How to Get Money Back for Holiday Travel Mishaps

Here’s our consumer guide

Planes, trains and automobiles. That’s how some 107.3 million of us traveled during the super-powered week from December 23 to January 1, according to AAA’s forecast — the highest year-end travel volume on record. With all the holiday hoopla, there were bound to be some travel mishaps — whether it was a broken TV screen on a transatlantic flight, a rental car overcharge or a flight delay due to mechanical issues. The bright side: You might be entitled to some financial compensation to help with the headache. And getting it is not as hard as it sounds. Just remember: If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. Here’s how to go about it.

Have everything ready before you make the call.

Gather up all your receipts, flight numbers, breakdowns of charges and loyalty numbers. Have your story straight beforehand (know what happened and when), and toe the line between detailed and to-the-point. For instance, they should know you spent eight hours without a working seat TV or phone charger, but they don’t have to know about the rush you were in that morning to get to the airport. You can even write a script for explaining what happened if it makes you feel more comfortable. And understand you’ll likely need to recount your story to a few different representatives. So, leave yourself at least an hour for safety, and don’t get agitated when you have to say it all again.

Be sweet over sour.

Kindness will take you far in life, and customer service situations are no exception. Many representatives have been dealing with upset customers all day, so a calm caller is usually breath of fresh air — and being kind can inspire them to want to help you. When they introduce themselves, repeat their name and ask how they’re doing. Make it clear you know that your negative experience is separate from the person you’re speaking with — you can do this by calmly and kindly explaining why you were so frustrated at the time — and thank them throughout the conversation.

Don’t settle for the first offer.

From the beginning, be clear about what you’re looking for as far as compensation (whether it’s a credit, partial refund, full refund or something else). In a rental car situation, a partial refund is more likely, while for a flight issue, a $150 to $300 voucher is more common. Something else to keep in mind? Don’t settle for the first offer if you can help it. Say something like, “Thank you so much — and I really appreciate it — but I was hoping for [X]. Could you help me with that?” If they don’t have the authority to increase the offer, you can always nicely ask to speak with a supervisor.

Jean Chatzky

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