Their best method for success, it seems, is to communicate via polite, concise email queries rather than phone calls or online chat or web forms. Those customer service email addresses are sometimes harder to find, but that means they may receive faster attention or better service. Plus, they make for a clean, written record you can forward two weeks later if you don’t hear back.

And if you don’t, aim higher. When Amy from St. Paul, Minn., wrote to me asking for help with a $1,172 credit from United Airlines that was proving impossible to use, I suggested she use, a site run by Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit that does Tripped Up-like work and provides contact information for travel providers. She told me she wrote to a customer care executive at United and heard back the same day with a solution. “Magic!” she said.

If emails sent directly to your service provider fail, what could work are complaints to your credit card issuer, the Better Business Bureau, your state’s attorney general (or department of insurance for insurance-related cases) and the federal Transportation Department (for flights).

Passengers often write to me outraged, with complaints that an airline canceled their entire itinerary just because they missed one leg. Yet, that’s a widespread, well-documented rule. No fair? I absolutely agree, but can do nothing except tell you to (please) write to your member of Congress.

People also often decline to get travel insurance because they think that if they get sick they can just submit a doctor’s note and the airline or cruise line or hotel will refund them. But this is not grade school, and although companies do sometimes make exceptions, you can’t count on it. Tong of Sebastopol, Calif., wrote to me that when his wife, Elizabeth, fell ill with Covid-19 during a trip to Italy in October, easyJet would not refund them $390 for an unused Naples to Palermo flight. At peak pandemic, that might have worked. Not anymore.

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