Travel Troubleshooter

A hurricane ruined his St. Thomas honeymoon, so why is the airline keeping his money?

Q. I had to cancel my honeymoon trip to Sugar Bay Resort and Spa in St. Thomas a few days before my departure in October because of Hurricane Irma.

I had booked the package through Travelocity. It included round-trip airfare and hotel. But the resort was so damaged that it will remain closed for most of 2018. I received my full refund for the hotel, but American Airlines charged a $200 fee for changing my ticket.

The tickets are supposed to be refundable. I’ve been trying to get a refund on the cancellation fee, but Travelocity says there’s nothing it can do, and American refuses to resolve this. Can you help me get my money back?


EVAN HASARA, Milwaukee

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A. Congratulations on getting hitched. I’m sorry about the timing. Last year’s hyperactive hurricane season ruined so many vacations, including yours, unfortunately. Travelocity should have helped you secure a full refund for your honeymoon. And if it couldn’t, then American Airlines should have stepped up and done the right thing. I mean, come on — it’s your honeymoon!

But let’s talk about that for a second. You booked your special vacation through an online travel agency. That’s fine if you’re taking a quick getaway, but doesn’t your honeymoon deserve the white-glove treatment that only a personal travel adviser can deliver? You can find a list of qualified agents on the American Society of Travel Agents site:

Still, Travelocity should have taken care of you. “For every step of the journey,” the site promises, “we’re here.” Specifically, Travelocity assures you that in the event of a weather threat or mass disruption: “We’ll work with our travel partners to make any necessary itinerary changes at the most reasonable cost to you.” And a $200 cancellation fee is definitely not reasonable.

I reviewed your paperwork, and it appears you were flying on a special ticket that could be changed, if necessary. My Travelocity contact read the fare rules differently, leaving little hope for you to get a refund.


I think a brief, polite appeal to one of the customer-service executives might have helped. I list the names, numbers, and e-mail addresses for both Travelocity (owned by Expedia) and American Airlines on my consumer-advocacy site: and

I contacted American Airlines on your behalf, and it refunded your change fee.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and can be reached at