What to do if Your Trip is Cancelled? Tips for Getting Your Money Back
If your flight, cruise, hotel accommodations, or any other travel plans have been cancelled at no fault of your own, you are entitled to a refund. In some cases, the company is not only responsible for issuing the refunded amount, they might owe you additional compensation per their policy. Be sure to check the travel company's website to read their cancellation, delay, and even lost baggage polices to get clarity around what is owed to you.
In this blog post, I'm sharing six (6) tips for getting your money back from a travel company that has failed to issue you a refund. I recommend being extremely proactive! Why? The longer you wait will decrease your chances of having all of the options below at your disposal to fight for a refund.
1. Call the number listed in your confirmation email
First things first, check you confirmation email for contact information. If you're unable to find a number in your confirmation email, go the company's website. Call the number and before you start sharing any information related to your issue, ask for the customer service representative's name and employee/ID number. After you've been giving this information, explain the situation to them. Be sure to get this information from each person you speak with and take detail notes of your conversation. The notes should include the date and time you called and an overview of what was discussed. If you call the company multiple times, repeat these steps for each call.
These steps are very important because if you're unable to resolve the situation during that call, all of the information you collected will help by:
Providing you with a detail log so you don't have to recall the conversation, dates, and times.
Showing you're proactively trying to contact and work with the company to handle the issue.
Demonstrating the company's failure to uphold ethical business practices and comply with the law.
Giving you everything you need to take further action such as contacting your bank, filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), etc.
It's important for me to mention that in some cases the customer service representative will request to call you back after their supervisor has had a chance to review the case. Unfortunately, a call back doesn't always happen, but not to worry! We'll get your money!
2. Dispute the charges with you bank / credit card company
If you don't have success calling the travel company, file a claim with the financial institution that you used to book your travel plans. I always recommend using a credit card for larger travel expenses. Why? If you have an issue getting a refund, your actual money won't be tied up. Please note that once you file a dispute with your bank, they will temporarily reimburse your money (this totally depends on your bank's policy). In the case that the dispute doesn't go in your favor, the bank will reverse the reimbursement. On the flip side, when you file a claim with your credit card company, they will issue a temporary credit or freeze the amount being disputed to help you avoid unnecessary interest charges (once more this is totally contingent upon the credit card company's policy). This means any interest associated with those charges should not appear on your statement.
Typically, you have to wait ten (10) days from the date that the charges posted to your account to file a claim. Additionally, you have to contact the company directly to resolve the issue before filing a claim (the financial institution will ask). Only After ten (10) days have passed and you've experienced no luck working directly with the travel company to get a refund are you eligible to file a claim. You can either log into your account or call your financial institution to file the claim. It's a quick process - You'll have to answer a few questions and submit any documentation that will help your case.
After you file a dispute, your financial institution will contact the travel company on your behalf regarding your refund request. The travel company will have a specified amount of time to respond to the claim. I've seen timeframes from 30 days to 120 days allowed for a response. Needless to say, this route might take longer to reach your desired results. In the end, one of three things will happen:
If the travel company doesn't respond in time, your financial institution will decide in your favor awarding you with a (permanent) refund.
The travel company admits they're wrong and issues a refund.
The travel company informs your financial institution that you are not owed a refund.
They will need to provide an explanation and documentation. Their response will then be shared with you.
At this point, your financial institution could find their response sufficient and immediately award in their favor or provide you with a chance to counter. The financial institution will not allow the back and forth of responses to drag on for too long. They will swiftly choose a side to close the case.
It's important for me to mention that I've had situations where a client or myself was rightfully owed a refund from a travel company and my bank awarded in their favor. If you find yourself in this situation, all is not lost! We still have options.
3. Contact Corporate
If you don't have success with the aforementioned options, you should definitely contact corporate. Most people never think to contact a company's corporate office, but the truth is, they like hearing from customers and typically respond and resolve complaints quickly.
Go the travel company's website and proceed to their contact page. There should be information on the contact page on how to file a complaint. Most often you'll have to fill out a form or send an email. Be sure to provide as much detail and documentation as possible (hello, call log!). If the complaint is to be submitted via a form, take a screenshot of the form before submitting your response. Additionally, take a screenshot of the confirmation page. Keep both for your records because not all websites send an email confirming receipt of your complaint and if they do if could be an automatic message that doesn't include a record of your complaint. I said it and I'll say it again - keep thorough records of everything!
Please note that you can do this in tandem with filing a dispute with your financial institution to speed things along. If you're able to get the issue resolved working with corporate, simply call your financial institution to let them know that they can close the claim.
4. File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Out of all of the options, filing a complaint with the BBB is the option I use the most. I must also mention, I've been at this for a long time. So I know which option will be the most effective when dealing with any given travel company.
In order to file a complaint with the BBB, the travel company must be accredited. This means that they have registered their business on the site to receive a rating based on their customer's experience with their company. Most companies that are registered truly care about their rating and work diligently to resolve complaints and negative reviews.
When drafting your complaint be as concise as possible. Don't include emotionally charged language. Trust me! It will not help your case. Do your best to only include facts. Once more, this is where your documentation and detailed records will be helpful. You'll be able to include everything that has happened to this point without having to recall your experience. While this process doesn't take as long as filing a dispute with a financial institution, it does require some patience.
Here's what happens after you file a complaint:
The BBB needs to decide whether it meets their complaint acceptance criteria.
If it does, your complaint will be sent to the travel company within two business days.
The travel company then has 14 calendar days to respond.
You will be notified of the travel company's response when the BBB receives it. Similarly to financial institutions, the BBB will not allow the back and forth of responses to drag on for too long. They typically close complaints within in 30 days. Failure to respond in the specified time by either you or the travel company will result in the BBB awarding in the other party's favor.
It's important to note that even if the BBB does rule in your favor, they will not and cannot make the travel company issue a refund. However, as mentioned above, a company that is register with the BBB typically cares about their rating and reputation and will do everything to comply.
Check out my blog post on how to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau
5. Report them to the proper regulatory agency
Travel companies do not operate as independent entities. Airlines, hotels, cruise lines, etc. report and answer to a higher power such as governmental offices / agencies. These offices / agencies are responsible for making sure companies are adhering to ethical business practices, the rules to maintain a fair marketplace, and that they aren't breaking the law. They collect reports from consumers, conduct investigations, sue companies that break the law, and educate consumers about their rights.
Unfortunately, many companies failed to reimburse customers for cancellations due to COVID. So as of 2022, The Department of Transportation has been cracking down on these unethical practices to ensure customers receive refunds. Not only are they assessing fines, lawsuits have been filed, and they've ordered airlines to pay upwards of $600 million in refunds to hundreds of thousands of customers who had been denied them.
6. Blast them on Social Media
Most travel companies have an active social media presence that they use to market their services and reach their audience. With that said, the last thing they want is negative call outs on social media. Publicly calling companies out on their platform is an effective strategy because companies realize they're at risk of losing future business if the masses get wind of bad business practices. As a result, they're willing to do everything in their power to remedy situations as quickly as possible. This is especially true is you have a large social media following.
Not only can you use these tips to get refunds from a travel company, you can use them with any company that owes you a refund.
If you're in need of assistance, i'm available to help! So far this year (it's only April), I've gotten back approximately $6,000 that was owed to my clients. This included refunds and additional compensation per the travel company's policy.