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Cheapoair / didn't offer refund or alternative options when flight was cancelled - very poor customer service

1 United States

On April 30, 2018 I purchased two airline tickets using the online travel agency www.cheapoair.com for flights departing Beirut on February 23, 2019.
I purchased these tickets well in advance of our anticipated travel and also chose an itinerary based on our specific and special needs.
Then on September 7, 2018 I purchased a third ticket for another traveler who will be accompanying us on this specific route.

Since purchasing these tickets, we have received email notifications of minor schedule changes which did not impact our plans.
However, on November 14, 2018 we received two (one for each booking) notifications of a schedule change affecting our flights.
The email provided a new itinerary and instructions to "review and accept the new itinerary as soon as possible."
You are also advised that "The airline's offer is only available for a limited time. Please act quickly."
They also provided instructions as follows:
Once you Accept the airline's new itinerary:
We will confirm that the flights are still available, and then issue you a new ticket and updated confirmation. If the proposed flights are no longer available, one of our travel specialists will work with you to find alternate options.
If you wish to Decline:
Please call CheapOair as soon as possible. An associate will work with you find an option that better suits your needs, if the suggested itinerary conflicts with your travel plans.
Contact Us if you need assistance:
[protected] (toll free)
IMPORTANT: If you decline the option that the airline has offered, a CheapOair specialist will attempt to locate alternate flights for you, but there is no guarantee that the airline will confirm the other options. You may lose the entire value of your non-refundable ticket.
If we do not receive a response from you, we will not be able to re-issue your ticket(s). This may lead to the airline cancelling your booking, in which case CheapOair.com will not be liable for any losses.
In addition to working with CheapOair, you can also contact the airline directly .

At this point I first called the airline to confirm that the email was legitimate because I was worried about loosing our ticket. The airline confirmed the change and advised me to call cheapOair.
I called cheapOair and spoke to an agent who again confirmed the change. They said that no other flights were operating to our chosen destination and that this was the only available flight.
Out of fear of loosing our ticket, and with no other options, I reluctantly accepted the changes.

The next day I spoke to my travel companions and advised them of the changes at which point we looked over the itinerary.
We discovered that the new flight conflicted with our special needs which was the reason we choose the original itinerary.
I called cheapOair back and they said any further changes would incur additional charges and penalties.
I inquired about the price to make the changes, unfortunately the new price was more expansive than buying 3 new tickets.
Looking online for options, I discovered that cheapOair had deceived us with their intimidating email and lack of customer service when I called.
According to the UK Civil Aviation Authority Regulation (EC) No 261-2004 and the British Airways terms & conditions, anytime a flight is cancelled, the option to refund the ticket should be provided.
This is from British Airways:
Passengers whose flight is cancelled, shall have the choice of either:
- Re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to the final destination of the ticket presented at check-in at the
earliest opportunity or at a later date at the passenger's convenience, subject to availability; or
- A refund payable to the person who purchased the ticket. This applies to the part or parts of the journey not flown.

Had this option been provided, we would have purchased new tickets for an itinerary which meets our requirements.
I called cheapOair and inquired about this issue. They said since I accepted the new itinerary, there is nothing they could do.
I was outraged because they never proposed these options to me, so I contacted British Airways.
British Airways confirmed that I should have been offered a refund, but since the ticket was purchased from cheapOair, I would need to resolve it through them.
Again I contacted cheapOair and spoke to a manager. I explained to him the situation and he said he would look into it.
After a few days, he advised that British Airways is not accepting to offer a refund and they were also not able to provide a refund.
In the meantime, I had been in contact with Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (www.cedr.com) which handles disputes for many organizations, among them British Airways.
They also advised that my issue was with cheapOair and not British Airways and therefor they would not process my dispute.

As it stands, I currently have no options being stuck in the middle between British Airways and cheapOair, each party saying the other is responsible.
But for me, neither one of them fully advised me of my rights. CheapOair used very intimidating and deceptive wording in their email and the agent I spoke failed to provide any options.
And British Airways is not taking responsibility for their own terms and conditions and not effectively ensuring their travel agents fully advise their clients of their rights.
Effectively I have three tickets which are of almost no use to us.

Pa
Dec 5, 2018

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