DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I booked a Trainline ticket a few weeks ago to travel from Stockport, England to London. When I checked the ticket on the day of departure via the Trainline app, it showed that the train scheduled for 14:24 had been cancelled.
There was another train leaving at 14:19 so I reserved my ticket for that one. Trainline charged a change fee and price difference even though the train was canceled and Trainline did not inform me of this before departure.
I expect a full refund of the price difference and change fee for an error not my fault. I would have missed the train if I hadn’t checked before arriving at the station. Can you help?
— Neil Gonsalves, San Francisco
ANSWER: Trainline should have informed you about your canceled train journey. He should have offered to rebook you on another train or give you a refund. It shouldn’t have waited for you to find the canceled train and then charged you a change fee. So why did you do it?
Trainline is a ticket agent. His records show you traveled from Stockport, near Manchester, to London on a deeply discounted ticket.
“Advance single tickets are deeply discounted and give you the best value for your money,” said a Trainline representative. “However, these tickets are only valid for the specified date, time and train, making them inflexible. And therefore no direct refunds are made for these tickets.”
Because you initiated a ticket change after learning of your train cancellation, Trainline says it cannot refund your tickets.
Trainline is clear about the terms of your ticket. Its site says you can use your existing ticket to travel on the next available service. But there is some fine print. In the UK you must use the next available train with the same operator. Other tickets have restrictions on the time of day you can use them.
“Remember to check your ticket conditions in case you can only travel on a specific operator/route,” it said.
Trainline may be right about the terms of your ticket, but they should also have notified you of the cancellation and offered to rebook you. After all, its site promises it will be with you “every step of the way.” I don’t think it was.
Trainline prefers that you communicate with it through its app. It looks like you did, but the company continued to reject your refund request. I think an email to a supervisor would have been your next step. All Trainline email addresses follow the format: [email protected] Trainline publishes the names of its managers on the Trainline website at www.thetrainline.com/about-us/meet-the-team (but not their emails).
Trainline should have notified you of your cancellation and explained what it would cost to reschedule your journey on a more expensive train. Instead, let you assume that your ticket change will be refunded.
I contacted Trainline on your behalf. “We’re sorry to learn that your reader was unhappy with his experience booking with Trainline,” a spokesperson told me. “When a customer’s train is cancelled, we notify them and explain which services their ticket applies to at no extra charge. However, we understand that these refund rules can be complicated and as a gesture of goodwill we have refunded your reader the extra amount he paid for his second ticket, along with the administration fee.”
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help/.
(c) 2023 Christopher Elliott
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.