I had multiple heart attacks. Can I get a refund from HomeAway?
Q: I have a home reserved in Kauai, Hawaii, this spring through HomeAway. I had multiple heart attacks and was then diagnosed with a rare heart disease known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection.
My medical team advised me not to take the six-hour flight to Hawaii. I asked for a refund. The owner wanted to give us a credit and allow us to rebook for a future date. She would not refund our stay even with medical documentation.
I took the new reservation and decided to gift it to my children. I have messaged the owners to confirm the reservation and have had no response or communication. The listing is no longer on the site, and I'm concerned to book any flights if I can't contact the owner. She has been very hard to reach. At this point, I think we should be fully refunded due to my health and mostly the owner's inability to respond. Her page says she will respond within a few days.
Can you help me get a refund of $2,550 from HomeAway? -- Melissa Smith, Farmington, New Mexico
A: I'm sorry to hear about your health condition. When a guest falls ill before a vacation, travel companies often offer a refund or credit as a goodwill gesture. But they are not always required to do so.
You know what I'm going to say next, right? Travel insurance. That's right. A good travel insurance policy, purchased when you made your reservation, would have probably covered you after you had a heart attack and had to cancel. I say "probably" because some policies don't cover pre-existing medical conditions, so if you had a heart problem before you bought the policy, you might have been out of luck. (A more expensive "cancel for any reason" policy would have been the best option.)
On HomeAway, refund policies can vary from "no refunds" to "relaxed" (bookings canceled at least seven days before the start of stay will receive a 50% refund). Unfortunately, you had a "firm" refund policy (a 100% refund if canceled at least 60 days before arrival date). You were past the refund window, so it was up to your host to decide whether to let you off the hook or not. Your host decided to offer you a credit, which is much better than keeping all of your money.
Here's what concerned me about your case: You say the host hadn't been responsive, and you were unsure if you still had a reservation. HomeAway hosts should always respond to their guests promptly. This host had already done you a favor by offering you credit, so it's a surprise she didn't reply to your inquiries.
If you don't get a response, you can always contact a customer service executive at HomeAway. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of HomeAway's managers on my consumer advocacy site.
I contacted HomeAway on your behalf, and it confirmed your reservation. I hope you get better soon.
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 email@example.com. firstname.lastname@example.org
(c) 2019 Christopher Elliott
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