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American Queen Voyages refund problem: What's a SkyMile worth?

TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

After American Queen Voyages changes Terrance Hardy's arrival port, the cruise line agrees to cover his additional flight expenses. But more than a year later, there's still no refund check. What's going on?

My wife Judy and I booked a cruise on American Queen Voyages two years ago. The trip on the American Countess was scheduled to depart Chattanooga, Tenn., last fall.

Four days before our departure, we received a notice from American Queen Voyages that our final destination had been changed from Memphis to Louisville, Ky., because of low water levels in the Mississippi River.

I found it hard to believe that they did not know about the low water levels more than four days before departure, but we could change our return flight. Since we had made our original flights on Delta using air miles, we did the same for the flight change.

American Queen asked us to submit documentation for flight change costs, and I sent them on Oct. 27, 2022. Two months went by with nothing but an automated reply, so I attempted to reach someone at American Queen Voyages by telephone. It's impossible to contact anyone there regarding refunds by telephone. I reached out to one of the executive contacts you publish on your site, and a few weeks later, I got a reply from a woman in sales who promised a refund, but it would take approximately 60 days to process.

It has now been over one year since I submitted the requested documentation, and they no longer answer my emails. Can you help me get the $930 back American Queen Voyages promised us?

Terrance Hardy, Escondido, Calif.

American Queen Voyages should have paid you promptly for the rescheduled flight. You were more than patient with the company. You made polite inquiries by phone and email, but nothing seemed to work.

But your refund misadventure is more complicated than it appears. You had booked your tickets using your Delta SkyMiles. When you asked American Queen Voyages for a refund, you included copies of your old and new itinerary. You explained that you had to redeem another 31,000 miles each for the new trip. You asked American Queen Voyages for $930 by calculating the value of a mile at 1.5 cents per mile.

The problem is, no one agrees on the value of a mile. Some say a Delta mile is worth 1 cent, some say 1.2 cents, and some say it may be as high as 1.5 cents. But one thing is certain: The American Queen Voyages system was set up to give cash refunds for actual money spent. The mile valuations may have confused it.

If that's true, then someone at American Queen Voyages should have said something to you. Maybe they could have made a counteroffer on the mileage? Or explained the company's policy about reimbursing passengers for their miles? A $930 reimbursement is essentially the cost of a new plane ticket, so it might have made more sense just to buy a new ticket. All of those things should have been worked out before you submitted your expenses to American Queen Voyages.

Your experience with following up on your reimbursement is not unique to American Queen Voyages. Many travel companies drag their feet when it's time to issue refunds. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the American Queen Voyages customer service managers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. A brief, polite email to one of them usually helps solve this type of problem more quickly. In your case, unfortunately, it didn't.

You reached out to my advocacy team. I contacted the company on your behalf and after several inquiries, I received an email that American Queen Voyages was "currently expediting this reimbursement." You finally received your $930 refund.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of it. A few weeks after I resolved this case, American Queen Voyages ceased operations.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him on his site.

 

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