Airline Refund Rules And What To Do If You’re Not Getting Your Refund
If you have travel booked, you’ve likely experienced some issues due to the coronavirus pandemic impacts on travel. We wrote the other day about issues with Airbnb and VRBO refunds. But when are you entitled to a refund from the airline? And if it’s taking awhile to process, what can you do? Keep in mind, this is information specific to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). However, foreign airlines can subject to these rules as well.
Refund Rules for the U.S. Department of Transportation
First, it’s important to know when you are entitled to a refund from an airline. This is an issue now because airlines have been denying requests for refunds for passengers who are eligible. You are entitled to a refund, per U.S. regulation, under the following circumstances:
- Cancelled Flight – Full refund regardless of the reason for the cancellation, as long as the passenger chooses not to be rebooked on another flight.
- Schedule Change/Significant Delay – Full refund if the airline made a significant schedule change and/or delay.
- Class of Service Change – Full refund if the passenger was moved to a lower class of service than booked.
- Optional Service Fees – Full refund for any option service (i.e. wifi or seat assignment) and you weren’t able to use the service.
- Baggage Fees – Full refund if the passenger paid baggage fees and the baggage is declared lost by the airline.
It’s important to mention that the word “significant” is not defined by the DOT. Some airlines internally define significant. But if you think it’s significant and the airline doesn’t, you can use the process described below to request a refund through DOT.
Refund Refused or Delayed Refund
It’s possible that the airline will initially refuse a refund. In particular, some airlines are offering vouchers in return for cancelled flights. When you accept the voucher, you obviously are not entitled to a refund. If you want a refund, make the airline aware of the DOT regulations noted above. If they still refuse the refund, you can submit a request through the DOT website consumer complaint form.
Additionally, if your refund is delayed, you can contact DOT through the same form. Per the DOT regulations, “If a passenger is owed a refund, an airline, travel agent, or online travel agency must process it within seven business days if the passenger paid by credit card, and 20 business days if the passenger paid by cash or check.”
If you are entitled to a refund, don’t let the airline tell you otherwise. DOT even had to put a notice out a couple of weeks ago reminding airlines of their obligation to refund cancelled flights.
I’ve had a few flights canceled so far and requested a refund for all of them. I did have to reach out on one because, while the refund was accepted, it hasn’t refunded yet. I contacted DOT today, and they are usually quick to get in touch with the airline.
If you’re in doubt about what the airline is telling you, contact DOT.