9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013
Velta Mahon's airline ticket credit is gone and she says it's Hotwire's fault. Is there any hope of a refund?
Q: I need your help resolving a situation that I have with Hotwire. A little over a year ago I booked a flight from Baltimore, Md., to Orlando, Fla., but canceled because of a hurricane. Before I canceled, I called Hotwire and told them that I was concerned about the weather and afraid to travel at that time.
A representative told me to contact Allianz, the company through which I had insured my tickets. An Allianz representative led me to believe that I might be able to receive a refund, and suggested I call Hotwire to cancel my ticket, which I did.
When I requested a refund, Allianz denied me and referred me to Hotwire. Hotwire denied me and said I had a ticket credit, and referred me to the airline. The airline just referred me back to Hotwire.
I recently called Hotwire to rebook my ticket. After being transferred three times, I was told someone would call me back. They never did. I've tried to connect with Hotwire numerous times, and I can never get through to them. Now my ticket credit has expired. I really feel disappointed, hurt and cheated by Hotwire. I am kindly asking if you would please intervene and help me to get my money back. -- Velta Mahon, New York
A: That's absurd. But the absurdity is happening on many levels, so let me break it down for you.
First, you had insured your flight from Baltimore to Orlando. That's not a bad idea for an August flight, because hurricanes do happen in Florida. But you have to read the fine print on your insurance policy. In order to make a successful claim, your flight must be canceled by the airline. (By the way, if it is canceled, the airline will offer you a refund, anyway -- but there are still other benefits from travel insurance, like trip interruption coverage.)
Anyway, you canceled your flight proactively, and someone from Allianz should have told you that when you called. No one should have led you to believe you could have canceled your flight before the airline did.
Re-using your ticket should have been relatively easy, and if Hotwire couldn't help you, then your airline should have. In reviewing your case, I note that a great deal of your communication was done by phone, which is unfortunate. Doing this by phone means you don't have the benefit of a written record, so it's hard to prove anything.
I checked with Hotwire and as it turns out it had several detailed files on your case.
"As we worked through a potential rebooking, there were several discussions and messages exchanged back and forth between Velta and Hotwire in the weeks leading up to that one year deadline," a representative told me. "During that time, several workflows were created on our side due to the multiple contacts."
In trying to sort through those files, Hotwire inadvertently closed your case and allowed your ticket credit to expire. It apologized for doing so and issued you a full refund for your ticket.
(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.)
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