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Posted by
200 posts

The key words being "refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels the passenger’s flight or makes a significant change in the flight schedule and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier." And they are not being ordered to do so. It is US law that any airline doing business in the US must give refunds for tickets back in the form in which they were purchased if the airline cancels. Some may try to offer you something else and if you accept, that's it, you have nothing else coming. A lot of people here are trying to get refunds on tickets that they are cancelling. And when they can't they cry about it. You buy non-refundable, you cancel, you lose. Doesn't matter what the reason is.

Posted by
1528 posts

Thanks for this article link, it's helpful to know the DOT position when the airline cancels the flight.

Posted by
610 posts

"You buy non-refundable, you cancel, you lose. Doesn't matter what the reason is."

So, heads I win, tails you lose for the airlines.

My tax dollars are bailing them out (again). How about the airlines show a little gratitude and recognize the passenger's perspective? Just so tired of the arrogance of the airline industry.

Posted by
7180 posts

And yet they continue to treat us like cattle and just like they continue to receive bailouts from our hard earned tax dollars.

Posted by
186 posts

I posted this for people who had their flights cancelled (or may be cancelled in the future) and would want to know their rights. There are numerous readers who have cancelled their trips but have not yet cancelled the flights, hoping to get refunds when the airline cancels. In some cases the airlines are not automatically giving refunds.

It is not directed to those that cancelled themselves.

Posted by
784 posts

I guess I am a fortunate. I cancelled our flights today. We got our miles back into our account. Refund given for taxes and seat upgrade.

Posted by
273 posts

I just got a notice from Air Canada yesterday. They cancelled my flight from DFW to Montreal in mid May. They offered credit to be used within 24 months. I guess I will need to contact them and tell them that they are required to give a refund. I'm hoping that Holland America cancels my cruise, because I would like a refund, not credit. They have cancelled all cruises through May 14, but my cruise leaves Montreal on May 16. Unfortunately, my ship on the cruise is the Zaandam, which is the one that just docked in Ft. Lauderdale with 4 deaths and several sick people. I will keep watching for that notification.

Posted by
200 posts

Janet - As long as you didn't accept the credit then yes you can tell them you want the refund. If they tell you no then remind them of the law.

Posted by
2837 posts

If they tell you no then remind them of the law.

I'm sure they know it, but are just hoping people will accept a voucher. I doubt that an airline will flatly tell you no you can't have a refund if they cancelled. The Lufthansa agent explained the voucher offer to me (which was actually pretty generous -- good until April 21 2021), but when I said I'd still prefer a refund, she said "fine", I'll process it right now.

Posted by
186 posts

Better served with a direct link to the USDoT enforecement notice rather second hand articles --
https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-issues-enforcement-notice-clarifying-air-carrier-refund

And the the notice PDF that was sent
https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/2020-04/Enforcement%20Notice%20Final%20April%203%202020_0.pdf

Take the time to read the whole notice, but pay attention to this key point --
==>"Specifically, the Aviation Enforcement Office will refrain from pursuing an enforcement action against a carrier that provided passengers vouchers for future travel in lieu of refunds for cancelled or significantly delayed flights during the COVID-19 public health emergency so long as: (1) the carrier contacts, in a timely manner, the passengers provided vouchers for flights that the carrier cancelled or significantly delayed to notify those passengers that they have the option of a refund; (2) the carrier updates its refund policies and contract of carriage provisions to make clear that it provides refunds to passengers if the carrier cancels a flight or makes a significant schedule change; and (3) the carrier reviews with its personnel, including reservationists, ticket counter agents, refund personnel, and other customer service professionals, the circumstances under which refunds should be made."<==

My personal take away at the moment is that the enforcement notice is a reminder that refunds are due, but the DoT isn't exactly going to jump on it at this moment.

Posted by
356 posts

UPDATE:
Realizing every case is different, here is the follow-up I promised. We have received refund approval for our flights 22 days after our initial request.

To recap, our tickets were non refundable, open jaw, with at least 7 changes in itinerary from our original flights ( several more than 6 hour time differences with multiple and awkward connections) that we never approved. Using the DOT policies mentioned by the OP, we called by phone to request our refund.
My advice is to:

Call instead of doing it online. Neither time we called did we wait more than 10 minutes. Make sure you get a refund tracking number from the United agent. Your original reservation number will not work for this; you will just get an error message.

  1. Check online daily using your refund tracking number to see the status of your request.

  2. Wait at least two weeks before you call again. But if nothing is happening, definitely call again. Things get lost with the volumes of requests.

  3. When you call the main United number and get to an agent, ask for the refunds department phone number. Our delay was probably related to not talking to someone in that department directly
    initially.

  4. Be kind when you call. My husband was polite, did not offer any big explanations other than just saying “ we need a refund not a voucher”.

We are grateful for our refunds from RS and United. It will allow us the funds to travel again when it is safe to do so. It will insure we use both companies again when we do.

Lynn, thank you so much for sharing this DOT information. It provided us the final impetus to contact United about upcoming international flights ( end of April to mid-May).

My husband called United customer service. He “ talked” through computer choices to get to an actual person. He was on hold for just a few minutes. My husband politely explained that the current itinerary has had seven legs cancelled and then rescheduled/rerouted with different times/ destinations. He said that because of that, and the unworkable current itinerary we need a refund. The agent said he would cancel the flights and “ request a refund”. So, we shall see what happens. We suspect that these initial “ gatekeeper” agents are directed not to argue and turf the request over to someone else.

For what it’s worth, the supporting data we had/have ready to use is:

  1. Our itinerary had changes of more than 6 hours.
  2. Arrived in Germany which currently restricts entry to non- essential travelers. ( and yet United still has flights going into Frankfurt!?!)
  3. Is during a time when the State Department has overseas travel at a “4”, which is NO travel.
  4. The new DOT guidelines printed out and ready to refer to.

We are hopeful (albeit skeptical) that it will be this easy to get a refund from United. However, it is possible that right now they are mindful of the DOT guidelines, and may just grant the refund. It may be that our Gold status makes a difference as well. I will post any follow-up information.

Posted by
200 posts

travelingmom - A few questions / comments.

  1. Are your tickets refundable or not? The law states that the airlines must refund if THEY cancel, not if you do. And this sounds like you are doing the cancelling.

  2. "Our itinerary had changes of more than 6 hours." By whom? Are/were all your tickets book thru United? If yes then you should have asked for a refund when changes were made. If not then chances are you won't receive a refund for that reason just an offer for a voucher.

  3. "Arrived in Germany which currently restricts entry to non- essential travelers. ( and yet United still has flights going into Frankfurt!?!). So I assume your plan was to fly into Germany? Maybe just a layover? Okay so it would be up to the Germans to decide who is essential and who isn't, not United. They are still willing to take you there but it isn't their concern if you can enter or not. ( I don't know but maybe Germany is letting people pass thru their airports to other countries. If that is the case then as long as you are going elsewhere you would be good to pass thru. )

  4. It is not "new DOT guidelines". It is a law that has been around for a some time. Airlines hope that most people don't know about it so instead of giving refunds which takes their cash flow away they hope people would settle for a voucher.

From what I have seen most airlines are asking people to wait until 72 hours or less before travel starts before calling their customer service. Can't understand why people (not you) who are calling now to cancel a trip in August. Wait like the airlines ask. Again, if you are doing the cancelling don't expect the airlines to go out of their way for you. They need cash too.

This is a difficult time for all of us. Businesses are flooded with calls and emails. For the most part they are trying to do the best they can. Don't bother them for a refund when you know you have non-refundable tickets. Let them cancel on you, then you can ask for your money back. And don't bother them if your trip isn't within the next few days. Be kind to each other. Just my two cents.

Posted by
356 posts

tdw:
I only shared my experience in the hope that it might help someone else navigate the United process. There has been lots of helpful forum feedback on other airlines, but not much about United. Like most others posting here, our flights were non refundable. Like many others posting here we still hope to get a refund. United has much deeper pockets than we do, and I am sure some of their bail- out money is intended to go toward customer refunds.

We were to leave in two weeks, and we have been trying to follow directions, be patient and wait our turn. United never sent us any notification of cancellations/ changes, but we could see them as new itineraries when we looked. That has been changing on a daily basis. Legs were cancelled and then replaced with different routes. We were not officially notified nor did we approve any of those. As you pointed out, we were asked to wait rather than contact the airlines. We knew we would qualify for a voucher for sure, but the timing and our health status would have rendered that voucher useless.

When we became aware of the DOT regulations we realized our experience did fit the “ significantly changed “ requirement. Technically it also meets the cancellation requirement as well. We intended to travel independently in Germany, do a RS tour and fly back from Brussels. Clearly none of that could happen now. As retirees it is too big a financial hit to not at least ask for a refund.

Posted by
2 posts

I must be rather stupid because I am now getting more confused about flight changes and cancellations.
I booked in February to fly to Israel on American in mid-May, returning mid-June. They had me on a non-refundable ticket ABQ-DFW-AMS-TLV and returning through the same airports. Everything is under AA fight numbers, but the AMS-TLV is on their partner El Al, and the TLV-AMS is on their partner British Airlines. When all the kerfuffle started, American announced tickets bought after a certain date could be changed without penalty, but I had purchase before this magic date. After some time, they changed that, and it seems I could change without penalty. Of course since one could not get through by telephone to the airlines, plus they were making it clear we should not call until 72 hours before the flight, I didn't do anything until 2 Sundays ago when I looked on aa.com at my flights. To my surprise, they had done 2 things; the more significant is they have me booked ABQ-DFW-AMS. Period. Suddenly, no flight to Israel. The second thing they changed was the return flight home arrives an hour later, which isn't horrible. The important part is they did NOT notify me of any of these changes. (This happened last year for a September trip where they changed a few things and never notified me, and when I complained the agent blamed me for booking several months before my trip was planned and not checking regularly to see if AA had made changes.) Thinking I could not get through by phone, I emailed AA, asking how they think I can get to my destination and take the return flight if they've disappeared the AMS-TLV leg. It's only been a week so I imagine it will be much longer before I hear back, if at all. I see they have a button on the website where I can cancel the trip, but someone advised me if I cancel, I cannot get a refund, only a voucher. So I have been avoiding doing that. But other people have said they cancelled on other airlines and gotten refunds. Hence my confusion. My sense is I should wait a few more weeks in hopes AA cancels, but am not clear if I must complain immediately about their change/disappearance of my AMS-TLV leg. (Since the didn't notify me of the changes, I have no idea when they made them.) And if I need to complain, how do I reach AA if one can't get through by phone? If AA says I must deal with El Al, is that true since the flight numbers all are AA? Where can I find out if AMS is receiving flights from the US; and since AMS is not my final booked destination where am I supposed to go when I land there? Is there anything else you think I should know or do? Many thanks.

Posted by
200 posts

Senior - From the looks of it and my understanding, you have the right to a full refund as AA cancelled part of your ticket, that's the same as cancelling all of it. You were smart to have everything on one ticket. At this point it really doesn't matter if they notified you or not. I would call them in May and ask for a refund. In the mean time keep watching their website for any notices. And if you feel like it check to see if the trip can still be booked the same as you have. In other words pretend you are booking for the first time (without really booking of course).

Good luck and please let us know what happens.

Posted by
8716 posts

plus they were making it clear we should not call until 72 hours before the flight,

Did you also know that when talking to them you need to stand on one leg, preferably the left, and speak to them in rhyme?

Just because the airline requests something doesn't make it law. I called Delta a week before my flights, was able to get an agent, and even though I was canceling, she pointed out to me that my flights had been changed more than 90 minutes she could issue a refund. (One flight was changed just undere 90 minutes but she issued a refund anyway.)

Airlines are not easy to get a hold of these days. If YOU want to cancel, and wait the 72 hours, and can't get through, and your flight operates, you are out of luck. You missed the flight and didn't notify them beforehand. If they canceled the flight then you will get a refund regardless of when you call. On the other hand, the closer you get to flight time, the more chances the airline will cancel your flight.

Some of you will be angry that I suggest not waiting until 72 hours because it's not fair to other travelers. Is it fair that the airlines make it difficult to get an actual refund?

Posted by
200 posts

Airlines are not easy to get a hold of these days. Let's say an airline has 100 flights per day with 250 passengers on each. That's 25000 passengers in one day. All of these people are calling today because their flight leaves this coming Thursday. Meanwhile half the passengers on flights leaving say May 1st are also calling. That's 37500 people calling on the same day. So it's the airline's fault that you have to wait on hold?

If YOU want to cancel, and wait the 72 hours, and can't get through, and your flight operates, you are out of luck. And why can't you get through? See above. And most airlines allow you to cancel online. But it seems like most of the people posting in this forum expect full refunds on non-refundable tickets. They want to speak with a person so they can argue that they do deserve a refund. And rather than wait and see if the airline cancels thereby receiving a full refund, they are calling now for their trip leaving in August.

Just because the airline requests something doesn't make it law. No it doesn't. But it does make their job easier. Also makes things easier on you and others.

Bottom line: As stated many times, if YOU are cancelling a non-refundable ticket, legally you have nothing coming. If you are trying to cancel a regular refundable ticket try to do it online first before calling.

Posted by
578 posts

What is the definition of a cancelled flight?

I have a booking for later this month and just received an email from the airline that says :
We made these changes to your flight.
■ New depart time
■ New arrival time
■ New flight number

So is this a cancelled flight under the DOT rules? Or is a cancelled flight only when a carrier doesn't rebook you on an alternate?

Posted by
6218 posts

So is this a cancelled flight under the DOT rules? Or is a cancelled
flight only when a carrier doesn't rebook you on an alternate?

The airlines have an automated way of rebooking every flight that had changes (it's all done by computer, no human intervention unless you call and ask them to make a change manually), so I don't believe it's a matter of rebooking. The ability to get a full refund depends on the scope of the changes (major vs. minor). As a rule of thumb, a 2 hour change is typically considered major, although you should read the exact language from your Contract of Carriage to know exactly.

I just got a new flight from Delta that changed from a non-stop flight to a one-stop flight but the actual time change was only by 1 hour or so. I bet the airline will argue that's not a major change. Unfortunately, since I'm dealing with transporting a pet, I can't accept a one-stop flight with a stopover as an equal exchange. I purposely chose a non-stop flight this time (normally I wouldn't care, but this time was important).

UPDATE: I had a very good experience with Delta (my ticket was non-refundable but they made a big change to my flight). They have automated callback, so they called me back after about 1 hour or so. I had to go through 2 agents, but it was fine (maybe 10 minutes on hold, if that.) I told them of my circumstance and they refunded my fare back to my credit card (it will occur within 7 business days). If I just followed their online system for refunds instead of calling and making my case, I would be steered toward an e-credit, albeit a generous one (2 years from booking).

Posted by
4063 posts

We just got word from British Airways that one leg of our Tulsa - Rome - Tulsa trip has been cancelled (FCO-DFW) with no alternative given.

According to their website, on our Manage My Booking screeen:

Can I change my booking?

Please contact us to change your trip or if we can help with your
booking.

There’s no extra cost for any changes and please contact us or call
your original travel agent to get a refund.

Following links through to "Rebook and Refund Options" yields this:

Cancelled flights

We will rebook you onto another British Airways flight at no extra charge (subject to availability). In most cases, we will automatically
rebook your flight but you can change this if it's not suitable.
If you no longer wish to travel, you can cancel your booking and get a refund (incl. taxes) to the original form of payment.
If your booking includes a British Airways flight that is not cancelled, you will be able to change the non-cancelled flight at the
same time.
If you are entitled to a refund, British Airways will process this for you directly. There is no need to contact your bank.

The Manage My Booking screen has a big blue clickable box: Cancel Booking. Do I cancel here? If I click it will I lose flexibility? I do want to cancel and get a refund, then rebook later when I'm a bit more sure of what our summer plans are. Our flight out is not until May 13; the cancelled flight is June 11, so we're not even close to the 72 hour window they're requesting for phone calls.

Has anyone here actually cancelled from the Manage My Booking page, and were there any unpleasant repercussions?

Thank you all.

Posted by
200 posts

Jane: The Manage My Booking screen has a big blue clickable box: Cancel Booking. Do I cancel here? Yes

If I click it will I lose flexibility? Flexibility of what? Either you want to cancel or not, only choices you have.

I do want to cancel and get a refund, then rebook later when I'm a bit more sure of what our summer plans are. So do that.

Our flight out is not until May 13; the cancelled flight is June 11, so we're not even close to the 72 hour window they're requesting for phone calls. You don't need to call just use the website. Click that big blue box.

As your ticket is booked as one, then because the airline cancelled part of it you can cancel the rest and receive a full refund. If you had booked say TOL to DFW then another booking DFW to FCO and one of those were cancelled then you couldn't receive a refund if you cancel the other as they are 2 tickets. Remember just because they are not a US airline they still have to follow US laws.

Posted by
200 posts

John: What is the definition of a cancelled flight?

I have a booking for later this month and just received an email from the airline that says :
We made these changes to your flight.
■ New depart time
■ New arrival time
■ New flight number

So is this a cancelled flight under the DOT rules? Or is a cancelled flight only when a carrier doesn't rebook you on an alternate?

Technically speaking yes your flight was cancelled. You are being offered a new flight. If that flight doesn't work for you and meets the requirements under the airline's policy and/or the law then you can ask for a refund. One of the requirements is how much of a time difference between the old and new? Somewhere in that email it should tell you or have a link on what to do and how to do it. If not go to the website and check under "my booking".

Awhile back I had a flight on Wizz Air scheduled for September. It was one way and non-refundable. They changed me to another flight that left 8 hours before the one I was suppose to be on. I had the choice of accepting or cancelling with a full refund. All I had to do is go to their website and click either accept or cancel.

Posted by
2347 posts

If your flight is cancelled you are entitled to a refund. Period, hard stop. That does not mean it will be easy. And, despite the DOT direction they are not pursuing enforcement action https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-airline-travel-refunds-970d9dba-4be3-4625-a27c-1b1c6dbb4c81.html. What this means is you get on the phone and stay there until you get an agent. That agent will likely try to give you a credit or voucher or some such. Stand your ground and demand a refund.

Posted by
231 posts

Jane - We had a British Air flight to Brussels for yesterday returning from Amsterdam. They canceled one segment of that flight about 3 weeks ago which was not acceptable to us so we canceled the whole ticket using the blue box on the website. It took 3 weeks but we got our refund yesterday. So keep trying and be patient. We feel very fortunate that they canceled before we had a chance to.

Posted by
4063 posts

Thanks, tdw and Alan. Your two responses reflect my concerns.

tdw, by flexibility I meant the ability to back out if the only thing they offer me is a voucher. I was envisioning clicking the box and not having the chance to backtrack if "refund" is not one of the listed options.

And yes, the whole shebang is on one booking. Tulsa to Chicago to London to Rome; Rome to Dallas to Tulsa. The Tulsa-Chicago leg got cancelled but another flight offered as a replacement; the Rome-Dallas leg was simply cancelled, no other options.

Posted by
4063 posts

Rosemary, you were evidently posting as I was answering the other folks.

Thank you. That's just what I needed to hear - personal experience with that airline and that scenario.

Posted by
4063 posts

Well, the blue button took me to a screen to request a voucher. I tried another route, and ended up at another screen that also wanted me to apply for a voucher. I dug a few more levels down, and got to one that suggested I write to them for best results. At that point I backed out. I'll try this again tomorrow when I'm more alert.

Thanks everyone, for your suggestions.

Posted by
4063 posts

British Airways is making it more difficult to call them. They've rolled the Customer Service Line and the Executive Club Line over into a third line, which will be answered from 0300 to 1500 Eastern Standard Time Monday through Friday, and 0400 - 1200 EST Saturday and Sunday.

If I have my thinking cap on properly, 0300 EST would be 0400 EDT, which would be 0300 Central Daylight Time. I think. 1500 EST would be 1600 EDT, which would be 1500 CDT, or 3:00 p.m. I think.

Is that right?

I did see an article on the NPR website https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/07/829091394/airlines-want-to-cancel-rule-requiring-them-to-refund-fares-for-canceled-flights that some airlines are trying to get the order to pay refunds for cancelled flights changed to allow vouchers for all customers.

The one bright spot in the article was that two airlines, Delta and United, are offering vouchers good for 2 years, not just one. I could accept that, I think.

Posted by
5121 posts

They're fighting because they don't have the cash. Like any other business they can't write you a check if they don't have cash. They've burned through their cash reserves trying to stay alive. If you do get a refund, it will be with the taxpayer bailout money. Not making an excuse for them, but pointing out the constraints they're operating under.

Posted by
610 posts

My taxpayer bailout money. I want my refund.

Posted by
186 posts

Double standard---if I cancel I have to follow the rules, if they cancel they want new rules.

Posted by
356 posts

I added this update to a previous post:

UPDATE:
Realizing every case is different, here is the follow-up I promised. We have received refund approval for our flights 22 days after our initial request.

To recap, our tickets were non refundable, open jaw, with 7 ( or more) changes in itinerary from our original flights. At least one involved a 6 hour time difference, others had multiple and awkward connections. We could see these, but never approved any of them. Using the DOT policies as justification if necessary ( it wasn’t needed), we called by phone to request our refund.

My advice is to:

Call instead of doing it online. Neither time we called did we wait more than 10 minutes. Make sure you get a “refund tracking number “ from the United agent. Your original reservation number will not work for this; you will just get an error message.

Check online daily using your refund tracking number to see the status of your request.
Wait at least two weeks before you call again. But if nothing is happening, definitely call again. Things get lost with the volumes of requests.

When you call the main United number and get to an agent, ask for the refunds department phone number. Our delay was probably related to not talking to someone in that department directly.

Be kind when you call. My husband was polite, did not offer any big explanations other than saying “ we need a refund not a voucher”.

We are grateful for our refunds from RS and United. It will allow us the funds to travel again when it is safe to do so. It will insure we use both companies again when we do.

Lynn ( the OP) thank you so much for sharing this DOT information. It provided us the final impetus to contact United about upcoming international flights ( end of April to mid-May).