A reader had booked to fly Washington Dulles – Munich on March 24th. At the beginning of March Lufthansa cancelled the flight. However they say they won’t provide a refund – despite clear European EU261 and U.S. DOT rules that require them to do so – because subsequent to their cancelling the flights Germany imposed immigration restrictions that wouldn’t have permitted the traveler to fly.
In other words, government regulation barred the travel. Instead of considering this a force majuere event requiring a refund, Lufthansa argues it means the passenger would have been a no show or denied boarding if the flight had operated.
After a complaint to the Department of Transportation, Lufthansa simply replied ‘no refund.’
Thank you for your correspondence forwarded to us by the Department of Transportation. We appreciate the opportunity to respond. Please note that Customer Relations is not responsible for processing refunds or making changes to bookings or fare conditions.
With DOT complaints at an all-time high over airlines refusing to honor their legal obligation to refund tickets when cancelling flights, the complaint has not yet been resolved. Lufthansa was an early offender violating consumer protection laws.
The customer filed a credit card chargeback and that’s where Lufthansa offered their creative theory.
We hereby inform you that we do not accept a chargeback for the above transaction.
The passenger was indeed unable to fly irrespective of the merchant’s willingness due to travel restrictions connected with entering GERMANY, which have been introduced on 17-03-2020. More details regarding current travel restrictions can be found on IATA website [URL]
Because of these restrictions, Lufthansa was not allowed to board the passenger. Lufthansa had a legal right not to carry the passengers based on the Lufthansa Group General Terms and Condition of Carriage [CoC URL].
The article 7 of the General Terms and Conditions of Carriage clearly states that Lufthansa may refuse to carry or continue to carry or cancel the seat reservation if the passengers wishes to enter a country for which he/she does not possess valid immigration documents.
It does not matter why Lufthansa didn’t fulfill its transportation obligations. The counterfactual world in which Lufthansa hadn’t cancelled the flight but the passenger wouldn’t have been able to travel due to new regulations implemented after the flight cancellation but contemporaneous with the date of scheduled travel do not change the analysis that the refund requirement is black letter law.
For the credit card issuer, the airline did not provide the service. That the customer wouldn’t have accepted the service due to a force majuere event if it had been provided is simply another reason why the funds should have to be returned. Lufthansa’s hypothetical thought experiment about a future world that differed from our own, in which they hadn’t cancelled the flight, might be ripe for a TV script – indeed, the writers are running out of ideas for the rest of 2020 – but carry no legal force.
This is the airline that’s been nationalized, and operates under the protection of the German government. With their newfound $9.8 billion, you’d think the German flag carrier might follow the law?