for their flight. But they canceled the tickets, didn't they?
Q: We had to cancel a cruise recently because my husband needed to have surgery. I called American Airlines to cancel the flight and was told that the tickets would be good for one year from the day they were purchased.
I've called American Airlines several times and they keep insisting that we have lost the tickets. I called Expedia, the online travel agency through which we booked the tickets, and they show that the tickets were canceled.
I don't want my money back -- I just wanted to use the tickets for another trip in two months. I would appreciate anything you could do to help. -- Miriam Bustamonte, San Francisco
A: Your credit should still be good. But how can you know if it is?
Normally, when a business cancels a service, it offers you a cancellation number. If you get a cancellation number, be sure to keep it for future reference, just in case someone questions your order. If you didn't, then you need to get one. A business should be able to offer some kind of proof in writing that you forfeited a product or service.
And what if it doesn't? Well, then it's your word against its word if there's ever a dispute like the one you're having. And businesses -- and specifically airlines -- have a way of believing their own version of events. American thinks you didn't show up for your flight.
I can understand why American would want to keep your money if you were a "no show." It didn't have the opportunity to resell your seats, so it lost money. Still, if you tried to cancel, there should be some record of it, somewhere.
I would have handled this cancellation differently. Since you booked your tickets through Expedia, I would have canceled my tickets directly through the online travel agency and insisted that it provide evidence of the cancellation in writing. Expedia would have been able to let American know of your change in plans. At the very least, I would have let Expedia know of your cancellation, preferably in writing.
After that, you needed to get a paper trail going: written proof that your flights were canceled -- preferably a cancellation number of some kind -- and then, when American denied credit, use the back-and-forth emails between you and the airline. (These emails can easily be forwarded to a supervisor, if necessary.)
Calling American or Expedia wasn't the best idea. There's no evidence of these conversations, so they're not even worth having, when it comes to a grievance like yours.
I contacted American on your behalf and it restored your credit.
(Christopher Elliott is the author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" (Wiley). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at email@example.com. Christopher Elliott receives a great deal of reader mail, and though he answers them as quickly as possible, your story may not be published for several months because of a backlog of cases.)