Travel Troubleshooter

Travel Troubleshooter: Hotel sent him refund; airline kept it

By Christopher Elliott

I’ve been trying to get a refund for my US Airways vacation since this summer. I hope you can help me.

Earlier this year, I booked a stay in St. Maarten for my 45th anniversary. It was supposed to be a second honeymoon. I made my reservation through US Airways Vacations.

Conditions at our hotel, the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, were deplorable. The hotel agreed to credit us $887, which it sent to US Airways Vacations.

I waited to get the money back through US Airways, but it never came. I called, and a representative suggested that I send an email to US Airways Vacations. But all I’m getting is an automated reply.

The lack of cooperation from US Airways customer relations is making us regret that we ever heard of US Airways Vacations.

I’ve been a loyal customer to US Airways. My wife is a Silver Preferred member of its loyalty program, and I have used US Airways Vacations before to book my travel plans. But the way it’s handling this complaint – or should I say, not handling it – leaves me wondering what is going to happen when American Airlines and US Airways complete their merger.

If this is the way they’ll treat passengers after the merger, it may be time for my wife and me to find a new airline.

Stanley Kubacki, Philadelphia

US Airways Vacations should have processed your refund as soon as it received the money from Sonesta. And when it didn’t, it should have explained why it was keeping your $887.

US Airways Vacations may have been imposing its own restrictive refund policy on your vacation package. (You can read its rules online at The policy notes that some vacation components are nonrefundable and that your right to a refund “is limited if changes are made to travel plans, travel dates, hotels, hotel categories, hotel configurations, changes in origination or destination.”

In other words, it’s possible that even though Sonesta agreed to refund you $887, US Airways Vacations’ refund rules prohibited the return of the money. I’ve seen that happen a few times. Technically, US Airways Vacations would have been within its rights to keep the money.

But let’s not get mired down in technicalities. That was your money, and the refund policy of your tour operator is irrelevant. It had no right to pocket the $887.

Regarding the merger between American and US Airways, I, too, am skeptical of the “benefits” the airline promised. Interestingly, while this merger may reduce competition and drive ticket prices higher, it is one of the smoothest corporate combinations I’ve seen in recent history. Something tells me that your problem would have happened regardless of the deal.

I contacted US Airways Vacations on your behalf, and it promptly sent you the refund.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog,, or email him at