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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  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?

  13. Royal Air Maroc has refused my request for a refund. I have filed complaints with USA department of transportation. I have requested a refund for my canceled flights from and to the USA and have a refusal from the company on writing that they will violate the USA DOT law and refuse my refund.

  14. This is theft! I am discusted! Austrian Airlines canceled my flight and now I lose $4600. Theft. A credit is not equivalent to a full refund in the original form of payment. Theft!
    But they will pay for wat they are doing to people. God sees what is happening. So let’s say, hypothetically, I use their credit, and let’s just say I agree to pay $300 more if the price goes up and they all of a sudden they cancel that flight as well. This is what will happen. I will lose $300 on top of what I already lost because they are obviously above the law and to whatever they want! Its theft. Theft is theft! I can’t afford to lose that much money. I’m not the government and I shouldn’t have to bail the airlines with my money!

  15. Kenya airways refused to give me a refund for 6 passengers. They issued me vouchers without consent. They said they have changed their policy about cash refunds which is a breach of contract and illegal, policies cannot be changed after an agreement unless both parties consent to it. Besides why should do the customer give the airline an interest free loan!

  16. Add Etihad to the list, refused a refund for two return tickets MNL-LON, informed me original fare basis applies for refunds and of course ticket is non refundable. I asked what are my options, I cannot take original flight as it has been cancelled, I do not wish to rebook and do not want credit, I was told sue us, really helpful.

  17. Emirates Airlines cancelled all the flights until 30 June 2020. My flight is from London to Dubai and back are on 2 and 9 May 2020. However, Emirates would not offer a full refund and is offering two options: a) a travel voucher and b) rebooking for a later date within 24 months. I want a full refund now, but as per fare conditions I can get only half the money (£251.86 out of £451.86).

    My question is:

    Can I cancel now and get my partial refund but then demand / sue for the rest of the money?

    Or will I lose my right to sue later for the difference if I get the partial refund now?

    Thanks, Nora

  18. LX canceled our May 6 and May 12 flights, but Chase Ultimate Reward chat rep could not process the refund because the system blocked this function by LX / LH.
    When she called LX, she was told to send an email for the request and then wait for LX email response onthat. :rolleyes:
    To the credit of Chase UR chat rep, she was willing to go thru the trouble, and eventually documented everything, issued a Case number, assured me the case will be monitored and followed up however long time it might take.
    We will see if we ever hear back from LX/LH, when even EU reiterateed if airlines canceled flights, regardless reasons, customers still due a full refund, just a couple weeks ago.

  19. Hi just regarding your article on Qatar Airways honouring refunds. This is incorrect as I am one of the 1000s who cant get a refund from them .You only have to look at the posts on there facebook site to see this. Your article seems to give them kudos for announcing refunds and vouchers will be honoured although they refused me a voucher . Ive been waiting 38 days to date and have been told at least another 28 business days till I may get my money back.

  20. I will sue British Air in California Small Claims Court for my $8,000 in tickets. The judge in a Los Angeles court will propbably have the same experience with his air travel and a local judge knows the dire situation for a senior, with pre existing conditions to fly at this time. Small claims court is the answer

  21. Echoing other people on this thread, Royal Air Maroc has also refused to offer a refund for a direct flight from Morocco to the US, which is illegal, as they were the ones who cancelled the flight. I have reached out repeatedly and filed a complaint to the Department of Transportation. Very frustrating, I hope these stories get enough attention that airlines are held accountable.

  22. We are currently fighting Kenya Airlines over a cancelled ‘KQ mini-safari’ totalling US$600 for 2 adults and a child.

    First they told us to go through our travel agent, and then, when we were able to show it was booked direct on their website, using a different credit card number to the one we used with the travel agent, told us could not be refunded. ….

    We were in the Seychelles and first the Kenyan govt blocked all foreign nationals from entering even with a valid visa (which we had), we then cancelled with airline 6 days before the safari while still in Seychelles (and have email confirmation of this). Then KQ cancelled our original flight back from Seychelles to Nairobi, putting us on a flight next day and turning an 18 hour layover into a 3 hour layover. They told us it was not eligible for refund but we could use the booking for up to a year ….. Their website says we ony need to meet one of those 3 criteria for a full refund …..

    Have sent this to VISA as a chargeback based on services not provided as KQ customer service are just trying to give us the runaround. The shame in all of this is that we had actually sent positive feedback to the airline based on how good the staff were on our outbound flight from JFK. We heard horror stories but our crew were excellent, friendly and attentive.

  23. Icelandair is delaying in issuing our refund which they have confirmed is due but stated that our Booking agent BMO Rewards must start the refund process for it. BMO Rewards have told me 4 times that they have requested it but Icelandair will not confirm if that has happened.

  24. Add WestJet to the list of law breakers! They cancelled our flights and have refused, absolutely refused, to give a refund, insisting on a ‘travel’ bank for future flights. We only booked with them because of our cruise. when the cruise was cancelled, so were the flights. This all started April16, 2020.

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