By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 8/2/2007 3:50:01 PM ET 2007-08-02T19:50:01
TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

Q: I booked my honeymoon through TransGlobal Vacations last year. One of our flights was delayed because of mechanical difficulties, and my husband and I were each given a travel credit of $150 to use within the next year.

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Earlier this year I bought two tickets to Las Vegas through TransGlobal, which has since become Funjet Vacations. I sent the travel credits to an address in Milwaukee, as instructed, along with a copy of my marriage certificate to document my name change. According to the terms on the vouchers, TransGlobal agreed to reimburse us $150 when we made the reservation.

After sending the certificates to Funjet, I received a voicemail message from a company representative saying they had lost all of our information. My husband called back and got a different story. An agent told him they had our information, but that we wouldn’t get reimbursed because we booked the wrong kind of flight — we had chosen a scheduled flight instead of a charter flight. Our travel credits did not list airlines that were eligible for a credit.

We’re planning to take two trips next year — to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and to Las Vegas — and we’d like to use our vouchers. Can you help us? — Gena Welsh, Champlin, Minn.

A: If Funjet promised you $150 off your next flight, then it should deliver. And if it can’t, then at least it owes you a quick and clear explanation for its denial. Instead, it offered excuses that left you frustrated.

Normally, airlines don’t hand out certificates when there’s a mechanical delay. But Funjet is a little different. It sells vacation packages that use both scheduled and charter flights (a charter is a flight on which one company buys some or all of the seats at a volume discount and resells them to passengers at a markup). So your contract of carriage — which is referred to as its “vacation contract” — looks slightly different than the garden-variety airline agreement. (You can read the full copy online at http://www.funjet.com/cs/billofrights.asp).

According to the contract, on a mechanical delay of between eight and 12 hours on a charter flight, you’re entitled to a $150 per person credit on a future charter air-inclusive trip. The credit is valid for one year from the date it’s issued.

In other words, you have to buy a vacation package with a charter flight — not a scheduled airline flight — in order to qualify for the credit. The vouchers you received from TransGlobal didn’t say which airlines they could be used on because they could only be redeemed on a charter, air-inclusive vacation package — and that’s clearly stated in the contract and on the voucher.

This could have been prevented if you had called Funjet before making your reservation. You might be forgiven for overlooking that if TransGlobal hadn’t become Funjet. But any time a company merges with another or changes names, you should consider double-checking to make sure all of your agreements are valid.

I contacted Funjet on your behalf. Your ticket clearly didn’t qualify for the travel credits, and as it turned out, Funjet was well within its rights to deny your claim. But it decided to make an exception for you, and will honor the vouchers.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the host of “What You Get For The Money: Vacations,” on the Fine Living TV Network. E-mail him at celliott@ngs. org.

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