How to get an airfare refund for flights cancelled due to coronavirus!

The CoVid-19 pandemic has cancelled millions of travel plans around the world. The first priority is your personal safety. After that, it’s time to try to get back as much of the money you spent on travel as is owed to you. That can be a little effort, but in many cases, you are owed a full refund (in cash, not vouchers) and without penalties! Find out why and what you should do with those future trips you are no longer planning to take!

The Coronavirus has thrown global air travel into chaos, more so than in any other time in recent history, and most travel plans are cancelled. While many people might just write off the price of the tickets you can no longer use, you may be owed a full refund for the flight. Regulations in Europe, the US as well as contract low in much of the developed world, an airline (just like any other business) has to provide a full refund, if a service is not delivered as purchased.

Most airlines have cancelled the majority or even all of their flights, so the chances that your booked flight is among them are very high! If the airline has cancelled your flight (or any one of a longer itinerary), even if they have rebooked you on a flight with significantly different timing, you have a right for a full refund in cash (or the method of original payment, ie credit card). 
While airlines should process that refund automatically, many have not and are either offering a change to a future flight or a voucher for future travel. If you don’t want to deal with this right now and are ok with a voucher (that you may or not be able to use in the future!), you don’t have to do anything. 

If you are like me, and rather had some extra cash in these uncertain times, you’ll have to call the airline for a full refund. If they offer a voucher instead, you have the right to decline and ask for a cash refund! Lately, many US airlines, especially United Airlines, have been playing games and been trying to avoid cash refunds to protect their own liquidity. While I understand their liquidity problems, I am neither willing nor able to provide them with a free loan! I recommend that you insist on a full refund. If necessary, make it clear to them that you will file a DoT Complaint and will dispute the credit card charge for failure to deliver the contracted service. Consumer organizations in Europe and the US have confirmed recently that travelers are owed a full refund, so the airlines know they are in the wrong – make sure they understand you know that, too, and will press your rights. If necessary, ask to speak to a supervisor and repeat your case. In most cases, the airline should relent and issue a refund. Verify that this will happen in a timely fashion – United tried to postpone refunds for one year – which they are also not allowed to do. If all fails, contact your credit card company, dispute the charge and provide the requested documentation to ensure a full refund. 

If you want to cancel your trip, but the airline hasn’t cancelled your flight – wait! Let’s say your trip is not for another few weeks and the flight is still showing as operating, but you no longer want to go for your own safety (good call!). Don’t cancel your flight quite yet – the chances of the flight operating as originally scheduled are very, very slim. Most likely, the airline will cancel your flight as they get closer. At that point, you can follow the instructions above for a full refund.

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown many airlines into trouble and some may not make it through the crisis. As an avid traveler, I feel for them and their employees. But those feelings are not strong enough to make a donation to them – individual travelers like us should be the last ones to pay for the airline’s survival, not the first one!
Good luck with getting your refund – I hope you’ll be able to use it for future travel when we all will be able to take to the skies again!

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