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Excellent article on current refund vs. vouchers issue

The Wall Street Journal published an excellent article on "The Airlines are Making Refunds More Difficult." I'll put the link at the bottom of the post, but it often won't open if you don't have a subscription. I will also quote some key points below. Everything that follows is quotes from the article by Scott McCartney.

With the coronavirus crisis, airlines have imposed new policies that may violate federal rules. The Transportation Department requires giving customers an option to take a full refund if the airline cancels a flight, for example. Yet many airlines—U.S. carriers as well as airlines flying to the U.S. covered by the same regulation—are offering only a voucher toward future travel.
Regulations do make an exception when governments close airspace, and several international airlines have argued that they are canceling flights not because of a lack of passengers and the need to control their own costs, but because of government edicts. Since the cancellation wasn’t the airline’s choice, they argue, they are free to issue vouchers.

As of Tuesday, 30 international airlines, including Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Emirates, Scandinavian, Turkish, TAP Air Portugal, WestJet and El Al, have blocked travel agents from issuing refunds on tickets through global reservation systems and informed Airlines Reporting Corp., the central processor of tickets issued by travel agencies, that refunds can only be made by the airlines themselves.

United is making customers wait a year for refunds on international flights it cancels. The airline is issuing vouchers toward future flights and telling customers they can get a refund later if they don’t use it. United also changed its policy on domestic schedule changes to make it more difficult for customers to get refunds. DOT regulations require airlines honor the rules in place when a ticket was written.

Routes to a Refund
* Wait as long as you can before voluntarily canceling your flights. If the airline cancels, rather than you voluntarily canceling, you stand a chance of getting a refund rather than a voucher. This applies to hurricanes and blizzards as well as pandemics. It’s an important travel tip.

  • Reach out to the airline on social media, by email or by phone. Someday phone waits may lessen. It’s worth appealing, especially if you have high status in the airline’s frequent-flier program.

Posted by
5902 posts

I wonder if there is a basic lack of cash in the travel industry to make refunds that easily. They cant pay if they dont have cash. Perhaps they have to wait for the bailout money to appear, or they go bankrupt, whichever comes first.

Posted by
2453 posts

Yesterday my flights to Hawaii were canceled by UA (was to fly April 4) but they rescheduled them for April 5. I got a somewhat grumpy agent on the phone who gave me a refund and told me I could have done it on line. Will take 1-2 billing cycles. I think UA’s offer of a voucher you can then trade for cash is a high risk proposal. UA as we know it could be bankrupt by the time you want the cash then get in line. We are holding UA tickets to Rome for late May-early June. I’m waiting for them to cancel and I expect a refund. I will not accept a voucher and will escalate that as needed.

Posted by
2916 posts

The airline is issuing vouchers toward future flights and telling customers they can get a refund later if they don’t use it.

I might have accepted that kind of offer if Lufthansa had made it today, although I'm not sure. I'm satisfied with having gotten a refund, although the agent told me it could take a month to process it. The problem I had with the voucher option is that, as I read the terms, if the fare was higher when I rebooked (not at a higher class, just a higher fare), I'd have to pay the difference. And since I had gotten a very low fare, that would certainly be the case. So it seemed that there was no benefit to taking a voucher with those terms when I could have the cash and pay the likely higher fare anyway when I eventually go.

Posted by
650 posts

Come on, airlines. You're making it so easy to keep hating you.

My tax dollars are bailing you out again. Quit acting like such cheap jerks.

Posted by
2733 posts

Our flight to Hawaii was canceled last week. I called HA Airlines early am and after waiting an hour a helpful agent gave us our refund.

We are holding Delta tickets for a fall trip to Sicily and will wait until they cancel for an expected refund.

Posted by
650 posts

Janis, have you actually seen the refund in your account?

Posted by
2733 posts

Eric, thanks for inquiring. I was told it would show in a couple weeks. I also have a cancellation confirmation number.

Edited to add: I decided to check my HA account and lo and behold our refund was already in our account! Onward and upward. All the best to others who are going through this process.

Posted by
9632 posts

On Monday I canceled two separate Delta reservations. The agent look at my flights, saw that they had been rescheduled and gave me a cash refund. The credit showed up on the credit card statement today....two days later. Kudos to Delta.

On the reverse, BA canceled my flight and did eventually cancel my flight. I was told I was given two separate credits--one for the flight and one for the seat assignment fee. Only the flight credit showed up.

Posted by
7530 posts

It’s been more difficult for me as I’m working on return ticket refunds. Since the outbound had already been used, it has to be done by hand, $ for me and even the miles for my husband, but his taxes were refunded immediately. Go figure. Still waiting.

Posted by
4573 posts

Here's the latest from the British Airways site. It looks like this only applies to cancelling flights, not changing them. I'm hoping to just be able to change our flights to a later date. And yes, BA is giving vouchers good for one year from the date of the original departure date.

Applicable if you are due to travel between now and 31 May 2020.

To cancel your booking, please fill out the online voucher form

When we receive your form, we will cancel your booking at no charge
and email you with a voucher to the value of your booking. We will
begin processing your voucher form as soon as you have submitted it.
You won’t receive a confirmation message but please be assured that we
will have your application and will be processing it. We are
experiencing extremely high demand so please allow up to seven days to
receive your voucher.

IMPORTANT: Please do not amend your booking in Manage My Booking
yourself - we will do this on your behalf. About your voucher

Your voucher can be used as payment for a future booking to any
destination, on any chosen dates. If your new booking is more
expensive, you will need to pay the difference. If it is less than
your original booking, you will receive a voucher for the difference,
which you can put towards another travel booking. Your voucher will be
valid for travel within 12 months from your original departure date.

Posted by
18 posts

Jane - I think the way BA presents this on their website is a bit unclear because you only have to take the voucher if you choose to cancel your flight before the airline cancels it. If the airline cancels the flight, you are entitled to a refund if you prefer, but if you fill out the voucher form, then you’re stuck with the voucher and they won’t convert that to a refund later. I did not fill out the voucher form and called BA, and they were able to take care of my refund over the phone. If you want to change the dates of your flights rather than cancel, you should be able to do that without issue.

Posted by
31 posts

I was preparing myself for an unpleasant afternoon on the phone when I called American Airlines on Monday. I had a flight from LAX to Venice on April 10 and a return Milan to LAX on April 27th. I called up and selected the "call me back" option with an estimated hold time of 45-65 minutes. At 55 minutes the phone rang. A pleasant women came on asking me what I needed, and I said I am requesting a refund because my flight was cancelled. She looked at the flight, then said, hummm I can't seem to do it, let me try something else... then a second later she said OK your refund has been processed. No "I am sorry we only are offering vouchers", or "I am not able to process that" just an apology that it normally takes 7 days but they are running around 18 days. I said no problem, and that was that. Total time - 5 minutes. It was a non-refundable flight. I selected premium economy so not the lowest economy, but still not a refundable ticket. Today, 4 days later, I received an email saying my credit card has been credited for the full amount. A few weeks ago I received my refund for the Rick Steves Villages of Italy tour. I booked hotels before and after that had a cancellation option, which I did easily. I feel very fortunate that I didn't lose any money on my trip. I was beginning to think I wouldn't plan a trip anytime soon, but this experience both with Rick Steves and American Airlines, makes me feel confident that I made the right choices on my tour and flight.

Posted by
1 posts

In January we booked non-refundable flights for April 10 though Delta to Catania, Sicily via Amsterdam. These flights are operated by KLM. When digging deep into the KLM website last week I ascertained both fights had been cancelled. Yet my Delta app still showed these flights as scheduled. So rather than waiting for Delta to stop its foot dragging, I called today (using the Sky Miles number) to inquire about the actual status of our flights. I got through to a human being within 10 minutes, but she evaded the question and suggested I cancel my tickets in exchange for an e-credit. I said no, that if the flights were cancelled I wanted a full cash refund. After she once more told me about the e-credit offer, I stated again that I wanted to know if my flights had already been cancelled. She put me on hold to speak with her supervisor before 'fessing up that they indeed were cancelled, then bumped me to the person who would issue the refund. I'm told it will be made to my credit card within 7 days. It pays to be proactive, insistent and firm.