DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I purchased two airline tickets from GotoGate for my wife and son in late 2020. The tickets were for a one-way trip with SriLankan Airlines from Guangzhou, China, to Kigali, Rwanda. Sadly, the airline canceled the flight. I bought new tickets with Qatar Airways for my family to return to Kigali.
I asked for a refund. It’s been eight months, and I haven’t received my money back yet. I contacted SriLankan Airlines, and a representative asked me to contact GotoGate, my travel agency. But it appears both GotoGate and SriLankan Airlines are not keen on the refund. I would appreciate your help in getting my $2,718 refunded. Thank you so much.
— Joseph Obiora Ezezue, Maiduguri, Nigeria
ANSWER: This shouldn’t be that complicated. When an airline cancels your flight, the refund should be automatic. You shouldn’t have to chase down your money, even if it’s in the middle of a pandemic.
SriLankan Airlines should have immediately refunded your money to your travel agent, GotoGate. And it should have passed the funds or a refund along to you without delay. As I’ve noted before, you might have expected a brief delay during the initial outbreak, but this happened at the end of 2020. Planes were flying. Online agencies were accepting reservations. There’s no excuse.
So, what happened? Well, it looks like you made your booking through a third party, a German online agency called MyTrip. It appears the agency then contracted with GotoGate for your tickets, which then made the reservation through SriLankan Airlines. That’s a lot of parties involved but not uncommon.
I get a lot of emails from readers asking why people bother dealing with third parties. Why not book directly through an airline? In your case, that would have vastly simplified the refund process. But others might want to work with a trusted travel advisor or access special deals that an online agency might have.
You kept a comprehensive paper trail. You have an email from MyTrip verifying that SriLankan Airlines processed the refund in December. That’s a key piece of evidence, and all my team and I needed to crack this case.
Question is, could you have done it yourself? I think so. You could have appealed to an executive at GotoGate (we publish the names, numbers and email addresses of GotoGate’s customer service managers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org).
You might have also considered contacting your credit card issuer to initiate a dispute. The Central Bank of Nigeria allows for credit card chargebacks under certain circumstances, and you might have been able to secure a full refund even without the cooperation of the airline or online agent.
It took a while, but GotoGate finally responded directly to you and sent the full refund.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Contact him at elliott.org/help or email@example.com.