By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 7/28/2010 11:17:26 AM ET 2010-07-28T15:17:26
travel troubleshooter

Q: I need your help with a vacation to St. Kitts that was missing a key component: our airline tickets. I had paid Expedia $2,521 for the package, which was supposed to include airfare from Cleveland.

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But when I arrived at the airport, I discovered that our tickets hadn't been issued. I had received an e-mail from Expedia the day before, confirming our reservations.

I called Expedia's customer service department, which asked me to buy new tickets. Expedia agreed to reimburse me the difference between the package price and the tickets, which came to $871.

Three months later, I still had no credit. I called again, only to find out that because they had no documentation that we had purchased new tickets, they could not issue a credit. I faxed them a copy of the receipt for the tickets.

Shortly after that, I received an e-mail from Expedia denying my request for a refund. They did offer a voucher for $100 to be used when booking another Expedia trip. I don't understand why my refund request was denied. I did everything they asked. I even bought Expedia's trip insurance. Can you help?
— Linda Foy, Cleveland

A: Expedia should have booked your flights, of course. When it didn't, it should have bought your replacement tickets — not asked you to buy them.

And the three-month delay, followed by a "no" on your refund request? Let's just say it wasn't in line with its vaunted Expedia "Promise" that guarantees, among other things, that, "the travel you booked with Expedia will meet the descriptions on our site and in your itinerary." (Here's the full text of its warranty.)

But how about you? Even though you received a flight confirmation the day before your trip, why didn't you confirm it with the airline directly? Make sure the confirmation is in writing and contains a six-character alphanumeric confirmation number. That's a sign that you have a real reservation.

Once you were at the airport, you shouldn't have allowed Expedia to persuade you to buy new tickets. If Expedia screwed up the reservation then it shouldn't be your job to fix it. Your online travel agent should have secured the new tickets. Instead, you basically gave Expedia a free, three-month loan, which it then defaulted on.

Talk about corporate welfare.

When Expedia began giving you the runaround, I wouldn't have let them string you along for three months. Why not appeal to someone higher up at the travel agency? I post a few high-level contacts on my site, On Your Side.

You could have also applied some pressure to your airline. It might have been able to figure out the mystery of your missing reservation and fixed your flight without forcing you to pay more.

In the end, the mystery of your nonexistent flight remained exactly that. Although I contacted Expedia on your behalf, it didn't offer an explanation for what went wrong. Instead, it contacted you and refunded the price of the new tickets you had to buy at the airport.

© 2010 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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