Getting a ticket refund’s far different from getting a credit

05/10/2014 12:00 AM

05/07/2014 1:19 PM

Q: My husband and I booked a Royal Caribbean cruise for last March. But before we left, my sister was taken to the intensive care unit and put on a ventilator. I have power of attorney, and the family was called in and there were some decisions that I had to make.

On March 7, I called both the cruise line and United Airlines, and asked for a refund. The cruise line refunded our fare (thank you, Royal Caribbean) but I just received an email from United saying it would not do anything for me.

They told me my ticket was nontransferable and nonrefundable. I thought they might do something for me, considering that this was a medical emergency. Is there anything else I can do?

Patricia McConkey

Northfield, Ohio

A: I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. You could have certainly done without the additional stress of canceling your vacation and then worrying about a refund. It’s a good opportunity for your cruise line and airline to show some compassion.

It was exceptionally generous — and, I should add, highly unusual — for Royal Caribbean to offer a full refund under these circumstances. Normally, if you’re outside the cancellation window and you don’t have any travel insurance, you’re outta luck.

Nice work, Royal Caribbean.

I’m puzzled by United’s response. Normally, an airline would offer a ticket credit if you cancel a flight before leaving, which you did. In reviewing your paperwork, it seems United was confused by the fact that you were asking for a full refund, and after it rejected the claim, it also tagged you as a “no show” for the flight. In effect, you lost your entire airfare because of it.

United should have said, “No, but you can get a ticket credit” when you asked for a refund. It appears the airline sent you the wrong form response.

In a situation like this, you can appeal to the airline, but you have to know what to ask for. A ticket credit might have allowed you to use the money (minus a change fee and fare differential) on a re-do of your cruise, if you have the time for it.

You can find the names of United’s customer-service managers online. Its email addresses are formatted as firstname.lastname@united.com.

I contacted United on your behalf. It offered you a full refund.

About Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott

@elliottdotorg

Christopher Elliott writes the Travel Troubleshooter column for the Miami Herald; he also writes about the travel industry for MSNBC.com and for National Geographic Traveler. If you don't find the information you need here in his past columns, you can reach Elliott via his website at www.elliott.org.

Join the Discussion

Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service