Two More Airlines Breaking The Law By Refusing To Refund Customers For Cancelled Flights

I’ve written about airlines like JetBlue and United breaking the law by refusing customer refunds. Other airlines like SWISS and British Airways have used trickery to keep customers from being aware of their refund options when purchased flights no longer operate.

  • The European Union has relaxed passenger compensation requirements, but reaffirmed that a customer is entitled to a refund when their flight is cancelled.

  • U.S. Department of Transportation rules require a refund when an airline cancels a customer’s flight.

While airlines are lobbying to be allowed to keep customers’ money even when they don’t provide transportation (offering a voucher for future travel instead), that’s not the current law.

Nonetheless, two more airlines at least have added themselves to the list of those refusing to honor refunds for cancelled flights as a matter of official policy: Lufthansa and Kenya Airways.

Here’s the Lufthansa notice to travel agents:

Lufthansa Group airlines temporarily disable refund functionality

The refund functionality for Lufthansa Group airlines’ tickets has been temporarily disabled in all reservation systems as well as on the airlines’ websites and on lhgroup-agent.com. Refunds requests already submitted will be processed at a later stage.

We are committed to supporting you in serving your customers. Additional details on how you can support your customers will be provided as soon as possible.

Last update:
23.03.2020 11:47 Hours CET

Kenya Airways is reportedly even refusing to provide refunds for fully refundable tickets. Why would anyone ever buy a refundable ticket again after this?

The COVID-19 pandemic is a clear force majeure event. Airlines are entitled to be relived of their obligation to provide transportation. Generally force majeure entails both parties effectively voiding a contract and being returned to their previous position. It doesn’t allow one party not to perform while still keeping the money.

As a purely academic exercise I’m certainly interested in hearing from legal experts among readers who are especially familiar with this area of law, to speak to whether there are analogues for what these airlines are trying to do.

Nonetheless, it’s in no way controlling in this situation. Based on EU and US regulations, flights on US or European airlines or itineraries flying from the US or Europe, are subject to refund based on flight cancellations. Period.

Airlines are in a very difficult spot. They have fixed costs, and incoming revenue drying up. Being desperate, however, does not excuse theft. And in the past two weeks the capital markets have remained open to airlines with American adding $1 billion in liquidity, United adding $2 billion, and Delta adding $2.6 billion. None have yet tapped their frequent flyer programs to raise cash.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. British Aiways issue vouchers for future travel but request payment of difference should ticket price goes higher at future travel. Why will the customer travel on the original ticket price?

  2. @TrvlGuru

    Save your time, money and breath.

    Airline Deregulation Act preempts any State level claims.

  3. We have tickets from canada to india thru Oman Air and they have notified thru SMS on emergency contact no.having cancelled the outbound flight.Yet are asking for fare difference on alternate dates rescheduling.More over charging penalty if the ticket is cancelled……Till now they have not sent any mail about cancellation and have disabled the facility of rebooking thru website….

  4. Emirates have cancelled flights from the UK to Australia and won’t give a refund.
    How do I get my money back please?
    Any help greatly received

  5. @TrvlGuru

    Please add KLM to your list of airlines breaking the law and stealing from customers. They canceled my upcoming return flight from Amsterdam on 4/11/20 (I live in the US) and are refusing to refund my money. They are only offering rebooking or a voucher. What is my legal recourse?

  6. Here is the CAA website for European citizens. It’s very easy to file a complaint against an airline for refusing to issue a refund:
    https://www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/Resolving-travel-problems/How-the-CAA-can-help/How-the-CAA-can-help/

    Here is the US DOT website for US citizens. It’s very easy to file a complaint against an airline for refusing to issue a refund:
    https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint

    I submitted complaints on both sites as I am an American citizen filing against a European airline (KLM). Maybe if we share these options publicly through social media and enough people file complaints they will think twice.

  7. Jennifer, I am in the same situation as you.. I am an American citizen whose Easy Jet flight within Europe was cancelled. I am afraid the US DOT will say no authority over this flight and CAA saying their laws only cover European citizens, I am not contemplating returning to Europe and rebooking is not an option.

  8. Any idea how Royal Air Maroc comes in? Are they required to give a refund? So far I have only been offered a transport voucher and don’t know anything about African airline regulations. We were supposed to fly from JFK to Malaga. Any insight is much appreciated!

  9. Emirates are refusing to refund me for my mother’s ticket from South Africa to London, they said that if they start refunding passengers tickets they will go bankrupt. I spoke to a guy at Emirates 2 weeks ago and he said that if they cancel the flight I’m then entitled to a full refund, the lady I spoke to today said they have since changed their policy and are not giving refunds at all.

  10. These airlines are ripe for a big old class action suit with punitive damages. Where are the lawyers?

  11. I booked a flight with Emirates and they have charged me £200 which they have deducted from the
    cost of the ticket when a refund was issued.

    To say i am not happy with Emirates is an understatement as i am entitled to a full refund a per
    article 10.2.1(a) in their terms and conditions when i booked the flight.

    What they and other airlines are doing is illegal.

  12. Does anybody know whether there has already been some legal intervention
    from a higher authority against this illegal scheme that the airline industry is implementing?
    Has anybody initialized a class action law suit already?
    Have there already been reports about this in the world news?

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