Passenger Accidentally Gets $19.7 Million Refund When Cancelling Airline Ticket

Australian Jessican Tam reports that when she cancelled a Qatar Airways roundtrip business class ticket from Jakarta to London, and they accidentally refunded AU$28,179,789.36 – or about $19.7 million at today’s exchange rates. She’s even shared a screen shot of her bank balance.

When you receive a bank or ATM error, and a whole bunch of money spits out or gets credited to your account, you cannot just spend it – especially if you’re aware that it is a mistake. She was supposed to get around AU$2800, not 28 million.

It appears what happened is that the flight cost 28,179,000 Indonesian Rupiah. Qatar refunded that many Australian Dollars instead of refunding the correct currency. And this was corrected the very next day.

In the end the passenger was out around $35 in foreign exchange loss between the time she made the ticket purchase and the time things were refunded to her properly. I recently learned that when you lose out like this, if you paid with a Chase credit card, you can actually ask for the difference back. There are reader reports that Chase eats the difference on request.

I’ve certainly been the beneficiary of foreign exchange errors buying travel, from the New Years Day 2004 Travelocity glitch pricing all airfares in French Pacific Francs at 10% of their intended cost, to the Le Meridien Khao Lak in Thailand publishing all of their room rates in Ugandan Schillings (UGX) instead of US Dollars, to the Hilton on Moorea pricing in Congolese Francs (CDF) instead of French Pacific Francs (CFP) when the chain first picked up the hotel from Starwood.

Not only does oneworld airline Qatar Airways have the best change policies and one of the world’s two best business class products, they appeared briefly to have the world’s best refund policy as well. Unfortunately for Ms. Tam it was too good to be true.

Update: Qatar Airways shares, “Qatar Airways is aware of a story regarding the overpayment of a refund. The airline processed the refund correctly and was not involved in the transaction between the bank and the passenger. We are glad to learn that the matter was swiftly corrected.”

(HT: Running With Miles)

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. Similar situation but not quite the same. SWA lost my luggage on a ski trip to Canada. They said I could buy $350 worth of clothes and also rent skis and they would reimburse me. When I finished my trip and went back through the airport they processed my claim. They paid me in US dollars even though all my receipts were Canadian.

  2. Long time ago, my Finnish friend went to the bank to get travelers checks to visit the US. Paid $1000 US dollars and got £1000 in checks. The exchange rate at the time was about 2 dollars per pound. It was a hassle converting them traveling around the US, but as far as I know she didn’t have to repay the difference.

  3. You are correct about Qatar handling refunds quickly. Refund for cancelled flight appeared in about 2 weeks to Amex card. Still waiting 4 weeks for AA refund.

  4. I cancelled a Air NZ flight in 2009 for my ex. I got back all the taxes and airpot fees, but with the exchange rate I only lost us$5 on a us$250 ticket

  5. I have traveled to over 30 countries and have been on many airlines best virgin Atlantic, worst Lufthansa! But since we have been kicked out of Europe fly Jet Blue

  6. Oh, sure, she gets $19.7M and I am going on 9 weeks waiting for my lousy $300 from Aeroplan/Air Canada!

  7. The person’s name is not “Jessica Tam”. The person’s Australian Frequent Flyer username is “JessicaTam”. I would think that’s something you would request. It’s quite naïve of you to think otherwise.

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