Q: My husband and I had to cancel a flight from Tucson, Ariz., to Charlotte, N.C., last summer because my mother-in-law died 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. 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.
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A: 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 a 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.
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.
You could have followed up with someone at Expedia in writing. I list the names of the customer-service executives on my site: elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia. 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: elliott.org/company-contacts/american-airlines/.
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.
I contacted Expedia on your behalf. It quickly processed a full refund for both your tickets.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at email@example.com.