Travel Troubleshooter

My flight was canceled but Hotwire says I was a ‘no-show’ and kept my money

Q: I have had a very tough time dealing with Hotwire to be reimbursed for a flight that was canceled due to bad weather, and I am hoping that you can help me.

I was scheduled to fly round-trip from Denpasar, Bali, to New York earlier this year. The flight, operated by Garuda Indonesia and Qatar Airways, was purchased through Hotwire.

When I arrived at the airport in Denpasar, I was told that I would not be able to take the flight because of the blizzard in New York.

Her flight from Bali to New York was canceled because of a blizzard in New York.

I asked to take the first flight — I had a layover in Qatar — but was told that since the second leg of my trip was canceled, I could not take any part of the trip.

I left the airport and attempted to call Hotwire to reschedule my flight the following day. I finally got through to Hotwire and was told that the only flight option for the next three days was a $5,000 ticket through Paris. I declined to take this option and instead booked a one-way ticket to New York through Orbitz.

When I arrived in the U.S., I called Hotwire a dozen times over a two-month period. Each time I called, I spoke to someone different and was given different information about a refund, whom I needed to speak to, and even which airline controlled the refund. I was told several times that I was marked as a “no-show” for the flight. The last time I called, I was told that since I was marked down as a no-show, I’d have to prove that I wasn’t allowed to board the flight in Denpasar.

I’m really lost as to what to do at this point. I’m very tired of calling and receiving different information and instructions. I did not take the return flight because I was told that since I was a “no-show,” the entire reservation was canceled. I would really like a full refund for this ticket.

Rachel Abott, Baltimore

A: If your flight was canceled, you deserved a full refund — no questions asked.

You say you were marked as a “no-show” on the outbound flight, but it’s difficult to say which airline had marked you as absent, and at what point in the journey it happened. When a customer no-shows, the entire fare is forfeited. That’s not just a Garuda or Qatar thing; it’s an industry-wide policy. When you miss a flight, you lose it all.

If your flight was canceled, you deserved a full refund — no questions asked.

Christopher Elliott

It looks as if you spent way too much time on the phone with Hotwire. I note that you had a paper trail, which is good. I recommend relying on that documentation by escalating it to a supervisor at Hotwire — I publish the names and numbers of them on my consumer-advocacy site (http://elliott.org/company-contacts/hotwire/) — and letting that person worry about your missing refund. After all, Hotwire is your travel agency.

Your circumstances were special. You were working with two airlines, a weather-related cancellation that may not have been recognized by all parties as a weather cancellation, and an online travel agency that seems ill-equipped to handle a complex itinerary and refund. Hotwire is great for simple, point-to-point domestic flights where you want to save money, but the more complex the itinerary, the more you need to consider a human travel agent.

Hotwire agreed to refund the full $950.

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