Canceled flight? You deserve a refund from the airline.
Airlines have spent the past month doing everything they can to avoid giving out refunds for canceled flights. Their favorite alternative: offering travel credit instead.
First off, did you purchase trip insurance? If not, you should have. However, even if you didn’t get your trip insurance, you are entitled to a refund for a canceled flight. For them not to refund you isn’t ethical, and it’s not even legal, and you can’t buy groceries with a gift card from an airline. But they’re hoping you don’t know any better. Here’s what you need to know.
Know your rights when it comes to a canceled flight.
- If an airline cancels your flight, you’re eligible for a cash refund. Period. It’s federal law.
- If an airline significantly changes your flight itinerary, you’re also eligible for a refund. Annoyingly though, the law doesn’t define exactly what a “significant schedule change” is. Though it varies by airline, in general these would be considered significant:
- 2+ hour change to your arrival or departure time.
- Nonstop flight changed to a connecting flight.
If an airline cancels/changes your flight, you’re eligible for a refund, even if:
- They only canceled/changed one flight in your itinerary.
- You had a basic economy ticket.
- It’s on a foreign airline. As long as a flight takes off or lands at a US airport, the airline must follow US law.
- Even if the airline could really use the cash, that doesn’t give them the right to keep your money.
If you booked through a major online travel agency (think Expedia or Priceline), the good news is they’re generally following the airlines’ refund policies. If your flight is canceled, you’re owed a refund, even if you booked through a third party.
Few airlines are proactively telling passengers about their right to a refund because they’d prefer you accept a voucher instead. If they’re stonewalling, these are the three things you can do:
- Hang up, call again. Airlines have thousands of call center agents and each has discretion to grant a refund. Countless times I’ve been told no on the first two calls, only to be told yes on the third call.
- File a complaint. The Department of Transportation will forward your complaint to the airline and threaten “enforcement action” if they don’t act soon. Here’s the form.
- Credit Card Dispute. Banks have protections for customers in case they pay for something that they don’t ultimately receive (like, say, a flight that got canceled).
Wait to cancel
If you voluntarily cancel, you’re only entitled to a voucher. Even if you’ve decided not to take a future trip, hold off as long as possible in the hopes the airline cancels your flight.
This post originally came from Scott’s Cheap Flights.