If you've recently tried to get a refund from an airline, hotel, or cruise line, you probably know you're patient and ready for an adventure. Or should I say shame .
Consider what happened to Nicholas Angelos when he tried to return a ticket he mistakenly paid for a Qantas flight from Chicago to Sydney. At the end of last year, the airline charged the card a $2,610 change fee, saying it had entered a Sydney flight. He didn't do that.
"I called Qantas several times to sort this out, just to get it to stay, and it was decided," said Angelos, a retired skydiver in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Since then he is waiting for the money.
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Wait four months for a ticket refund? Believe it or not, Angelos was lucky.
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James Tye, CEO of travel agency Exotic Voyages, said: "It only takes a second to book your reservation." "But the payback is forever."
Airlines, online travel agents, and cruise lines, especially cruise lines, keep your money for a variety of reasons. It may not be easy to find, but I have some strategies to get your money back fast.
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When are you entitled to a refund from a travel agency?
In a world of non-refundable airline tickets and "prepaid" (non-refundable) hotel rooms, when can you get your money back?
If the travel agency does not fulfill the promise, it is obliged to return the money immediately. In other words, if airlines don't fly or cruise, we'll give you your money back. all of them.
He said: Who? Well, the US Department of Transportation has guidelines that airlines, travel agencies, and online travel agencies must refund your purchase within seven business days of paying by credit card and within 20 days of paying by cash or check.
Exception: Tour companies. Some have dubious contracts that require you to give them credit when they have to cancel a tour, but that's another story.
If you sign up and then decide not to go, or your contract says you can get a refund, you may be entitled to a refund. Read the fine print for details. They hide in plain sight.
Why do tour operators delay your refund?
So what is behind the ban?
"I think there are a number of reasons," said Ta-Tanisha Thomas, a travel consultant with Official Crown Travel in Antioch, Tennessee.
- Lack of staff. The travel industry is still understaffed, especially for highly skilled management jobs. "The travel and tourism workforce is being deployed to meet unprecedented travel demand," Thomas said.
- Multiple refund requests. Some travel agencies are still struggling to avoid refund claims after 2020. Although travel is more or less returning, airlines and other travel agencies are still recovering strongly from the pandemic and the resulting savings. Carnicelli, CEO of General Global Assistance.
- They need money. The slower a business operates, the more money it will have to run the business. Although the travel company denies this is the reason for the slow returns, observers believe it is. Think of it as a short-term, interest-free microloan from a lender.
- There is no reason to rush back. Well, last year six airlines were fined $7 million for late refunds, but I can't remember the last time the government forced a travel agent or other company for late refunds. In other words, they have no incentive to pay it back. "Companies prefer to hold their money as long as possible before paying," said David Aaron, a marketing professor at Dominican University.
After all, companies are delaying their money so they can return it to their customers. There are no staff to do this and there is no point in giving a quick refund.
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Which company pays the slowest?
Some of the longest wait times are with cruise lines these days. I have a long list of things to do with Vantage Travel. A reader, Gerrit Van Dyke Jr., waited three years for a company to pay him $18,536 to cancel a cruise to the Greek Islands, and only after I requested it on his behalf. Vantage blamed the delay on staff shortages and "unusual circumstances" that delayed compensation claims. Last week, Vantage also sent a customer to wait for a refund after experiencing a security issue that took their site offline. Travelers thought that the company was going bankrupt.
I have also received complaints of slow refunds from American Queen Voyages. I recently helped reader Barbara Pierce return a $4,000 reservation for a 2021 cruise. The cruise line canceled the cruise because the ship was not ready. At first he promised to return the money quickly, but later said it was delayed due to an audit.
But it can happen at any travel agency. TAP Air Portugal is one of the slowest airlines. First, by illegally forcing customers to accept coupons for flights canceled during the pandemic and then blocking refunds. I still get emails from TAP customers asking me to help them get their money back.
The story continues below.
How to get fast compensation from travel agencies?
Most slow returns start with mistakes. Disappointed customers ask for refunds. Without a paper trail, there's no way to verify that someone has requested a refund. And without proof, the company can claim that the traveler waited too long to request a refund, that they saw it happen.
So always write everything down.
If possible, get a written response from the company stating the amount owed and the due date. That way, if the company doesn't pay you on time, you can file a chargeback with your credit card company.
What if the money doesn't show up in your account? Call one of our customer service representatives. You can check the status of your refund and submit it if needed.
The best solution may be to not ask for a refund, says travel consultant Thomas. You recently spoke with a client who wanted a refund of a $4,800 deposit on a luxury yacht. The sales agent told him that the same payment made in seconds would take 120 days to return.
"The best solution is prevention," he said. "I advise travelers to avoid making deposits on travel packages they are concerned about."
Do you want your money back? don't go
Let me put it plainly, tour companies will save you money if they can. So the key to getting your money back is persistence. Angelos, an Australian ticketed professional, never gave up.
I shared several email addresses with him and also contacted the airline and requested a refund. Angelos also contacted Qantas to create a paper record. A few days later, Qantas fired back, blaming a religious error in the app.
"I'm glad this matter is resolved," he said.
Angelos said he thinks the paper trail is the decision, and he may be right. As of 2020, phone calls to the airline have been futile. But getting everything in writing really works.
Elliott's tips for a quick recovery
As a consumer advocate, you can speed up your refund with the following strategies:
- made a noise . Don't keep your frustrations to yourself. If a travel company has a problem, a post on social media or a letter to a lawyer can be enough to get your money back quickly.
- Stay on the road . Regular emails to companies asking for refund updates can bring quick results. Remember that someone has to read every email and at some point someone will ask you to expedite your refund request. I have seen it.
- Explore all your options . If you can't get the money back quickly and you've exhausted all options, you can charge your credit card back or take the business to small claims court. Just stating that they can do so can cause the company to refund the money.
Christopher Elliott is an author, consumer advocate and journalist. He founded Elliott Advocacy, a non-profit organization that helps solve consumer problems. It publishes Elliott Confidential, a travel newsletter, and Elliott Report, a customer service information website. If you need help with your drinking problem, you can contact him here or email him at [email protected] .
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY. Here are some tips to get your money back.