Q: I recently requested a refund from Overseas Adventure Travel for an air ticket I purchased through them for a Cathay Pacific flight. I had booked a round-trip premium economy ticket from San Francisco to Hong Kong. A representative from OAT air department recommended this upgrade to premium economy because Cathay Pacific had a special rate. I paid OAT an extra $1,300 for this upgrade.
On the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong, I was not seated in premium economy. The reason for this action by Cathay Pacific was a change in aircraft. Even at check-in online, the change in seating was not revealed. I was very upset and stressed over this. I paid good money to be seated in a seat of my choice for this 12-hour flight.
I have contacted OAT several times. They keep telling me that it takes time to get a refund from the airlines. I believe that going on four months is way too long of a wait. I desire a refund from OAT to my account of $650, half of the round-trip ticket. Can you help me? -- Margaret Carroll, Livermore, California
A: If you had a ticket in premium economy, you should have sat in premium economy. Cathay Pacific could have been more proactive about notifying you, and the refund should have been automatic and much, much faster.
But an aircraft change — or “equipment change,” in airline parlance — is not a bait-and-switch. It happens fairly routinely when a plane isn’t working correctly, or the airline needs to accommodate more passengers. Still, I think Cathay Pacific might have alerted you when you checked in and offered other options, such as rescheduling you on a flight with premium economy.
By the way, premium economy is kind of a misnomer. All economy class seats should have a minimum amount of legroom and amenities, particularly on a 12-hour flight. Premium economy is a lie, if you ask me. They should just call it economy class and get rid of the tiny seats that you had to endure for half a day.
You were correct to contact Overseas Adventure Travel in writing. It sold you the Cathay Pacific upgrade. And you’re also right that four months is way too long to wait. If you’re still on hold after a month, you can escalate your case in writing to a manager. I list the names, numbers and emails for Overseas Adventure Travel on my nonprofit advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/grand-circle-travel/.
But, ultimately, this refund was up to Cathay Pacific. I should note that your trip happened before COVID-19 -- so no pandemic excuses! You could have contacted Cathay Pacific or appealed to a manager. I list executive contacts for Cathay Pacific on my site, too, at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/cathay-pacific/.
I reached out to Overseas Adventure Travel and Cathay Pacific on your behalf. Five months after you requested a refund, you finally received it.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.