Q: I recently bought a vacation package in Ponce, Puerto Rico, through Travelocity.com. A short while later, I received an e-mail from the online agency saying that Delta Air Lines had changed my flight, and that there was no longer enough time to make our connection.
When I called Travelocity, I was told that Delta had also canceled the return flight from Ponce to Atlanta, leaving us with no way to get off the island. Eventually, the airline agreed to cancel the reservation and give me my money back.
A Travelocity representative assured me I would get a full refund for the $3,595 I had spent on my vacation package no more than a week after the agency received its money from Delta. Based on those assurances, I booked a new Puerto Rico vacation on Travelocity at a higher price.
It’s been several weeks and Travelocity still hasn’t credited me for my first vacation. I’ve called my credit card to dispute the charges. Is there anything else I can do?
— Sara Grimm, Wadsworth, Ohio
A: Travelocity should have rebooked the flight portion of your vacation instead of asking you to buy a completely new package to the same destination. The solution it offered wasn’t just inconvenient, but impractical.
Whoever left you with the impression that refunds take a short amount of time was almost certainly wrong. In fact, it can take weeks, if not months, to get all of your money back from a travel agency — especially when you’re talking about a vacation package with various components, such as a hotel, cruise or airline tickets.
I can’t blame you for making certain assumptions about your Travelocity experience. The online agency’s “Travelocity Guarantee,” which promises that “everything about your booking will be right, or we’ll work with our partners to make it right, right away,” made it easy to assume you’d have your money back in no time.
Nor can I blame you for filing a credit card dispute. Normally, a dispute is a last resort — used only when a company refuses to refund a purchase that it never delivered. But when you’re out by more than $6,000 that adds a sense of urgency to your case.
You could have, and should have, invoked the Travelocity Guarantee when Delta changed your itinerary. True, the canceled flight wasn’t Travelocity’s fault. But it wasn’t your fault, either. As your travel agent, Travelocity should have worked with you to make your vacation right instead of asking you for what amounted to a short-term loan for $3,595, and then sending you back to the site to rebook a vacation on your own.
I contacted Travelocity on your behalf. According to its records, the airfare portion of your vacation was refunded to your credit card immediately. However, it took 10 business days to show up on your credit card, which, according to the online agency, is normal. The rest of the refund was delayed because Travelocity tried to credit you for the entire trip, including the $145 you spent for insurance. That insurance is usually nonrefundable, and its system kept rejecting the request.
Within a week of contacting Travelocity, you had your entire $3,595 back in your bank.
Christopher Elliot is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or troubleshoot your trip through his Web site,