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By Christopher Elliott
Dara Chuang's flights are rescheduled, and eventually canceled. But her airline can't refund the money back to her credit card because she closed her account. It's been months, and there's still no sign of the money. Can this refund be saved?
Q: I'm hoping you can provide me some direction. I recently booked three tickets for my parents on
This is where the fun began. For the last three months, I have been trying to track down my credit with Chase bank. For whatever reason, they do not have any record of my credit card account in their system when I try to call their credit card customer service number.
I finally received a letter saying that they were waiting for a response from
A: You are getting the runaround from everyone.
Why didn't it? I can tell you why, in principle: Travel companies, and especially airlines, are fast to take your money but slow to return it. It's just part of their corporate DNA.
In practice, I don't know why this particular refund took so long. I asked American about your case several times (more on that in a moment) and I'm not even sure if it knows.
This was preventable. When you're waiting for a refund back to a credit card, it's best to delay any changes to your account. Some are unavoidable -- for example, if your credit card is stolen, you need to cancel the card immediately. But short of that, I'd postpone any kind of upgrade, downgrade or revision to your card. Changing your credit card account can confuse a travel company, causing further delay on top of an existing delay, or in extreme cases, leading to an outright denial of a refund.
I post the names, numbers and email addresses of
I'm not sure if calling Chase or American helped your case. An email is probably far more efficient and gets you faster results. Phoning may make you feel better, but there's little evidence it accelerates a refund of this type. Here's another thought: In the future, try making a reservation through a travel agent instead of directly with an airline. An agent would be able to help you with a refund, at no extra charge.
I contacted American on your behalf, and after a few more weeks of trying to track down your money, it finally sent you a check for the full amount of your airfare.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine.
© U.S. Christopher Elliott, The Travel Troubleshooter
Travel | Help! My Refund is Missing in Action