InvestigatorsMatter for Mallory


Traveler waits 8 months for a flight refund after booking on third-party site

Posted at 2:12 PM, Dec 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-11 15:56:09-05

**UPDATE December 11**
The traveler confirmed she received the refund for her airfare on December 10 from Brussels Airlines. She did not receive a refund of the platform fees from eDreams.

Original story:
A Maryland woman has been waiting months for a refund after booking an international flight through eDreams, an online travel agency.

College Professor Beatrice Epwene booked the fare after she saw their discounted rates. She canceled the trip in March and was told she'd receive a full refund of $954.

“I found eDreams just when you go online and you’re looking to buy a ticket and you have all the different options come up,” said Dr. Epwene.

The flight itinerary matched the flights she’d been looking at and she saved around $100.

“They were just a tad bit under the usual rates,” said Epwene.

She booked the trip July 2021 to fly May this year, but as the trip got closer, she received more notifications that her flight times had changed.

“These changes kept occurring then at some point, I thought, wait, at the rate these guys kept canceling, they may end up canceling the flight the morning that I’m trying to travel,” Epwene recalled.

She says she couldn't risk it. This trip meant too much to her.

“My father had just gotten sick around that time in Cameroon and so I just wanted to do something to get home very quickly and I had not gone home in about 13 years,” said Epwene.

She decided to accept eDreams offer to cancel for a full refund then booked a ticket with the airline to travel around the same time.

“They said the refund will come in 90 days that kind of thing, so I thought, okay, fine,” Epwene said.

According to the eDreams website, Epwene’s refund request was received on March 19, and the refund was processed May 12.

“But I don’t have the money, I’ve not seen any money, I don’t have the ticket, I didn’t travel on their air, you know? And then you start to call, you start to wait, you look for them to update their system and no, there’s no update. You call them, it takes forever. I think I’ve only been lucky to get through about once,” said Epwene.

There’s a Facebook group supposedly with eDreams customers also waiting on refunds. Some members posted that they’ve been trying for two years to get back their funds.

There’s no phone number for eDreams listed on the customer service page, no direct email, and the company lists its address in Spain on the homepage.

Epwene tried disputing the charge with her credit card provider, but she’s now outside of the dispute window.

“This is not a time when anybody should just lose a thousand dollars,” said Epwene. “It’s my money that I paid to them. I didn’t get a service so reimbursing it back to me shouldn’t be this hard.”

Reporter Mallory Sofastaii was able to track down a phone number for eDreams and called in October. A customer service agent said the refund would be issued within the month, but that didn't happen.

She finally got in touch with an eDreams spokesperson. In an email, he wrote:

"As the world’s largest flight retailer -excluding China-, we strive to deliver the best possible service to the 17 million customers that we serve annually. In this instance, Ms Epwene’s trip suffered several airline schedule changes, all of which were duly processed and notified to the customer by eDreams. After canceling one of the flights included in the itinerary, the airline automatically rebooked the customer on an alternative flight and reissued a new ticket for Ms Epwene. Subsequently, the airline canceled another flight within the booking without providing any replacement flight for our customer. As a result, eDreams contacted the carrier to request a refund on behalf of Ms Epwene, however, Brussels Airlines responded that we were no longer able to submit a refund given that the original ticket issued by eDreams had been exchanged for a new one issued by themselves. This meant that a waiver code from the airline was required for us to request a refund for the ticket as we had not issued it. Our teams then requested this waiver code from Brussels Airlines on several occasions and a response is still awaited. We have once again reached out to the carrier to follow up on our request and will continue to keep Ms Epwene updated on the progress of her refund."

A spokeswoman with Brussels Airlines said they hadn't yet received the request from eDreams. In an email, she wrote:

"In general and also in this specific case, the Travel Agency (eDreams in this case) needs to raise a refund through the clearly defined channels / tools.

As far as we can tell, this has not been done for this passenger.

And it is only after the official request of the refund by the Travel Agency, that Brussels Airlines can process the refund. The refund will always be processed to the original Form of Payment."

In response to the negative reviews online, an eDreams spokesperson reinforced its commitment to serving its customers:

"We are proud to have successfully assisted over 5.2 million customers hit by airline and airport flight disruptions since the start of the pandemic. Whilst flights slowly began to resume throughout 2020, operational complications derived from the pandemic – including airline and airport shortages of staff, amongst others – meant many travelers have continued to experience flight disruptions throughout 2022. During this time, eDreams has put in place the largest operational effort in the company’s 22+ year history, to work unabatedly on behalf of their customers to rebook canceled flights, retrieve refunds from airlines and re-organise travel plans for consumers. The unprecedented travel disruption caused by the pandemic caused a 240% increase in the number of travelers seeking assistance with their travel plans, compared to pre-pandemic levels. In response to this, eDreams increased its customer service and operational refunds team to further support its customers. This additional investment from the business has reduced the average wait time for customers by 65% since the pandemic, with the average speed to answer calls from customers now standing at 95 seconds, contributing to almost nine out of ten customers (87%) now stating they are satisfied or very satisfied with the service they received. This momentous effort has resulted in 97% of customer refunds reaching a resolution, with airline refunds needed to ensure 100% of all cases are resolved."