DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I’m trying to get a refund for a flight canceled by TAP Air Portugal during the pandemic. In March 2020, while I was in Lisbon, authorities declared a pandemic. On April 4, TAP Air Portugal stopped flying to the U.S.
I tried changing my flight, but TAP wouldn’t answer the phone. So I purchased new tickets to fly home. When I checked in for my flight back to the U.S., I spoke to a TAP agent at the airport, who promised I’d get a refund.
Instead, my online travel agency, Travelocity, gave me a flight credit. But now, the credit has expired, and TAP won’t respond to me or Travelocity regarding my refund. Also, my TAP account is locked.
The last I heard from TAP is that since Travelocity issued the ticket, Travelocity “has the ability to process our refund and has been provided with instructions on how to do so.” I need your help getting $1,881 refunded from either TAP or Travelocity — whichever company has the money.
— Mary Dexter, Newton Centre, Massachusetts
ANSWER: You should have never received a credit from TAP Air Portugal or Travelocity. Instead, they should have given you a complete refund after canceling your return flight.
After the COVID outbreak in 2020, TAP argued that the pandemic was an extraordinary circumstance and that it could only offer a flight credit for canceled tickets. But EU regulations require an airline to offer either your choice of a full refund or a credit for a canceled flight, no matter the reason for the cancellation.
Eventually, authorities forced TAP to issue full refunds, but the airline took its time. It’s nothing short of the biggest refund scandal in modern aviation (more information about refunds can be found at www.elliott.org/airline-problems/what-should-you-do-if-your-airline-wont-refund-your-ticket/).
But somewhere between TAP and Travelocity, your tickets remained in the system as an expiring credit. It’s highly unusual — though, not unprecedented — for an online agency to be an accomplice to an airline that doesn’t want to return your money. So I thought something else might be going on.
I publish the company contacts for TAP Air Portugal and Travelocity on my advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/tap-air-portugal and www.elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia-customer-service-contacts. (Expedia owns Travelocity.) You could have sent a brief, polite email to one of them, asking them to review your refund request. I checked your paper trail, and it seemed everyone was cooperating with your refund request — until they weren’t.
What could be going on? I asked Travelocity. It turns out Travelocity wanted to refund your tickets, but it says it couldn’t. “When attempting to process, our agents learned the card on file is expired,” a representative told me. “Our customer service team sent an email requesting new card details in August, but had not heard from Mary.”
It’s possible that Travelocity’s emails went to your spam folder. It’s always a good idea to check your spam folder every once in a while and whitelist emails from companies you trust. Also, if you’re expecting a refund and your card expires, let the company know your new credit card information.
You received a full refund of $1,881 from Travelocity.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2022 Christopher Elliott
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