These Airlines Are Refusing to Offer Refunds for Canceled Trips. Here’s What to Do.

To start, don't accept a voucher or a rebooking for later in the year

British Airways
Most British Airways flights are canceled or grounded.
Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images
By Kirk Miller / March 24, 2020 11:13 am

Several airlines aren’t offering refunds for flights disrupted and canceled by the coronavirus epidemic.

The travel site View From the Wing has been keeping track: As of this week, they’ve pointed out shady tactics by JetBlue, United, British Airways, Lufthansa and Kenya Airways, all of which refuse to offer outright refunds, instead suggesting alternatives that fall outside of current laws. (Yours truly would add Delta to the list, as that’s what he’s currently dealing with.)

It’s spelled out at the U.S. Department of Transportation site: “If your flight is canceled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets.  You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”

The European Union also reaffirmed that a customer is entitled to a refund when their flight is canceled, according to the VFTW report.

So far reasons the airlines have given include: it’s out of the airline’s control, only offering credit for a future flight within a year’s time (gee, thanks, Delta), or in the cases of Lufthansa and Kenya Airlines, either shutting down the refund functionality or just outright refusing to honor the language in their contracts with passengers. Meanwhile, British Airways simply hid the option on their site.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is asking for substantial government bailouts and the option to not offer refunds.

So what to do? Anecdotally, if you can somehow get someone on the phone, refunds seem easier to achieve (our household had success after complaining to Delta via Twitter a few days back, but they seem to be less responsive to that now). You can also dispute the charge if you booked on your credit card and file a complaint with the Department of Transportation. And don’t accept the voucher (or book cheap flights later in the year) until there’s more certainty about where the world is headed or the fate of the airline you’re booking with.

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