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Tue, Oct. 22

THE TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: Gate 1 Travel won’t refund my trip after my father’s death

After Adeline Xayavong’s father dies, she asks Gate 1 Travel to refund her trip to New York. But months later, she’s still waiting. What’s going on?

Q: We booked a family trip from London to New York with Gate 1 Travel via Virgin Atlantic Airways. My father passed away in April and I want to cancel our trip.

I asked Gate 1 Travel if I could receive a refund, and it requested a death certificate, which I’ve sent. I have not heard anything from the company.

Gate 1 should be able to give us a voucher or a full refund, but it’s been two months and we haven’t received a reply. This is taking too long. Can you help?

— Adeline Xayavong, London

A: I’m so sorry about your loss. Although many tickets and other components of a tour are nonrefundable, travel companies often make exceptions when there’s a death in the family. Your trip to New York definitely fell into that category, and you’re right — a credit or a full refund is in order.

Problem is, these requests take time. A tour operator would have to ask the airline for a refund, which would include showing your father’s death certificate. By the time you contacted me, you had waited months, and it wasn’t clear if you’d ever get a response. I understand your frustration.

There are two more important details on this case. First, you didn’t cancel the ticket. Instead, you asked Gate 1 if it could cancel the ticket and issue a refund. The company said it would check and asked for the death certificate. Also, the ticket you had on Virgin Atlantic was refundable, so getting your money back should have been much easier than if it was a nonrefundable or more restrictive ticket — at least, in theory.

You could have appealed this to someone higher up at Gate 1 Travel. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Gate 1 Travel executives on my consumer advocacy site. You also could have reached out to the Virgin Atlantic executive contacts as a backup. Gate 1 should have given you a timely response. Chances are, it was waiting to hear from Virgin Atlantic.

By the way, the process is intentionally slow for at least two reasons. First, companies need to do their due diligence to ensure they’re accurately issuing your refund. That’s a valid concern. Someone must manually review your booking to ensure you’re allowed to get your money back and that you’re receiving the correct amount. But the second reason is that companies just aren’t motivated to quickly return your money. A protracted wait can make you lose hope and give up. And travelers often do.

I contacted Gate 1 on your behalf. It quickly informed you that your ticket is, in fact, refundable. You received a full refund before your scheduled trip.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at chris@elliott.org.

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