This question considers the case where a customer books a flight through Expedia, the airline cancels, and yet Expedia does not return the money to the customer.

It seems to me (and others voting on the answer) that basic contract law means that if you buy a service, and the party you contract with does not provide the service, then the money should be returned. I understand that some of the money may be a non-returnable fee recompensing Expedia for the effort in placing the booking, but what about the rest?

Without wanting to get into the specific case, and without wanting legal advice, what is actually the nature of the contract with Expedia? Are they just acting as your agent, passing your money along to the airline in return for a fee? If that's the case can they actually keep your money that was returned to them by the airline and refuse to give it back to you?

  • 1
    Where in the world is this? Expedia's contract terms are country specific.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 22:58
  • @DaleM Per the linked question, USA, for a domestic flight (on United.)
    – reirab
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 16:56

1 Answer 1


This is an interesting and challenging question, with broad applications. The standard answer is "read the contract", to which one should reply "show me the contract". It has to be findable from a web page – a contract can't be a secret document that the accepting party cannot find. At the bottom of their main page, you can find a TOS. It states that

This Website is provided solely to assist customers in gathering travel information, determining the availability of travel—related goods and services, making legitimate reservations or otherwise transacting business with travel suppliers, and for no other purposes.

In other words, they disavow any implication that they are also selling you a product. The agreement is with "the customer visiting the Website and/or booking a reservation through us on this Website, or through our customer service agents", which confirms that they are "facilitating" an arrangement (with a "partner" i.e. the airline). The agreement part comes where they say

By accessing or using this Website, booking any reservations for travel products or services, or contacting our call center agents, you agree that the Terms of Use then in force shall apply

In case of dispute, there is a section on "working it out informally", which has the bottom line

You and Expedia agree that any and all Claims will be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than in court, except that you and we may assert Claims on an individual basis in small claims court if they qualify. This includes any Claims you assert against us, our subsidiaries, travel suppliers or any companies offering products or services through us (which are beneficiaries of this arbitration agreement).

The section "SUPPLIER RULES AND RESTRICTIONS" which starts

Additional terms and conditions will apply to your reservation and purchase of travel—related goods and services that you select. Please read these additional terms and conditions carefully. In particular, if you have purchased an airfare, please ensure you read the full terms and conditions of carriage issued by the travel supplier, which can be found on the supplier’s website. You agree to abide by the terms and conditions of purchase imposed by any supplier with whom you elect to deal, including, but not limited to, payment of all amounts when due and compliance with the supplier's rules and restrictions regarding availability and use of fares, products, or services. Airfare is only guaranteed once the purchase has been completed and the tickets have been issued. Airlines and other travel suppliers may change their prices without notice. We reserve the right to cancel your booking if full payment is not received in a timely fashion.

I went through the exercise, and it does offer a highly unintelligible stream of text that states the "rules", though the text is hosted on Expedia and not the carrier's website (this refers not to the contract of carriage, but to the booking-specific contract details that state the flight-specific conditions. The contract of carriage is on the UA webpage).

The next paragraph states

In case of a no-show or cancellation, you may be entitled to a refund of airport taxes and fees included in the price of the ticket purchased. Where you are eligible for a refund, you can request such a refund from Expedia customer service, who will submit your request to the airline on your behalf.

You will note the conditionality of this information. They do promise to submit your request to the airline – that's part of the contract.

Your agreement with Expedia is murky, but it appears that you have not agreed to acquire a flight from Expedia in exchange for money, rather, you have agreed to allow Expedia to facilitate your contract with the carrier(s), where there is no clear statement of "consideration" in the agreement, but one may assume that what they get is whatever commission they have negotiated in their contract with the carrier.

It is not clear to me that there is such a thing as "Expedia credit". They refer to airline credit, which is certainly a thing. The first thing they say is "If you’ve had to cancel or change your non-refundable flight, most airlines will offer you a credit instead of a refund". I can attest that issues do arise when an airline cancels a flight then issues a credit rather than a refund, however that was a foreign carrier who changed their policy after a year. The named airline has a (current) statement of refund policy. Your relation with the airline is ultimately reducible to their contract of carriage. Refunds are covered under Rule 27. In theory, they should therefore issue a refund, but also read Rule 24, where para D says

In the event of a Force Majeure Event, UA without notice, may cancel, terminate, divert, postpone, or delay any flight, right of carriage or reservations (whether or not confirmed) and determine if any departure or landing should be made, without any liability on the part of UA. UA may re-accommodate Passengers on another available UA flight or on another carrier or combination of carriers, or via ground transportation, or may refund, in its sole discretion, any unused portions of the Ticket in the form of a travel certificate or travel credit.

So it depends on the circumstances.

  • 5
    Expedia tried to spring this on me for a ticket that Air France cancelled (clearly covered by EU 261) . They automatically converted it to travel credit with conditions that were VERY restrictive (and far worse than Air France's). So they have their own rules, but they apparently don't publish them. Took a couple of hours on the phone to sort it out, but they eventually relented.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 0:40

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