Airlines Are Breaking The Law By Refusing Refunds For Cancelled Flights

British Airways hid the option to get a refund for cancelled flights and United retroactively changed their rules to refused refunds for major schedule changes and then told customers they’d have to wait a year for their money back.

Airlines that aren’t providing transportation that was purchased are trying to keep customers’ money, even as they seek more of their customers’ money in the form of government bailouts. While the international airline trade group is trying to get governments to legalize this theft, some carriers are doing it on their own regardless of the law.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation,

If your flight is cancelled 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.

Miles From Blighty couldn’t get this policy honored by United.

Meanwhile Andrew shared his interaction with JetBlue, trying to get a refund for a cancelled flight from Bermuda to New York JFK next week. This isn’t a flight where he’s ‘decided not to fly’. This is a reservation that has been cancelled with the flight not operating.

JetBlue told him that refunds are not available for cancelled flights, because the cancellation is outside of the airline’s control.

The reader cites the airline’s contract of carriage, which specifies a refund for a cancelled flight. The airline agent says that commitment is void under the current circumstances.

The airline then continued to debate the language of their contract of carriage claiming that they aren’t required to provide a refund when they’re forced to cancel a flight. The passenger wouldn’t receive transportation they paid for, wouldn’t even get their money back, just a future flight credit.

This is the sort of absurd claim that chargebacks are for, and at this point that’s what the reader threatened.

JetBlue hung up the chat with this,

Thank you for your feedback. I will be sure to pass this along. Have a great day!

Eventually he got a telephone agent after a long hold time and they granted a refund ‘as an exception’ because the agent misunderstood and believed the airline had stranded him in Bermuda (he lives there).

Airlines seem to be refusing refunds. In Europe, they’re required to refund cancelled flights. There are required to do this in the U.S. also. Any government enforcement or government fine, though, is something that will only come down the line. Most people won’t file complaints. And in the meantime the airline gets an interest free loan. Don’t accept that.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If I’m not an us citizen but bought the ticket in the US market can the company refuse to give me the refund because of my nationality?

  2. absolutely not, assuming you bought it in the us market for use in the us market ? who is the airline, feel free to shame them here.

  3. True, I purchase 3 round trip ticket through justfly for Philippines on April 23 departure, since I purchase a ticket that’s not refundable, they don’t want to refund my ticket, the thing is I didn’t cancel the flight, it was canceled because of the covid19. I don’t understand, if I canceled the trip my self, then I will not ask for a refund. Try to contact them but no luck.

  4. trapped in the philippines …. I purchased round trip tickets from cheapo air and flew out of Indianapolis,IN on march 4th and arrived in the Philippiines on the 5th .I been recieved many emails indicating my flight back to Indianapolis,IN had been cancelled or changed .so I called and mind you I am calling a international phone number to the united states it took 40 minutes just to listen to so e ridiculous recording saying all operator are busy just wait so after the 40 minutes on wait they finally told me my flight leaving the philippines is still on but once I arrive in tokyo there is no connecting flight to detroit,Mi for last flight to Indiana. So they basically told me there is nothing they can do and all they can do is give me a voucher or a 50.00 usd refund .I paid over 1,250 usd for round trip airfare and feel they owe me a ticket back to the usa .its not my fault that delta canceled the flight .so is there any actions I can take besides having to pay annother thousand plus dollars to get back to the united states ??

  5. Question: have reservation on Iceland Air PDX-KEF-FRA round trip 6/20-6/30. They have not cancelled the flight. However the PDX-KEF flights (both ways) does not show up on their website or any 3rd party site (including google flights, kayak, and even award search on Alaska). The only route that is bookable is via SEA. The flight is not full based checking the seat map for seating assignments. I think this flight is cancelled but they did not announce it yet so they do not have to refund anyone yet. I feel I am in a game of chicken with them. I have until 5/31 to accept a voucher (with pretty good terms, but hate the idea of giving an interest free loan to an airline). My instinct is to wait it out betting they will not “reinstate” this flight, that it will be cancelled, and therefore get a refund. What do you think? Thank you in advance for your help!

  6. I have total 7 airline tickets
    From Austin – London by American airline
    And the rest in Europe by Aegean air, Olympic air
    They all denied a refunds

  7. I made a booking to flight from Houston, Tx to Philadelphia, Penn – Philadelphia, Penn to Madrid, Spain on August 4, 2020. On Jun 7, 2020, I receive an email notifying me that the flight RIJZVL was canceled. on June 16, I receive another email notifying me that I was currently due to travel on August 19, 2020. The email only offers me a voucher and a managing option for the rescheduled flight. A refund button was nowhere to be found. I went to the BA website throughout the email. Surprisingly, the BA website updated my information on a voucher petition. A voucher petition that I did not perform or claim and I still not want it. I contacted British Airways but they are refusing to refund my money.

  8. I live in the US and purchased round trip non-refundable tickets in December 2019 through Air Canada, direct flights from Toronto to Rome, for a tour of Italy in May 2020. In April of this year Air Canada cancelled the flights and now have refused to issue a refund saying I had non- refundable tickets and they can only issue a 2 year credit voucher. Am I entitled to a full refund, as per the US DOT ruling? Or is this outside of their jurisdiction?

  9. I bought 6 Tickets for August 2002
    From MCO Orlando to San Juan
    In JetBlue and Same thing here
    I told them I wanted my Refund
    And they won’t Give me my refund.
    Even though the covit 19 situation.
    It’s not Fair as I Work Hard for my Money

  10. Same as cruise lines. We had a cruise in April that of course was cancelled and they gave us a future cruise credit. Then we took that credit and booked one for this coming October, which has now been cancelled too and they will NOT give us our money back! just once again a credit.
    I think that is terrible! they are making money off all the passengers!

  11. If airlines are breaking the law by refusing refunds, how about cruise lines? wouldn’t they be considered in the same manner? They are refusing to give refunds too, only future cruise credits (which now personally we’ve had to do twice!)

  12. I wish someone could do something about this since people like myself live paycheck by paycheck and if I can’t go on a vacation I need my money back since I’m not there that’s not right at all

  13. Willie, like I said, same here! Oceania cruise has been holding our money now for 2 cancelled cruises one for April (so they had this money since 2019 and then one for October that was just cnacelled. We also want our money back, NOT a future credit again!

  14. I brought 3 tickets from spirit up arrival at the airport spirit refused us to board the plane due to we had not have a authorization from the country we destined to due to the coronavirus. When we ask for credit they refused and no refunds and stated no show .I just want my money back because we fly out on American airlines and got to the destination

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  16. This is the same with cruise lines. We’ve had 2 cruises cancelled. The first one was in April, they did NOT give us our money back, just a “future cruise credit. Booked one for this October, got cancelled again, and again got another “future credit” They have kept our money (about $11,000 +) almost 2 years! And just imagine how many other people’s money they are holding onto.
    I think it’s ridiculous for them to do this and once it’s OK, but to be stringing customers along and not giving our money back during this time when it could be put to good use is sort of a crime!

  17. Hello, anyone who could help me how could I get my refund with an agency for my flight reservation that was cancelled by not operating due to covid 19 situation. My Ticket was refundable and I already went to the Airline directly and they confirmed that my ticket was refundable and the agency should refunded me. But This US ticketing agency is still not giving my monetary refund and it’s more than a year. Anyone could help me with this please.

    Thank you for your help.

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