Whidbey Island, WA — All Clayton Wright wants to do is see his grandchildren in Norway.
Instead, he’s stuck on his computer on Whidbey Island trying to figure out if his flight credits are about to expire.
“It’s a brick wall. I keep bouncing off the wall. And I’ve been at this now for three weeks. I’m giving up. I cannot contact them,” says Clayton.
Them is two companies: Expedia and Icelandair.
He booked a flight last year through Expedia on the airline that was cancelled because of COVID restrictions.
The year is almost up and he’s afraid the one year credit will fly away. But the answers he’s getting are grounded in confusion.
When he asks Icelandair about the deadline:
“You bought your ticket through a third party,” says Clayton of the conversations. “And that being Expedia, you need to coordinate this with Expedia.”
“Well, this is a situation, the airlines dictate these policies,” Clayton says he’s been told. “You probably need to take it up with the airline.”
Come to find out, Clayton is not alone dealing with all these vouchers, including those through third party purchases.
A U.S. Senate investigation pegged the value of outstanding credits and vouchers at $10 billion last year.
Airlines are required by federal law to offer refunds if the airline cancels or significantly delays a flight. But if a traveler cancels a flight, even to comply with a Covid-19 stay-home order, it’s airline policies that are at play - not the law. And that usually means travelers are stuck with a voucher or a credit.
And Scott Keyes, founder of travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights, says those don’t last forever.
“Probably more outstanding vouchers right now than probably than any other time in modern history,” says Keyes. “So what we want to make sure is that folks don’t wind up seeing those vouchers turn worthless because they didn’t get used in time.”
He says many airlines are automatically extending credits a few months to a few years.
But you’ve got to look at that fine print.
“When does this expire? Does that expiration date refer to when I need to travel by or when I need to book by? And can - will the airline extend this if I ask very nicely?” says Scott.
He says airlines may also allow travelers to swap destinations or passengers.
But you have to call. And Scott says be ready to ask a few times - politely.
“Airline agents have a lot of discretion. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called up an airline, been told no the first time,” says Scott.
But what about Clayton? He’s made a lot of calls.
“I was going, I’m about ready to rip my hair off! I’m thinking, what is with this?” says Clayton.
So we contacted Expedia and Icelandair for him.
And he soon got a welcome arrival in his inbox: a reissued flight voucher good until 2024.
Expedia representatives say they are investigating what caused the confusion between companies. And say:
“We are very sorry he had that experience. Rest assured that improving the experience around flight credit redemption is a top priority for our teams.”
After all that, Clayton’s ready for a trip. But he wants it to be a vacation - not a journey.
“Yeah, I’d go into Expedia and look at the cost and then go direct to the airlines. Because I don’t want to get that third party mixed up in it. Live and learn I guess,” he says.
Expedia representatives say it’s working to improve its airline credit redemption process so what happens to Clayton doesn’t happen to other travelers.
They say the expiration dates and other restrictions are usually printed in a traveler’s account, but if there’s any doubt, check the fine print with your airline.
It’s the airline that determines the policies that govern the credit. Not Expedia.
And remember - if an airline cancels a flight, they have to offer a refund. If they don’t, or they make it difficult to get, you can report them to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Or call me.
Cox Media Group