Travel agent says refunds not likely for canceled COU passengers

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COLUMBIA - Passengers trying to come back home to Columbia have experienced frustration and soaring costs.

The Columbia Airport officially closed on Tuesday and is estimated to remain closed for a week for construction.

Some passengers were not aware of the airport being closed at all. Brad Bates said he was on a business trip in Washington D.C. when a friend called him with the news. He said his airline never told him about it.

“I got a text from a friend that had read a Columbia Missourian news article that said the Columbia Regional Airport had been shut down and it was going to be closed for a week and I was supposed to be back on Wednesday,” Bates said.

Bates said he called American Airlines and asked about the flight and an airline rep did not know the airport was closed until Bates told them. The airline re-routed his flight to St. Louis where he would have to find his own ride to get back to Columbia.

“I said ‘how do I get to St. Louis from Columbia' and they said that’s really not our problem that’s going to be on your own dime,” Bates said.

Bates said he rented a car when he got to St. Louis and drove to Columbia. He said it cost over $120 to rent the car. Bates said he asked American Airlines if he would be able to be reimbursed and they said they could not.

Some other passengers said they aren’t looking for a refund at all and are just happy to be back home. Columbia resident Alex Wakefield’s flight was also re-routed to St. Louis. There were no rental cars left so Wakefield took a shuttle to Columbia.

“This stuff happens with flying, so I don’t really blame the airline,” Wakefield said.

Travel agent Renee Christian said her agency Central Travel has received numerous calls from passengers looking to get on new flights. She said the airlines not notifying travel agencies about cancellations made it harder to help customers.

“It would have been nice if we would have been notified that this was going to happen,” Christian said.

For passengers looking for refunds, Christian said they would need to go through the airline directly. She said it may be easier if they booked through a travel agent because they would handle the process for the traveler.

“As long as they have their ticket number then they can contact the airline if it was purchased through them or if they purchased it online and if they purchase it through the travel agent we would have the information here in our office,” Christian said.

For passengers like Bate who spent money renting a car, Christian said she does not think they will receive a refund.

Bates said he has never had trouble flying out of the Columbia airport in the past, but he is frustrated that they will still sell tickets if they knew the airport would be closed. He said there are probably many other travelers who will find trouble getting home.

 “There’s a lot of people, that are going to struggle to figure out how to get back to Columbia, Missouri to get their car,” Bate said.