Q: Last summer I booked a flight from Denver to Portland, Ore., on Cheaptickets.com for October. Our carrier, Frontier Airlines, cancelled our flight and we were rebooked on a new flight that was unacceptable.
I read Frontier’s contract of carriage and found out that I was entitled to a refund. So I called Cheaptickets.com to ask for my money back, but was told that I had to wait, because the airline could change its flight schedule again.
I waited a month and called back. This time, Cheaptickets.com was a bit more helpful. A very nice lady set up a conference call with Frontier. After half an hour, we got it all sorted out and I was told my refund would get taken care of.
I booked a ticket on anther airline and took the trip. But the refund never showed up. I called again in October to find out what had happened. After several calls to Cheaptickets.com’s accounting offices, I was told to call Frontier to get some additional ticket information.
Every time I called Cheaptickets.com, I was on hold for a long time – sometimes up to an hour and a half. Each time I had to deal with a new agent, to whom I had to tell my story again.
I’ve called again and again, and it’s almost February. Can you help me get my money back?
— Ryan Richter
A: Airlines are often quick to take your money and slow to return it. As a case-in-point, I would offer your sad tale of getting the runaround from Frontier.
The airline should have offered you a refund immediately instead of making you wait. I reviewed Frontier’s contract and found no mention of a “cooling off” period for passengers when a schedule change goes into effect.
By the way, looking up the contract of carriage after Frontier changed its schedule was smart. Most travelers would have just taken the new flight.
And picking Cheaptickets.com wasn’t such a bad move either. I know, you spent hours on the phone. You argued with one clueless agent after another. It’s irritating, isn’t it? Cheaptickets.com really shouldn’t let its customers wait for that long.
But at least you had an agent on your side as an advocate. You might not have gotten that far with the airline (although that’s just speculation – from what I can tell, Frontier is a decent carrier).
My point is, Cheaptickets.com wasn’t going abandon you. At least that’s the impression I got after discussing your case with Cheaptickets.com spokeswoman Kate Sullivan. She shared the agency’s file on you with me, and as best I can tell, it handled everything by the book.
“Frontier was delayed in getting the refund to Cheaptickets.com,” Sullivan explained. “Once we received payment from Frontier, we turned around the refund in about two business days.”
The $1,008 you spent on your airline tickets is on its way back to you. As for whose fault this whole mess is, I think there’s enough blame to go around for everyone. Cheaptickets.com, with its not-in-the-know agents (even Sullivan admitted that she had no idea why one representative asked you to call Frontier for more information on your ticket). Frontier, of course, for its foot-dragging.
And you might have been more patient.
Sure, you had every right to get angry over having to listen to elevator music for more than an hour while you waited your turn to have your case heard. But refunds typically take several billing cycles – that’s up to three months. Cheaptickets.com’s records show that it told you about the possibility of a delay.
Next time an airline tries to pull this funny business, or your online agency tells you the airline is pulling this funny business, whip out the contract of carriage and quote it chapter and verse. If the agent doesn’t see things your way, maybe a supervisor will.
There’s no excuse for not following your own rules.