In view of the COVID-19 virus, many flights are cancelled. Some airlines are even going to be bankrupt after this international crisis. If you have a flight booked during this period, what should you do? What to do when airlines do not refund your air tickets?
1. Book Direct. Avoid OTA
OTA: online travel agency. Avoid them because they are a scam.
I wrote about OTA scams before and how to avoid the scam. In summary, OTA are there to earn money from you, not to help you. What does that mean? When shit goes wrong, they will not be responsible and the best they do is to return the amount in credit, not cash. You have a better chance at calling the airlines company directly about the refund than your OTA. OTA do not care about you. AT ALL.
Real Life Example
Exx* is notorious for not being able to handle unexpected situations like this flight cancellation or virus crisis. They told me I would have to pay $2000 to change a ticket that had already been cancelled by ASM**. ASM** did it for free. So Exx* was basically asking me to pay extra $2000, which they will 100% pocket.
Although they care called agency, do not let OTA handle this for you! They would not and they do not care for your interest.
Exx* is a fake name of a real OTA.
ASM** is a fake name of a real airlines company.
2. Always ask for cash, not credit
Receiving credit from OTA (or airlines) is terrible. Why?
- With cash, you can spend it anywhere. E.g. United Airlines or Singapore Airlines or British Airways. With credit, you can only spend it at that specific OTA.
- The OTAs (or airlines) might become bankrupt after the crisis is over. Where are you going to spend that credit then? NO WHERE. You lost your money like that.
- Credits also have an expiry date. Some airlines like Frontier Airlines are offering miles instead of travel credit. Guess what, they expire! Cash does not expire.
When in doubt, remember that cash is king!
Real Life Example
Volaris is issuing credit towards future flights, but they are not sufficient. You can only use $300 in a credit with more than $800. And the credit cannot be used on taxes, fees, baggage, etc. They expect you to repay the taxes, fees, baggage, etc again.
Other examples of such shitty behaviours: Spirit airlines, Air Canada.
Call your credit cards. Get a chargeback.
Questions to ask about Credit
- Any restrictions that may apply
- Blackout and expiration dates
- Advanced booking requirements
- Limits on number of seats
3. Pay with Credit Card
Use credit card to pay. You can request chargeback from your credit card company and you get protection from your card.
- You have to be absolutely positive that the air tickets are refundable, so you can request a chargeback through your credit card.
- Check if the ticket is cancelled vs suspended. They are different scenarios too.
4. Refund from Airlines will take Forever
Let’s be real, the airlines are busy and they have cashflow issues. Everyone is asking for refund. Refund will take forever. I can’t say for certain that your airlines will refund your ticket. Some might go bankrupt before the crisis is over, and getting a refund will be very tough.
But be patient. And keep waiting.
5. Check the Law
Europe (EU + UK)
If you are in Europe, that is good. Use this law: EC261. Under EC261, you’re entitled to a cash refund or rerouting in the event that your flight is canceled. This rule says that you can get cash, not refund.
What if you are in the UK? You’ll still have the same rights and protections for delays affecting flights between the UK and EU countries after Brexit. This will only change if the government decides to change the law in the future.
This applies to:
- Flights departing from EU airport on any airline
- Flights travelling to EU airport on an EU airline
What are you entitled to? 250-600€ cash compensation.
Read more about European Commission statement about COVID-19.
The US Department of Transportation requires airlines to give passengers the option of a refund in the event a flight is cancelled. You are entitled to a refund, not a voucher or credit.
Want to complaint? File a complaint here.
The Canadian Transportation Agency said that airlines can provide passengers with vouchers or credits for future travel, as long as these vouchers or credits do not expire in an unreasonably short period of time (24 months would be considered reasonable in most cases).
So it will be tough if you want to claim cash compensation, since the law does not require them to do so.
6. Do Not Reschedule
- No one knows when this is going to end and when we can start flying again.
- No one knows which airline is still operating at the end of this. So if you reschedule and the airlines go bankrupt, say bye to your money.
7. Cash Refunds are Possible for Medical Reasons
This depends on where you are and the airline’s policy. But if you are an immunocompromised traveller, get a doctor’s note saying so. And you can get a cash refund instead.
If you can get a doctor’s note saying you shouldn’t travel, and submit that doctor’s note. You can get a full refund. This only works for people who are immunocompromised. If you have a clear medical reason not to travel you can still get a full refund.
Real Life Example
Frontier has an illness clause in their travel policy. Scroll down to “illness”. Click on the link for “document submission form”. Upload your doctor’s note there and explain your circumstances in the text box. If you are immunocompromised, all of your doctors are aware of this, so you might not need an in person visit to obtain the note. Call in to the office, explain what you need the note for, and they can upload it to your online health portal. Or secure email it to you. Then submit that document to the airline through the online form.
8. Worst Case and NEED to Fly: Head to Airport and Speak To Someone
This is the last worst case scenario. You need to fly home (back home, not to travel), but flights are cancelled. Calling them does not help because it’s just impossible to wait for a long time and no one is going to answer.
- Head to the airport.
- Stand in line.
- Speak to someone. They are humans too, and they will understand.
- If your reason is legitimate, you will be on a flight home.
Ps: customer service at the airport have quite some power, like put you on a flight, do refund, even give a discount.
TL;DR: Use a credit card. Book direct. Avoid all the OTAs.
Trevellers is my way to change the world. Through my stories, tips and lessons learnt, I truly hope to inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, see the world and see who you truly are. Travel is more than just taking a selfie. Travel is an adventure, where you can truly become who you are, give you the time to reflect and grow to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.