Jordan Call is a social worker in Chicago who’s soccer fandom has taken him all over the world. He’s traveled to Brazil for the World Cup and most recently to Spain for the storied El Clasico between two of the world’s top soccer clubs.
But when Call was left footing the bill for a rescheduled flight from Europe to North Africa, he turned to NBC 5 Responds.
“I’m not asking to make one penny of profit from this eight month ordeal,” Call said.
Call and his friends vacationed in Spain last December to support FC Barcelona in its match against arch rival Real Madrid. They had also planned to take a side trip to nearby Tangier, Morocco, to experience the city’s architecture and culture. In fact, Call purchased plane tickets months earlier from low-cost carrier, Vueling. But soon after he bought his airfare in August, the airline rescheduled the December flight.
Unfortunately, the new flight time conflicted with Call’s soccer plans in Spain. So in late August he followed the airline’s steps to collect a refund within thirty days. But he said weeks turned to months with no money returned to his account. And Call said the airline’s customer service was not much help.
“I kept getting these generic responses back via email in no real true dialogue or communication,” Call said.
Call said he also had no luck trying to resolve his request through Vueling’s Facebook page.
Fast-forward to December during his vacation in Spain: Call filed an in-person complaint form with Vueling at the Madrid airport and said he provided his bank information at the airline’s request.
“I did confirm that all the banking information on that December 6 form was accurate to initiate a refund,” Call said.
Upon his return to Chicago, he said he began making international phone calls to Vueling.
“They would transfer me to another department or speak with another person who would still give me the same runaround and truly not address my issue,” Vueling said.
After Call said the airline requested his bank account information for a second time, he received an email in February stating that his case was resolved. However, Call said he noticed he made an error in the processing paperwork.
"I identified the error and informed them of the mistake and still continued a lengthy wait for a refund," Call said.
NBC 5 Responds stepped-in to help and emailed Vueling with Call’s concerns. He wanted his flight refunded and a reimbursement for the international phone calls he made while trying to resolve the issue.
“Four-hundred and some dollars may not mean a lot to some people, but as a social worker working in the city of Chicago, it is important to me,” Call said.
While we did not receive an immediate response from the airline, Call said a $267 flight refund, adjusted for currency exchange rates, showed up in his account the next day.
“You guys were able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and provide me with some resolution,” Call said. “I find it to be odd to say that I got the refund purely because they finally got their ducks in a row, versus your team stepping in to assist me.”
NBC 5 Responds and Telemundo Chicago later spoke by phone to a representative from Vueling. While the airline said it would not reimburse Call for the international phone calls, the spokesperson later emailed a statement explaining the delay in refunding Call.
"The refund took so long because due to a technical error in our payment system, we were not able (to) do it directly on his credit card," the spokesperson wrote.
The spokesperson further explained that in order not to further delay the refund, Vueling asked Call if it was okay to send the refund via bank transfer. The airline said Call’s account detail error impacted the transfer.
"We failed to do it in the three first attempts," the spokesperson wrote. "The fourth attempt, on March 13th, we effectively managed to do it."
But Call feels the issue should have been avoided all-together because he provided the correct bank information months earlier in Spain.
It took Call months to receive his refund even after corresponding with Vueling in the form of emails, social media exchanges and phone calls. Still, travel experts say European airlines generally have more passenger-friendly protections than the US airlines.
Christine Sarkis of Smarter Travel urges consumers experiencing similar customer service issues with non-US airlines to outline their request in the clearest, simplest and most documented way.
“If you suspect that language or comprehension may be a barrier over the phone, find the online customer feedback form and get typing,” Sarkis said. “You can also enlist the help of airline’s social media pages, which are often staffed by multilingual customer service experts.”