Karen Smith loses her paper airline ticket to Spain and has to buy a new one. Now her airline is dragging its feet on a promised refund on the second ticket, and her online travel agency isn't helping. How do you get them moving?

Q: I recently lost a paper airline ticket to Spain that I booked through Travelocity ( I was told to fill out a lost ticket refund application through Iberia Airlines (, which I did. Both Travelocity and Iberia assured me that I would receive a refund for the second ticket I had to buy, minus a $100 fee.

Since my return, I have contacted Iberia numerous times to get the status of my refund, but they said they were not able to help me directly. I asked Travelocity to contact Iberia, which they did. I also provided Travelocity with background information and sent them the original paper tickets (which were subsequently found).

Travelocity contacted Iberia to request a refund on my behalf, but I have not heard anything since then. It's been four months. I requested that Travelocity follow up, but they told me to contact Iberia directly. When I contact Iberia directly, they tell me they will only speak to my travel agent. What should I do? -- Karen Smith, Stamford, Conn.

A: Did you say you had a paper ticket? I thought those were obsolete. Travelocity and Iberia should have issued an electronic ticket. (In fairness, this case was brought to my attention a few months ago, but still -- paper tickets were supposed to go the way of the dodo in 2008.)

Of course, you should have paid closer attention to the envelope you received from Travelocity. If you had, then you would have noticed that you had a paper ticket and taken care not to lose it.

Lost ticket applications, like refunds, can take months or even years, so I'm not surprised by the lengthy wait. Adding to the frustration is the fact that Iberia referred you to your online travel agent, and Travelocity only referred you back to the airline. They should have both been falling all over themselves to help you.

I mean, they're more than happy to take your money instantly when you want to buy an airline ticket. Is it unreasonable to expect them to show just half the enthusiasm when you deserve a refund?

Sadly, that's not how it works.

If a refund takes more than two to three billing cycles and the company that owes you the money isn't responding, you may want to ask your credit card company to get involved. A bank with a competent dispute department can help you reverse the charges and secure a fast refund, if you can show a company is holding on to your money.

I note that most of your contacts with the airline and online travel agency appear to be by phone. This is not an efficient way of tracking the progress of a refund. A brief, polite e-mail will do the trick.

I sent one to Travelocity, and you had a full refund within a few weeks.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the host of "What You Get For The Money: Vacations" on the Fine Living Network. E-mail him at

(c) 2010 Christopher Elliott. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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