Travel agency canceled flight but didn’t tell her. now what?

Q. Last year, I bought round-trip tickets through MyFlightSearch for my husband and me on Sun Country from Minneapolis to Newark. MyFlightSearch charged us $477 for these tickets.

The night before our flight, we tried to print our boarding passes on the Sun Country website but got the response that we had to check in at the airport. When we got to the check-in desk, a representative told us our tickets were not valid. Sun Country staff called MyFlightSearch and found out that they had canceled our reservations. We had to book a new, more expensive flight to Newark.

Neither Sun Country nor MyFlightSearch had notified us of this cancellation. While we were at the check-in desk, someone from MyFlightSearch called me on my cellphone and told me that he had e-mailed a notice to me. However, when I told him that there had been no e-mails or other contacts from MyFlightSearch after we received the e-tickets, he admitted that he had not, in fact, notified me but that he “had tried to.” He said that the amount that I had been charged was refunded to my credit card account.

Neither Sun Country nor MyFlightSearch was willing to take any responsibility for canceling our tickets without notice. Sun Country charged us $1,279 in airfare when the original price we paid for our round-trip flights was $477. We also had to fly into Hartford instead of Newark and get additional ground transportation from Hartford to Newark the same day at our own expense.

After I got home, I checked my credit card statements and found that MyFlightSearch had paid Sun Country a total of $477 in two transactions — one for $40 and one for $437. I only received the $437. I called MyFlightSearch and asked for the $40 back, and it agreed to refund the money in 7 to 10 days to my account. It’s been weeks and I haven’t received the refund. can you help?

DONNA FREDKOVE, Minnetonka, Minn.

A. The $40 charge is a booking fee associated with your reservation. You deserve a refund of both the fee and your fare. Actually, you should get more than that, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Of course, MyFlightSearch should have notified you when it canceled your flight. It should have owned the cancellation instead of first telling you that it had notified you, then admitting it didn’t. It should have offered the “prompt personal attention to your travel-related queries and requirements” that it promises on its site.

These online agencies are highly automated, so something didn’t work as it should have. You didn’t want to cancel your flight, so MyFlightSearch shouldn’t have canceled it.

The “check with us at the counter” warning is an enormous red flag. When you see that, it’s time to call the airline. It may be nothing. But in my experience, it often is a sign that something has gone terribly wrong.

You might have reached out to an executive at Sun Country to figure out what happened and to ask for some kind of compensation. I publish the names, numbers and e-mail addresses of the Sun Country executives on my consumer advocacy nonprofit site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/sun-country-airlines/. I think Sun Country could have assisted you when your agent canceled your flight, helping you get to Newark at a reasonable price. Looking at your correspondence, it seems you paid hundreds of dollars extra. It might consider refunding part of that.

Ultimately, this was for your online travel agency to fix. I think it should repay your $40 booking fee immediately and consider covering your additional flight costs.

I contacted MyFlightSearch on your behalf. It refunded its booking fee but would not cover your additional costs. Maybe next time you should consider booking directly with your airline — or using a human travel agent.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org

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